1. Parenting

What Should I Do When My Kids Are Not Listening to Me?

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Question: What Should I Do When My Kids Are Not Listening to Me?

Sabrina writes: Ever since my ex and I split up, I feel like the kids are just not listening to me at all. When I ask them to do something, they ether just ignore me altogether, or they gripe and whine like I've never heard before. What should I do?

Answer:

Most likely, your kids are testing you. They want to know whether the old rules really still apply, which - of course - they do.

However, you may need to apply some finesse in helping your kids to see that you understand where they're coming from. After all, kids who feel understood and acknowledged are more likely to listen to you and want to maintain a close relationship with you. Ideally, you want their obedience to flow from that relationship, as opposed to merely being a reaction they're trained to keep up for appearances' sake.

This may mean changing your goal slightly. While you may have previously been focused on whether your kids obeyed your every request, I would encourage you to focus on whether your kids are responsive to your requests. Teach them what type of response you're looking for, and how to disagree with you or propose an alternative solution. After all, learning how to disagree with one another is a healthy part of relating, and mastering the art of disagreeing respectfully is a life skill that you want your kids to learn at home.

For example, let's say that you're asking your son to take out the garbage, and he wants to wait until his TV show is over to complete the task. In my opinion, it's fine for him to say that, and then follow through on it after the show. The point is that he's responsive to your request, not that he necessarily does it immediately.

This kind of reframing of your expectations is especially powerful if your kids are going through a time of transition, such as a recent separation, loss, or move. With all that they're going through, they are subjected to a lot of decisions that are out of their control. Teaching them how to share their opinions and disagree with you will empower them. This, in turn, enhances your relationship and helps your kids learn to voice their opinion and work with you as collaborative members of the family.

More Steps to Take When Your Kids Are Not Listening:

  1. Privately prepare yourself to take back the reigns.

  2. Hold a family meeting.

  3. Reiterate your family's house rules and, if needed, revise them together.

  4. Work with your ex, if possible, to maintain consistency.

  5. Do what you can to incorporate fun events and maintain a close relationship with your kids.

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