WHEN THE LITTLE ONES TURN A DEAF EAR TO YOU

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When the Little Ones Turn a Deaf Ear to You

“Arjun, Come here. It’s time for breakfast,” For a long time, Reshma was repeatedly calling her son Arjun who was busy playing with the mobile. But little Arjun kept mum and  continued to get immersed in what he was doing, as if he had not heard his mom. Reshma who could not stand this behaviour of Arjun rushed to him, shouted out at him and beat him up for his inattentiveness. You might have faced similar situations in your life and might have often wondered how to tackle this issue.

We all know that it is a tough job to make a child to listen to us. Every time you ask them to do something, he/she will give you the impression that they are listening to you, and then continue doing whatever they want to do. This can at times become really annoying. But is this a matter of big worry? The answer is a big ‘No’. The fact is that the child is not always deliberately careless. Nor does she have any intention of driving you crazy. ‘Then why is this strange behaviour?’ you may be wondering. Experts in child-psychology say that when pre-schoolers concentrate on the works they love to do, they get so engrossed in it to the point of totally forgetting their surroundings. For them, everything is a new experience and a source of wonder and amazement. So they do not want to get diverted from what they find curious, and paying attention to parents turns out to be of little importance.

However this does not mean that you can turn a blind eye to this problem of inattentiveness. Paying attention and listening to others are definitely important social skills that you need to inculcate in the little ones. And these skills should be developed at an early age, too. Here are some tips for you in this respect. Firstly, understand that a child who is engrossed in the activity may not bother to look up, and listen to you. First of all, do not yell out commands and orders at kids from distance. This will be useless, and may backfire also. Your shouts may scare the kids and the attention that you get from the kids in this way will be out of fear. Instead, walk up to them, touch their shoulders gently. This will help you to get your kid’s attention. And then, tell them gently what you want to tell. Remember that you should start talking to the kids only after making eye contacts with them. Try to keep your talk short and to-the point. Giving long lectures on what you should do may dampen their spirit, and just turn them off. Do not shout commands angrily either. What the child receives will not be your message, but your shouts and anger. The rude way you follow to get their attention will definitely give them a wrong model of seeking the attention of others. So mind your language. Speak in a gently and friendly tone. Try to keep what you want to say in simple language. Sometimes, kid’s lack of response results from their inability to understand what you are saying. To overcome this problem, you can always reinforce whatever you are saying with your body language. For example, if you want your kid to read his lesson, just point to the book and say ‘read your lessons’. This visual cue will reinforce what you say in the kid’s mind.

And do not always insist that the kids should always do what you demand. If your child is deeply engrossed in something, do not disturb her. Please, wait for a while so that she can finish it off. But try to help her respond to you by asking questions like ‘have you not heard me calling you?’ or ‘are you busy now?’ or ‘why are you not responding to me?’ and so on. These questions will definitely give them the impression that they are supposed to respond to you, when you call them. Remember, our focus is not on making the kids obedient to us, rather developing a habit of responding to our attempts to seek their attention. Sometimes, this lack of response may be symptomatic of hearing loss or of some other physical or mental disorders. If the child is constantly inattentive to your efforts to seek her attention, you may take him to a specialist and ask for an expert opinion.

The last but not the least. Sometimes, kid’s inattentiveness to your words may be the result of your own indifference towards her.  According to Dr. Fick, “Parents are often so busy themselves that they don’t always focus on things they consider to be insignificant, but those may be the very things that matter most to a child.” Sometimes, you kids may want to discuss with you the cartoon they have recently watched or the story they have read. But you may be busy with your office work or household chores, and may give a very cold and indifferent response to your kid. This will not only dampen their spirit, but also encourage them to behave similarly when you want to get their attention. If you are busy when your kids want to tell you something, tell them “Dear, I am a little busy right now. Can I talk to you once I finish this work?’ This positive disposition will instill in your kids a sense of good behaviour. So, please keep in mind that if you want your kids to listen to you, you yourself should listen to them. If you are really willing to listen to your kid, they will also listen to you.  Listen well and you will be listened to.

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SREENATH V S
Sreenath V.S is a doctoral student of English in the department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur. He was the sub-editor of the English division of Malayala Manorama Publications from 2013-2014, and is also a columnist the magazine Balarama Digest. His interest areas include child psychology, children’s literature, translation studies, and the philosophy of literature and language.

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