How to Get Kids to Pay Attention


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Feeling ignored? You’re not alone. What parent hasn’t issued a request to their child, only to be met with a blank stare or worse, crickets? With every repeated request, parents spiral further into frustration. It’s discouraging, defeating and just plain maddening — why can’t kids just listen? Because getting kids to listen isn’t as simple as it seems, and reasons kids might not listen are as varied as kids themselves. Read on for age-by-age guidance on creating better communication with your kids, so you and your kids can feel heard and respected.

 

EARLY YEARS

Eye to Eye

Toddlers and preschoolers may appear to disregard your requests, but they aren’t actively resisting. When they’re engaged in play or another activity, they might be genuinely oblivious to your words. When communicating a request, it’s important to ensure that the request was heard before assuming that a child is being disrespectful, says Réa M. Wright, a family therapist in Davidson, North Carolina. Caregivers should treat toddlers and preschoolers with the same respect and care they’d give an adult, she says. “Young children need to feel seen and heard, and be spoken to respectfully, with kindness and care, with age-appropriate requests.”

Offer toddlers and preschoolers two or three choices, say experts Roslyn A. Haber and Marlyn Press, associate professors at Touro College Graduate School of Education in New York City, and use a multifaceted communication approach, combining verbal requests with visual cues and body language to make sure your request gets through. Put this into practice: Get down on a child’s level, make eye contact, use a soft voice, a child’s name and a gentle touch on a child’s arm or shoulder while speaking.


ELEMENTARY YEARS

Brick Wall

Fewer experiences inspire more parental frustration than speaking to an apparently unresponsive child. Being “ignored” is a common experience for parents, and often reflects an underlying power struggle. When preteens feel spoken “at” instead of with, or field lots of repeated requests from caregivers, they may simply tune them out. Tweens may ignore parental requests because experience has taught them that parents soon throw their hands up in exasperation and stomp away without following through on the request.

The best approach? Ensure your child hears you by getting into his line of vision and making eye contact, then calmly and rationally state your request along with reasonable consequences if the request is ignored. Kids can then decide on their own to comply, says Wright, which diffuses any power struggles.

“The calmer I am when I’m being ignored by a child, the more efficient and effective my responses are liable to be,” Wright says. “Give your kids options, and if you’re ignored, articulate the natural and logical consequences. Be prepared and willing to follow through on those consequences swiftly and calmly, without yelling, bargaining, demanding or threatening.”


TEEN YEARS

Two-Way Street

Want teens to listen? Hear them out. Teens need to feel heard in order to open up and be receptive to listening, Wright says. Teens live to test boundaries. Becoming independent is, after all, their job. Keep this in mind as you build healthy two-way communication. “I often tell parents that listening to teens is probably a lot more important than lecturing them,” Wright says.

To encourage teens to talk and listen, simply follow their lead. Talk about topics they’re interested in, ask questions and genuinely listen to responses, even if that means being subjected to a 30-minute verbal essay on the merits of their favorite band. Teens tend to be more open to communicating with parents when they’re side-by-side, instead of face-to-face, so go for a drive, a walk or volunteer together. Try not to interrupt, ask “tell me” or “how” questions, and never act shocked or judgmental, even if your teen reveals something shocking. Model effective and empathetic listening, and teens will follow suit.


Malia Jacobson is a nationally published journalist and mom of three.

 

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September 2018

Run Club meets every Sunday at 8 a.m. in Midtown Raleigh or Wake Forest. Stroller friendly; children invited. 

Cost: $10/run or $100/annual pass

Where:
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5900 Whittier Drive
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Sponsor: FIT4MOM
Telephone: 919-348-0472
Contact Name: Missy Currin
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Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

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Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
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Cost: Free

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Erwin Road
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Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
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Historic Yates Mill County Park
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Hux Family Farm
1923 Shaw Rd.
Durham, NC  27704
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Sunday, Sept. 16, 1–5 p.m. Learn how farmers harvested crops such as wheat before the invention of mechanized harvesters, try threshing wheat by hand and make a craft to take home!

