Parenting | What to do when your child won’t listen

listenMany parents say that their child will just not listen to them but the first question to be explored is how well do you listen to your child? As parents we are role models for our children so exploring your style of listening is key to supporting your child going forward.

Here are some tips to support improvement in listening skills in your home and as a result improving behaviour and communication.

  1. Reflect on how you listen to your child. When your child is talking to you do you stop, look them in the eye and listen carefully to what they have to say? Or do you continue with what you are doing?
  2. When you are telling your child something are you inclined to shout in to them from another room or up the stairs? Or do you go to them, stand near them, look them in the eye and talk to them, ensuring they know you are talking to them?
  3. Are you inclined to clarify with your child what they heard you say? For example: Jack, can you tell me what I have asked you to do before dinner? Children often only hear part of what we say.
  4. How do you speak with your child, do you start with threats or with a positive statement? For example: Joe I need you to tidy away some toys before dinner or if you don’t tidy up now you are getting no dinner! Children like positive energy and work more effectively with us if we can keep things fun. Help them achieve rather than focusing on threats and failure.
  5. If you are talking to more than one child at a time be very specific who you are talking with. Stop what you are doing and go and ask that one child to come to you and talk with them. Although it may seem time consuming to stop and talk with them in the long run it will be much faster.
  6. Have a meeting with your children about listening to each other. Play some games with them where you all take turns to listen really nicely to each other and ask questions of each other. Then play a game whereby you don’t listen to each other. Talk about what that feels like for everyone. Children as young as three should be able to participate in this activity. Then as a family talk about some house rules around listening. It is good to instil some good principles in your family that they can bring forward through life.
  7. Reward children and yourself for listening and communicating well with each other. If you have a rule that you have to lift your head and look at a person when they talk with you. That is really respectful. Thank the person for being so nice to you. That is a reward in itself. How often do we thank each other for being nice?
  8. Take time to talk. If your child is over two years old ask them to wait at times to talk with you if you are in the middle of something. Always, always go back to them and ask them to tell you what they had wanted to talk to you about. Never leave it and think they will have forgotten. If children are younger they cannot wait so you have to just stop and listen and make time for this.
  9. Be careful that you model good listening skills to your child if you expect them to listen well to you:
  • Stop and make eye contact.
  • Listen openly to what they are saying.
  • Clarify what you hear them say.
  • Ask open ended questions.
  • Do not jump in with your own story – this is their space to talk and your space to listen.
  • Thank them for telling you.
  • Move on with your activities when they have finished or when you feel it is appropriate.

10. Have a time each day when you turn off phones and televisions and make time to talk and listen. When children feel heard they are more likely to listen to others.

This ’10 Ways to’ article is by One Family’s Director of Children & Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly, as part of our weekly ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips. You can read the full series here.

Find out more about our parenting skills programmes and parent supports. For support and information on these or any related topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or on 01 662 9212.