My Kid Doesn't Listen

At some point, every parent thinks this:  My kid never listens to me!  As frustrating as this feels, there’s a reason…  Young children hear verbs before they hear anything else. Think about this, when you say, “Don’t run”, your child hears the word “run” before they hear the word “don’t”.  So, what do they do?  They run- and it’s usually away from you, right?  What can you say instead to ensure your child will hear what you want her to hear?  You could say:

  • Walk please.
  • Walk inside.
  • Use your walking feet.

Try it out tonight.  If your kid keeps blowing bubbles in his milk, as tempting as it is to say “Stop blowing bubbles in your milk.” for the hundredth time, try something different.  You could say:

  • Milk is for drinking.
  • Drink your milk.
  • You may drink your milk, or put it on the table.

For older children, it’s also important to give them the reason why they can’t do something.  Without the reasoning, they may not understand the rule.  For example, “Stop jumping on the bed!”  In a child’s mind, they think, “Why?  It’s fun, so I’m going to keep doing it.”  But, if you say, “Beds are for sleeping.  If you jump, you could fall off and get hurt.”  This is a great opportunity to tell a personal story about the time you/ your sibling/ friend was jumping on the bed, fell off, and broke your arm.  The best part about a personal story is that it distracts your child from the current activity you are hoping to stop.  After you tell your story, they ask you a million questions about it, the two of you can move on to something more appropriate.  Ask your child, “It’s almost time for dinner, would you like to set the table or pour the milk?”  Your child just stopped jumping on the bed.

Is this style of correcting behavior a miracle?  No.  You will have to repeat yourself-- a lot!  But, they will almost always stop for the moment, only to try again later to see if the same rule applies.  Just remember to stay consistent!  They will eventually stop putting their feet on the dinner table- WHEW, thank goodness for that!!!

Rebecca Wilson, MS, is mother to Emogene (IC7) and is an enthusiast for all things related to young children.  She earned her Bachelors Degree in Child Development and her Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education both from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.  She has worked with children of all ages from birth through 3rd grade in different positions from teaching to administration to consulting.  Currently, she is a grant manager for the early childhood council in Adams County.