Why is it so hard for my child to listen to my side?

    Parents usually have good reasons for offering advice and guidance. From an adult perspective, they can see behavior in context and understand consequences. They give advice in order to help their child.

Yet kids often reject their parents’ lessons. What seems like good advice to an adult may sound like nagging to a child: “You’d get a better grade if your paper were neater.” “Homework before TV.” “Try to get along with your sister.” Many ten- to thirteen-year-olds react negatively to such words, especially if they don’t like the ideas or suggestions presented: “Leave me alone!” “Okay, okay, I hear you!”

What a child reacts to sometimes is the way advice is presented. Anything that sounds like a lecture is rejected: “When I was your age…” “You really should…” “You must stop…” “I know what’s best…” After hearing his child’s karate instructor speak about discipline, one father tried adding his own thoughts on the subject. “Dad, I already heard all this,” his son said.

Most often, kids don’t pay attention because they themselves feel unheard. In the rush to give advice, parents don’t always listen to what their child has to say. Instead, they interrupt him, ignore his words, or dismiss his arguments. Once he believes that they aren’t listening, he stops being receptive when they speak Instead, he shows anger and frustration. He rolls his eyes, looks exasperated, stomps off, or slams his door, shutting out whatever advice they offer.

This, of course, leaves parents feeling upset and confused. Parents want to get their opinions across, but they don’t know how. Many parent’s become harsh and demanding because they fear losing control over their child. They listen less and become more rigid in an attempt to make a point. Everyone is unhappy, and good advice goes unheard.

Communication doesn’t have to be this antagonistic—families can learn to speak and listen in friendlier, more respectful ways. A first step is letting your child express his opinions, even when they differ from yours. If he makes a seemingly unreasonable request, don’t respond with an automatic “No!” Instead, let him explain his side. He’ll feel heard, even if you turn down his request, and the fact that you listened will make it easier for him to pay attention to your ideas and advice.

Consider the words and tone you use when speaking to him. One parent lost his temper when his son asked for ten dollars: “What is it now? All I hear from you is ‘I need money.’ You’ve gotten enough!” Angry words or put-downs can make your child feel too defensive to listen. Instead, he’ll focus on defending himself when he finally has a chance to speak. If you use a patient, friendlier tone (“I know you’d like fifteen dollars for a T-shirt, but your blue shirt is still practically new,”) your child may not come around to your point of view, but at least he’ll feel less threatened. He’ll have an easier time listening to you and he’ll have an example of respectful communication to imitate.

To increase give-and-take in family communication, try asking him questions before offering your opinions: “What do you think you should do about your room?” “Why do you think Joey’s parents let him stay outside so late?” When you disagree on an issue, ask, “Why do you think Dad and I don’t want to say yes?” By this age, he should be able to predict your reasoning.

Take your time when responding to his requests, especially ones that make you angry. A moment spent considering your answer will give you time to calm down and will give your child a chance to rethink what he’s said. If you want to bring up a troublesome issue, try to choose a calm time and then take a few minutes to plan your advice or instructions: “We need to talk about how your short temper is affecting the rest of the family.” He will listen more readily to your reasonable statements than to a sudden outburst.

On some important or immediate issues, you will want him to listen to you without discussion: “It’s not safe to play around that way.” “You must change your tone of voice.” As long as he doesn’t always feel backed into a corner, unable to have his opinions heard, he’ll listen and respond when your words are urgent.

You may worry that you’ll lose parental control if you allow him to express his thoughts. However, letting him speak won’t interfere with your ability to set limits. Instead, it will create an atmosphere of mutual respect, making it easier for him to listen to you.

Throughout his life, your child will encounter people with different points of view and different ideas. The positive communication skills you model for him now will help him get along with his family and others in the future.

Picture Credit : Google