Not many parents can say they enjoy it when their child acts out in company. In fact, we'd put this number at zero! Whether socializing with friends and family or enjoying a rare meal out, kids racing around disregarding their parent's instructions are enough to cause more than a few gray hairs for everyone!
For most parents, their kids not listening when in company is incredibly frustrating. But is their behavior them choosing to be naughty, or is there something else going on?
Why Don't Kids Listen?
Research suggests that there could be several reasons why a child might not be able to listen; these include:
1. Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
ADHD can cause many issues with focus and attention, making it difficult for children with this diagnosis to pay attention and follow instructions.
2. Stress or Anxiety
If a child feels anxious or overwhelmed due to the presence of strangers, they may struggle to respond to verbal cues or even shut down completely.
Kids with autism may struggle to process what's happening around them and understand their environment; this can make focusing in an unfamiliar group setting challenging.
4. Poor Sleep Habits
Not getting enough rest can make it hard for a kid to focus on tasks like listening when they're asked to do something.
If your child is behind in meeting developmental milestones, it could impact how well they listen and pay attention during conversations or instructions.
Positive Parenting Strategies
It's also possible that your child may simply need some help learning how to listen in company. Positive parenting strategies can help encourage kids to listen and pay attention.
Here are five tips for parents asking 'how do I get my kids to listen?'
- Start Early
Set clear expectations before the visitors arrive and explain what behavior you expect from your child during the visit. Make sure they know that they need to be polite, stay seated, and pay attention when someone is speaking.
- Employ Positive Reinforcement Techniques
Rewarding good behaviour helps kids learn what is expected of them and encourages them to keep up the good work! For example, you could give them a special reward for listening or offer praise for following instructions well when visiting friends and family.
- Pre-Teach Social Skills
If your child is new to socializing, teaching them the basics of polite conversation and appropriate behavior before company comes over is a good idea. Have some practice conversations that cover topics such as introducing themselves, asking questions, and saying goodbye and thank you.
Its also an excellent idea to have a set plan of action when it's time to leave, for example, helping to tidy away toys, finding their coat and putting their shoes on.
- Create a Game Plan
Plan activities that will keep your child occupied or engaged during the visit. If appropriate, have a designated spot for them where they can go if they need time away from guests and feel overwhelmed by all of the noise and excitement that comes with having visitors!
- Allow them wriggle room.
Most children need a break occasionally to stay focused when in company. After all, Aunt Hilda's knitting isn't that interesting! Instead, encourage them to take a walk or distract their attention with a positive activity like a coloring book or playing with toys in another part of the house.
5 Tips for Parents to Encourage Little Ears
If your child still doesn't listen well when in company, there are a few steps you can take to try and get them back on track:
- Take a break. Give your child a few minutes away from the situation to refocus and gather their thoughts.
- Calmly talk through the issue. Ask questions about why they might not be listening, and give them time to explain their point of view without judgment or criticism.
- Provide positive reinforcement when they do listen well. Rewarding positive behaviour helps kids understand what is expected of them, so be sure to provide praise when they follow instructions properly in company.
- Stick with consequences if needed. If your child chooses not to listen, don't be afraid to set appropriate consequences, such as having them leave the room or removing privileges.
- Speak with a professional if needed. Sometimes it can help to speak with a professional who can provide guidance and resources for managing challenging behaviour in kids.
Using positive parenting strategies can encourage your child to listen when in company and help you keep your cool. But, remember, being a little naughty is to be expected from kids; it's part of growing up, and not every ruined tea party is a cause for alarm.
However, you know your child best, and if you think your child's lack of attention could be linked to something more serious, it's best to consult a professional.