What would you do?
- Talk calmly and make sure your requests are short and sweet.
- Try a different mode of communication, such as a song or a picture or a simple note to capture your child’s attention and show him what you’d like him to do.
- Take your child to a pediatrician and make sure his hearing is OK. He may have a chronic infection, wax buildup or some other physical reason for poor hearing.
- Ask your child to repeat what you just said in his own words. This will help you know if he heard and understood you.
Real Mom Advice
I stop what I am doing, walk up to my son and make sure I have eye contact. Sometimes I take the toy or object he has and pull it up by my eyes. Once our eyes are locked, I say what I want to say and know I have his attention. — Rachel M.
Oh, I thought you had to talk with a Tootsie Roll waving at all times. — Julie C.
Try speaking in a soft quiet voice or even a whisper. Sometimes this unusual response is enough to warrant them to stop and take a listen. And it keeps mom cool too! — Annie A.
I call my son by a different name. The first time I did it he asked me why I had called him that. I told him because he didn’t answer to his own anymore. We both got a good giggle out of it. — Melonie N.
Listening is not automatic, it is learned, and we could all use some improvement. — Rebekah L.
I often will get very quiet and sit down on the kitchen floor. In a matter of moments, they notice the silence and come looking for me. Then I’m already at their eye level and can check for understanding of the instructions. — Jacki B.
I whisper in her ear. I dance the cabbage patch while I give the directions. I tell a stuffed animal instead of my children and then make a big fuss when the toy listens so well. I sing the information. I put something ridiculous on my head before I start talking. — Stacy M.
Turn up the music really loud and when they look at you like you’ve lost your mind lower the radio and say what you need to say followed by, “Do you understand what I just said?” usually they do. LOL. — Lily H.
Solutions a,b,c and d are all good options. Remember young children do not respond well to lengthy explanations and detailed instructions, so keep your requests brief. Also your choice of words and tone of voice will have a huge impact on how your child receives what you are saying. Sometimes children will respond to a different form communication, such as singing, role-playing or drawing a picture. Keep experimenting until you find the approach that works best for your child.
Listening is an important life skill, so make sure you model good listening. As Greek philosopher Epictetus said, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” Good advice.
* The Suggestion Solution is based on principles found in MomSense: A Common-Sense Guide to Confident Mothering by Jean Blackmer (Revell, 2011). Jean and her husband, Zane, live in Boulder, Colorado, with their three sons.