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My children ignore me

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
I am at wits end. I feel like I am invisible to my children and they completely tune me out. They have begun completely ignoring me. It's been a gradual process, but over the last few weeks it really seems to have reached its peak. My ds is 6 1/2 and my dd is 2 1/2. I have read extensively about age appropriate behavior for the 2yo, so I know what to expect/not expect from her.

However, I do think I should expect that my 6yo not completely ignore me and my requests and/or reminders. He just goes on doing things I have asked him to stop, or does not do anything I request of him.

For example, a house rule is no jumping on the living room furniture. WE have wooden floors and my ds hurt his head when he was 3 jumping on the couch, so, there is a valid reason for the rule, not just me being uptight. We bought them an expensive gymnastics floor mat for the sole purpose of jumping and gymnastics in the house. Any time they start jumping on the furniture, which is several times a day, even though we made the rule 3 years ago, we just remind them "get out the jumping mat." Yesterday, I say that to ds, and what does he do? He just gets on the rocking chair and starts jumping on it instead. I stop him and ask him why he jumped on the rocker instead of getting out the mat, when he knows why we don't jump on the furniture, he says "I wanted to."

Things like this happen many, many times a day. They just completely ignore me! I don't feel the need to control my children, this is not about control. I do feel that they should respect me just as I do them. I don't ignore them when they speak to me. I don't blatantly disregard their requests and/or feelings. the rules and limits that we set are solely for safety reasons, to avoid property damage and to respect one another's needs. Nothing arbitrary or over the top. Just basic stuff.

In the last couple of weeks I have found my self yelling just to get them to stop and listen to me, Today, I completely lost it and screamed because they ignored me while I was trying to keep them from mauling each other during play wrestling. Then when I raised my voice and was obviously distressed, they both started laughing at me!! I was blown away!

We don't punish, impose consequences or do time-outs. We rarely yell. We work very hard to use positive guidance. So mamas, what do I do? What am I doing wrong? How do you handle being completely ignored by your children?
post #2 of 13
I don't see how your kids will have any incentive to stop doing whatever they like if there are no consequences to unacceptable behavior. You are responsible for setting the guidelines for what's acceptable in your family. You are not doing that. Of course they are ignoring you.

Consequences don't have to be harsh. Imposing them doesn't mean you want to control your children. It is about learning to respect people/things in their envrironment.
post #3 of 13
I agree. Of course they aren't going to listen to you if you never make them listen. Consequences are not a bad thing. They are a normal part of life, and your kids need to learn. I do not think time outs are bad at all. They work for us great! My kids don't listen sometimes(like most do), but when that happens they go straight to the corner, and then I ask them why they were in the corner and if they understand. They normally know why they were there, and I just reiterate it, hug them, and they go on their merry way. After they are punished a few times this way I can normally just tell them to stop, and if they don't I ask them if they want to be in trouble/go to the corner, and they will usually listen then.

I do loose my temper too sometimes and yell. I feel terrible about it too. I just get SO stressed with my three(they are age 3 and under), and my husband recently deployed too, so it's all on me. I get so overwhelmed sometimes.
post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 
I did not mean to imply that we are pushovers. In fact, we are very firm with them and tell them that the behavior is unacceptable (whatever it may be) and we do follow through and insist that they stop any unacceptable behavior. It's just that then there is no imposed time out or other consequence. Often, there are no logical or natural consequences. Unless I'm just not seeing them.

Tonight in the bath, one scratched the other with a toy, the other retaliated in the same manner. I told them both that doing so hurt their sibling and that they may not do it again. They both did it again, so the toys were taken out of the tub. Okay, that's pretty straight forward. However, there are lots of behaviors that don't have such cut and dry responses. Like, in my example, I'm not going to, say, take away a toy or something unrelated for jumping on the couch. It doesn't make sense to me. I did once try to make them stay completely off of the furniture for the rest of the day for not listening. And they cried like it was torture. But it was totally unrealistic, because I had to watch them every second to keep them off the furniture. And the next day, they were right back at it again. I can't impose the same consequence every day, so what do I do?

I'm not trying to be argumentative, but do kids truly have to have some punishment order to be taught to listen and respect basic limits? That can't be the only thing that works?
post #5 of 13
We don't do punishment of any kind either, but that doesn't mean we let our 4.5 year old DD do dangerous things. If I asked my DD to stop doing something dangerous and she didn't I would walk over to where she was and gently physically 'help' her stop. I'd probably say something along the lines of "I have to keep you safe" or "You may not do dangerous things". It sounds like you already tell him what he can do and have alternative places for him to jump. I don't think you're doing anything wrong, but it sounds like you may just have to be more hands on and persistent until your DS can follow safety rules again. If he's doing dangerous things when you are out of the room you could have him come and 'help' you with what ever you need to do. If he's wanting more attention that could take care of that need in a safer manner and if he's just going through a risk taking or rude phase maybe having to hang with mom will be boring enough to motivate him to be safer. My DD seems to have more energy in the summer, so she's been painting alot so she doesn't get bored.
post #6 of 13
Originally Posted by achronic View Post
I'm not trying to be argumentative, but do kids truly have to have some punishment order to be taught to listen and respect basic limits? That can't be the only thing that works?
No they don't have to have punishment. Kids learn how to show respect by seeing people behave respectfully, by being respected and by discussing respectful behavior. If by listen you mean comply with most reasonable requests I think this comes with age and consistent expectations from their parents. Also behavior is constantly changing with the emotional development of your child. Things seem to cycle. My DD seems to have more emotional reactions when she's at half year points, 2.5 3.5 or 4.5, than the other times.
post #7 of 13
Originally Posted by achronic View Post
I'm not trying to be argumentative, but do kids truly have to have some punishment order to be taught to listen and respect basic limits? That can't be the only thing that works?
Perhaps there are some kids who follow all expectations perfectly and thus never have to face the consequences of not doing so. However, I have never encountered any of them.

