If you feel that you’ve become background noise and your kids won’t listen, here is what you can do.
With recent viruses, colds, teething, and general malaise, I’ve noticed a trend in our home. The trend goes like this. One sibling squeals in excitement, the other responds in excitement which turns to frustration, and this escalates into yelling. I attempt to join the fray by speaking loudly and they ignore me. After a few times of being ignored I realized, quite simply, I’ve become background noise.
I try my best to be consistent.
I am firm and follow through.
I don’t let them run wild, and yet… here we are.
If they are right beside me they listen, and they are still generally obedient. But I’ve started to repeat myself, and many times I am outright ignored if there is other noise. And when is there not noise in a house with small children? I don’t have this in hand yet since I’ve just realized what’s happening, but here is my strategy for extricating myself from the noise and becoming the voice of reason.
1. Position myself for eye contact
I used to be quick to go where the children were to intervene. Being sick and blah has meant that often times I assume that if I say “Kids, stop fighting or you will be separated,” they would just do it. I’d stopped going near them, making eye contact, and letting my presence stop the situation from escalating. So now, even when I am sitting happily at the table eating a snack I don’t want them to see, I will make a greater effort to go stand near them so that my instructions can be met with eye contact. Friends, without eye contact it is extremely difficult to get your children to obey. This is my first priority.
2. I will ask them to repeat my instructions
This is not rocket science, but I’m going to ask them to repeat what I’ve said. I do this on occasion with great results, but I think I will start to be more consistent. This isn’t necessary all the time, but when instructions are fairly complex or are attached to consequences (ie, you put the toys up and then you can watch a cartoon or stop teasing your sister or you will go to your room for time out) I believe this will help break into the moment long enough for them to calibrate for obedience. Additionally, when they know what the consequences are and make their choices accordingly, it’s actually easier to discipline. I’m not forced to create some consequence, but things just play out naturally.
3. Carry through with discipline before it becomes bad behavior
I’ve noticed that my son has a “bad attitude” (that’s the phrase we all like to use) lately. Sure he’s still sweet, but he gets very fussy and talks back more than he used to. I was feeling annoyed with him for a while and said to my husband, “Why is he so fussy all the time?”. Then I realized, he’s being fussy and having a bad atittude because I’m not actually consistently shepherding his heart and attitude. Previously I’d been just waiting for bad behavior to discipline, instead of actually training him according to his temperament. He is a passionate soul (which is great), but it also means that training and follow through needs to occur outside of actual disobedience, but with respect to his attitude.
4. Stop repeating myself
I can issue instructions once – if I know they are listening – and I simply need to wait until they comply. I don’t need to repeat myself a dozen times, count to 2.75, and then give the evil eye. I need to get eye contact, say my instructions once, get confirmation, and expect obedience. If they don’t then I can discipline, but I need to say what I mean and mean what I say and then just shut up about it.
What are your tips to get your kids to listen?