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Why Children Don't Listen

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Why Children Don't Listen

There’s many reasons why children don’t listen. Sometimes they physically can’t listen  perhaps they are dysregulated, emotionally flooded and their left brain (the logical side of their brain) is offline so it’s as if their ears are closed and they can’t hear us.

Or maybe the child is used to the parent not listening to them so they have a pattern of tuning out, dissociating, living in their head and they aren’t fully present. (Maybe this is learn behaviour or a coping mechanism for the child?)

It can be really frustrating for parents when their children don’t listen and co-operate, however instead of thinking about ways to get your child to listen you can start by evaluating your own listen skills and work on these areas. How you communicate is what children are modelling from you.



Why we don’t always listen to our kids.

When children come to us with a problem or something they want to talk about that is important to them they want their parent to fully listen – to hear them out. We don’t often do this for many reasons.

– we are too busy and distracted
– we have are own agenda
– we get irritated/annoyed when our children come to us
– our parents never listened to us
– we have unmet needs
– we think we know better
– we judge our children
– we want to impose our own belief system on them
– there’s a lack of respect.

Here’s a few ideas on how to really hear your child out

young girl rubbing her eye crying as parent shouts at her

1. Actively Listen to them

To actively listen is to:

-Listen without judgement

-Listen without comparison

-Listen without interrupting

-Listen without imposing (your belief systems, thoughts, ideas onto them)

-Listen without trying to fix things.

Mum knelt down with hand on son smiling

2. Help them understand the difference between a feeling and a story/perception.

There’s a clear difference between feelings and perceptions. When we are listening to our children we want to give them space to speak but not be fully drawn into their story so we can get to the root of what they could be feeling.

Some examples so you can see the difference between feelings and perceptions are listed here:

“I feel like my class mates don’t like me.” – This is a perception not a feeling. This is where a child is perceiving others don’t like them – this isn’t necessarily the truth. A feeling will always be true to the child.

So with a statement like this you would still want to find out what the feeling is. How would a child who has a perception that their class mates don’t like them be feeling? Lonely? Angry? Sad?

“I feel sad when no one plays with me.”

This is a feeling. It’s an “I” statement and the child is letting you know how they feel when no one plays with them.

3. Keep your own emotions out

Now this can be difficult for many parents. Parent’s stop listening to their child the moment they become emotionally reactive to something the child says. A child needs to know their parent is able to fully listen and be present without becoming emotional. So if a child comes home from school and tells you about a friend that was mean to them it’s important to let them speak and be heard and not become angry, upset or reactive. Remember your child is separate from you.

4. Stop what you are doing and focus on them when they speak

Have you ever said “in a minute” when your child is trying to get your attention? Instead of “in a minute” stop what you are doing and give them a minute of your undivided attention. Get down on their level, look them in the eye and let them know you are available to listen to them.

5. Be Neutral

When a child comes to you with something they want you to listen to it’s important to remain neutral. So for example with sibling rivalry you wouldn’t take sides, jump to your own conclusions or invalidate your child’s feeling and experiences. Instead listen and allow them to speak.

6. Have Empathy

To have empathy is to step in a child’s shoes and imagine how they see, feel and experience things. This requires you to separate your expereince and feelings from theirs and be curious as to what they are feeling. Empathy is. oneof the foundations of conscious parenting.

conscious parenting