Listening ears, please

Nov 11, 2008 at 6:11 p.m. ET

I am tired of lazy listening. You know, when your kid asks you what is for dinner, you answer...and one or five minutes later they ask again. It's happening more often than not in our house, and I've started to plain refuse to answer the second - or third, or fourth - time around.

Boy Listening

Why kids do this, I have no idea. I know I am not alone - girlfriends and I have commiserated about it often. I think that some of it is being lazy, so some of my response is an effort to break the habit of that laziness.

If you want an answer, listen for it

Woody, much as I love him, is the worst about this. He can ask me five times in five minutes about something and never once actually hear the answer. Sometimes I've teased him and answered five different ways just because I knew I could. When the household is especially busy or stressful, however, trying to be light about this doesn't happen (even if that might be when we need it the most) - and I find the asking but not listening to be extremely irritating. Call me a mean mom if you will, but sometimes I even refuse to answer the second time.

If you ask a question, listen for the answer. It's that simple. I think listening for and actually hearing an answer to your question is as much a sign of respect as asking that question nicely.

Retraining the ears

This behavior is as much a habit as anything. He's used to not having to listen the first time, so he doesn't. In effort to break this habit, I am employing a few strategies:

  • When Woody asks me a question, I insist he look me in the face when I answer. This goes along with the adage that you can hear someone better when they take off their sunglasses.
  • When he asks me the same question two or more times, I ask it back. If he is asking for the second time what is for dinner, I respond, "You tell me." Often if he thinks about it for a moment, he remembers.
  • If neither of those work, I plain refuse to answer.
  • If he catches himself is this habit and tries to correct it - and still can't remember the answer - I cut him some slack and give him the answer. I may be a mean mom sometimes, but I try not to be cruel. He is a kid; he's trying. Most of the time, anyway.

In addition, I am taking greater care when listening to the kids. It's a respect that goes both ways. That said, I'm sure this isn't the end of lazy listening at our house.

Oh, did you say something?

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