My child won’t listen! How many times have we shared with friends and family this simple truth yet all the while know that we, as parents, may have something to do with this defiant behavior?
Whether a child at the tender age of two, a spunky six year old or a hormonal pre-teen, when your child won’t listen, think of it as an opportunity to head off a lifetime of serious consequences.
So, what steps can you take now when your child won’t listen? Here are a few things to remember to help guide your child:
1) Children lack reasoning skills
We often talk to children in the same manner as we talk to our spouse or friends. Sure, we may use a kid-like voice, slow the speech or add cutesy words to pepper the vernacular, but remember that abstract reasoning occurs between the ages of 4 and 7. A long or repeated lecture is usually pointless. Kids need their information in small bites and spoon-fed. I still use a simple approach with my kids, even though they are out of the toddler phase: “When you pickup your blocks, we won’t trip and get hurt. When the blocks are put away, we will play with the dolls. ”
2) Children benefit from self-motivation
Parents have used a variety of methods and tactics to persuade their children We’ve counted, shouted, grounded, and guided. We’ve threatened with toy removal, withheld desserts, and taken away games and electronic devices. And, what happened? None of those worked. The reason? Those methods negatively reinforce the behavior, not empower the child. I used to remind myself to ‘catch them doing something good’. To do so, I would praise my child for things as adults, we expect them to do — brush teeth, get dressed, eat their meal with good manners, say thank you. Reinforcing good behaviors will empower children to self-recognize what it feels like when doing something that reflects good behavior.
3) Children thrive with positive discipline
Positive discipline includes not only catching them doing something good, but also having a back end consequence for bad behavior, all delivered in a kind, firm and encouraging manner. Pointing out the behavior when a child won’t listen, reminding of the consequence, and instilling the follow through will yield a balance in discipline. The focus of positive discipline is to establish reasonable limits and guide children to take responsibility to stay within these limits, or learn how to remedy the situation when they don’t. There are four aspects to positive discipline:
- Positive reinforcement, such as complimenting a good effort;
- Negative reinforcement, such as ignoring requests made in a whining tone of voice;
- Positive punishment, such as requiring a child to clean up a mess he made; and
- Negative punishment, such as removing a privilege in response to poor behavior.
We know that when a child won’t listen, they can grow up to be adults who won’t listen. They challenge the rules, bend the truth and often break laws. In other words, the learned behavior of going against societal norms becomes their life normal because it was generally accepted. Research shows that nipping the behavior at an early age can reduce the difficulties encountered when entering the rebellious teen and young adult years. So, the next time you find yourself thinking “my child won’t listen,” try implementing the ideas and strategies we’ve outlined.