Do you feel like you’re talking to the wall when you speak to your kids? How many times do you have to tell your kids something before you get them to listen to you?
When parents repeat the same thing over and over each day – “pick up your laundry,” “don’t leave your shoes in middle of the hallway,” “do your homework!” “stop bothering your sister” or “get into bed now!” – it’s no wonder you experience a sense of defeat. Children tune us out. Teens and pre-teens test limits. And parents don’t like dealing with the consequences, the discipline, and the negative emotions. We’re stressed and tired, and think it’s simpler to just let things slide, forgetting that these issues will only grow larger.
How can we be more effective in our parenting?
Here are 5 keys to create better listening in your home:
1. Don’t be afraid that your kids won’t like you.
When we fear our children’s anger and tantrums we hold back on discipline. The result is that our words are not taken seriously. Seeing unhappy kids can make us feel unsuccessful as parents. We give in because we are afraid that our children won’t like us or that they will voice opinions about us that are too painful to hear. Wanting happy homes and happy kids, we surrender. Instead of showing firmness, parents grow soft and respond to a child with “Okay, five more minutes, one more cookie…” Our children have learned that with the right tone, tantrum, or pleading they win. Their silent treatment, tears and whining break our resolve. Of course they won’t listen. Why should they? We have failed to communicate respect for our words. Toughen up. Stop being afraid that your kids won’t like you. They’ll come to respect you.
2. Act. Don’t React.
How often do problems occur because we were not specific with our kids or ignored a situation that got out of hand? When children understand what is expected from them we avoid confrontations and feeling as if we are not being listened to. For example: a grandmother I know told me that she was worried sick waiting up for her teenaged grandson who was staying with her on vacation in Florida. The moment he came home at 1 a.m. she screamed at him, called his parents and gave him a stiff punishment. When questioned, the grandmother informed me that all she had said to her grandson before he left was, “Don’t come home too late.” To this teen, no rules were broken; 1 a.m. is a normal time to return.
How much pain would have been avoided if the adults in this family would have acted by setting clear limits and times instead of reacting to this boy’s late return? If only the rules would have been clearly explained beforehand, confrontation and feelings of being ignored would never have occurred.
3. Don’t Pyramid Parent
Allowing a child to perceive that it is him plus one parent against another parent is called ‘pyramid parenting’. One parent should never be thought of as the opposing figure. When mother and father are not on the same side and one becomes allied with the child, both parents lose. The child observes division. He translates this as weakness. Respect and honor for parents become diminished as the child plays one parent against the other. Neither parent will be effective because the child knows that there will be discussions and even arguments when discipline comes into the picture. Parents who do not display a united front teach children that it is possible to divide and conquer. Children who recognize that their parents make decisions in harmony will realize that it is unthinkable to go against one parent’s wishes or words and find support from an opposing parent.
4. Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say
Some parents spend half their life saying: “If you push your brother one more time…”’ “If you talk like that to me again…” but nothing changes. The child just does the same action again because he knows that we simply give empty threats. True, some parents blow up, scream, yell, and get enraged. So what? Losing it does not mean that we are being effective. After a while, parents get tuned out. If you keep dealing with the same issue over and over again it is time to address it. Not by losing control. We cannot parent out of rage. Rather, we must think about effective discipline and follow through on our words. Mothers and fathers who lack consistency are perceived as weak.
5. Get Rid of the Distractions
If we are speaking to our children while having one eye on the screen in front of us, we fail to convey that we are serious about our relationship with them. I was recently asked: if you had one piece of parenting advice to give, what would it be? I replied, “Get off your phone.” Look around. What do you see? I watch as families believe that they are spending quality time together but in reality everyone is either texting or checking Instagram. We have lost a vital connection with our loved ones, especially our children.
After watching us speak to them with half an ear and half an eye they have come to realize that we are distracted parents. Our bodies may be present but our minds are absent. We are missing out and there is no way to make up for all the time and opportunity that have passed us by. When our sons and daughters see that they are indeed being looked at and heard, our relationship with them will reach a whole new level. For our words to be listened to, we must try to build a connection. Until we do, fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters, will be sitting next to one another but living worlds apart.
We have the ability to raise children who listen to our words. Parents who display a united front, are clear and consistent, and show children that they are a priority will forge a relationship based on respect and deep love. The time to start is now.