Did You Hear Me?!
Off went the TV. She swung around and snapped, "Did you hear me?!" The little girl quietly looked up at her mom and asked, "What?"
Children often ignore - or don't hear - us talking to them. Many parents and childcare professionals tell me that their kids only listen when they want to. So, how do you discipline children who practice selective listening?
The secret is two-fold: Model Listening and Take Action
First, we must model to children listening behavior. Do you look into a child's face when he/she is talking to you or do just pretend to listen by saying the standard "uh hum" while doing work? If so, children pick up on this lesson and practice what they learn. My daughter, Laura, occasionally calls me out by saying, "Mom, you just asked me that question."
"Oh, guess I didn't listen to your answer."
Oops, I was guilty of selective listening. I encourage you to consider what you're teaching when you don't really listen to children's questions or comments.
Second, take action to get the children's full attention. Do you turn off the TV, whip away the iPod, or intercept a toy he/she is playing with? If not, you're allowing the ignoring behavior. And you end up repeating yourself to the point of nagging.
When either one of my daughters gave me the cold shoulder, I'd repeat myself using her name. (Hint: calling a child by name is an attention-getter.) Then I'd ask her to repeat me. "Oh Mom," she'd moan, "I heard you!" But at least if she could repeat what I just said, it reassured me my words were sinking in. Then if she disobeyed me, I knew I was dealing not with selective listening but, with outright defiance.
In your daily discipline, remember the powerful teacher you are! Every behavior you do around kids is their lesson - and kids are quick studies. You want them to listen to you? Then you listen when they talk to you. Do you think they are so distracted that they can't listen, then take action to insure you have their full attention.