İmdat Çocuğum Beni Duymuyor!

Please Help, My Child Ignores Me!

This is a fairly common behavior observed in children, and the reason may not be as complicated as it seems.

I call her name
but she doesn’t seem to hear me!

I have to tell him again and again to put his shoes on. It’s the same with finishing his food!

We often hear these complaints from frustrated parents. Why do kids sometimes ignore their parents? Your child may not be listening to you because she may be “lost” in her own world. Children have an incredibly vibrant imagination, and they spend most of their time daydreaming and playing. So, your child may be too focused on discovering new things around to hear you. Your priority, therefore, should be to ensure that your child really hears you.

Just because you’ve said something to your child, it does not mean that your child understood you. Make sure that what you say is actually understandable to your kid. Follow through with your instructions—don’t let it go. Ask your child: “Did you hear what I just told you? Can you please repeat what I just said?” Then be sure to give your kid enough time to respond. If your child does not respond, she may just be caught up in something that requires all their concentration. Youl’ll have to make sure you’ve got their full attention first. Okay, you’ve got their attention, but nothing seems to have changed. What should you do then?

As a parent, you are the most important person in your child’s life. Don’t be surprised, however, when your child appears to ignore you. Keep in mind that such behavior may have been caused by a variety of reasons, including your child’s age, personality, and experiences. It is quite common for children to ignore their parents. Ignoring you isn’t always a sign of your kid’s acting out. Your child’s behavior may be explained by a combination of factors. Here are some potential explanations why your child may be ignoring you and what you can do about it.

Improve Your Communication
If your child ignores you, try to imagine what she may be feeling. Better yet, encourage your child to express their emotions. Kids may find it difficult to express their emotions clearly. Unable to communicate, they may be tuning out of the situation.

Be Consistent in Your Instructions
Your child may ignore you because she may feel confused about what you want. If you are inconsistent in your instructions, your child may get confused. For example, imagine this situation: Your child is having a tantrum and refuses to eat her dinner, demanding something else to eat, but you tell her that there is nothing else, and she must eat what is available. The next day, she again refuses to eat, but this time you give in to your kid’s demands and cook something else for her. As a result, your child will be confused by the inconsistencies of your actions. Therefore, you must be firm and stick to it. Otherwise, your child will ignore you, thinking of your requests as arbitrary and unreasonable.

Reduce Your Working Hours
Your child may be ignoring you because you may be too busy with work. If your working hours are too long, it means that, when your child needs you, you may not be available. Feeling lonely, your child may withdraw into her own world, which is more familiar to her. Besides, in her mind, your child is simply copying you. Children tend to trust more what they see than what they hear.

Adjust Your Expectations
Parental expectations towards their kids can cause them to ignore their parents. As a parent, you probably expect your child to succeed and perform well all the time. Such expectations may exert too much pressure on your child. And she may react by ignoring you. To begin with, when you ask your child to do something, make sure it’s something that she is old enough to understand and complete. If you want a two-year-old preschooler to put her shoes on, you must ensure that her shoes are kept in a place where she is comfortable to put them on and that her shoes are easy for her to manage. Otherwise, she will refuse to wear her shoes to avoid failing in her parents’ eyes, which will look as if she is ignoring you.

Pay Attention to Your Child’s Personality
Your child may be ignoring you because of her personality and internal processes. Some parents may not react to their children right away, and so their kids tend to procrastinate when communicating with others. For example, when kids are crying, some parents may be late responding to their children’s needs. When kids learn to speak and call to their parents, their parents may not be quick enough to answer their call. Eventually, this may cause such kids to adopt their parents’ behavior as their own.

Depending on a child’s personality, children may either ignore their parents or instead seek their parents’ attention. Some kids are introverted and shy, and may lack self-confidence. Such kids tend to be more sensitive when someone criticizes them. They fear being exposed to negative judgment. So, by ignoring what their parents tell them, these kids simply try to protect themselves. In such cases, their parents should try to reassure them: for example, by saying, “I’m telling you this because I know you can do it”, “I’m here whenever you need my help”, or “For now, you need my help to do this”.

Other children are extroverted and more social. By ignoring what their parents tell them, such kids show their resentment towards their parents. In reality, however, this is how children develop their independence and autonomy. Therefore, their parents should be patient and consistent in what they want from their kids.

Children’s ignoring of their parents is a complex issue. To deal with your child’s ignoring behavior, you should pay attention to how you communicate with your child. As a parent, you should know what your child feels and how much of your child’s behavior can be explained by her age. You should also listen to your child’s opinions and try to respect them. This is how you will be able to build a healthy foundation for your communication and relationship with your child in the future.

Gamze Baştiryaki
Clinical Psychologist

Gamze Baştiryaki received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the Near East University. She specializes in disability studies and family therapy. In 2011, she founded the Ankara Ada Psychotechnics Center. Relying on her background in education and her love for children, she uses her extensive knowledge of child psychology working with preschool kids and their families at a kindergarten school that operates under her leadership.