My child won’t listen!


By Deanne Atkinson

“My child won’t listen. My child won’t co-operate. I am finding parenting so difficult and unfulfilling.”

These words are common.  I listen to the mother sitting across from me who feels stuck in her life and doesn’t know where it all went wrong, let alone a solution to this blurry existence she finds herself in.

“I mean I love my child but sometimes I struggle to actually like being around them.” I listen attentively and with empathy.  “Then the guilt sets in and I feel like a dreadful mother, an Ogre, the worst mother on earth for yelling at my child so often”.

Children not listening and mother guilt.  Two very common issues that many mothers can relate to.

Not listening is something I experienced myself as a new mum over a decade ago, until I changed.  Yes there is the key.  I changed. I changed the way I parent and surprise, surprise my child responded positively.

Think about when you have had enough of someone talking to you (or yelling).  Most of us shut off.  Children are no different.  If they have been told what to do, how to do it, to meet the needs of others’ demands they will have a point when they just shut off.  No more listening.  I believe they reach this point because they haven’t been listened to themselves and they are saying “I have had enough of you. You don’t listen to me, yet you expect me to obey every request you demand of me.”

For some parents this might be hard to read; for others it’s the light bulb moment where suddenly there is hope for the future.  I insist that we are the ones that need to change when children aren’t listening.  Most parents use an instructional method, telling children what to do.

It’s easy in the short term and it meets our needs as a parent, in getting things done.  But what if we gave children choices and explained the consequences of a good and bad choice and let them learn in their time?  Don’t we all learn from experiences?  Isn’t this meeting their needs to grow and learn from life?  I avoided the “terrible two’s” with my daughter by giving her age-related choices.  She felt listened to, respected and she had a say in what went on in her life.

Our lives are full of choices and learning to cope with the outcomes requires confidence to move forward again.  I encourage parents to teach their children this skill: confidence in making choices and dealing with the outcome.  This is a long term approach to parenting, not a short term fix.  It takes time to adjust to this type of parenting and it requires patience and understanding as children will learn in their own time.  By doing everything for your child and making all the decisions for them you are risking developing a young adult who is indecisive, dependable on others and lives his entire life pleasing those around them.

Mother guilt is a whole other topic to cover but in short if you haven’t intended to hurt your child then there is no reason to feel guilty.  We are so hard on ourselves to be perfect and need to let that go completely.  Reflection on our day or the way we reacted is healthy as we can change things we are not happy with by acting differently.  Sometimes we need to remember that we are teaching our children valuable lessons and although the lesson may be tough we are building skills to cope with the outside world.

As for the yelling matches and the lack of co operation, start with choices with a long term view of building a confident independent young adult. One day our children will be adults and forced to cope with the challenges of life.  They need us to teach them the skills to cope and give them the best start possible.

Deanne is the Founder of Parent with Passion, a service which helps mums and dads who are struggling with parenting.  From pre conception care, supporting new mums, and including toddler issues through to teenagers Deanne has a supportive approach getting to the cause of the issue.  She has a spiritual approach to parenting meaning she is all about feelings and emotions. Deanne looks beneath behaviour to the emotion and supports both children and parents to move through negativity by addressing what the underlying issue is. 

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