Why Kids don’t listen
There isn’t a parent alive (or dead) who hasn’t uttered the phrase, “my kids don’t listen.” Here I am a Conscious Parenting advocate and I’ve certainly said to my kids, “you’re not listening!” Suffice it to say, kids “not listening” has been a problem parents have been trying to solve forever. And while there are many parents who are content to simply say, “kids don’t listen,” and thereby respond to their children with punishment to correct the issue, more and more of us are instead seeking to understand this frustrating behavior. And understanding their behavior is the key to lowering our frustration levels, and approaching a solution with intention.
This Mom Wants to know Why Her One-year-old isn’t listening
I was recently asked the following question on TikTok:
Mom’s first mistake is confusing “not listening” with “not following my commands.” Mom is assuming that because the child can hear the words coming out of her mouth, and seemingly understands those words, that the child is intentionally ignoring her. The child is not. Mom is reading the child’s behavior in the same way she might read the behavior of an adult. Parenting in an unconscious state leads to questions like this. Children are not “mini” adults. If we endeavor to parent them with any degree of harmony and consciousness, it’s imperative that we educate ourselves about who they are. It’s interesting that we can understand the fundamental differences between men and women, however, so many of us fail to apply that logic to children. Since we all were once children, we think we get them. We don’t.
1. Kids Don’t Listen Because They Can’t
Children cannot and do not process information the way an adult can. Auditory processing a skill that is not fully developed until a child is 14 or 15 years old. And even then, if a child has Auditory processing delays or Auditory Processing Disorder due to being neurodivergent, they may always struggle with processing auditory commands. This is not something a parent will know in a child who is only a year old. Even if we assume that the child is neurotypical, we should not expect that a one year old child can receive and process information the way an adult can. According to Susie S. Loraine, MA, CCC-SLP
The term auditory processing refers to how the brain perceives and interprets sound information. Several skills determine auditory processing ability—or listening success. They develop in a general four-step hierarchy, but all work together and are essential for daily listening. (Cochlear Americas, 2009; Johnson et al., 1997; Nevins & Garber, 2006; Roeser & Downs, 2004; Stredler-Brown & Johnson, 2004).
So What should mom do?
First of all, mom needs to lower her expectations, and stop reading a child’s smile as proof of intentional disobedience. A one year-old-child simply doesn’t have the level of intelligence needed to formulate malicious intent. It may feel as though that is what’s happening, but that’s because an adult looking you in the eye and smiling when you ask them to not do something is probably doing so to get under your skin. A baby is likely smiling because they have your attention. Ultimately, a baby is a baby. If the child is doing something unsafe, it is the responsibility of the adult to keep said child safe. To make it plain, if Mom tells child, “No, don’t touch the hot stove.” and the child touches the hot stove, who do you suppose will be charged with negligence from authorities? Mom can and should communicate to her baby, why she is doing what she is doing to keep the child safe, but the onus is ultimately on mom. The baby cannot and should not be responsible for her own safety. In time, the child will learn and understand boundaries. The job of the parent is to create and enforce them.
2. Kids don’t listen because they are distracted
I have ADHD, so I have all kinds of issues with auditory processing. My husband is always frustrated with me because even though he can be speaking to me and we are the only people in the room, if my eyes are on something else everything he is saying is background noise. I can hear him, but I’m not taking it in. The same can be said of children. They may hear you, but they aren’t taking in what you’re saying if they are preoccupied with something else.
So what should Parents do when kids don’t listen because they are distracted?
If you need your child to pay attention to what yousay, the best thing to do is to get on their level, and speak directly to them, with their eyes on your eyes (if they can, some people have a hard time with eye-contact so don’t force it). What’s funny is that my husband takes it personally when I don’t seem to “pay attention”, but my 9 year old (who also has ADHD), has found a solution. He’ll gently touch my chin, lifting my eyes to meet his, to get my attention. No yelling, no frustration, no hurt feelings. Hopefully, one day soon, my husband will get the memo, too. It’s not personal, it’s just how my brain works. Children are the same.
3. kids Don’t Listen because They Need help
My true conscious parenting journey began 2 years ago when I became incensed after I felt my son was intentionally ignoring my commands. It was almost 10 pm, over an hour past bedtime, and despite repeatedly asking him to put away his toys and get in the bath, he didn’t do it. So I went into his room in a rage and began throwing his toys into their respective bins. I then took some of his art supplies that had been strewn about the floor and threw them in the trash. He cried himself to sleep that night and I woke up the next morning horrified by my own behavior. While he was at school that day I went into the trash and removed some of the items. When he got home from school, I then apologized to him for being absolutely ridiculous and disrespectful. Here’s how it all went down:
After calming down and talking things through we realized a few reasons why he wasn’t able to do what I asked.
- He was tired. It was late at night and he simply didn’t have the brain power to do what I wanted him to do.
- He was overwhelmed. Sure, he made the mess, but the task was just too big to tackle on his own.
In a perfect world, a child who needs help might say, “Hey Mom, I’m overwhelmed and I need your help.” But the world isn’t perfect and neither are our children. They are still learning how to communicate their needs and they need you (us) to help them learn the appropriate language to ask for help when they need it. Even the most intelligent and articulate child may struggle in this area.
What should parents do when kids don’t listen because they need help?
If you notice that your child is not doing as you ask, use this as an opportunity to connect with your child and solve the problem. Ask them:
What can I do to help you complete this task? What do you need?
You might be surprised by your child’s ability to tell you exactly what they need to do what needs to be done. But you (we) have to do is open up those lines of communication. Connecting with your child on an ongoing basis will allow you to get a feel for what they need without the child even having to say anything. Connected children are also more likely to follow your commands.
There are so many reasons why kids don’t listen, but the key to interacting with your child in a positive manner is to not take it personally. Your kids love you. They do not enjoy upsetting you. They do not take pleasure in getting in trouble. Parenting is a journey. Take all the time you need to work with them and figure things out. For more, I recommend the following books:
For a complete listing of my recommended books click HERE.