I guess that I really don't see time-outs as punishments. Spending a few minutes alone to cool down or come to the understanding that he or she has disturbed the harmony of the home or broken an important rule is just that - a small time away. Kids need structure and they need expectations. They need to know that when expectations are violated and respect is not shown, yes, there will be a consequence. And from your description of your kids' behavior, that is something they need, rather badly.

As I see it, you are willing to impose a few natural consequences. But you are correct: there are some things for which natural consequences are not always obvious, like your kids jumping on the couch. To me, mistreating the furniture is a very big deal. It shows a lack of respect for the home, the place we all live. For something like that, I see nothing wrong with a time-out.

It seems fairly clear that your kids have figured out that there are a whole range of behaviors they can happily indulge in without the slightest consequence except their mother raising her voice, and that when this happens, it means nothing at all. You are correct that your expectations of your kids are not unrealistic - not at all. They should absolutely not be ignoring you. But there is only one way for that to stop, and that's for you to set some limits.

I highly recommend this book. It's a very gentle and positive, yet straight-talking (no woo): The Secret of Parenting: how to be in charge of today's kids without threats or punishment by Anthony Wolfe.


Best of luck.
post #8 of 13
Originally Posted by zinemama View Post
Perhaps there are some kids who follow all expectations perfectly and thus never have to face the consequences of not doing so. However, I have never encountered any of them.
My DD is a normal child, well actually a bit high energy and intense, so not one who follows expectations perfectly. Using modeling, redirection, and discussion as your main discipline tools instead of punishment may take longer to get compliance, but you have a child who is choosing an appropriate behavior because it's appropriate and not out of fear of some arbitrary consequence. Our parenting goals are for DD to be able to make good choices, even when no ones watching. And punishment even mild ones like time outs can cause anger and more of a avoidance of getting in trouble instead of choosing appropriate behavior.

I like How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles: Winning for a Lifetime by Mary Kurcinka.
post #9 of 13
Kids are SO different.

One of my children handles direction very well and needs little to no consequences, whereas two others almost REQUIRE consequences in order to learn anything. I can talk till I'm blue in the face to these two and it means nothing. A consequence, however, does.

And consequences happen in the real world, too. Don't get your homework done? You fail the class. Don't study? You flunk the test. Sleep on the job? You're fired. Jump on the living room furniture? Living room is off-limits for the rest of the day. Scratch each other with toys in the tub? No toys. Keep aggravating each other in the tub? Tub time is over. Tear up the library books? No books for awhile. Etc....

I agree that the 6 year old, esp, is testing his limits, knows there's nothing you'll really do, and is therefore realizing he can pretty much do as he pleases.

Maybe the next time he jumps on the furniture, as a consequence of doing so, he needs to spend a 1/2 hour cleaning the furniture and showing how to better take care of them.

And the next time they are warned in the tub not to hurt each other, the next child to ignore you is immediately removed from the tub.
post #10 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thank you for all of the replies, mamas. It really does help to read these different perspectives.
post #11 of 13
ITA w/zinemama. Reading your post it's kind of obvious why they don't listen. They have no reason to! Decide what consequence will matter to them and impose it consistently. We have a list here of behaviors that are just unacceptable and not tolerated. Not listening is right at the top.
post #12 of 13
From a non-punitive perspective, you could try a few things:
  • Give some other place for jumping
  • Get right down on her level when you talk to her, like on your knees so you're face to face, and ask her if she understands why you told her not to jump, and why she keeps jumping after you told her not to
  • Make sure you aren't phrasing it as a question in an effort to be polite. My dd doesn't seem to understand that it isn't a request if I say "Would you please stop . . ." or anything like that. I say, "I need you to stop jumping on the couch now." Not yelling, but in a mom voice.
  • Have you read How To Talk So Your Kids Will Listen? That book has some great suggestions. One is that you can describe the scene, as in, "I see you jumping on the couch." Kids really respond differently depending on how you phrase things for some reason. It's a great book. Another is, "The couch!" Sometimes fewer words work better than more words.
  • Give an alternative. Get out art supplies or something.

Anyway, my 8-year-old dd no longer jumps on the couch and I haven't punished her for it. And she is by no means an easy do-what-you-say child. It is work and it takes time but consistency in anything will make this change. It could be consistent punishment, but it can also be consistently walking over and saying, "The couch!" But you really do have to keep close track and get at it regularly. If they sometimes jump on it without you saying anything, they'll know that there's always a chance it'll go without mention.
post #13 of 13
I like mamazee's suggestions, esp. the phrasing differently. You could even say-you have so much energy, let's have a race outside! I also think until this "phase" passes you could make sure you're around the kids as much as possible so you can perhaps stop the jumping before it even starts.
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