When She Doesn’t Listen To You

When I received this query, it was so universal that I wanted to share the solution. First of all, you are not the mother of a 2 year old, THIS IS FOR YOU! That’s how universal this advice is. Picture the words as they apply to your 7 year old, your 11 year old, your 14 year old, or your 18 year old. It works for all ages.

Here are three solutions to a common dilemma, none of which are going to be easy in the beginning. But, make no mistake about it, they are well worth your patience because, if you can teach your child how to cope within your home, then you will be preparing her to cope outside of your home.

Query: “So, my daughter is 2 and we all know the terrible twos but I need help. She isn’t listening to me at all when her daddy is away at work, and I’m not sure what to do…. Please, some advice would be great!”

First of all, never ask a question that requires a yes or no answer. If she is feeling cantankerous (I love that word), she will always say no. Instead, when you want her to do something, give her two choices, both of which you are good with.

Example 1:
“Do you want to get ready for bed?” (Answer: No.)
Versus “Do you want to brush your teeth before putting on your pajamas, or after putting on your pajamas?”

Example 2:
“Do you want to sit for a minute and talk” (Answer: No.)
Versus “Do you want to sit and talk now, or would you rather I come back in 10 minutes?”

By making it her choice, she retains some power, while at the same time graciously accommodating you (and, don’t we want our daughters to be empowered when they go out into the world?).

Plan these lead-ins ahead of time for any situation where she typically digs in her heels. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

What if she won’t choose?

What if she doesn’t want to do either of the choices you offered?

(Her Response: I don’t want to go to bed!)

Your reply: “We’re not talking about going to bed. We are talking about whether you want to brush your teeth before putting on your pajamas, or after putting on your pajamas. Which one do you want to do? Do you want to brush your teeth before putting on your pajamas, or after putting on your pajamas?”

Calm repetition is your friend, Mom.

(Her Response: Whatever.)

Your reply: Plop down next to her and say, “Okay, let’s talk now.”

You better be prepared with your next sentence. She’s curious about what you’re going to discuss, and may be apprehensive. You can relieve the tension by easing through a side door. Try saying one of these:

  • “I just read this article that ____. How do you think your best friend (the neighbor, that girl you don’t like, that cute boy, your grandmother) would react to that?”
  • “When I was your age, I was worried about ____. Things are different for you because so much is changing in the world. Do the other kids worry about ____ any more?”
  • “Do you know anyone who ____ (has trouble falling asleep; has nightmares; is worried about college;)?”

These side doors allow you to raise topics of concern without creating a laser focus on your child. It means the two of you are looking at the subject together, as opposed to you examining her.

IMPORTANT: Do not correct her opinions, or challenge them. Her opinions belong to her, and she is entitled to them. When you don’t agree, provide neutral feedback.

  • “That’s interesting.”
  • “How does your best friend feel about that?”
  • “Hmmmm…”
  • “I understand what you’re saying.”

Besides, this time next week she may very well have a different set of opinions.

What if it doesn’t work?

You approached her completely prepared, but you were still on the receiving end of a stubborn tirade, or worse, quietly rebuffed and shunned.

Congratulations! What you have done is successfully laid the groundwork for change. She won’t recognize it yet, but on some level she is aware that something is different. She has registered your attempt, whether or not she responded appropriately. And, she is internalizing the fact that you responded calmly to what she dished out.

So, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and prepare another lead-in for later. Calm repetition is your friend, Mom. Be consistent and persistent, and the climate will eventually change in your home.

Check back for the other two solutions in my next two posts. If you don’t want to wait, pick up a copy of How To Keep Your Daughter From Slamming the Door.


I’m always looking for more content to share with you. If you have any queries you’d like me to address, reach out. info@DeborahAnnDavis

More soon. Wishing you health and happiness,

Parenting Skills Coach

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