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Listening

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Four-Year-Old Not Listening
Eight-Year-Old Son Not Listening
Daughter Doesn't Listen
Five-Year-Old Not Listening
Seven-Year-Old Not Listening

Four-Year-Old Not Listening

My son is 4 years old. I am having an issue with listening both at home, in public and at school. He is very smart and a very loveable child. I feel because he is so smart I expect better behavior. He is always remorseful when he acts up and he knows when he is doing wrong. I share custody 50/50 with his father and we have a very cordial relationship, however when it comes to our son's behavior his father lets him get away with misbehaving......That leaves me to always be the one who disciplines him and the "bad guy".....this is not the role that I would like to play as a parent. I would like to be the one that gets the expected best behavior from my son and the respect that I know he can give. I am told by his teacher that his behavior is normal however; I know he is capable of more. I want him to listen to what I have to say on the first time he is asked, will any of your charts help with this issue? I would love to know what has worked in the past for any of your readers or anyone that might have dealt with something like this. I have tried so many things and feel that I am at the end of my rope with this. -Amanda, Missouri

Amanda,
Remember that your son is only four and expecting him to do what you say the first time is a bit unrealistic at this age. A child's job is to push the limits, so he is doing what is normal for a child his age. Here is a reminder of some developmental behaviors to expect from a preschooler:

Social interaction with peers- Preschoolers become very social and move away from playing alone to playing with other children. Peers become much more important and influential.

Sense of self- Preschoolers tend to be egotistical and see the world as revolving around them!

Independence- Preschoolers develop a strong sense of independence and will express this by a desire to do things for themselves. They may want to dress themselves, pour their own drinks, help do chores.

Curiosity- Preschoolers develop an interest in the world around them. You may hear the question "why" frequently!

Influence by others- Kids this age are impressionable. So, be aware of major influences in their lives such as media, peers, other adults.

Phobias-Preschoolers may develop some new fears and phobias.

So, when looking at some of these preschooler behaviors, your child is developing normally. Sounds as if he is experiencing a sense of independence and egotism which may include continuing to do things for himself instead of listening to you the first time!

Here are some helpful hints when trying to communicate with your child. First, don't yell or lecture. If you are visibly angry, your child may get some type of reward from pushing your buttons. Children this age are gaining more control over their environments as they are transitioning from "babies" to "big children". Your son's sense of control may be in controlling you...getting you to react when he doesn't listen! Don't create a power struggle or you will invite your son to win.

Next, don't forget to give him choices. With choices, you will be contributing to his sense of independence in a positive way. For example, instead of saying, "you need to clean up your toys now" say "you can clean up your toys now by yourself or in five minutes with my help".

You mentioned that your son is a bright little boy. Don't be fooled by that! Though intelligent, he is still only four years old. Your expectations may be too high. Remember to view him in a realistic way as compared to other children his age.

An additional difficulty your son may experience is the inconsistency in parenting between you and his father. If his father is more lenient, then he will continue to have difficulty following your rules when at your home. Optimally, you can work out some standard rules and expectations with your son's father...rules that you both share and enforce at home. You and your son's father would benefit from a joint meeting with a family therapist. Sometimes having a third party available to help mediate is effective. You may not need more than a couple sessions to help work out some basic inconsistencies.

Also, behavior charts are very effective motivators. At your son's age, it would be best to use a behavior chart to target one specific behavior at a time. You don't want to overwhelm him, confuse him, or set him up for failure. You want the behavior chart to be a positive experience. So, if there is one behavior that you would like to eliminate, try a chart. For instance, if your son has difficulty going to bed when told, you can set up a chart that targets this one behavior. When your child goes to bed nicely (and clearly define "nicely"), he gets a sticker on the chart. When using charts with kids this age, you need to be very clear about the expectation and give immediate rewards. Rewards don't need to be large. In fact, the best rewards are time spent with family and friends such as playing a game with mom or a trip to grandma's house. Remember also that we are happy to make up charts for you that match your child's interests and behavioral issues. Just drop us a line.

