Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA
Many parents today are bewildered and left scratching their heads trying to figure out how to get their teen to listen to them. With so much information and advice available, they are left confused as much of the stuff fails to work or works inconsistently.
One of the most difficult things to change is personal behaviour. It makes it even more difficult, if you are trying to change the behaviour of your uncooperative kids, more specifically, your children’s listening habits. As you may have already figured out, however, is that you can’t make your kids change if they don’t want to. No amount of pleading, forcing, or punishing will work. In fact the more you insist, the more they will revolt (if not right away...then eventually).
The question is, how can you make your child WANT to change his/her attitude towards listening to you? The answer is to examine the quality of the attachment between you and your child.
Healthy attachment is essential to a good relationship so they will WANT to listen to you (remember, you can’t make them!). Attachment means bond. What kind of bond do you have with your teen? One clue to the strength of your teen is attached to you, is by how willing s/he is to cooperate. When your child forms a healthy attachment to you, everything else will flow smoother.
Note that the attachment I am referring to is the emotional connection between the parent and child. This is different from your child being financially dependent on you (or depending on you for car rides)...it is an emotional attachment you want to create. If you create a strong emotional attachment with your child, you will see an increase in respect, listening, cooperation, and an overall positive change in his/her attitude.
How can you build your attachment with your child? Here are 5 tips you can incorporate into your daily parenting life.
1. Consistency: Most people think consistency means enforcing what you say each time child breaks rules. That is not what I mean in this case. Consistency means, to make sure YOUR daily actions match the worth ethic you preach to your kids. Your kids will be less inclined to build a loving relationship with you if you are exempted from the very rules they have to follow. If your behaviour is inconsistent with your words, you will be perceived as a hypocrite and your teen will go find friends who keep the same rules as them.
2. Communicate: Sit down with your teen and discuss what is on your mind. This includes making plans together, sharing successes, sharing good memories, fun past experiences, and jokes. Recently experts have been focusing on the importance of communication when things go wrong. Let’s not forget, however, how important communication is when things are going RIGHT. By communicating the good things, we are strengthening our relationship with our kids and keeping their focus on us.
3. Involvement: Decide to be at the table for a few minutes (15 minimum!) while your teen is discussing the day or doing work. Stop what you are doing and dedicate your entire focus on him/her. It’s more fun to talk when we know we are listened to. Eye contact, smiles, and open body language offer more than talking to your teen while you are rushing around the kitchen to finish a chore. Actively listen to what you are being told. Likewise, share what is on your agenda and discuss some of your thoughts and feelings. These simple gestures will show your teen s/he matters to you. When you share...s/he will share. This type of involvement in your child’s life will nudge them to listen to you and cooperate.
4. Quality time: Quality time is important and it is different from filling each other in on what happened during the day. This is the time you spend together and make the rest of the world disappear. If you decide to go to the movies, follow it up with hot chocolate so you still have that time to communicate and bond. Communication is the key to building attachment because it gives your child an opportunity to share information about him or herself. Opening up and sharing personal information strengthens your child’s emotional bond with you.
5. Loyalty: Your teen may often tell you you are never on his/her side. And although I am not encouraging you to side with them if they are in the wrong, at least let them have their say. Do not form an opinion until you have heard evidence from all sides and you can explain to your teen how you formed your belief. If s/he is really in the wrong, it is not the issue. Stay supportive and ask how you can help next time so s/he can make better formed decisions. By offering loyalty, s/he has a reason to stick by you next time.
Best Wishes to Your Family!
Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto