It’s a familiar story.
Mom: “Turn off the TV. It’s time for dinner.”
TV continues to blare.
Two minutes later, Mom asks: “Did you hear me? It’s time for dinner. Turn off the TV please.”
Mom is getting slightly annoyed and walks into the family room carrying the spoon that is stirring the dinner.
“Can you hear me? I said to turn off the TV.”
Preteen son shrugs shoulders and continues watching the TV.
So, why isn’t your son or daughter listening to you? I know the answer for my own son most of the time but it’s not the same for every kid or every family. I have three possible answers here for you and you’ll have to trust your gut on what may work in your situation. (Trust your gut means “Use your intuition” which is my favorite way to parent.)
If you expect your child to listen to you, are you listening to him or her?
Is your child strong-willed or spirited?
Is your child an Indigo child?
So let’s take #1 there. Is mutual listening respect happening in your house? I just made up that term but basically it means that when your child tells you a story or shares something with you that you are looking him or her in the eye and really listening. If you are multi-tasking and doing ten things at once while listening then mutual listening respect is not happening.
If you expect your child to listen to you, you need to offer him or her the same respect in return. It’s as simple as that. When you look back on your life, will you remember that you multi-tasked ten different things on that one day when your son was trying to tell you that he likes a girl for the first time? Or that your daughter got an A on a test or that she made a new friend at school? When you stop listening to your child, your child finds other people to share his or her life with.
When you stop listening to your child over and over, your child stops telling you anything. When you stop listening to your kids, they cut you out of what is important in their life. I don’t think that’s what you want to have happen. Offer respectful listening and expect the same from them. Tell them it’s a rule in your house and they can call you on it when you are not listening to them as well.
You only get to raise your children for a short time on this earth, it’s much more fun to listen to their wild stories and interesting viewpoints and share this valuable time with them and share who you are with them. These conversations are when magic happens and values get transmitted that will stay with them the rest of their lives.
The Strong-Willed Child
At age three, I held up a red and a green t-shirt both with Thomas the Train on them and asked my son which one he wanted to wear. He said “Blue.” Oh yes. This is my son since he was a baby. He has very strong opinions and sticks to them.
If your child seems stubborn and opinionated from an early age, this might be your kid. I know it’s mine. He is stubborn, wants to control what is happening around him, and thrives on choices and responsibility. My son has been a handful but I never wanted to break that spirit of his because I know as he grows up, this is what will make him strong. Getting him to listen has been a challenge but with some great resources, I found a way to keep him strong and still get him to listen.
So, in that TV scenario at the top of the blogpost, I always say this instead, “You can choose to turn off the TV in the next minute or you can choose to lose TV all day tomorrow.” He listens (almost every time) and usually turns it off. But sometimes he wants to see if I really mean it and plan to carry out the consequences of his actions. If I come over after the minute is up and start looking for the remote, he quickly turns it off. If I just say “Turn off the TV,” I will have to say it twenty times and still get no compliance. I don’t want to raise a soldier who obeys everything that comes out of my mouth but at the same time, things need to move forward in the house like chores getting done, homework getting completed, and dinner getting eaten.
Scenes like this happen daily. I don’t get mad anymore. There’s no point and that actually encourages the behavior because he learns how to make you mad. And he will keep pushing that button because he can. Stay calm. State the consequences of his action if he chooses to ignore your request. Be consistent with the consequences. This set of steps has brought peace to our household and to our relationship.
This is just who my son is and it’s how I need to parent him. If this sounds like your kid, I can recommend some good resources for you. Or if you have any you’d like to share, list them in the comments.
Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka (she also has a workbook which looks good)
Redirecting Children’s Behavior by Kathryn J. Kvals--workshop, book, and workbook--(This class saved my relationship with my son. I took it when my son was 2, 4, and 6 years old.)
If you can’t wait for a book or want to read more to see if this sounds like your kid, check out this article from A-Ha Parenting.
Is your child sensitive? Suffering from food allergies? Needs to run and exercise before he can settle down? Doesn’t like loud noises or crowds? Wants the tag on this back of her shirts clipped off? Can’t listen because something in his or her environment is not just so?
It could be that your kid is an Indigo child. Isn’t this some kooky label passed out by all those New Age people? Well, no. I don’t think so anyway but you might think I’m kooky. Some people say Indigo children are more creative, sensitive, think outside of the box, and question everything. These children may be absurdly picky about their food, have food allergies, or be emphatic about how things feel like tags on the backs of their t-shirts (my son insisted I remove them all). They like the way some fabrics feel and may not like crowded rooms.
