What do you do when your children won’t listen to you? Do you give the “look”? a raised voice? bribes or threats?
In a perfect world, our children would always give us their full attention and obey our instructions. They would give so much weight to our words that they would obey them even when we aren’t around. But we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in a world broken by sin. We live with sinners.
If your child doesn’t listen to you, you may wonder how you could possibly homeschool. It isn’t going to be easy, but it’s possible. In this post are some things you can do to help your child learn to listen. Also included are tips on how to discipline a child that won’t listen.
Why don’t children listen?
There may be several reasons why children don’t listen well. First, listening is a skill that children need to be taught. If your children are very young, they may still need to be taught the skill of listening. Second, kids don’t listen because they have sinful hearts. They don’t want to listen to instruction. They would rather rebel and go their own way. Third, a child may have difficulty listening because of a physiological problem such as hearing loss, an auditory processing disorder, or ADHD.
How to Help Children Who Won’t Listen or are Struggling with Listening
If your kids are struggling with listening, here are some tips to help them:
Consider your timing.
Be careful about interrupting your children when they are immersed in something else (a book, video game, movie, etc.). Sometimes it is helpful to give them advanced warning, such as “I need to talk to you about something, but I’ll wait until you have finished that chapter.” Wait until your children have put away or paused their activities and made eye contact with you before you start talking.
When giving instructions, be very clear about what you would like your children to do. Small children may not be able to remember instructions with multiple steps, so you may need to give them only two or three steps at a time. For example, if you want them to clean their room, you might say, “Please make your bed and put away your toys. Then come find me.” It might also be helpful to have your children repeat your instructions so you can make sure they understand.
Model good listening.
Do you listen to your children? Be a model of good listening by giving your children your full attention when they come to you to talk. Sometimes that isn’t possible—it’s hard to give your child your full attention when you are taking care of a baby or making a complicated recipe. It’s okay to say, “I want to listen to you, but I need to focus on this right now. Can we talk as soon as I am done?” Then make sure that you follow through!
Tips for Disciplining Children Who Refuse to Listen
As mentioned before, kids have sinful hearts. You can be the best communicator in the world, and your children may still refuse to listen. In that case, children should be disciplined appropriately. Here are some tips on how to discipline a child that won’t listen.
Talk to them alone about their sin.
The goal of discipline is not to humiliate children—it’s to encourage change in their hearts. If your child is refusing to listen to you, take your child away from other family members or friends. Then speak with your child privately about his or her failure to honor you as the parent. Share God’s expectations of children. Here are a few verses that you might want to share with your child:
- Exodus 20:12
- Proverbs 13:1
- Ephesians 6:1
Communicate your expectations and the consequences for not meeting them.
Be clear with your children about what behaviors warrant discipline and what the discipline will be. Do you expect your children to look at you when you talk to them? Communicate that. Do you want them to respond with “yes, sir” or “yes, ma’am”? Again, make sure they know. You might even want to write down your expectations and post them somewhere in the house.
Consistency is key. Your children need to learn that he or she needs to listen always, not just sometimes. Each time you perceive a willful refusal not to listen, use the consequences you’ve communicated when you discipline your children.
Ultimately, only the Lord can change the hearts of your children. Pray that the Lord would give your children the desire and the ability to obey God’s command to honor you by listening to you.
How to Homeschool When Your Kids Don’t Listen to You
Even if your children don’t listen to you well, you can still homeschool. In fact, you can use your homeschool to help them to grow in their ability to listen. Here are a few actions that you can take.
De-school if needed.
If you have recently transitioned to homeschooling from a public or private school, you may need to de-school. De-schooling refers to the transition period between traditional schooling and homeschooling. Many families find it helpful to take a break from schoolwork during this transition and focus on family-bonding activities. Spending time building a relationship with your children will go a long way towards building respect.
Even if your children have never been in a traditional school, taking a break from school to focus on relationship-building might still be a good idea. That extra time might be just what’s needed to establish trust and respect.
Get outside help if needed.
If your child seems to be trying to listen to you but gets distracted, forgets, or has trouble following instructions, you may want to discuss your situation with a pediatrician. Your child may need to be evaluated for hearing loss, an auditory processing disorder, or other learning challenges such as ADHD. A formal evaluation can help you better understand how your child processes information and can help you overcome challenges that he or she may have.
Consider your child’s learning style.
Your children do need to listen to you, but you don’t have to do all the talking in your homeschool. Your children may not be auditory learners. They may not profit from a lecture about the weaknesses of the Roman Empire. But your children may learn better if they read a book about the Roman Empire or watch a documentary about it. If your children are kinesthetic learners, they may need to be doing something (such as swinging on a swing or bouncing on an exercise ball) while listening to focus well. Knowing your children’s learning styles will help you help your child learn effectively.
How to Explain the Importance of Being a Good Listener to Your Children
Being a good listener is important for a lot of reasons. We can explain to our children that listening is a way of showing love and respect to others. But ultimately, our children need to understand that God expects them to be good listeners.
Jesus explains the importance of being a good listener in Matthew 7:24–27. In this passage, Jesus describes a wise man as one who listens to God’s words and lets those words change him. He obeys God’s words. Jesus compares this man to a wise builder who chooses a solid foundation on which to build his house. Another man also shows up in this story. He hears the same words but doesn’t listen or obey. Jesus compares this man to a foolish builder who builds houses on sand. He will one day be ruined.
We want our children to be wise. We pray for it. But growing in wisdom doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and practice. Every time your children choose to be good listeners, they are choosing the path of wisdom. Celebrate it!