Do you feel that your child is ignoring you, doesn’t hear you, or just doesn’t care what you have to say? Here are some techniques that may help you get through to your child!
1. Acknowledge Your Approach
As parents, we’re pretty used to having naturally louder households. It’s easy to get caught up in our environment and forget we’re even shouting over all of the noise and that our kids may not even hear us or notice what’s happening beyond their activities. Oftentimes raising your voice up the stairs or asking your child to do something as they head out the door seems like the only option. But we know this may not be the best approach for our children.
Try to acknowledge those moments where you can slow down, take a deep breath, and use a more calm, understanding, and patient approach. Children tend to model our behaviours. So, when you demonstrate patience, they are more likely to also demonstrate patience. And patience is an essential part of listening!
With younger children, you may also try kneeling down and meeting them to their level to make eye contact. Or, a comforting touch on the arm, which builds physical connection to help build an emotional or verbal connection. Eye contact is also very important for older children — make a meaningful effort to show that your attention is on them.
2. Give Your Child a Chance
When children are in the middle of play, learning, or any activity requiring focus, they often put their entire attention into it. It’s this much attention that allows children to absorb so much information in their early years of life. Because of this, it’s more difficult for children to switch between tasks than it is for us adults. To put it simply, your child may not be ignoring you, but rather find it difficult to leave the activity they’re immersed in quickly enough to attend to you.
3. The Fair Warning System
Try implementing the fair warning system — give your child alerts before the expected action.
- “We’re leaving the park in five minutes.” (hold up five fingers)
- “Three more minutes.”
- “One minute more. Would you like to go down the slide one last time?”
- “We’re eating dinner at 5:30 pm because your soccer practice is earlier today”
- “Dinner will be ready in fifteen minutes…”
- “Ten more minutes. Finish up the math homework question you’re working on.”
When we repeat our requests to our children, we’re giving them a fair chance to respond. You can also use this system to communicate consequences for particular behaviours. “If you don’t finish up when it’s time to leave, then we won’t be able to come back tomorrow.” This allows children to make a choice about whether or not they are going to follow the rule and bear no consequences, or break the rule and bear consequences. And there will be no surprises.
If you really want to show your child that you mean what you say, then practice consistent parenting. When your child still doesn’t do as you’ve asked (and it was a reasonable request), then follow through with the consequences you presented. As a matter of fact, any form of predictable structure or routine helps children feel calm, safe, and secure. It also teaches them to internalize habits, regulate behaviours, and manage their own environments.
4. It’s Your Turn to Listen
As mentioned, there are strategies to help your child listen to you, but it’s just as important for you to listen to your child. Children behave based on how they feel. So as parents, it’s important to acknowledge and accept these feelings. By telling your child “Don’t do that” invalidates their feelings because it translates to “Don’t feel that.
Try listening to your child with full attention. Acknowledge their feelings—reflect on and name their emotions. Then, give them an idea of what it is they want.
For example, when your child is crying, try using the following steps to show that you’re listening to them:
- Think about your approach — hold their hand and speak in a soothing voice
- Reflect on how they’re feeling — ask yourself why your child might be crying
- Acknowledge and name the emotion — tell your child that you recognize they are crying and name the emotion they’re experiencing or ask them if you’re unsure (are they sad, angry, confused, disappointed, fearful, defeated, embarrassed?)
- Offer an idea to your child of why they are crying — “So, you are crying because…?”
Giving your child an idea to explain why they are experiencing this emotion yields understanding. They are more likely to hear your side when you understand their side!
If you wish to speak with one of our therapists to learn more about your parenting or your relationship with your child, click here to book a free consult!