We had just finished a great morning of tailgating and made our way into the stadium at Notre Dame for the big game. That’s when my son decided to throw temper tantrum after temper tantrum, refusing to obey my wife and me, mocking our rules, and disregarding years of established acceptable behavior in our family. Instead of listening and behaving, my son would give us the “evil eye” and laugh when we attempted to reprimand him. Not only that, but he would also mimic everything we’d say to him.
“Michael, sit down and stop throwing your popcorn,” I said. He had been throwing popcorn and yelling “hello” at the other fans seated near us. “Michael, stop throwing popcorn, blah, blah, blah,” my son replied in his 8-year-old mocking tone. I felt like a parental failure and, in my mind, was revisiting everything I thought I knew about raising kids who listen. I knew there had to be something I could do to make sure my kids were better behaved and I set out to figure out what. Here are 6 ways to handle kids who won’t listen.
1. Don’t back down from rules and limits.
Nothing is worse than being inconsistent with your rules and limits. It can be arduous and even embarrassing when your child throws a fit, but don’t give in. This is a foundational principle in getting through to kids who won’t listen because it teaches them you won’t give in no matter how bad their public outburst is. If there are no cracks in the foundation, they’ll quickly learn your resolve is real and no act of disobedience will move you from your rules and limits.
2. Be realistic with punishment.
If your child does break the rules, be practical and committed to a penalty that sets the tone but doesn’t go over the top. If it does, your chance of sticking to it is next to nil and you’ll teach the child your words ring hollow. Then, he or she will continue to push, knowing there won’t be follow-through. I learned this again recently when, in a moment of weakness, I threatened to ban my boys from video games for good. They knew that wasn’t realistic, so my words didn’t mean much. Here’s how you deal with a child who doesn’t listen: You have to make sure your actions match your words.
3. Listen, listen, listen.There’s no better way to teach your children to listen than modeling the behavior yourself.
There’s no better way to teach your children to listen than modeling the behavior yourself. By allowing our kids to speak while we listen, they can see firsthand the importance of the behavior and how active listening always matters. Your kids will feel your respect and be set to return that respect when you speak to them. So much of what our kids do is based on what they see their parents live daily. Model active listening when interacting with your children and they’ll return the favor.
4. Reward the right behaviors.
When your child listens and does the right things, make sure you praise it and let them know it’s appreciated. Praise goes a long way toward changing overall behavior. Everyone, including your kids, wants to be rewarded for good behavior. By showing your kids a significant upside to acting the right way, they’ll make a habit of it and reap the rewards.
5. Give kids another chance.
While sometimes giving a child a second chance can be difficult, allowing them to see grace in receiving a reprieve will help them appreciate the opportunity. Second chances teach kids that even when they make mistakes, you will love and guide them. At the football game, I could have quickly taken my son to the concourse and offered him a chance to settle down and reset his behavior. This vital lesson teaches our children it’s never too late to start over and do the right thing.
6. Live the Golden Rule.
They might be struggling with unruly behavior, but treat your kids with respect. Treating your kids with respect—the kind you’re asking from them—means they’ll understand more fully what you are aiming for and it does help when you’re trying to figure out how to deal with a child who won’t listen. It’s easy to be disrespectful when your child is defiant. But even in times of difficulty, mutual respect shows our kids doing the right thing is always the best way to solve conflict or a problem.
Sound off: Do you know how to deal with a child who doesn’t listen? What has worked for you?
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Why do you think it’s important for you to obey your mother and me?”