What This Is Like from Your Perspective

You ask your kids to do things (clean up after themselves, go to bed, brush their teeth) because those things have to get done. So when your kids aren’t listening and you try so many different things to get them to listen…

you feel helpless, like you simply don’t know what’s going to work

you worry that you may be losing your authority over your kids and that things might just get worse and worse

…it makes you want to try everything you can think of to control them even more

You’ve tried a lot of things that have “worked” (gotten them to do what they have to do), but only for a short period of time. 


What This Is Like from Your Child’s Perspective

Children are being told what to do all day long. They’re being told where to be, when to be there, what they can and can’t have. And sometimes, they

…just want to do something that they want to do for once

…have trouble doing what we ask because they’re engaged in something else

…are so frustrated that they don’t listen because they don’t know how to handle their frustration in a mature way

So they don’t listen. When they’re not in Yuck, they know that they shouldn’t act that way. But sometimes they’re being impulsive, and when an adult punishes them or threatens to take away everything they care about, in that moment it makes them want to resist more.


How It Usually Goes When Your Kids Aren’t Listening

(That Makes You Feel MORE Out of Control)


Scenario: Evan’s mom asked him to stop making noises at the dinner table. He didn’t listen to her and continues to make noises. 

Mom (thinking to herself):He’s not listening to me! What the heck?!
Mom (to Evan): Evan, I know you heard me! I asked you to stop!

Evan continues to make noises.

Mom (thinking to herself): He is being so rude! I can’t let him get away with this!
Mom (to Evan):You’d better stop this now, Evan…

Evan smiles and continues to make noises.

Mom (thinking to herself):If I don’t show him that I’m boss, he’ll never listen to me! I need to make him see how serious I am!
Mom (to Evan):That’s IT, Evan! You are not going to your friend’s house this weekend.

Evan (first looks upset, then): Fine. I don’t care.

Mom (thinking to herself):He doesn’t care? Will NOTHING get through to him? He needs to know that there are consequences to his actions! I need to take away something he DOES care about!
Mom (to Evan): And you can’t play on your device while you’re at home, either!

Evan: Mom!

Mom (thinking to herself):Now he’s upset? Well too bad… he brought this on himself. He needs to learn that when I ask him to do something, he needs to listen.
Mom: Evan, I don’t want to hear it. Now stop making those noises so you don’t lose more screen time…

Evan doesn’t say anything.

Mom(thinking to herself): Whew! That worked this time. But is it going to continue to work in the future?

How It Usually Could Go When Your Kids Aren’t Listening

(That Makes You Feel LESS Out of Control)

Scenario: Evan’s mom asked him to stop making noises at the dinner table. He didn’t listen to her and continues to make noises. 

Mom (thinking to herself): Ugh, he’s not listening…
Mom (to Evan): Evan, come on.

Evan continues to make noises.

Mom (thinking to herself): OK, clearly my asking him to stop isn’t working. And if I keep doing that and he keeps not listening, I’m going to lose it. And that’s not going to help anything…. I want him to stop but I realize that I can’t actually MAKE him stop. But I can influence him…. and I’m more likely to do that if I keep my cool in stay in control of myself.
Mom (calmly to Evan): Hey Evan, can you please stop? I’ve asked you a few times now.

Evan continues to make noises.

Mom (thinking to herself): Calm isn’t working. I’m getting frustrated now… That’s because I’m focusing on getting HIM to stop again. Ugh. I have to remember he’s not in my control. I can only control myself. So what do I do instead? I can try to see the situation differently. That’s in my control. WHY does he keep making noises? Ahh, he always does this at dinner. And when he’s bored.
Mom (to Evan): Hey Evan?

Evan looks at her but doesn’t stop making noises.

Mom (thinking to herself): Remember, he’s making noises because he’s looking for something to do. I’ll ask him to do something then…I’ll ask him to talk about something I know he likes to talk about.
Mom (to Evan):Remember that game you were playing last night?

Evan: Yeah?

Mom (thinking to herself): OK, keep remembering that he needs HELP here. I don’t really care about his game, but I know that talking about it will give him something to do. And I want to be respectful of him, not lose my cool.
Mom (to Evan): So my friend’s son just got that game. And she and I were trying to figure out how it works. Can you explain it to me?

Evan: What do you want to know?

Mom (thinking to herself): He’s stopped. So he WAS looking for something to do.
Mom (to Evan): OK, so what’s the difference between the guys in the red and the guys in the blue?

Evan: The guys in the blue….

Mom (thinking to herself): Whew. I’m so glad I focused on myself and not on him. And I’m so glad I changed my story in my head. If I hadn’t done that, there’s no way this would have gone well… And at least now I know that I can focus on what’s in my control instead of how annoying he’s being. And that’s something that I know I can do next time too. 


What Must Be In Place for This

To Go Well in the Moment

For Evan’s mom to stay CALM in the moment, she needs tools to reduce her overall Yuck and tools to handle her triggers….

Otherwise nothing Evan’s mom tells herself in the moment will matter; her Yuck will be too deep to just talk herself through it.

For him to CONNECT in the moment, she needs tools to understand what’s causing her son’s negative behavior…

Otherwise she won’t have any idea how to handle Evan’s behavior, which will make her feel even MORE out of control. (In that case, she’d need to continue to focus on staying in control of her own emotions.)