Cost: free

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Garner Performing Arts Center
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Cost: Free

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Downtown Clayton
E. Main St.
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Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
760 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
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Cost: $12-$57

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Cost: $19/resident, $24/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
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Cary, NC  27513
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Cost: $2/child

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Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Cost: $4/child

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cost: $5 for Adults $4 for Seniors (ages 60 & over) $3 for Children (ages16 & under)

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
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Telephone: 919-856-6675

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Cost: $5/person

Where:
Renaissance Centre
405 Brooks St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Parkway
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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Cost: $12-$57

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120 Country Club Road
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Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Jack Smith Park
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Hayes Barton Baptist Church
1800 Glenwood Ave
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Cost: See website for fees

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Downtown Benson
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Cost: $12-$57

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120 Country Club Road
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Sponsor: PlayMakers Repertory Company
Telephone: 703-850-2282

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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

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Rodeos, a mule-pulling contest, arts and crafts, vendors, carnival rides, street performers, bluegrass shows and more are all part of Benson Mule Days. 

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Benson
500 S. Market St.
Benson, NC  27504
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Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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Cost: Free

Where:
Hayes Barton Baptist Church
1800 Glenwood Ave
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Cost: $15/person

Where:
Mordecai Historic Park
1 Mimosa St.
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Friday, Sept. 21, 6:30–7:30 p.m. Go on an Owl Prowl and discover the kinds of owls that are found in the Piedmont, what they eat, where they live, and what they sound like. Dissect an owl...

Cost: $1/Person

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
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Telephone: 919-662-2850
Contact Name: Ashley Martin
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Join us for Scrappy Hour at The Scrap Exchange! This month at Scrappy Hour we will be upcycling mason jars! Join us to create useful and decorative items that will spruce up your space! We will be...

Cost: $25

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The Scrap Exchange
2050 Chapel Hill Road
Lakewood Avenue
Durham, NC  27707
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Cost: $12-$57

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120 Country Club Road
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Sponsor: PlayMakers Repertory Company
Telephone: 703-850-2282

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Take the family to see a movie by the lake. Movie begins at dusk. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Bond Park
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC
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Website »

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Americana powerhouse vocal trio Red Molly has graced stages from Denver to Denmark. The "Mollies" bring audiences to their feet with their gorgeous harmonies, crisp musicianship,...

Cost: $24

Where:
Garner Performing Arts Center
742 W Garner Road
Garner, NC  27529
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Sponsor: Heartwood Montessori
Telephone: (919) 465-2113
Contact Name: Virginia McCollum
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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

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Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Benson
500 S. Market St.
Benson, NC  27504
View map »


Website »

More information

2018 marks 300 years since the notorious pirate Blackbeard roamed the Carolina coast and lost his life – and his head – in a fight with British soldiers. Learn more about the history of...

Cost: Free

Where:
North Carolina Museum of History
5 E. Edenton St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Cost: $5 advance tickets; $8 at the door. Free for ages 12 and younger

Where:
Booth Amphitheatre
8003 Regency Pkwy.
Cary, NC  27518
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Cost: Free

Where:
Hollow Rock Nature Park
692 Erwin Rd
Durham, NC  27707
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Sponsor: Ali Wolfe
Contact Name: Ali Wolfe
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Cost: Free

Where:
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4818 S. Roxboro St.
Durham , NC  27713
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Sponsor: Hope Valley Farms YMCA
Telephone: 919-401-9621
Contact Name: Kelly Johnson
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Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St
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Cost: Free

Where:
Project Enlightenment
501 S. Boylan Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Project Enlightenment
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Cost: Free for general admission

Where:
The Hub Farm
117 Milton Rd.
Durham, NC  27712
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Cost: Free

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Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Cost: $3/child

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
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Contact Name: Wilkerson staff
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Cost: Free

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Cost: $5 for Adults $4 for Seniors (ages 60 & over) $3 for Children (ages 7–16)* *Ch

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
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Cost: Adults (18+) $10; Youth (7-17) $4; Children (6 & under) Free.

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220 Fayetteville St.
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Cost: $10 advance tickets; $15 at the door

Where:
Raleigh Little Theatre
301 Pogue St.
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Cost: Free

Where:
Hayes Barton Baptist Church
1800 Glenwood Ave
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

In celebration of the 151st anniversary of emancipation, MOJAA Performing Arts Company presents a theatrical experience that leads guests through Mordecai Historic Park to experience plantation...

Cost: $15/person

Where:
Mordecai Historic Park
1 Mimosa St.
Raleigh, NC  27604
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Website »

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Cost: $2

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
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