Best of luck with your little boy. You are doing a great job and remember that kids go through difficult phases that will end. They are constantly testing parents, so you need to be ready, supportive, and patient!

Eight-Year-Old Son Not Listening

I have an 8 yr old son that will not listen to anything that I tell him to do! In the end I do it myself just to keep from arguing with him! I don't know how to get him to listen to me without nagging him all the time! Please help! Melissa, WV

Melissa,
First, don't forget that kids are good at pushing buttons, and your son has got yours figured out! The minute you start arguing with him, he has won the battle by getting you upset. And eventually, he will be rewarded when you do his work for him. It's a vicious cycle and when that cycle stops, change will happen. To begin, stop the arguing. When you notice that you are becoming angry enough to argue, even if the situation is not resolved, stop and put some distance between you and your son. Let him know that you will deal with him later, but for now you need to calm down. At that point, go into a different room, make a phone call, pick up a magazine to read...do something to help you cool down.

Next, you may need to change the way you are communicating with your son. Remember that you want to teach him how to make good choices. By giving your son choices, you will put the responsibility back on him instead of owning it yourself. For example, let's say that you want your son to pick up clothes on his bedroom floor. You could command that he picks up his clothes by saying, "Pick up your clothes, NOW". But, controlling, commanding language only invites conflict. It's better to say, "You need to pick up your clothes some time before dinner tonight. You can go to your friend's house after your clothes are put in your laundry basket." In this way, you are encouraging your son to take responsibility and make the choice of when to pick up his clothes. If he doesn't pick up his clothes, he makes the choice not to go to his friend's. In addition, this type of communication is much calmer and does not invite conflict. Just walk away and let him make the choice. Most important, be consistent. If you say that he can't go to his friend's, don't let him go. And if he gets upset, calmly state, "You didn't pick up your clothes, so you can't go to your friend's. That's a bummer". At that point, the discussion is over...no arguing, no bargaining.

Depending on your situation, a reward chart may be helpful, too. If your son is having difficulty completing a task on a daily basis, a reward chart can reinforce good behavior. For example, if he refuses to brush teeth at night, use a reward chart to mark off when he brushes. If he brushes every day, have a reward set up for him at the end of the week. You can look at our list of possible rewards, here. But, when using a reward chart, you want to work on very specific behaviors and only a few at a time. Don't overwhelm your son by listing too many behaviors at once..

Next, examine your lifestyle. Are you spending enough positive time with your son? Sometimes, kids act out and argue to get attention. Negative attention from a parent can be better than no attention. Between work, school activities, and family responsibilities, parents may forget to simply spend time with their kids. Make time to go for a walk, build a snowman, see a movie, or read together. If you feel like you are not spending enough time with your son, change your lifestyle a bit and make time for him. Sometimes, negative behavior changes when parents and kids reconnect and spend quality time together.

Most important, give your son positive reinforcement. Catch him being good! Many parents forget this step. People like to hear positive feedback. We all do. Positive feedback is a reward in itself. You may have to work hard on this one as you are in a negative cycle with your son at the moment. But, any time you catch him doing something positive, let him know. Check out our "75 Ways To Say Good Job". If you acknowledge your son's positive behavior, he will want that reward again and be motivated to do another positive act to please you.

Best of luck!

Daughter Doesn't Listen

My daughter hates me and doesn't listen to me, what can I do to change this? -Janine, England

Janine,
Children may say that they hate you or act out in ways that seem hateful. Unfortunately, that's their job some of the time. And it's a parent's job to continue to calmly set limits and respond in an adult way to this behavior. When your child tells you in anger that she hates you, she is really saying something like, "I don't like the consequence you just gave me" or "I want you to feel bad because I do right now". Saying "I hate you" may be a strategy your child is using to get what she wants. But, keep in mind that we sometimes hurt the ones we love. Why? Because it's safe. Children may save their worst, meanest, most difficult behavior for family members because at home, they get unconditional love. No matter what they do or say, parents, siblings, and grandparents will still love them. So, it's safe the let out these strong emotions at home. At times, kids will overreact to a simple rule or consequence due to frustration with something else in their lives. Maybe there was a problem at school or with a friend. You may want to check in with your daughter to make sure that her behavior is not a symptom of a bigger issue.

