Fewer things are more frustrating than a child who refuses to listen. The problem only gets worse when parents give in to their frustration and yell at kids or hand down overly-strict or inconsistent punishments. Learn how to establish rules and discipline your child in constructive ways that send a clear message about your expectations and the consequences for defiance and other misbehavior.
Establishing Clear Communication
Before resorting to punishment, reflect upon your child’s defiance in relation to your initial direction or warning. Ask yourself, “Were my directions clear?” or “Could my warning have been more tangible?” Sometimes, children don’t listen, not because they are being disrespectful or defiant, but because the desired behaviors or consequences aren’t made clear. The next time you ask your child to do or stop doing something, use a calm voice and be specific. Get close to your child, make sure you have her attention and maintain eye contact when you tell her, for example, that she needs to clear the dishwasher before she can go outside, as opposed to calling out to her from the other room. Be brief and to the point, because children tend to tune out when being lectured. Finally, establish clear, consistent consequences and enforce them regularly. Instead of warning your child that if she throws her toy again, she’s going to be punished, tell her that when she throws that toy again, she will be placed in time out.
Time outs are especially effective for younger children who have failed to listen to your directions or warnings, because it prevents them from causing harm or damage and gives them an opportunity to calm down and think. To make time outs effective for a non-listener, establish the rules ahead of time. Before your youngster goes off to play, for example, remind her that if she hits her friend or throws her toy, she will be placed in time out. If she breaks the rule, place her in time out immediately, with a brief explanation, such as, “You slapped Avery’s hand so now you have to go to time out.” Choose a quiet, uninteresting spot for the time out and set a time limit of 5 minutes or less.
Loss of Privilege
Revoking privileges is a technique that works well for older kids, because it teaches them that there are undesirable consequences for not listening. Choose something that your child values but does not need -- take away the cell phone, for example, instead of sending him to bed without dinner. If an item or privilege is associated with your child’s defiance, take that away instead. If, for example, your son ignores your warning to stop squirting the family dog with the water gun, take the water gun away for the remainder of the afternoon.
Alternatives to Punishment
Supplement disciplinary action with alternative approaches to children who fail to listen as a preventative measure. Give your child opportunities to practice a desired behavior before punishing him when he fails to do it correctly. Show him how to clear the table after dinner, for example, or stop him when he runs near the pool and have him walk slowly beside you. Another idea is to offer your child a choice. Clearly tell him that if he wants to go to the park after school, he will need to put his clean laundry away.