Dear Dr. Bill,
My son is having trouble listening to instructions and following directions. He gets very focused on the TV, a book or videogame. It seems like I have to repeat myself over and over again. How can I teach him to listen to me?
The best way to get your son to listen is to change the way you communicate with him.
First of all, you need to make sure you have his full attention when you’re speaking to him. Never, ever ask your child to do something or give them instructions when they are watching TV, playing a video game, or engaged in some other kind of activity. Turn off the TV, tell your child to look into your eyes, and then give them a clear, unambiguous command.
Secondly, make sure your command is backed up by a time deadline and a consequence. For example, instead of simply saying: “Johnny, I want you to turn off that TV and clean up your room,” do this:
Turn off the TV, get your son’s full attention, and then say: “Johnny, it’s 5 o’clock—I want you to put away all of your toys by 5:30. I’m going to set the kitchen timer for 30 minutes and when it rings I’ll be inspecting your work. If you do a good job, I’ll allow you to have 30 minutes of video game time after dinner tonight. If you haven’t completed your work by 5:30, you won’t be able to play video games at all this evening.”
Then make sure you follow through. If you don’t, you’ve just taught your son that you don’t mean what you say.
Dr. Russell Barkley, one of the nation’s leading experts in parent training, coined a phrase that every parent should remember: “Act, don’t yak.”
Thanks for writing, Shawna.
I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.
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