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My Child Won’t Listen To Me. Help!

My child won’t listen to me. Help!

“Ben pack your toys away, it’s time for dinner … Ben … Ben did you hear me? I said pack your toys away!”

Sound familiar? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many parents struggle to get their children to listen to them, and it can be a challenge understanding why. So you may be wondering, “why won’t my child listen to me?” Unfortunately, there’s no one answer to this question, but here are a few potential reasons and practical strategies to try.

Your child likes to feel in control

Perhaps your child has reached the stage where they want to exert their autonomy and be independent. This includes deciding what, when and how they want to do things. It can be tricky trying to reason with children, particularly when you’re asking them to do something that they may not be so excited about – for example, bath time.

Our handy tip to try:

Provide your child with a choice, even if it’s only small. For example, if your child refuses to sit at the dinner table, allow them to choose what chair they would like to sit on, what colour plate they would like to use, or whether their pasta will be on the left or right side of the plate. These choices may seem trivial to you, but it can make a world of difference for your child. Suddenly they may feel like they’re in control, despite you putting in the boundaries.

Your child does not want to be interrupted

Despite your child looking like he or she is just ‘playing’, they may be in the middle of saving the city from a monster, or perhaps they’ve nearly finished building a race track they’ve been working all day on. It may not seem important to you, but it might be extremely important to them. So, asking them to do something whilst they’re busy is likely to be unsuccessful.

Our handy tip to try:

Firstly, acknowledge how hard your child has been working: “Wow Ben, you saved the whole city from that monster, how amazing!”

Next provide them with notice that the activity is ending, and another is coming up: “Alright so in five more minutes we’ll pack these toys away and then it’s time to brush your teeth.” If your child doesn’t yet understand the concept of time, try playing a song instead, and letting them know that once the song ends it’s pack away time. Providing them with notice allows them to organise the final things they want to achieve and lets them prepare for what is happening next.

Lastly, ask the child to restate your instruction: “So what do we have to do again? Perfect, let’s shake on it.” This ensures your child fully understands what is happening.

Your child has learnt to ‘tune you out’

The more instructions you give your child, the less likely they are to follow through with them. You can imagine that your child may feel unmotivated and overwhelmed if they’re asked to do too many things at once. Similarly, if the instructions are too broad, the child may be unsure of what to do, once again setting them up for failure.

Our handy tip to try:

Before giving an instruction, be sure to gain your child’s attention by getting down on their level and being within close proximity. Ensure your instructions are clear, concise and specific and that you are only giving the necessary amount of instructions. Finally, take notice of the way you phrase your instructions, children are more likely to follow if you tell them what to do, rather than what not to do. For example, rather than telling Ben not to throw his toys, tell him to put the toys in the tub.

Over to you

Do you struggle to get your child to listen to you? What are some methods you use to overcome this problem? Or maybe you’ve just tried implementing some of our suggestions. If so, let us know how you and your child went.

Are you interested in more kid-friendly advice or after some parenting programs?

The experienced team at Growing Early Minds are here for you and your family, call our friendly team on 1800 436 436 to discuss any concerns you may have regarding behaviour. Our Familylinks team also deliver a number of parenting courses that might provide you with further skills and strategies to help you manage behaviour at home. For all parenting courses visit our events page, follow Familylinks on Facebook for the latest news or call 02 9625 0422.

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