I wanted to find out more about this when I first read an article about Indigo Children. I continued down this road by following my intuition and was so glad I did. I do believe my son is one of these Indigo children and there is probably a good chance yours is too. Read on.
Have you ever heard of synesthesia? It’s pretty interesting. According to Wikipedia (which I don’t always quote but this definition works), synesthesia is “a neurological phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.” So these people might hear a word or a sound and get a taste in their mouth or see a color associated with a word. OK—so what does this have to do with Indigo children?
Well, the woman who first coined the term “Indigo” had this gift or condition. Her name was Nancy Tappe and her synesthesia combined visual color and geometric taste. She would see colors around all living things. She developed a system of understanding these colors and came up with 11 colors that she saw consistently. One color was always dominant on a person and she called this “the life color” or “cradle to grave” color. She was teaching classes in the experimental college at San Diego State University and clarified and defined her work further while she was there.
Her system had 11 colors in it that were well-documented but in the 1960s and early 1970s, she was surprised to see a new color emerge more fully. This was indigo (a hue that falls between blue and violet). Tappe defines kids with the life color “Indigo” as being optimistic, prone to allergies, highly intuitive and sensitive, loving space toys and things like Star Wars, and happy children who love to have fun. She goes on to write in her book, “Understanding Your Life Through Color” that Indigo children’s “process is to show us tomorrow” and that “their challenges come from the fact that other people find their joy too exuberant and then attempt to stifle them in the process.”
I found this out with my son. I had to just join him in his exuberance instead of trying to tone it down. I had to raise my own energy to be with him. He also had to run off steam quite a bit to get his body to calm down so he could concentrate. Apparently, this is very common with Indigo children.
In her book, “Indigos: The Quiet Storm” (which I highly recommend), Tappe describes four types of Indigo children. These are the Humanist, the Artist, the Conceptualist, and the Catalyst. She provides excellent descriptions of each type and I found not only my son described but also my brother. A lot of things clicked when I read this description and it gave me a whole new point of view about my son and what will work or not work with him in my parenting approach. It was as if a big giant light was turned on in my head and I could see things much more clearly.
There are some New Age types out there who have said that the Indigo children are here to save the world and are amazing old souls and so on. And that may be true but at the same time, these children can be difficult to parent. They can be a huge challenge because parenting things that might have worked in past generations (like guilt or bribery) totally don’t work with these kids. Admission here—early on in my parenting career, I tried to use guilt or bribery like past generations did and it totally didn’t work and I’m glad it didn’t. It made me find a way to be a better parent to my kid because I didn’t really want to do those things anyway.
Pulling this back into our discussion on why your child is not listening—well, understanding your child can help you get him or her to listen to you. If he needs to run and exercise before sitting down to listen and learn something new, then do that. If she needs to be comfortable in her clothes and have a quiet environment in which to listen, do that. Notice what works and what doesn’t work when you try to get your child to listen.
I find that my son listens the best to me when we are in the car. He is comfortable and the environment can be quiet and controlled. Do adjustments need to be made to the environment to encourage your child to listen better? Think about when your kid has trouble listening. What is going on? What is their energy like? This might be a real problem that you can solve easily.
So, if any of this resonates with you or you feel called to get this book, do it. It cleared up so much for me. I also had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Nancy Tappe and had her read my life color and the life color of my family members. She identified my son as an Indigo so that was confirmation for me. She also identified my niece and nephew as Indigos. Very interesting.
There was something really special about Ms. Tappe’s ability. Unfortunately, she passed away a few years ago. I’m lucky that my astrology/spirituality teacher, Beatrex Quntanna, was a student of Nancy Tappe’s for years so I benefit from the wisdom she passed down to her students
Books by Nancy Tappe:
Indigos: The Quiet Storm by Kathy Altaras (creator: Nancy Tappe)--
Understanding Your Life Through Color by Nancy Ann Tappe
Parenting is sort of like finding your way through a maze. Sometimes advice you follow leads to a dead end and sometimes it leads to a whole new way of seeing things. I hope this article leads you to a greater awareness of who your child is and what he or she needs to listen and thrive and how you can give it to them. Leave comments. I’d love to hear what you think.