• Brittany Podsobinski

Does your child know how to listen?

Updated: Aug 14, 2021

Talk to any frustrated parent, and one of the most common complaints is that their kid doesn't listen! This could mean they make a request and get ignored, or they tell their child to do something and are told, "NO!". Either way it can create feelings of frustration, anger, or helplessness. Then in this state of high emotions the parent begins to feel like, "I must get them to do what I say", so they resort to yelling, making threats, or bribing. Now everyone is in a bad mood, the parent is wondering why their kid just can't listen when they ask them to do something? Life would be so much easier if they would just do what I said. Sound familiar?

When I found myself in this pattern with my own two kids, I decided to get curious. I pretended they didn't know how to listen (just like they need to learn how to tie their shoes, ride a bike, or pull up their pants). As a former teacher I know modeling is one of the best ways for them to learn, so I started looking at how I was modeling good listening skills, and what even are good listening skills?

Right away I noticed that most of the time I was half listening to what my kids were saying, because I was distracted with some other task. I would give an, “uh huh” or “yeah?” every time they paused, and then realize after a few seconds that I had no idea what they were talking about.

First lesson : hearing is not the same as listening

Step ONE stop what I was doing, make eye contact, and listen intently, OR say, "I hear you talking, but I'm in the middle of something and can't be a good listener right now. I can listen as soon as I'm done with ___________". Doing this made me conscious of how many times my kids were hearing me, but not listening because they were engaged in something else and couldn't actually process what I was saying.

Once I made sure I was listening intently I realized my next habit. As I was listening I would immediately go into problem solving mode, offering suggestions or giving a solution. Often I wouldn't even let them finish before I was butting in.

Second lesson : listen without interrupting

Step TWO listen intently without interrupting. When they paused, I would repeat back what I heard, or ask a question, or name a potential feeling to see if I was understanding. Then listen to see if I was on the right track.

Over the next few days I realized how much I had been solving for my kids, when they were fully capable of solving problems on their own. Or sometimes there wasn't even a problem to solve, they just wanted to be heard.

This also helped diffuse a bedtime meltdown. My husband and I thought we knew what the problem was- our son was overtired, and wanted to play instead of getting on PJs and going to bed. We tried suggesting fun ways to get ready for bed- he said these were boring! We tried reminding him that it was bedtime, and we could play more tomorrow. We tried telling him it was time for PJs, and we’d sit there in his room until he was ready.

But our suggestions infuriated him more, and I could sense we were close to the point of no return, where he wouldn't be able to "hear" us at all, and it would be a full on meltdown. So I changed directions and decided to really listen.

Me - You don't want to get ready for bed. What's going on?

5yo - Getting PJs on is boring

Me- You think getting your PJs on is boring.

5 yo- Yeah. I want to do something fun!

Me- You want to do something fun instead.

5yo- Yeah.

Me- What would make it more fun?

5yo- I want to cuddle dad in my bed.

Me- You want to cuddle dad in your bed. That sounds really nice, how do you want to get on your PJs before you get into bed?

5yo- I want to do it upside down!!

Me- You want to get your PJs on upside down. That’s really silly! Let’s try!

By actually listening and asking questions instead of peppering him with ideas and solutions, he came to his own solution that worked for everyone. And we even managed to have some fun doing it!

P.S. If you want more tips on how to get your kids to listen, download this one page PDF guide - How Can I Get My Kid to Listen

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