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How to Stay Calm When Your Child Won’t Listen

We’ve all been there. You ask your child (very nicely) to do something. You then repeat your request a second time. By the third time, you’ve had it and you lose your cool. While it happens to all of us, it isn’t the best way to respond. Today, I am sharing the best tips and tricks that I have learned to help you stay calm when your child won’t listen.

Child won't listen to parent

How do I stay calm when my child won’t listen?

If there is one things that I have learned about parenting, it’s that the only thing that you can control is your own behavior.

And as soon as you lose your cool in any situation, two things happen:

  1. Your child feels that they are in control of your behavior.
  2. The child learns to react to frustration with yelling.

Now, I am guessing that you really don’t want either of these situations to occur.

So, what do you need to do?

Well, you need to maintain control of your emotions in order to stay in control and model how to stay calm (even when you are frustrated).

That being said, in my experience as a mom of two strong-willed children I know that both of those steps are easier said than done.

I also work as an elementary school teacher, so my entire job is basically staying calm when children aren’t listening.

Ok, not really….but some days it does seem that way.

So, what are some practical tips and strategies that you can use to stop yourself from freaking out when your child seems to be ignoring what you are saying?

Let’s take a look…

5 Strategies to Keep It Together When your Child Isn’t Listening

1. Anticipate that your child will not listen the first time.

As adults we forget that listening is a learned skill and that it takes time and practice to be a good listener.

The expectation that all children will listen to what you say the first time is not realistic until they have learned to be a good listener.

When you go into the situation knowing that you may have to repeat yourself, or use a variety of communication skills, then you give yourself and your child the space to learn and grow together.

2. Take a deep breath and remove yourself from the situation before you explode.

Say something to your child like, “I am feeling really frustrated right now and I need to calm down, I will be back in a minute”.

This will give your brain a blood pressure a chance to relax and then you can think clearly about how to move forward in the situation.

With older children, you can actually leave the room, but if your child is a toddler simply move to a spot where you can still see them but you are not close to one another.

3. Commit to using a speaking voice

One of my favorite things to remind myself when I begin to get escalated is this:

“A loud voice silences the message”

And it is absolutely true.

Yelling is a horrible way to try to get your child to listen, because they will almost immediately shut down and stop hearing anything you say.

In fact, I have seen a lot of children cover their ears when parents or teachers raise their voices.

Promise yourself that you will maintain a calm tone of voice when speaking. If you feel like you can’t, then see #2 above.

4. Evaluate your own communication skills

It can be pretty easy to say, “My child doesn’t listen!”

What is more difficult to do is to reflect on your own actions and see if you are setting your child up to be a successful listener.

Ask yourself:

  • Are you in the same room as your child?
  • Did you remove, pause or turn off any distractions (like phones, tablets or tv shows) before you started speaking?
  • Are you making eye contact?

So, maybe you realize it’s not your child’s fault they didn’t listen the first time because you didn’t create an environment that supported good listening before you began talking.

Once you realize this critical step is your responsibility, then it helps to take some of the blame off your child and helps you to be more realistic in your expectations.

A distracted child will not listen, and it’s up to us to remove the distractions so that they can listen before we get angry with them.

5. Keep it light

I know this sounds crazy, but it works.

A child is much more likely to listen when someone is being funny or silly.

Let’s say that you want your child to put their shoes in their room.

You already know that they probably don’t want to get up and to that right now.

Instead of just saying, “Go put your shoes in your room!” sit down and act like you are trying to put them on and they won’t fit.

Be obnoxious and over the top about.

No doubt, they will be curious about what you are doing…and that’s when you have their attention.

They might even say to you, “Hey those are my shoes!”

When you respond with, “Oh my gosh, you’re right! I thought they were mine because they weren’t in your room. Can you please run and put them away?”

Now, you’ve kept the entire situation light hearted and fun, and maybe even bonded a little bit with them instead of it turning into an argument!

Win-Win! 

How to stay calm when your child won't listen

By using these strategies to stop yourself from yelling when your child seems to be ignoring you, you will feel much more in control of your skills as a parent.
You will also be demonstrating these strategies to your child and teaching them how to stay calm when they are frustrated, which will be helpful to them throughout many situations in life.

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