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5 Reasons Why Your Child May Not Be Listening to You
PHOTO BY Nathan Put-Fernandez/Flickr Creative Commons
  • The key to a healthy relationship between parent and child is listening and talking, says the American Psychological Association (APA). We all long to create a strong bond with our kids, which is why learning how we can best talk and connect with them is important. Be a better parent by being a better listener and communicator. Here are a few thing to avoid when talking to your child:

    1. Talking and saying too much

    “The basic challenge is that parents very often speak without understanding how their children receive the message,” says psychologist Dr. Michael Thompson, co-author of Raising Cain. “We often make an assumption that our kids understand. But then we wonder, 'Why didn't they do what I said?'”  

    First off, little children can only take so much information at a time. Sentences that are too long, conversations with too many topics and big words can go right over their head, says certified speech-language pathologist Lauren Lowry. The first step to effective communication -- where your child is able to understand and digest what you’re telling him -- is by stopping and figuring out how best to talk to your child. Avoid rambling. Be concise and strategic instead.  

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    2. Yelling and using harsh words
    Keeping level-headed is difficult, but it’s important especially when disciplining children. A study involving over 900 families, published in the journal Child Development, found that harsh verbal discipline from parents can have a significant negative impact on kids. “Harsh verbal discipline” is when parents cause emotional and psychological pain to correct or control behavior. This can involve yelling and shouting, and using words to insult or humiliate.  

    Adolescents who experienced harsh verbal discipline from their parents were more likely to foster anger, be irritable, show signs of depression and misbehave in school. Moreover, the study found that harsh verbal discipline was ineffective at changing the children’s behavior problems. “The notion that harsh discipline is without consequence once there is a strong parent-child bond... is misguided because parents' warmth didn't lessen the effects of harsh verbal discipline,” says lead author Ming-Te Wang, assistant professor of psychology in education at the University of Pittsburgh. “We should not do anything in front of [our children] that we don't want them to do,” says Katharine C. Kersey, author of The 101s: A Guide to Positive Discipline.  

    3. Not engaging by choosing not to listen or talk
    It can sometimes be too easy to ignore what your preschooler is telling you when your mind is preoccupied with work or errands. Also, let’s face it -- children interrupt and, often times, just talk way too much. But, ignoring your child altogether or giving him a swift shush is a missed opportunity to teach him about respect, empathy and caring behavior, says psychologist Dr. Melanie Greenberg. Model these to your child the next time you’re too busy to talk to him. Instead of giving him the cold shoulder, say something like, “It’s hard for me to listen to you right now because I’m busy cooking.” Then, you can tell your child you’ll get back to her right after you’re done.  

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    4. Dismissing his feelings and opinions
    Express your love and care for your child by acknowleding and validating his feelings and opinions. When your child is showing you he's frustrated or mad, don't dismiss it. A simple phrase like, “I understand how you're feeling. I would be sad about it too” along with a hug is sometimes all your child needs to feel better. 

    And, when it comes to your child's opinions, don't be so hasty to prove him wrong or say no. “Like grown-ups, children want to feel that their opinions matter -- and often get mad when they are told they are wrong,” says Dr. Thompson. “Instantly contradicting your child's opinion often escalates to an immediate fight over who is right.” For example, when your child says, “I don't want to go to school!” instead of saying “You have to”, try “What don't you like about school?”

    5. Failing to have real conversations
    With the busy and hectic world we live in, real conversations are set aside in place of orders, reminders, and even sermons. Yes, we talk a lot to our kids but a lot of it is telling them to hurry up getting dressed in the morning or to remind them to bring their baon. Make it a point to really talk to your child. “Pick the time when you know [your] child is most willing to talk,” says Julie Lythcott-Haims in her bestselling book How to Raise an Adult. It could be at bedtime, during bath time or the car ride home from school. Initiate the conversation. “Show an interest in what they’ve been doing or what matters to them,” says Lythcott-Haims.

    Sources:  APA, PBS.org, The Hanen Centre, Psychology Today

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