As beautiful and unique as the parenting experience is, it can also be extremely challenging and frustrating. One of the most difficult things for a parent to deal with is a child who refuses to listen and be obedient.
In this article, we will discuss the most significant DOs and DON’Ts for a parent who is trying to teach their child how to listen. Every child is different, and so is every parent, but some core concepts work very effectively in most parent/child relationships.
Before we get into the list, let’s clarify one thing: you and your child are on the same team. A lot of the time in parenting, it’s easy to feel like it’s you versus your child. No matter the situation, always try to remember that that is not the case! Your little person is your sidekick, not your enemy.
Also, teaching your children listening and obedience skills is a long and ongoing process. You won’t find the “answer” in this article, because a simple answer does not exist! However, you will find detailed information about skills that can be developed to improve the communicative relationship between parent and child.
Let’s get into the DOs and DON’Ts of teaching your child how to listen!
DO: Remember your role as an authoritative parent.
When it comes to “gentle parenting”, a lot of people think that that means letting your children do whatever they want without any consequences. This is far from the truth.
Authoritative parents are highly aware of their children’s emotional and behavioral needs, which helps the child to build a stable and trusting relationship with their parents. Authoritative parents do not use discipline as a form of punishment, but instead, try to turn challenging situations into learning opportunities.
DO NOT: Use your authority to belittle your child (no matter their behavior).
Obviously, as a parent, you are physically, mentally, and emotionally more powerful than your child. Do not use this against your child. Remember that although your child is in a different stage of life than you, that they are still a unique and valuable member of society.
Showing respect to your child will help them to trust you, and know that you value their thoughts, opinions, and decisions even if they are different from yours.
DO: Use discipline as a teaching moment.
Because you and your child are on the same team, there is no reason to use their mistakes as a reason to shame, punish, or embarrass them. Instead, communicate openly with your child about the situation, what went wrong, your expectations, and consequences.
The more you take the time to communicate with your child, the more value your child will find in taking the time to listen to you.
DO NOT: Use discipline as a way to vent.
Using discipline as a way to express emotions can be dangerous. Physical punishment/discipline can instill fear and destroy any trust in a parent/child relationship. This can make the child feel distant and unwilling to listen/be obedient in the future.
DO: Create clear boundaries for your child.
The only way to fairly hold expectations for your child is if you can set and explain clear boundaries to your child in a way that they understand.
For example, perhaps you have a boundary that if your child chooses to eat their snack in the living room, they need to put their bowl in the kitchen when they are done. If you clearly express this boundary, you can expect your child to listen and complete the task. If they do not, they may face the consequences of not being able to eat snacks in the living room anymore.
However, if you do not express the boundary to your child in a way that they understand, and they do not meet your expectation, then that is not their fault, therefore a consequence would not make sense.
DO NOT: Expect your child to have common sense or know/remember unspoken rules.
Depending on the age of your little one, do not expect them to have “common sense” or to be able to assume the application of certain rules to new contexts.
Instead, be patient, clear, and direct.
DO: Get on their level.
When trying to communicate with your child, physically kneel down so that you are on eye level with them. This will help them to feel connected to you and will spark their interest to listen to what you are about to say.
Be mindful of where your child is developmentally when trying to give them instructions.
DO NOT: Expect them to act older or more mature than they are.
Speaking to a child in a way that is developmentally above their comprehension level can overwhelm the child, making it nearly impossible to listen, let alone to obey.
DO: Be emotionally mature.
It can be extremely frustrating when your child doesn’t listen. These moments of frustration, however, can be a great opportunity to model self-regulation to your child. Stay calm, don’t raise your voice, and be consistent!
DO NOT: Argue back and forth with your child or blame them.
Arguing back and forth with your child when they are not listening, although maybe satisfying at the moment, will not do any good. All it will do is potentially damage the relationship and put you at risk of saying something that you regret.
DO: Remember your child is learning and trying their best.
The fact is that your child will never be a perfect listener. No person is! Keep in mind that even when your child is not listening at all, they are doing what makes the most sense to them at that moment. Try your best to be patient and understanding.
DO NOT: Accuse them of being manipulative or conniving.
Name-calling can be extremely damaging to a parent/child relationship, and it can strain and sense of existing trust.
DO: Validate your child’s feelings.
No matter how your child chooses to behave, there is an emotion attached to it. Try your best to use the knowledge you have of your child to identify the emotion and help your child navigate it.
DO NOT: Validate your child’s behavior.
No matter the emotion behind a behavior, some behaviors are inexcusable (hitting, screaming, swearing, etc.). As a parent, use your authority to have consistent consequences in place for when your child does not listen or practices inappropriate behavior.
DO: Teach your child to be accountable for their actions.
One of the greatest things that a parent can teach their child is how to think for themselves and be motivated. A great way to do this is by using Reward Charts. Using a reward chart is a great way to teach your child that with listening and obedience, comes reward and benefits!
As mentioned in the beginning, raising a listening and obedient child is no easy task! It takes patience, consistency, and commitment. You’ve got this… good luck!