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The truth about why your kids don’t listen to you

It's time to look at your own behaviour

We’ve all been there. Sometimes we have to ask 3 times before shoes are put on or washing is put in the basket. But the answer is not to give up based on the assumption that it is a battle you will never win. There is hope!

What if how your kids listen was within your sphere of influence? That would feel much better, right? Well then feel better, because there are some metaphysical home truths that I am going to share that will not only ensure that your kids are doing what you ask them to the first time, but it will leave you feeling less overwhelmed, more calm, and with a lot more expectation that your wishes will be honoured.

My daughter used to be the person who irritated me the most. Honestly, I just couldn’t understand why she didn’t appear to listen to me at all. Until I took an honest look at my own behaviour…and it wasn’t pretty.

I realised that there was a good chance that the reason she was behaving the way she was, was because she was following my lead. If she was distracted all the time, maybe I was too. If she didn’t listen, maybe that was because she perceived me not to be listening either. It was worth a shot!

I decided to experiment. I decided to take full responsibility for the responses I was getting, which meant that instead of focusing on changing her behaviour, I focused on changing mine.

Here are some tips that have worked for me as a parent, and have since worked for a number of my clients who have kids too:

Listen and look

When I looked long and hard at my own behaviour I realised I wasn’t listening. My response to Mama!” was often, “hang on a sec”, “in a minute darling” or “not now”. I signalled to my daughter that her needs were not a priority. And I wasn’t setting a brilliant example.

Only a subtle change was required here to make a huge impact: an immediate pause in what I was doing, and eye contact – “yes darling, what do you need?” If it was quick, I could give it to her, and if it wasn’t, I’d ask if it was OK if I finished what I was doing first. At this point I realised how reasonable my child is.

Teach concentration

Once this works you can now start to minimise the number of requests. I do this by communicating in advance of the “Mama!” shout. I explain that I am about to do something that requires my full attention. I ask if she needs anything before I start, and then I ask her not to disturb me until I am finished. This is how this article got written.

The best part is that while I am doing this she embarks on her own task, creating something quietly and showing that time blocking works for her too!

Do one thing at a time

Talking of full attention, children rank themselves in order of importance according to whatever else takes your time. If you just made time for something you needed to do and gave it your full attention they will, rightly, expect you to do the same for them. So put your phone out of reach when you are with them. The attention span of small children is only about 15 minutes anyway – we can all focus for 15 minutes.

What I realised by making these changes is that the battles I perceived in everyday tasks didn’t need to be battles at all. Expecting to have to ask for things to be done multiple times didn’t work, so I educated myself and my daughter on how to do things the first time, with our full attention. You might recognise this as a form of mindfulness.

Now, I look at my child as a mirror. If she is doing something I don’t like the look of, rather than go into telling mode, I ask myself what I could be doing differently to set a better example for both of us. It also means I take full responsibility when she shows up with grace, kindness, creativity, gratitude and generosity. Maybe it’s time for you to take the credit too – for all of it.

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