When Kids DON'T Lis­ten

Great Health Guide - - FRONT PAGE - Words Deb Hop­per De­sign Olek­san­dra Zuieva

How many par­ents com­plain that their kids just don’t lis­ten to what they are say­ing? Kids not lis­ten­ing can be very frus­trat­ing for par­ents from day to day. There are many rea­sons why kids strug­gle to lis­ten or pre­tend not to lis­ten and many ways to re­duce this frus­tra­tion be­tween par­ents and chil­dren.

Chil­dren might not re­spond in con­ver­sa­tion for three main rea­sons.

1. They could be dis­tracted es­pe­cially by screens, TV, iPad, video game etc.

2. They have hearing or au­di­tory pro­cess­ing dif­fi­cul­ties.

3. They are ex­hibit­ing a pas­sive ag­gres­sive re­ac­tion or hid­den anger to­wards the speaker, or anx­i­ety about some­thing hap­pen­ing.

Here are five tips for un­der­stand­ing and work­ing with chil­dren when they are not lis­ten­ing or who pre­tend not to hear when you talk to them. 1. De­code the be­hav­iour - dis­trac­tion?

One of the first steps in un­der­stand­ing why a child may be pre­tend­ing not to hear is to un­der­stand WHY they ap­pear not to be lis­ten­ing. Are they sim­ply dis­tracted by watch­ing TV, play­ing a game on the iPad, or read­ing a book? Is their at­ten­tion else­where? Of­ten, dis­trac­tion is the rea­son why chil­dren ap­pear not to re­spond to ques­tions or in­struc­tions. Tip: Be­fore speak­ing, make sure you have a child’s ac­tive at­ten­tion. Ask them to look at you, turn off the dis­trac­tion if needed and ask them to re­peat your ques­tion back to you, or at least say ‘OK Mum/Dad’.

2. De­code the be­hav­iour - pas­sive ag­gres­sive re­ac­tion?

Many chil­dren de­velop pas­sive ag­gres­sive be­hav­iours, which are one way for them to ex­ert con­trol over their en­vi­ron­ment (in­clud­ing peo­ple) when they may be feel­ing an­gry or anx­ious. This might look like when you call to him, he ig­nores you and makes you come up­stairs to talk to him. It’s a way for chil­dren to have con­trol over oth­ers, per­haps when they are feel­ing out of con­trol or anx­ious. Kids not lis­ten­ing may be a sign that they aren’t cop­ing and they are ask­ing for help.

Tip: Sit and have a chat about what’s

hap­pen­ing for them. Is there an as­sign­ment he is wor­ried about or is she hav­ing dif­fi­cul­ties with friends at school?

3. Make sure chil­dren have good bound­aries.

Chil­dren feel safer when they have clear bound­aries and ex­pec­ta­tions for be­hav­iour at home and school. Have clear ex­pec­ta­tions for jobs around the house (even for tod­dlers). En­sure they un­der­stand the ex­pec­ta­tions for home­work and even the tone of voice they use to speak to you. Chil­dren need to un­der­stand the rules of what is ex­pected and the con­se­quences of what will hap­pen if these goals are not met. Chil­dren not lis­ten­ing may not have a good sense of bound­aries (and

OPEN-ENDED QUES­TIONS ARE IN­VI­TA­TIONS TO SAY MORE AND AL­LOW IN­VI­TA­TIONS FOR BACK & FORTH COM­MU­NI­CA­TION.

there­fore not feel safe) within them­selves and their roles at home and/or school. Be gen­tle and lov­ing, yet firm. If you talk about con­se­quences stay firm in fol­low­ing through.

4. Keep in­struc­tions sim­ple.

Many chil­dren, es­pe­cially if they are young or have un­der­ly­ing learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties, have trou­ble fol­low­ing too many di­rec­tions at once. Break down your in­struc­tions or re­quests into smaller steps. Rather than ask­ing them to put their clothes in their room, brush their teeth and put their lunch in their bag, ask them to do one ac­tiv­ity at a time. If they un­der­stand and re­mem­ber what to do, they won’t be over­whelmed by the re­quest (some­times re­sult­ing in feel­ing

over­whelmed or anx­ious) and are more likely to re­spond ver­bally to your re­quest. Kids not lis­ten­ing can some­times be the brain be­ing over­whelmed by in­struc­tions and shut­ting down, mak­ing it look like they are not lis­ten­ing.

5. Mon­i­tor your tone of voice and ask open ended ques­tions.

If your child is not lis­ten­ing, re­duce dis­trac­tions and com­mu­ni­cate again with them be­ing mind­ful that your voice is not rais­ing in frus­tra­tion or in­creas­ing in vol­ume. Keep a calm and gen­tle voice. Once you have their at­ten­tion ask ope­nended ques­tions rather than yes or no an­swer ques­tions. Open-ended ques­tions are in­vi­ta­tions to say more and al­lows chil­dren to share their ideas and feel­ings while pro­vid­ing the op­por­tu­nity for back and forth com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Chil­dren who are not lis­ten­ing or who ap­pear to pre­tend not to hear can be very frus­trat­ing for both the adult and the child in­volved. The adult wants to com­mu­ni­cate and must un­der­stand where the child is at, while keep­ing the rou­tine mov­ing. The child may be both­ered by be­ing in­ter­rupted from their favourite TV show or be­ing in­ter­rupted in the mid­dle of a game. This is very un­der­stand­able. The above five tips can help to in­crease un­der­stand­ing for adults about dy­nam­ics and rea­sons why kids may strug­gle to lis­ten but also pro­vides some easy to im­ple­ment strate­gies for mak­ing life eas­ier.

Deb Hop­per, Oc­cu­pa­tional Ther­a­pist, au­thor & work­shop pre­sen­ter. Deb is pas­sion­ate about em­pow­er­ing par­ents and ed­u­ca­tors to un­der­stand the un­der­ly­ing rea­sons of why chil­dren strug­gle with be­hav­iour, self-es­teem and sen­sory pro­cess­ing dif­fi­cul­ties. As a prac­tic­ing, Oc­cu­pa­tional Ther­a­pist, she un­der­stands the daily strug­gles that chil­dren, par­ents and teach­ers face. Deb is the co-au­thor of the CD

Sen­sory Songs for Tots, and au­thor of Re­duc­ing Melt­downs and Im­prov­ing Con­cen­tra­tion: The Just Right Kids Tech­nique. Deb is avail­able for clinic & phone/Skype con­sul­ta­tions (02 6555 9877) & can be reached on her web­site.

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