Getting Kids to Listen Without Losing It

Getting Kids to Listen Without Losing It

Sometimes my screaming sounds like something out of The Exorcist. It’s so bad, I swear the neighbors can hear and you would think that you had just walked into the Costanza’s house. You know, George’s crazy, yelling, “SERENITY NOW!” parents from Seinfeld? Yep, that was me- and almost on a daily basis.

So how does one get to this point? Well, I just freaking lose it. I lose it when I’ve said the same thing or made the same (simple) request about 20 times or more in a row, and no one is doing anything about it. I lose it when they just decide to ignore my repetitive strings of, “Stop it!” or I get resistance in the form of back talk. I turn into a demon when I have to say something a minimum of three times to get their attention. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

The Mystery of Selective Hearing

See, kids have what is known as, “selective hearing”. They only hear what they want to. What’s mysterious about this “disease” is that while I can bark out request after request- at any pitch humanly (and sometimes inhumanly) possible, they won’t hear me. BUT if I sneak into the pantry and unwrap a tiny Hershey’s Kiss, they’ll stop whatever they’re doing, from wherever they are (even all the way upstairs), and run to cash in on what their newly-adept ears picked up.

Another mystifying fact of “selective hearing” is that despite giving detailed instructions on completing 2 simple tasks, they are unable to remember or complete the tasks. This happens even if I’ve repeated the instructions multiple times. Yet, it’s amazing how they can hear and memorize a whole telephone conversation I’ve had and regurgitate the exact words at the least desirable moment…

Their super-sonic hearing is amazing, but only kicks in when it suits them. It doesn’t suit them when they need to get dressed, put on their shoes, brush their teeth, or come to the table for dinner. It doesn’t suit them when it’s time for bed, homework, or they’re having too much fun to stop and listen. Finally, it doesn’t suit them if they simply don’t want to.

The consequence to THEIR actions? I completely lose it on them.

The consequence to MY actions? They start acting like the DEMON me.

Getting Kids to Listen

Houston, we have a problem… Houston? Houston?! Did you hear me? We have a Problem!…

We all have tough days where our patience is thinner than a strand of hair. But I’ve learned (the hard way) that we can’t get all “Animal” on them. There are different ways to get them to listen, and screaming louder isn’t one of them. In a nut shell, here is what I’ve learned:

Make eye contact. You need to get in front of them and their distraction and look them in the eyes. Communication is as non-verbal as it is verbal.

Use a calm, low-toned voice and try to be consistent. Do this all the time so that they become accustomed to having to try a little harder to hear what you’re saying. This means they will stop what they are doing to listen to you. Be sure to use this same voice when you are rewarding them, or telling them something they want to hear.

Set consequences and STICK TO IT. If you need to go somewhere, let them know: You need to get on your shoes because we’re going to X and after that, we’re going to play outside. If you don’t get your shoes on right now, then we won’t go outside to play later.

My calm husband was the inspiration for that third bullet point. He sets boundaries with them and doesn’t hand out chances as much as I do. For this reason, his words hold more weight. They know that they won’t be able to do what they want if they don’t do what they’re told.

Listening and Learning

Full Disclosure: My mother will tell you that I had this “disease” as a child. I only heard some things and not others, but as a kid, I never ignored someone on purpose. I was always so involved in my own thoughts or with what I was doing, that I never actually heard what was being said to me. I’ve taken into consideration that maybe my kids aren’t weird, maybe they’re just like me, and I need to REALLY TRY to have more patience.

Apparently, as an adult, I still have this problem. When I’m busy trying to write or follow up on a message or email, that’s when everyone wants to start talking to me about the shade of green on their cup, or instruct me on how to pass a level in Mario Bros- both topics that seem to get filed under, “not as important as what I’m doing” in my eardrum filing cabinet. So sometimes, I just tune it out. So that’s where they get it from! I realize that I also need to give my kids the level of attention that I demand from them. I touch more on this in Listening to Your Kids.

Getting Kids to Listen

Serenity Now!

At the end of the day, their problems and my problems go hand in hand. The difference is that I am an adult and can look at this from a logical standpoint. Changing them starts with changing myself and toning it down around here seems like the right place to start. Of course diffusing lavender always helps, too- or if you are a DoTerra fan, check out their essential oil, Serenity.

You could, of course, always reward yourself for your “good behavior” at the end of the day with a nice glass of wine, too. (Check out Stressed Mommy Chardonnay!)

SERENITY NOW!! Why yelling at your #kids won't get them to listen to you and what will... Share on X

Do you struggle with getting your kids to listen to you? How do you handle it?

Pamela is a Freelance Writer, Blogger, WAHM of 3, and Veteran Military Wife living in Southwest Texas. Raised in the Northeast and having lived a few years in the Pacific Northwest, she likes to write about mom life, parenting, frugal living, experiences, and WINE. (Lots of wine!) When she’s not busy chasing toddlers around, you can find her on the blog or on social media. Check her out on Instagram:

6 thoughts on “Getting Kids to Listen Without Losing It”

  • Oh man, I’m right there with you in losing it. Dinner time is the worst for us. It seems like at that point my daughter has shut her hearing completely off and my patience has pretty much depleted. Not a fun situation. I love your points though because as I think about dinner time its my daughter yapping about anything and everything. Likely she just missed all of us after being apart all day amd is excited that she’s got us in one contained spot. Guess I’ll try to take that into account. 😉
    For morning and bedtime I recently started a chart system that she can interact with. So far it has been making a world of difference. We’ll see how long that lasts. 😊

  • Thanks Tasha! My kids take my husband so much more serious than me- and he doesn’t yell. He doesn’t give out chances, either- so this is where I think I’m going wrong. Also- threatening them with something that you can’t fulfill like- “you won’t go to the party if you don’t stop”, when you’ve already RSVP’d and will go no matter what, is a bad idea. I’ve learned that the hard way- say what you mean and mean what you say. I’m glad your little one is happy to see you at dinner and that she has a lot to say. I’m sure these are things we will miss one day (when they’re older and don’t talk to us anymore). LOL

  • My 3 yr old is crazzzzy. I am on the verge of losing it (my sanity) most days. But I’ve been practicing not yelling so much and speaking in a really calm voice or re-directing her with something positive. Helps a bit!

    • Hey Crystal- I know how it is, lady!! 3 year olds are definitely a challenge!! I TRY to remain calm… try being the key word. LOL

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