Most important is how you respond to your child when she says "I hate you" or acts in a hateful manner. As a parent, it's your job to stay calm and not be drawn into an emotional conflict. If you act emotionally, then your daughter has won the battle. She's made you feel bad. When a child acts hatefully or says "I hate you" it's appropriate to validate her emotions and stand your ground in a calm, controlled manner. For example, you might say, "I hear that you're angry but you still can't go out tonight" or "Maybe you feel like you hate me right now because you're angry. I love you and if you need to talk I'm here." Never tell your child that you hate her too. If you need to take some time to cool down before you respond to your daughter's hateful words or actions, do. You can let her know that you need a short time-out and you will continue the conversation after some cool down time. In this way, you will be role modeling appropriate coping mechanisms.

Regarding your daughter not listening to you, your approach with her depends a bit on her age which is an unknown here. So in general, if she continues to do what she wants instead of listening, then it's been working for her, and she doesn't have any motivation to behave differently. Kids will continue to exhibit behavior that works. For instance, if you ask her to do a chore and she doesn't do it, and there are no consequences, then why should she do the chore the next time you ask? Ignoring you works just fine for her. Why should she change her behavior?

As a parent, you need to motivate her to listen. Make time to talk to her without distractions. Set up some behavior expectations and consequences for her. Write your expectations down on paper along with appropriate consequences. We've just made up a couple new charts for listing expectations. You can find them here. If your daughter is old enough, you can involve her in the process. What does she think are fair consequences? Usually, kids are harder on themselves than parents! Make a point to sit down with her and discuss your expectations and the consequences involved if she chooses not to listen. If she needs some motivation, try using a behavior chart and reward system. We have a variety of charts for all ages, and if you need a special chart made up, just let us know. If you start making your daughter accountable for her actions, then she will begin to listen. Also, we always recommend the book How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber. This is a great resource for all parents.

Best of luck and let us know if we can help any further!

Five-Year-Old Not Listening

My 5 year old girl does not listen at all. She wants to do whatever she wants. She is not patient at all. She does not like to share. When I tell her to clean up she gets very upset. She answers me back with an attitude. What ideas or tips can you show me so that she could learn to respect me? -Martha, NY

Martha,
It sounds like you're having some challenges with your daughter. At the age of five, children are becoming more independent.  A child's independence may also translate into increased testing of adults. At five, kids may disobey adults just to see what type of response they receive. That's why it's especially important to remain consistent with your discipline techniques.

Younger kids respond well to structure. Behavior charts/chore charts can be effective techniques with this young age. To reinforce behaviors that you would like to see in your daughter, set up a behavior chart. As she is younger, don't overwhelm her with too many expectations at once. You can focus on one or two behaviors at a time. For example, you mentioned sharing and listening as two behaviors that you would like her to improve.

You can set up a single behavior chart just for listening/following directions. A child of her age would respond well to one of our single behavior charts here. These are very cute and appropriate for her age. Every time your daughter follows your directions, you can have her mark a spot on the chart by either coloring it or placing a sticker on it. When the chart marks are filled up, you can give her a larger reward. Check out some of our reward ideas for kids here.  And, when your daughter doesn't follow directions, you can simply say, ?I guess I can't mark your chart because you didn't follow directions?. Let it go at that. You can also set up a separate chart for sharing.

