Why children sometimes do not hear – and what parents can do about it

Family expert Jesper Juul: Why children sometimes do not hear – and what parents can do about it

It’s the absolute classic in everyday family life: Parents demand something from their children, but they simply do not listen. Family therapist Jesper Juul, who died in 2019, explains in a recent book why this is so and how mothers and fathers should best approach their children.

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Almost every day I meet parents who at one point say, “My kids never listen to what I say.” Sometimes this means that the children do not always follow and do what they are told. But often this means that the parents do not actually experience that the children are listening to them.

Excerpt from “Parent Coaching”

From my experience, I know that the reason is always the same: What the adult says is not worth hearing! This is, of course, a provocative and harsh thesis, but in fact it is almost always correct. Only rarely does it mean that there is something wrong with the content of what the adults are saying. On the contrary, it is often both true and reasonable. There are other factors that count.

You are dealing with contact. Many adults seem to assume that they are in contact with their children as soon as they are within earshot. That’s not the case. The child’s consciousness is active and attention is focused everywhere or completely on what is happening. Children need to learn more each day than most students do in a week, and yet we assume that we can demand closeness and attention from them at any time.

The wait pays off

Therefore, it pays to “knock” in front of a message. A friendly “Hi Trine … hey!” so look her in the eye and see when she’s ready. From the first year of life it usually lasts 4 to 7 seconds. Once she’s there, you can continue, “Hey, I want to tell you something. Can you listen to me now?” Most of the time the answer is yes, and the few times it’s not, it’s worth the wait: “Okay, then I’ll wait a bit.”

This advice has a provocative effect on many parents because it shakes the child’s usual sense of ownership. Do we really need to treat our children as well as foreign adults? Yes, it’s definitely worth it, and the kids are learning behaviors that parents will be happy with later.

Book tip (ad)

“Parental coaching – calm parenting” by Jesper Juul

The next step is to express yourself in a friendly and personal way. Not kind in the sense of an overly loving or demonstratively child-friendly voice, as has unfortunately become commonplace. But warm, confident and respectful. Kindness here means that both voice and body language say, “I have positive expectations for our contact and our cooperation, and I want to make sure we both have enough space.”

Connection between speech and words

Who am I, what do I want, where are my boundaries and what values ​​do I represent? While it is so obvious that the personal expression works best in contact with our partners, friends and the rest of our family, it is not always easy. It’s not just about starting all sentences with “I”. What is required is that there is a connection between the speaker and the words – that there is “body” and substance in the words, that the expression is as authentic as possible. No one can be authentic all the time, but it is the willingness to try that makes others listen and take us seriously.

  • I wish you would play something that makes less noise.
  • I want you to sleep soon.
  • I do not want you to bite me, but I want to know why you’re angry.

Of course, it requires parents to examine who they are and what they want or do not want: This is exactly what it takes to have a successful date, to seduce your partner or to decide where the next family vacation should go. hen. Among adults who know each other well, it often takes less because they know what is written between the lines. It is not so easy with children because they are confused by hidden or indirect messages.

More background on education

dialogue and negotiation

Does it always work? No, it does not. No matter how much we want something, how kindly and personally we express it, it is always possible that the child is not playing with. This is where dialogue and negotiation begins, and children are given optimal opportunities to learn about their own limitations and needs. Gradually giving parents and other adults a qualified counterplay.

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Do you have to constantly negotiate everything between heaven and earth? No, I certainly do not mean. It is the parents who have the power: Both the power to take the child seriously and to make the right decision – even if the child does not see the genius in it. This often creates frustrations in children that do not harm them. Negotiate cards, make your decision and act accordingly. It creates both great frustration and great security. Parents neglect their leadership role when children’s frustrations make them incapacitated or overly flexible, and they fail their children when they criticize their dissatisfaction or act only by consensus.

Some conflicts are more important than others. It often happens that the needs and desires of both parties are equally important, which is why it is difficult to be the adult. Fortunately, there is a solution! Children want nothing more than to make their parents happy and experience that they are valuable to them. Therefore, it is advisable to ask them for help.

Now I do not know what to do. I understand well that you would like to have a day off from kindergarten, but I’m going to work. Can you help me?

take the child seriously

This is not the same as giving the child guidance or responsibility. It is a way to involve the child in the management process without letting them take the driver’s seat. Sometimes the children have a solution, sometimes not, but the conflict is always mitigated when the child feels that it is being taken seriously. This kind of leadership is an art that very few are born with. We need to learn them with our children, and when there are more children in the family, we need to practice them differently.

This mutual learning process is crucial for the quality of the relationship, for developing empathy and the ability to read signals from other people, and for everyone involved to feel comfortable. A healthy family is one where everyone feels free to express their wishes, dreams and needs – and gradually learns that this is no guarantee of getting everything. Do not fear conflicts and frustration. Fear only apathy and silence.

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