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Jul 20, 2009

Why doesn’t my child listen?

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How often do you have to repeat yourself until you get your child’s or teenager’s full attention? Why won’t my child listen? There are a number of reasons why they don’t listen, but one reason may be that we do not always follow through on what we say.
Perhaps you have heard or used similar statements:

  • If you don’t come in right now I am going to break your neck!
  • If you don’t start to behave, I am going to send you to boarding school!

Sometimes we make statements to our children that are essentially, empty. Not only are they empty, but they are often outrageous! For example:

  • You are grounded for one month
  • You can no longer use the phone

Now in all of this, I am not advocating breaking your child’s neck. I do want to make the point; however, that, from time to time, we all make hollow threats. Somehow we think that our threats are suddenly going to change unfavorable behaviors.
If you have ever called our ministry or heard our radio spots, you have probably heard our messages that make the following points:

  • Your “yes has to mean “yes and your “no has to mean “no
  • Consistency is the real key, and by being consistent, you can turn your child or teenager back on course.

The results of a PAYH online survey to parents show that:

  1. 42% say they are consistent
  2. 22% say their child asks the same question to another parent to get the answer he wants
  3. 22% say their child will throw a fit or start an argument to get what he wants
  4. 14% resign themselves to being inconsistent

When you look at this data, you can simplify it in the following way:

  • 42% say they are consistent
  • 58%admit they are inconsistent

When I look at myself as a Christian, a husband, a father, and an employee, I have to ask: how consistent am I? The answer is not what I would like it to be.
Situations and perspectives change. Wisdom, maturity, emotions, and weariness impact my consistency. To become or be consistent, I must:

  1. Define a very real need
  2. Be committed
  3. Not grow weary and remain steadfast
  4. Find refreshment

Let me anchor the idea of consistency in an example. A number of years ago I attended graduate school. It was a challenge to balance my responsibilities as a husband, father of a 1 year old son, and a full time Paul Anderson Youth Home employee. To manage my time, I stopped exercising, and during a two year period, gained thirty pounds! For years now, I have been working to lose that weight. The need is obvious, and I am committed to losing the weight, but that does not mean I do not grow weary at times from the effort. I didn’t gain the weight overnight, so I am certainly not going to lose it overnight. As I trained for triathlons, a marathon, and other events, I developed new habits.
We are all creatures of habits. Some are good, and some are bad. A simple example would be when guys shave, without thinking about it, every morning we probably start shaving on the same side of our faces. Once I noticed this, I tried to start shaving on the other side of my face. The experiment was short lived after I accidentally cut myself. This leads us to two key points:

  1. Habits are often unnoticed, and we quickly slip into them. When we move outside of what is the norm, we are less sure of what we are doing.
  2. Eventually, we can grow proficient and comfortable in a new routine, which results in fewer problems.

Habits can be broken, changed, and replaced with new habits/behaviors. It takes determination to undo what you have done and become committed to doing things in a new manner.
Consistency takes commitment, but it only comes after you define the need. For some parents that occurs before they have children. For others, it may be caused by a crisis. Unfortunately, there are parents and spouses who may never know how to be committed, so they can be on the same page. Solely identifying a need will not change the behavior.
So, if being consistent and steadfast are just habits, why are they so hard to develop? I would like to offer two reasons why it’s so easy to fall into the routine of inconsistency:

  1. Selfishness
  2. Weariness

How can selfishness impact our consistency as parents? This may be caused by:

  1. disagreeing with our spouse.
  2. ignoring or denying the situation all together.
  3. wanting our child as an ally or friend.

The other reason we establish the routine of inconsistency is often caused from weariness or exhaustion.
As parents, what message are we sending our children when we view our spouses’ discipline or rules as being excessive, severe, or unreasonable? Are you willing to waver:

  1. Because you are tired?
  2. Because you have grown weary of the battle?
  3. Because you are not willing to be steadfast since it is easier to be inconsistent?

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes, then are you willing to pay the price? If the answer is “no, then are you willing to wage the war? You will find that being steadfast is a discipline that takes time, but the reward is great.
Do not waver between two opinions. Get over the differences whether that is with your spouse, ex-spouse, or whomever. The price of inconsistency is your child. Consistency is a major principle. In the words of Glenda Anderson; “it is how you can begin to guide the child back on course.“
Do everything you say you are going to do. Don’t say anything you are not willing to do. Be steadfast, immovable, and do not lose hope!


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