Children won’t listen the first time? This post from my friend Brittany at Equipping Godly Women will show you the most common reason your kids aren’t listening as well as exactly how to fix it.
Your day has barely even started, and you’re already about to lose it.
You’ve tried to pry your oldest out of bed three or four times now, but every time you go in, he flat out ignores you and rolls over.
Your middle child is out of bed, but every time you turn around, you find him playing with his Lego set instead of getting dressed like he’s supposed to.
And your youngest child has actually made it down to the kitchen table (by some miracle), but is now playing with his cereal (and making a huge mess) even though you’ve told him to stop and he’s old enough to know better.
You’ve taken a deep breath, you’ve counted to ten, you’ve used pretty much every trick you can think of to handle anger towards your child, and yet, it’s not working. You can’t keep telling your children what to do, only for them to flat out ignore you or wait until have a major melt-down.
Surely, there has to be a better way!
First, let me assure you: If you struggle with getting your kids to listen the first time, you are not a failure as a mom, and you are not alone!
Getting kids to listen the first time is an extremely common parenting struggle that pretty much all moms deal with at some point or another. It’s just a matter of when and to what severity. But we all deal with it.
The #1 Reason Kids Don’t Obey the First Time: You Aren’t Giving the Right Consequences Quickly and Consistently Enough.
Now, don’t feel bad. We ALL do it. Even me. And I actually wrote a book called Teach Your Children How to Behave! (Sound like your kind of book? Be sure to scroll all the way to the end for an exclusive coupon code!)
The good news is, once you know the problem, it’s way easier to fix it.
There are actually three parts to this, so let me break it down just a bit.
1. The Right Consequences
Every action has a consequence, but are your consequences enough? Take your oldest child for example – the one who won’t get out of bed.
What happens when your child won’t get out of bed? … Nothing. Sure, listening to you yell might be annoying, but it’s not much of a consequence and it just might be “worth it” for him compared to having to actually get up and get ready.
So, how do you fix this behavior?
You determine a good consequence – one that will motivate him to listen the first time. Then, you stop nagging and let the natural consequences run their course.
For example, if your son doesn’t get up for school on time…
- He won’t have time to get dressed. He’ll have to go to school in his pajamas (or, if that would be inappropriate, in the highly embarrassing change of clothes you have stashed in the car).
- He won’t have time to eat breakfast. He’ll be hungry all morning until lunch.
- He’ll be late to school. He won’t have any time to hang out with his friends in the morning and he’ll have to explain to his teacher why he was late.
Find the right consequence and you’ll only have to do it once. It will do the trick.
2. Quick Consequences
Now let’s consider your middle child – the one you have to tell to get ready again and again because he’s not listening.
It might seem like he’s letting all your words go in one ear and out the other, but the truth is that he’s smart.
He knows that when you tell him to do something, you typically don’t follow through right away. It’s only after you’ve told him four times to listen, your voice is raising and he can see that little vein bulge in your forehead that you’re actually going to follow through.
So he plans for this. He ignores you the first four times, and then listens the fifth time, before you get really mad and start handing out consequences.
Want to nip this behavior in the bud? Give consequences sooner.
Don’t give your children to the count of three before you follow through (or, if you must count, count really fast). Tell them very plainly ONE time, give them a time limit, and maybe one warning or reminder, depending on their ages. Then follow through.
Again, you only have to do this a time or two before your children catch on that you mean business, especially if your consequence is a good one.
3. Consistent Consequences
Now, let’s consider your youngest child – the one playing with his cereal and making a big mess. What consequences does he have for his actions?
Well, sometimes you tell him to stop. Sometimes you take his cereal bowl away. But sometimes you simply ignore it. You have enough going on in the mornings and sometimes you’re too tired to deal with it. Besides, it’s easier to just let it go and clean it up later.
Unfortunately, this inconsistency leaves your child unsure of what to expect. Sometimes he gets away with it; sometimes he doesn’t. He truly doesn’t know which it will be today, so he might as well try it and find out, right?
This is why consistency in discipline is SO important. Without it, you’re basically teaching your children not to listen to you because there’s a chance you might not even follow through. And no one wants that.
So, how do you get your children to listen to you the first time? You find the right consequences, and you hand them out quickly and consistently.
Sure, it won’t always be easy. Your kids will test your limits, and they’ll change and grown and need new and improved consequences. But stick with it. It really does work.
By the way – could you use some help finding and implementing effective consequences with your kids? If so, then be sure to check out my book, TEACH Your Children How to Behave. Down to earth, encouraging and practical, it will walk you step-by-step through my exact strategy for doing just that!
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