Listening is a skill we sometimes think our children lack.
Parents all over the world come to me and state that one of their challenges is that their kids don’t listen. This is a very common challenge.
Listening is such a beautiful opportunity for connection on so many levels. When we feel our children are not listening to us, it bothers us because we are losing out on that opportunity for connection.
For example, perhaps you call from the kitchen to the family room, to tell your children that dinner is ready. No one responds or comes to the table to sit down and eat.
Perhaps your kids are getting ready for school and they are upstairs and you yell “let’s go, the bus will be here in five minutes!” No one comes racing down the stairs as you had hoped.
Maybe your kids don’t pick up their belongings; socks, book bags, clothes, dishes in their room, etc. You have asked numerous times and feel like it keeps landing on deaf ears.
These situations can make us feel like our children do not listen to or respect us when we communicate. This can be infuriating and cause lots of friction in the home, contributing to our stress levels. We can become fueled or angered by what we perceive as a lack of respect.
I offer you a new perspective;
What if your kids are not doing this on purpose?
What if your kids have full intentions to listen to and respect you?
I imagine they do. I believe that every child wants to do what is “right” but when they don’t, something is preventing them from doing so. In the case of communication and listening skills, let’s look at what might be preventing them from paying attention to you.
Your child might be preoccupied and not hear you at all. Perhaps they do not have the best hearing.
We, the parent, are not communicating in a way that works for our child. They might not have a good listener modeling for them (no offense).
Suggestions of things to try
When you speak to your child, instead of yelling from a different room or across the room, go directly to your child, get at eye level and wait to get their attention, or ask for it. THEN, share what you want to communicate. This way you are speaking with a child who is attentive and in front of you, undistracted.
Another great method is to ask your children to help you. So, if morning time is stressful, instead of yelling that the bus will be arriving soon, ask your kids how you can help them make it to the bus on time. This is about them, right? When we empower our children to be part of the solution, it creates an enormous shift. See what they come up with. What do they need from you and what do they need to do themselves to be on time?
The same holds true with children who leave their belongings throughout the house. We want to empower them to pick up after themselves instead of becoming the nagging parent. So, entering into a conversation with kids about how you feel when you are nagging because you’re not being heard can offer another shift. Explain to them that this is not working for you nor them.
The challenges we have in our homes can be opportunities
When we find ourselves getting annoyed because they aren’t listening or doing the things they “should” be doing and we are constantly reminding them, then it is time for a “family meeting” of sorts. This is a time to bring the family together for a solution-based conversation. It is not a complaint session, but an opportunity for our children to hear what we feel are some of the things we need help solving. Ask for their help and give them space to offer some of their ideas and suggestions for moving forward in a different way.
Parenting is about the parent. If there is something that we are not achieving in the raising of our children, it is important that we look at how we are approaching it, who our children are, and what works best for them.
How do you listen to your children? What does that look like? Are you attentive, present, and focused on what they are sharing with you? Do you follow through on their requests?
Spend a little time reflecting on how you model this for your kids. Perhaps you can tweak a few things that you do to offer them the very best you.
Kids are brilliant. When we include them in the conversation in a positive way and talk through the challenges, we will gain new ideas and learn different ways to move forward, empowering them in the process. This is an ongoing process. It is not a one and done situation. As things change or challenges reappear, you need to revisit the situation with them over and over again.
The best way to raise respectful listeners is to be one yourself. Work together with your family to identify areas of improvement. It is likely that both the parents and children have areas they could focus on more. I challenge you to identify these and engage the whole family in being part of the solution.
With a little effort, we can all raise, and become, respectful listeners.