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. We talk about how common a challenge this truly is. We all want to feel like we are in good company when it comes to parenting challenges. It is not just us, right?

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 5 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 own stress levels. We can become fueled or angered by what we perceive as a lack of respect or commitment.

I would love to offer you a new perspective. Let’s think about this: 

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. 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. 

Their attention is on something that is all-encompassing.

Perhaps they do not have the best hearing.

We, the parent, are not communicating in a method that works for our child.

There is something that is preventing our child from listening/hearing that goes beyond the above.

They might not have a good listener modeling for them (no offense).

Some 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 receive their attention (or ask for it). THEN, share what you want to communicate. This way you actually 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 the morning time is stressful, instead of you yelling that the bus will be arriving, ask your kids how you can help them make the bus on time. This is, in fact, 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 from themselves in order 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 us becoming the nag mom or nag dad. So, entering into a conversation with kids about how you feel like you are nagging (not being heard) them to pick up their belongings ineffectively can offer another shift. Explain to them that this is not working for you nor for them. 

These challenges that we have in our homes can really be opportunities. 

When we find ourselves getting annoyed that they aren’t listening or doing the things that 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 truly an opportunity for our children to hear what we feel are some of the things we need help solving. Then, ask for their help and give them the 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 fully 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 the very best of you to them.

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 from them, empowering our children in the process. Moving forward is an ongoing process. This is not a one and done situation. As things change or challenges reappear, then you need to revisit the methods to move forward. This method of empowerment is one to revisit over and over again.

The best way to raise respectful listeners is to be a respectful listener. Work together with your family to identify areas for 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.

I would love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to leave them here.

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