Don’t get worked up if junior’s not listening to you. Here are strategies to get your messages through to him.

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You’re at your wits’ end ― junior seems to practise selective hearing, ignoring your requests, despite repeated reminders.

Much as you hate to, you resort to yelling when promises, pleading and threats don’t seem to work. Yet, you’ve come to realise that yelling not only fails to achieve its objective, it only teaches your children them to ignore you or “tune out”.

Hypnotherapist Cornelia Dahinten notes that it’s important for children to follow instructions. “Rules and regulations are necessary to make social groups work out peacefully. For children to learn those rules, they need to learn how to listen and fit in,” adds the coach and director of The Parent You Want To Be ― Conscious Parenting Training and Playgroups.

Rules and regulations are necessary to make social groups work out peacefully. For children to learn those rules, they need to learn how to listen and fit in.”

An ability to listen to and carry out instructions is an important life skill for junior for his health and safety. An example is keeping his seat belt on when mummy is driving depends on his understanding of orders.

Listening also helps junior improve his social skills when it comes to turn-taking or sharing. When he starts school, he’ll also need to observe more instructions. Here’s how you can build junior’s listening skills.

1. Get his undivided attention Eliminate potential distractions. Switch off the TV or ask your child to put away his toys. Squat down or pick him up, and look him in the eye.

Dahinten says, “Physical contact is the best way to get your child in your ‘zone’. Touch his shoulder or hand gently. Then tell him to repeat your request.”

Make sure you don’t confuse or misinterpret junior’s inattentiveness as bad behaviour — he could still be listening even though he’s not looking at you.

2. Keep it simple Limit instructions to a few important words like, “Put the toys away, please” or “Bedtime now”. Avoid saying “Shall we...?” or “Could you...” as this implies that cooperation is an option and junior might say “No”.

3. Give age-appropriate instructions For young children, reasoning won’t yield results. Use actions instead, Dahinten notes. Make instructions fun — use dolls or puppets to act out a situation. Put on a silly voice or sing a song to get the message across.

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4. Give one order at a time If your child has problems with attention, avoid giving a series of instructions. Use words he knows. Say, “Give the ball to mummy” or “Put the cup on the table”.

5. Get your child to repeat your request Ask him to repeat your directive several times. If he’s a little older, get him to write it down.

6. Give them time to process After giving an order, wait for several seconds. Remember, children process things differently from adults, so be patient with them.

Junior is likely to listen to you if you praise him for behaving well. Give lots of positive reinforcement.

7. Reward good behaviour Junior is likely to listen to you if you praise him for behaving well. Give lots of positive reinforcement, such as a hug or kind words, so he won’t tune you out when you’re steering him back on course.

8. Give instructions in meaningful ways Ask your children to set the table for dinner, for example. Besides allowing them to make meaningful contributions, it’ll also boost their self-esteem.

Common mistakes to avoid when giving instructions. Don’t…

* … Give negative instructions Use positive instructions instead, notes Dahinten. Say, “Walk slowly” and give a reason like, “It’s wet and slippery”, which is much clearer and goal-orientated, she says.

* …. Nag Nagging only makes junior shut you out. Ask once nicely, once firmly, and then take action.

* … Make threats Don’t use an accusing or threatening tone. Avoid saying, “Do this now, or you’re getting a time-out!”. If you make an impulsive threat, junior may get angry as he’s forced to give in. He may also focus on that anger instead of the task at hand.

*… Give commands Try to see any situation from your child’s perspective. If junior is loaded with task-oriented demands, he might shut you out. Why not let him decide how or when to follow your directive. Prevent a power struggle by saying, “You need to put your shoes on. Do you want the green pair or the blue ones?” If you take the time to hear junior out, he’ll reciprocate and grow to be an active listener.

Photos: iStock

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