If you're exhausted with having to repeatedly ask your kids to do the same thing, you're not alone. It seems that kids the world over have a bad knack of ignoring their parents.
And if you're feeling guilty about yelling at your kids when they ignore your simple requests, you're not alone there either.
Dr Erica Reischer, a psychologist and parenting coach says that this style of communication is not uncommon. Although she does point out that yelling creates a bad habit as your children learn to only respond to you when you yell – so the result is that they ignore you the rest of the time!
If this is sounding a lot like what happens at your place don't worry. Dr Reischer has shared with Psychology Today seven simple tips to help you change this troubled communication pattern, and hopefully get your kids doing what you ask them to do – the first time you ask!
1. Communicate effectively
The first step to making sure your kids do what you ask them to do, is to make sure that they hear you in the first place. Calling out for them to put their shoes on while you're outside hanging out the washing isn't really going to cut it.
For small children, make a point of getting down to their level and give them eye contact as you ask them to turn the television off, for example. Dr Reischer adds, 'A friendly touch on the arm, or some other positive physical connection is also helpful."
For older children and teenagers, it's not necessary to crouch down to their height when you make a request. But give them eye contact and expect some acknowledgement that they've heard you. A simple, "OK Mum," or, "Sure Dad," is polite and confirms they know that they have been given an instruction.
2. Give the benefit of the doubt
As frustrated as you may feel when your children don't do what you've asked, understand that they may not be ignoring you intentionally.
Children under 14 are very easily distracted and can find it difficult to pay attention to what's happening around due to their limited "peripheral awareness." This is way not calling out to them from another room is important, as well as give them eye contact to help them listen.
3. Yes, they could be simply ignoring you
Some children like to test their parents' boundaries to see how much they can get away with. They might be waiting for you to raise your voice so they know that you're 'serious'.
This is especially the case if they have learned that if they keep ignoring you that you'll do the job yourself.
If you're feeling guilty about yelling at your kids when they ignore your simple requests, you're not alone.
4. Repeat yourself once
After asking your child to do what you asked (and they have definitely heard), only ask them once more to follow your instruction. If they then do what they were told – brilliant! If not, follow these steps below.
5. Give an explanation
So you've given your child a clear instruction once. They've definitely heard you.
Then you repeated the instruction once after they ignored your request.
The next step is to explain why you're asking them to pack their toys away, so they can understand your reasoning and see that you're being reasonable.
For example, "I need you to pack away your toys because it's your job to clean up your toys before you go to sleep. If you don't tidy them up now you'll go to bed late and be tired in the morning."
Explaining your reasoning like this can help to motivate their behaviour. It also reinforces your rules and their responsibilities.
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6. Allow them to accept the consequences
If your child has continued to ignore your request despite explaining your reasoning, allow them to experience the natural consequence.
For example, if your child ignored your request to bring their toys inside they may have to accept the natural consequence that their toys would get wet from the dew or rain overnight.
Learning from their own consequences is a powerful teacher, except for in a case when their own health or safety is at risk. If this is the case, follow the next step.
7. Give them a consequence
If your child has ignored your instruction and it's not safe or in their best interest to allow a natural consequence, give them a fair warning that if they continue to ignore your request that there will be a consequence.
For example, "If you don't come into the bathroom to brush your teeth you won't be allowed to go to the park tomorrow."
This warning is important as it allows your children to make a choice and have the chance to respond. If they continue to ignore you, then you need to follow through with the consequence that you set out. Following through with the consequence is critical as it reinforces to your children that you mean what you say and that they can't get away with ignoring you in future.