Ignoring child: Why it happens and what to do about it
Why preschoolers ignore their parents
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As preschoolers become more independent, they get better and better at tuning out what they don't want to hear. So try not to get too annoyed if your preschooler ignores you from time to time, says Roni Leiderman, associate dean of the Family Center at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale. Of course, at some point your childhas to listen to you and get ready for dinner. The key is getting him to cooperate while giving him space to practice his newfound autonomy.
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What to do when your preschooler ignores youBe clear and realistic. Make sure your requests are specific and doable. Not only is "Clean up your room" too vague, it's beyond your preschooler's capabilities. "Please put your shoes in the closet" is more his speed. And rather than telling him "Get ready for dinner," try asking him to wash his hands and come to the table. Both you and your youngster will also benefit if you take a moment to teach him a new task. Instead of saying, "Help Daddy clear off the table," for instance, show him how to scrape the dishes with the spatula and stack them by the sink.
Simplify your requests. Your preschooler could be ignoring you because he doesn't understand what you're asking him to do. At this age, kids respond best to instructions with no more than two or three steps ("Please go upstairs, find your shoes and socks, and bring them back down" or "Please bring Mommy the washcloth next to the bathroom").
Follow through. When it's time to leave the park, give your preschooler a few minutes' warning, then gently guide him to the car. Likewise, when you ask him to get off the table and he ignores you, immediately lift him down yourself.
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You might also give your child an incentive for doing what you ask: "When you put the puzzle pieces back in the box, we can go to the park." (Hint: Don't say "If you put the puzzle pieces in the box.") Or try the sticker-and-chart approach — one sticker for each time he responds on the first request, for instance, and maybe a new book or pack of baseball cards when he collects ten.
Use alternatives to "no." If your preschooler ignores you when you tell him no, maybe it's because he hears it too often. Try other approaches to the N word. Instead of barking, "No! Don't kick the ball in the kitchen," for instance, say, "Let's go outside to play ball." And instead of saying, "No, you can't have a piece of candy now," tell him, "You can have an apple or a kiwi," or "You can have a piece of candy after lunch." When you give a child a choice, you're giving him a chance to assert himself in an acceptable way.
Say yes instead of no whenever you can, too, and take every opportunity to encourage rather than dissuade him. If he's excited about learning to roller-blade, for instance, respond by saying, "Sure, you can try!" or "Daddy will help you" — which both sound a lot more positive than "No, you're too young for that."
Naturally, there will be plenty of times when you'll have to be firm about stopping him from running into the street or playing soccer in Grandma's living room. The point is, choose your battles and put your foot down only when you must. If you provide an environment that's both safe and stimulating (a hands-on children's museum as opposed to Estelle's Crystal Palace, for instance), your youngster can exercise his independence with few holds barred.
Try to be understanding. Imagine you're reading a novel or chatting with a friend when, all of a sudden, you're ordered to stop what you're doing because something else has to be done right now. The reality is that we don't always have time to cajole our preschoolers into the car or beg them to wash their hands. But whenever possible, it really helps to give your child notice before you rush him into the next activity or errand: "We're leaving in a few minutes, honey, so try to finish up." If your preschooler is like most, he still won't be thrilled about having to wrap up a computer game or put away his coloring book, but at least he'll have fair warning that it's time to switch gears.
If your preschooler seems to ignore you more often than he listens, talk to his pediatrician about the problem. The doctor may recommend a hearing test or other developmental evaluations.
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