In addition, you can set up a chore chart for daily expectations.  You can find some cute chore charts with characters here. If you would like your daughter to clean up every day, you can list this duty on a chore chart and reward her at the end of the week for doing a good job. Since your daughter is only five, don't expect perfection. Five year olds need guidance, have lots of energy, and may get off task easily. For instance, give her a reward if she fills in 4 out of 7 days.  Also, be creative when getting your child to clean up. You can make it into a game. Stay with her to provide support and guidance. See our article on Getting Kids To Do Chores.  You can get some additional tips on using behavior charts here.

By staying calm and setting clear and consistent limits, you are maintaining a respectful manner. If you find your buttons are being pushed, take a break from the situation. Let your daughter know that you need to take a time-out and cool down. Then, take some time for yourself until you can talk with your daughter calmly. And use the same technique to help your daughter manage her anger. Have her take some time to calm down if she is too agitated to behave appropriately. Here is a wonderful article about giving time-outs.

All too often parents forget to praise children when they are doing the right thing. Catch your daughter being good! Give her positive feedback. Let her know when you see her behaving. Positive feedback is powerful and may be enough to help motivate your daughter to change her behavior.

Best of luck and let us know if we can help in any other ways. Don't forget that we are happy to make up a custom chart for free if you don'tff see what you need on our website!

7-Year-Old Not Listening

Hello, My 7-year old daughter doesn't obey. Half of the time we are not sure she is listening. The other half of the time she spends arguing why she shouldn't do what we have asked of her. When we finally tell her to stop responding and "discussion is over", she still doesn't do what we ask or stop doing what we are asking her to stop. We've removed certain privileges but that doesn't seem to make a difference. She is also this way with her teachers, although to a lesser degree. She is intelligent and at the top of her class, so she can be a bit arrogant with us as well as her friends (she doesn't have many). What can we do to lessen the tension and mounting anger at home without breaking the spirit of this child? Thank you. -Diane, Switzerland

Diane,
It sounds like you have an incredibly bright, independent young girl on your hands. Kids this age can be challenging as they are transitioning into individuals with their own opinions and ideas. Sometimes, their attempts at asserting themselves can be trying for parents as they challenge authority and attempt to push the boundaries. First, there are a couple articles on our website that may prove very helpful. Part 1 is titled: Power Struggles Part 1: Are You At War With Your Defiant Child? and Part 2 is titled: Avoiding Power Struggles With Defiant Children: Declaring Victory Is Easier Than You Think. Part 2(add link) gives some practical hints such as pick your battles, give your child choices, and how to give your child some independence wisely.

It sounds like one of the most important strategies with your daughter is to pick your battles. From what you've said, she enjoys battling, and sometimes kids feel that they've "won" once a parent is engaged in the argument. Negative attention is still attention, and many kids will take attention any way they can get it. You may want to try a positive reinforcement approach versus a punishment. For example, using a behavior chart will positively reinforce her good behavior versus taking privileges which is negative.

When using a behavior chart, start with one behavior that you would like to improve. You want to start small so she will succeed. In addition, make the target behavior specific so she understands your expectations. "Listen to mom and dad" is too general, but, "put your clothes in your hamper every day" is more specific and achievable. Her teacher can also use a reward chart at school to help her change specific behaviors. Decide on the number of days she needs to succeed before she earns a bigger reward. You can see our list of rewards here(add link). Don't expect success every day...maybe 3 or 4 days/week. Then, when she achieves her number of days, let her pick out a small reward. You can also check out our article on Using Behavior Charts.

Also, try to break the cycle of negative interactions by giving her positive feedback when you notice desirable behavior. You can check out our 75 Ways To Say Good Job for some ideas. Kids will often change behavior simply for the reward of receiving positive feedback. You can also use our "Caught You Coupons" as a way of saying "Good Job". When you notice great behavior, hand her a coupon, and let her know that you're proud.

Best of luck with your daughter. It sounds like you're doing a great job! Please let us know if we can make up any special charts or reward coupons for you.