My Child Doesn’t Listen: Helping Your Child Follow Directions

     What can you do when your child doesn’t listen or follow directions?  This is a common frustration for many parents.  Parents often find themselves repeating directions to the point of frustration, which often leads to negative interactions between the parent and child.  This is a particular struggle if your child has ADHD because paying attention, especially to directions that are not preferred or that do not immediately capture their attention, is more difficult.  Increasing the number of tools in your parenting toolbox is so important in order to decrease negative parent-child interactions.
     One terrific tool for helping children listen and follow directions is “Whole Body Listening”.  This tool provides helpful reminders when giving directions and prompting children when they have difficulty focusing and paying attention to what is being said.  Reviewing and practicing each component of whole body listening helps children focus on all of the components required for effective listening and helps them understand what is expected.  Not frequently realized is that one’s brain and heart need to be ready to listen to what is being said.  When a child is showing difficulty focusing or shifting their focus to a direction, I often say, “Are you listening with your brain (are you thinking about what I am saying)?” or “Are you listening with your heart (are you caring about what I am saying)?”  This often helps them re-orient enough to listen and take in what is being said to them.
     You can also use the same concept with older children by asking the same types of questions, just doing so with intonations that match their developmental level.  For example, “Please get your brain ready to listen because this is important and I need you to hear this.”

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Whole Body Listening Larry Poster
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