Monday, October 16, 2017

They Never Listen!


Many children, as they outgrow their toddler years, become "mom deaf".  Mom will make a simple request over and over and get no response until finally she screams in frustration.  The scream will get the child to respond, leaving mom feeling bad for screaming and the child thinking mom is loony.  "Why are you screaming?".  "BECAUSE IT'S THE ONLY WAY YOU'LL LISTEN TO ME!".
 🙉   🙉   🙉   🙉   🙉 

When my son was in elementary school, it was impossible to wake him up in the morning.  I'd go to his room and tell him to get up several times before finally losing control and screaming at him.  He recently admitted to me that he heard me every time I told him to wake up, but he judged how much time he had by the volume of my voice.  When I finally screamed, he knew he really had to get out of bed. AARRGGHH!!!

Two interesting things about mom deafness.  First of all, it is selective.  If mom says, "Who wants cookies?" the kids will come running immediately from two floors away.  Secondly, at the risk of sounding sexist, it is pretty much exclusive to moms.  Children who are blessed with a mother and a father are less likely to heed their mom the first time she makes a request.  I have my own theory about this. Moms have innate antennae when it comes to their children and are tuned in to their every move.  Even when she's not with him, she knows when he's crying or fighting with another child, or getting into mischief. She's aware of his runny nose, of him running outside without shoes, of how he speaks.  As Spanky of the Little Rascals once said, "You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't fool Mom."  

Because mom is so aware of her child's every move, she's more likely to give him direction:  "Put on your shoes."  "Get a tissue."  "Stop jumping on the bed."  There's an almost constant stream of simple, well-meaning requests that the child begins to tune out, sort of like background noise.  And making these requests becomes a rote activity on the part of mom.  But this is part of being a good mother!  What's a woman to do?

I have a couple of suggestions.  The most powerful is to make eye contact with your child before you ask her to do something.  Calling from another room, or while your back is turned, is a guarantee that she won't listen.  A reasonable direction, given face to face, will likely be followed without a fuss.  "Put your dish in the sink".  A direction that might get some flack, such as "Put a sweater on before you go outside", might benefit from a simple explanation "It's cold out and I don't want you to get sick".

Another important approach to giving directions to our children is to tell them what to do, not to ask them if they want to do it.  I've heard moms say things like, "Do you want to get a tissue to wipe your nose?" and I think, "No, she doesn't."  Clearly the mom is trying to sound kind and friendly, but It's not a genuine question.  "No" is not an acceptable answer.  It's so much better to be direct, "Please get a tissue".

On the other hand, "or" questions, offering a choice of options, work really well to help children follow our directions.  For example, "It's time to clean up the toys.  Do you want to put away the cars or the puzzles?".  Choices give children a feeling of control, with an authentic say in the matter, which makes them more likely to cooperate.  A five minute warning before a transition serves the same purpose.  "We're leaving the playground in 5 minutes".  Just like adults, children feel more secure when they know what to expect and so are better prepared to follow direction.  
Finally, as exasperated as one may be, it's a bad idea to say in our children's presence, "They never listen to me".  We don't want that to be the truth, so we shouldn't say it.  If we do, they may take it as fact with no incentive to change.  We should instead think of ourselves and our children as works in progress, which of course we all are.  Mom learning to make requests in a way that clicks with her children, and children learning enough about mom's expectations to eventually fulfill them without being asked. (Yes, it happens.)    
 🙉   🙉   🙉    🙉   🙉   🙉    🙉   🙉   🙉    🙉   🙉   🙉    🙉   🙉   🙉    🙉   🙉   🙉

No comments:

Post a Comment