How to Help Your Kids to Listen During COVID Isolation
By parenting coach, Tia Slightham
Parenting can be hard enough without the added pressures of being forced to self-isolate and work remotely. Having kids at home with no social activities or physical outlets can make everyone go a bit stir crazy. The fear of the unknown, lack of normal routines and schedules, removal of daily socialization – not to mention extreme cabin fever! – can create a sense of anxiety for the whole family.
You might be losing your cool a little, or maybe even a lot right now. To help you through this difficult time, I want to share three simple tools to help your kids listen and cooperate during COVID isolation, and beyond.
But first, let’s look at WHY kids don’t listen.
Not listening, whining, or refusing to cooperate are symptoms of a greater problem. They are your child’s way of trying to meet their basic (sleep, food, shelter, safety) and emotional (power and attention) needs. Their behavior is goal-oriented and with purpose. To begin breaking this down we must remember that, more than anything, our kids want to be seen, heard, and understood. If you want your kids to listen and cooperate you must find ways to truly connect with them.
How to Connect with Your Kids
Kids of all ages need a certain amount of power and attention daily. Imagine that your child has two invisible power and attention buckets above their head. It’s our job as parents to fill these buckets, proactively, with positive tools. If we don’t, our kids will work to fill these buckets the only way they know how, through negative behaviors. Kids know that by not listening or misbehaving it’s guaranteed to get your attention!
Simple Tool #1: Connect Daily with Golden Time
The first step in getting your kids to do better is to help them feel better. As parents we often get caught in a cycle of nagging, punishing, time outs and yelling. When we get on this hamster wheel our kids feel worse, and so do we. No one wins and the problems continue to escalate. In my practice, I use a formula I call ‘Golden Time’. The first step is to unplug from technology and fully engage with your child. Next, ask your child to choose a 10 minute activity that you can do together. When you take time to connect like this, your kids are guaranteed to feel seen, heard, and understood which will decrease misbehaviors. If you can consistently use this tool twice a day for one week, you will begin seeing positive shifts in your daily parenting experience almost immediately. You can learn more about my Golden Time formula here.
Let’s get off that hamster wheel and start creating moments where we can help our kids be their best selves. Small changes make big results!
Why Kids Need Boundaries
Children thrive with what I call the 3 C’s: Clear, Concrete, and Consistent boundaries. You must include all three to help keep your boundaries black and white. Unfortunately, parents often enter what I call the “grey zone”.
The grey zone is where parents tend to give in to their kids to try and stop unwanted behavior. This might include letting them have one more television show or a third cookie if they cry long enough. Maybe you’ve told your child they’ve lost phone privileges, but decide to allow it after enough whining. All of these scenarios represent ‘giving in’ and entering the grey zone. Your kids are left wondering, “why listen when nothing is clear, concrete or consistent?”
All kids are born with the predetermined job to push boundaries until boundaries are found. The more you give in, the more difficult things become. The deeper you go into the grey zone, the harder your kids have to push and resist. To help you break this habit and get super clear on boundaries start using charts.
Simple Tool #2: Age Appropriate Charts and Routines
Charts and routines are beneficial for kids of all ages. They are simple and effective in helping your kids build independence and responsibility, which in turn helps to fill up those power buckets! During this time where we have very little control, having set charts and routines will help you and your child feel some sense of control over your days at home.
Give kids the opportunity to help choose which activities and household chores they’d like to add to their chart. Choice gives your child more power, hence fuller power buckets!
The more you involve your kids, the more invested they will be. Use charts for bedtime routines, daily activities, screen time usage, and much more.
Why Kids Don’t Hear You
Another reason kids don’t listen is because they are given too many chances. I want you to remember this important phrase: Kids who forget, have parents who remind. Once you have clear routines and visual charts, you’ll be able to stop giving reminders and feeling like a broken record. Instead you can simply say:
“Have you completed your bedtime chart?”
“I’m sorry, but your chart says that iPads are used 30 minutes before dinner.”
“Unfortunately, your chart says just two books before bed, but we can do more tomorrow.” The truth is when you repeat yourself or yell, kids of all ages learn to not listen. From your child’s perspective, there is no reason to listen when they know you will ask them again. They’ve been conditioned to listen only after you’ve asked nine times or when you become so frustrated that you raise your voice and yell.
Simple Tool #3: Whisper, Don’t Yell
The quieter you get, the more they hear. The louder you get, the less they listen. Next time your child isn’t listening, and you feel like you’re about to blow, take a deep breath, wait, and whisper. You’ll be amazed how intently they listen when you quiet yourself down.
There’s no better time than right now, to start enjoying the moments you have with your kids at home. The truth is, we can’t force our kids to sleep, eat, potty, sit at the table, stay in bed, do their homework, or stop slamming doors. What we can do is encourage them to cooperate by meeting basic and emotional needs while treating them with mutual respect and kindness.
Tia Slightham is a teacher, parenting coach, and most importantly a mom. She has a Masters degree in Early Childhood Education, a certification in Positive Discipline, and has worked with kids and families for over 16 years. Tia is the founder of Tia Slightham – Parenting Solutions where she works with parents to teach them positive ways to save time and energy so they can live a high quality life with their kids and enjoy the moments they have together.