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Selective Hearing

My kids are old enough to pick up their own toys and picking up toys is definitely not my favorite way to spend the afternoon. However, when I tell them to do it, they don’t seem to hear me. It’s as thought they’ve become temporarily deaf.

By
Cherylyn Feierabend,
Episode #038
Hey there! You’re listening to the Mighty Mommy with some quick and dirty tips for practical parenting. Today’s Topic: Selective Hearing
Tips for Encouraging Your Child to Listen

My kids are old enough to pick up their own toys and picking up toys is definitely not my favorite way to spend the afternoon. However, when I tell them to do it, they don’t seem to hear me. It’s as thought they’ve become temporarily deaf. This episode isn’t about picking up toys. It’s about why kids don’t hear you when you’re saying something they don’t want to hear. I call this phenomenon “selective hearing.” I have some simple strategies to help you communicate with children who choose to ignore certain things you are saying, such as, “Please pick up your toys.”

First, I’d like to point out that my children can hear me whisper to my husband if I’m suggesting ice cream or going out somewhere. I could be whispering it to him in the kitchen while the kids are 20 feet away playing with a loud toy and they will hear me. I am certain that neither of them has any hearing disabilities. So, when I’m standing two feet away and saying, “Stop pushing your brother,” I’m confident that my daughter knows what I’m saying. It amazes me how she just ignores me. I am sure that with time she will adapt to each method I come up with to convince her to listen. I just have to stay ahead of the game.

Parents tend to repeat themselves when they realize they are being ignored. They also tend to become progressively louder. If you know your child can hear you, don’t raise your voice. I’ve noticed that my children think I’m funny when I speak louder. Just like any other parent, I sometimes lose my temper. When I lose my temper, I raise my voice. I am probably much louder than is necessary at times and my kids think this is hilarious. Sometimes their smiles will actually calm me down and force me to take a different approach, but usually, it just makes me more frustrated. I think most parents have felt this way.

If your children aren’t listening, stop and evaluate the situation. First, decide if it’s really something you need them to hear. If it isn’t important or can wait, then maybe you can let it go. If it’s something you need them to hear right now, have your child face you. Most kids will turn around if you say, “Look at Mommy!” The more pleasant or playful you say it, the more likely they are to turn and look at you. Once your child is facing you, look him right in the eye and tell him what you said. Then, confirm that he heard you. “Mommy asked you to stop touching cat. Are you going to stop now?” When your child confirms that he’s going to comply with your instructions, be sure to thank him for his cooperation. I suggest that you also ask your child to face you when you want to tell him something pleasant. If he doesn’t know what to expect, he’s more likely to listen to you.

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About the Author

Cherylyn Feierabend
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