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Sometimes it seems that our kids won't listen. Here, we look at why kids don't listen, and how we can talk so children will listen.

Sometimes, it seems as though you have to bribe your kids to listen; to promise them one sweet now and another if they stick around; to get down on your knees and beg them to please, to pretty please, to pretty pretty please with a cherry on top, listen.

How do you get kids to listen? Why aren't they listening in the first place? You gave your child life and continue to give them food and a roof; surely, they owe you at least three minutes of their attention?

If you find your children won't listen to you, read on to find out why that might be the case, and what you can do about it. It's worth doing. After all, the way you talk to your children models the way they will go on to talk to others.

Why don't children listen?

  • All they hear is "no": How disheartened would you be if every request you made was met by the word "no". Can I have ice-cream? "No." Can I wear this T-shirt? "No." Can I watch this movie? "No." it certainly wouldn't make you feel warmly towards the person who constantly said it to you. Try to rephrase your answers in a more positive way. Can I have ice-cream? "Not right now, because it's dinnertime soon. After dinner, you can have ice-cream." Can I wear this T-shirt? "Not today, because it's too cold. Why don't you choose something warmer?" Can I watch this movie? "That movie's a little old for you. When you're older, you can see it."
  • Dishonesty: Children are quick to work out who the honest people are. You may think small lies - such as "we'll come back tomorrow", when you have no intention of coming back at all - don't matter, but children notice. They store those lies up and remember. The lesson is learned. Parents lie. Don't listen.
  • Unreliability: Parents routinely make all kinds of promises they fail to keep. This is usually due to circumstances out of your control. It still erodes your child's trust, until they see little point in listening. Endeavour to keep your promises, and explain the reason if you were unable to.
  • Inaccuracy: "Sit too close to the television, and your eyes will go square", "Cola drinks are poison and rot your insides." Parents say all kinds of things to coax their child into listening. As soon as your child learns that these "facts" are convenient fabrications, you will be regarded as an unreliable (and worthless) source of information.
  • Not listening to their cues: Kids give all kids of nonverbal cues (fidgeting, eye-contact, touches, and gestures). If a child lowers their eyes and fidgets when you send them on a play-date with another child, it may be a sign they're scared of that child. If you fail to notice their body language and ask if they're okay, your child might feel you don't care. This will place distance between you and your child.
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