Discipline Problems: "She Never Listens!"
It's frustrating when your child tunes you out, whether she's 5 or 15. She's likely having such discipline problems for different reasons at different ages, so you need to adjust your response accordingly. Still, there's one constant: you must be a respectful listener yourself.
3 to 5: At this age, kids aren't deliberately creating discipline problems. Attention spans are short, and if he's in the middle of creating a Lego space ship, he probably didn't hear you. Instead of shouting from the kitchen that it's time to take a bath, crouch down next to him, gently tap his shoulder, and look him in the eye while you slowly and firmly say, "Bath time." Don't expect him to jump just because you say so. Advance notice is essential: "In five minutes, we need to go to Grandma's."
6 to 10: Masters of selective listening, these kids hear their friends, the TV, and obscure rap lyrics but miss your request to feed the dog. What to do? Talk less. Using your serious voice, give her a heads-up ("I need your help setting the table in two minutes"). Then, specific instructions, one at a time. Instead of the too general ("Clean your room"), try, "Straighten the comforter. Hang up your bathrobe." Caveat emptor: sometimes discipline problems mask deeper issues. If your child always misses the school bus, it may not be because she's not paying attention to your morning reminders. "Maybe she hates school because the kids tease her," says Alvin Rosenfeld, M.D., a child and adolescent psychiatrist and lecturer at Harvard Medical School. You might say, "Boy, this is not like you. Is something going on you'd like to tell me?" This legitimizes your child's feelings and opens the door to problem-solving.
11 to 13: Yes, you may need to tell him ten times to pick up those dirty clothes. Do it without raising your voice. "Teachers know that nothing turns kids this age off faster than yelling," says Michele Borba, Ed.D., author of No More Misbehavin'. Ask him to repeat back what you just said. If he continues to turn a deaf ear, try waving that pair of dirty socks in front of his eyes. "If you do the unexpected, in a playful manner, he'll roll his eyes but most likely follow through," she says. Reinforcing good behavior — with a hug, a kiss, a word of praise — will always be one of the best techniques around to solve discipline problems.