It is common for children to feign deafness or to just outright refuse to comply with parent’s requests. You are certainly not alone if you have been asking yourself the question – why wont my kids listen to me or do what I say?

There is no one reason for this occurring and sometimes it can take some work to figure out the answer to this age old question, however I will do my best to give you some places to start and things to try, so that your children may just start to notice what you say and even take action in the direction you hoped.

The first step is to stop and think about how you deliver instructions to your kids.

There are 6 major problems with instructions that you may be making.

  1. Too many

‘Johnny go and get your shoes, your socks school bag, turn off the light, make the bed and put the cat out.’

This is fine for some kids but even some adults will struggle with that list. We need to pitch instructions at the level that our child’s memory can handle.

  1. Too few

‘Go and get ready for school’

Again, some children can cope with this instruction and know how to interpret it, but others will require more direction. And possibly the steps of getting ready for school broken down into a few tasks rather than one big thing.

  1. Too hard

‘Be quiet for the next 30 minutes’

Sometimes we forget that children are not able to do what we can do or complete it in the time we can do it. If our instructions are too complex or beyond their capabilities, we set them up for failure.

  1. Too fast

‘Right, we need to quickly clean-up this mess, everyone get moving right now and get it done in 5 minutes’

If you are anything like me you will be busy and getting things done quickly is often a priority. In these moments when can be prone to throwing off instructions left right and centre in rapid fire and simply expect our kids to keep up. If instructions are delivered too fast, they can seem overwhelming and may simply be disregarded.

  1. Too far away

Time for dinner” Dad yells from the kitchen as the children are watching tv.

Our proximity to our children when we deliver an instruction can make the world of difference. Children are very good at hyperfocusing on what they are doing and closing off to the world around them. It is often not that they are ignoring us, just that they did not hear what was outside their zone of focus.

  1. At the wrong time

‘Noah, will you take out the rubbish please’ (just as he sits down to play his favourite game).

Just as we do not like to be interrupted from our tasks, our children do not either. Our children are not mind readers and often they are also not good at keeping time. Providing warnings and options can help children to shift from one task to the next and be prepared to transition when we need them to.

So, which mistakes can you identify with? What could make a difference to your children complying with your requests?

Here are my suggestions for turning things around:

  • Time your instructions well and give your child fair warning
  • Use physical proximity and gentle touch to ensure children are listening
  • Ask your child to repeat back what you say
  • Reward their efforts and reinforce any steps towards doing as you asked
  • Try and ‘catch’ them following instructions and let them know that you are pleased.

Now don’t expect miracles. Changes to behaviour can take time. But with a little bit of effort and a lot of consistency you just might find your child doing as they were asked before you know it.

As I said at the start, it isn’t always this simple and sometimes there is a lot more to it. If you give these tips a try and you still have made no gains with your children, consider coming to see one of the Psychologists at Prosper Health Collective. This is an issue we are happy to assist you with.

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