Does it feel like your kids are not listening to you? There are several reasons our kids might not hear what we tell them. The two obvious ones are:
- We don’t have their full attention
- They don’t actually realize we are making a request until it’s too late to process what we’re asking of them
Beyond that, people (especially kids) have a difficult time managing information when they are feeling emotions. This is particularly true with overwhelming emotions, like frustration or self-doubt. The brain actually has to switch from one place where it is feeling to another place where it can reason and problem-solve. That kind of “information processing” requires executive function, which is not fully developed in many of our kids.
So… If your child (or you) are locked in emotion-mode, your child literally might not be hearing you when you speak to her, or make a request.
So What Can You Do About It?
Start by acknowledging her feelings: “Sounds like it really bugged you when your sister took over the television tonight. I’m sorry that happened to you.”
THEN WAIT! (this is the important part…)
Before you jump to solution, or add a “BUT“- give them a little more time and space to clear the emotion. I typically take a deep breath here, and let my kids vent for a minute or so. Show compassion for their frustration or concern.
Remember, when it feels like your kids are not listening to you, there is often something else going on. Once you recognize an emotional trigger is happening, it may take time for them to “reclaim their brain,” so try to give them that space. When you are sure they have shifted out of emotions and back into the “logical” part of their brain, you can communicate more effectively, and make requests without triggering a reaction.