Whenever I ask a parent if their child responds to their simple requests, I often get the answer, “Oh she/he has selective hearing.” We all know what that means; your child does not want to respond to you because they are having too much fun doing what THEY want to do. It is important however to teach your to respond to a request even if it is to negotiate for more time. Ignoring us is not an option. Of course if we expect this of our children, we need to reciprocate and respond to our children’s requests. Communication is a two way system: speaking, ( or gesturing) and listening,( acknowledging what has been communicated). This does not mean that we will respond in the way the child wants; it just means we will listen and acknowledge their request.
As parents, we teach our children many skills: eating with utensils, drinking from a cup, holding hands walking across a street, putting on shirt and pants, brushing teeth, riding a bike…., but many skills are learned through observation and imitation. Children learn a lot about how to interact with others through watching us. They learn about respect and trust in this manner as well.
As a toddler begins his quest to communicate, he points, pulls at clothes or gets attention through actions and gestures. We as parents usually try to figure out whathe/she wants and respond. As they develop speech, they may use one word like “mommy” over, and over and over again to indicate a variety of things. This is usually when we stop being good listeners. As a child acquires speech and is more mobile and independent, parents lessen their time on eye level and may go up above the child, which lessens their ability to be good speakers as well. Face to face communication is crucial at this stage. If you want your child to respond, you should be on their level, or at least turned in their direction. Also if you make a request, follow through with the intent so they see words have meaning. If they attempt to use words to talk to you, listen and make eye contact. If you are not giving them what they requested, offer an alternative or explain simply why not.
The question to ask yourself is: do you consistently listen to your child? If you do, great your child will be a better listener for it. IF not, find a way to be more conscious of your child’s communication to you. Respond and make sure you are eye to eye as much as possible. In the end, your child will listen to you more. Of course a box of blocks, cool race cars or dolls may still be hard to turn away from …. Repetition and consistency is the key to success.
If you would like to learn more positive ways for you as a parent to interact with your child sign up for our 5 week Parenting class in Torrance: Positive Parenting, which starts February 4th at 6PM. Call Kathie for more details or to register@ 30- 792-4597