by Judy Dutton
Sooner or later even the sweetest kid turns to ice: "How was school?" Silence. "Can you help me clear the table?" More dead air. Many parents would take a knock-down, screaming fight any day compared to a kid who ignores what mom says. Yet while this misbehavior can be infuriating, parents often react in ways that just makes things worse. So try avoiding these common mistakes, and try these alternatives to help you break through the stony silence.
- Talking more. Kids purposely ignore what you're saying because it gives them a sense of power. So the more you question, cajole, or nag, the more powerful they feel. Instead, zip your lip and establish consequences for their indolence. For instance, "If your kid is not following through with chores, set up a chart with consequences and rewards," says Mark Loewen, an expert in children's issues and parenting at Launchpadcounseling.com. "They can make a check mark on it if they complete the chore." That way, you can look on the list instead of asking them repeatedly, "Didja do it yet? Didja? Didja?" If the chore wasn't completed, follow through with the consequence."
- Giving orders. Yes, you may feel it's your god-given right to tell your child, "Go to bed, NOW." The only problem is, this drill-sergeant approach breeds rebellion. "Kids don’t like to be dictated too any more than an adult does," explains Vicki Hoefle, a parent educator and author of Duct Tape Parenting. A better approach? "Engage in Socratic conversation and you will get better results," suggests Hoefle. Like: "We had agreed together that you'd bed in bed with lights off by nine. Can you please stick with your promise?"
- Getting angry. If you get hopping mad, then your kids know they've really gotten under your skin. "Avoid adding emotion or frustration -- like 'you didn't do it AGAIN' -- or even sarcasm -- 'I know you just LOOOVE cleaning your room," says Loewen. "Just clearly state the reason and the consequence."
- Not following through with consequences. It's simple: If your child fails to load the dishwasher or complete some other agreed-upon task, there should be consequences, period. "If the chore has to be completed daily, the consequence should end that day too -- i.e. no more TV the rest of the day," says Loewen. "Make sure the consequence is completed/over by the time the chore has to be repeated. Otherwise you run out of consequences."
- Failing to find the root cause. Sometimes kids ignore us not because they don't want to wash the dishes, but due to some simmering resentment for something you may not even be aware of. So if you find your chid brushing you off repeatedly, consider what could be behind it, or tell them, "I get the feeling you're upset at me about something. If so, can you tell me what it is?" "If it's resentment, consider making some sort of amends, depending on the situation," says Loewen. If they don't respond when you talk to them, state your mental process. For example, say, "When you don't tell me what you want or what's bothering you, I don't know what to do or how to help." "Don't expect an answer. Just let it sink in," says Loewen. "Remember silence is power: You can't make your child talk," says Loewen. "They have to be internally motivated. As long as they ignore you, they hold power. So don't make it a power struggle. It will only affirm them in what they are already doing."
How do you deal when your kids ignore you?