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How To Discipline a Teenager That Won't Listen

Why do people dread the teenage years? It's because people think that teenagers notoriously don't listen to their parents. They put up walls, they won't look at you when you talk to them. They act like they have everything figured out and that you can't tell them anything. But it doesn't have to be that way.

There's actually a way to help teenagers listen to you. In fact, they want to listen to you. Let's be honest. They want to be understood, they want you to understand them. They want a bond and a connection with you. So, you have to set up the environment in a way where they will listen. In this article, I'm going to share with you a story of one of my foster daughters who did not want to listen to me. 

Then we'll talk about the 5 classic ways that teenagers choose not to listen to their parents. Then we'll discuss 5 steps parents can use to discipline a child who won't listen. I used to do foster care for troubled teens. They were all between the ages of 12 and 18 years old. And there was this one foster daughter I had that was determined not to be talked to. 

She was very strong-willed. And if I needed to correct her or teach her something, she would just look at me and put her fingers in her ears. Sometimes even close her eyes. Because I think small children convince themselves that if they can't see it and they can't hear it then nothing has to worry them or scare them. Well, she was trying to shut me completely out. Literally showing me with all of her body languages, "I am not listening." So, obviously, she needed some correction. She needed some help to learn how to listen and that it would be safe to listen. 

There are other ways that teenagers will show you that they're not listening. For instance, they might just look away. Maybe you've seen that before. Another really common thing is that they don't acknowledge that you're even talking to them. "Yeah, mom, uh-huh, yeah." But they're really not acknowledging. Or you're talking but they're just not there with you. 

That feels so uncomfortable. But that's their way of not having to deal with what you're really saying to them. Another way that teenagers don't listen is they just simply don't answer you back. They may look at you. They may seem totally fine. But you may ask them a question such as "Where were you after school today?"

They just look at you. Silence. That's hard to know what to do with. Another thing teenagers often do is they'll walk away when you're talking to them. That is never acceptable and if there is one thing that gets a parent's blood boiling, it's when the child starts walking away. Well, we can talk about how to not get your blood boiling. In fact, I have a lot of other articles that really get into your own calmness as a parent and stuff like that. 

So, if you subscribe to this channel, you'll be able to learn a lot more. But that is the one thing that can't happen. So, we'll talk a little bit later in this article about how to handle it when they do walk away. And then finally, sometimes they just start doing something else. You tell them "I need you to go and do this thing." They turn they walk away but they don't actually do it. They go call their friend. They go play their game. They sit in their room and listen to music or something else. 

People call that obstinance, right? It's open defiance. I told you you needed to do something but you're obviously choosing not to do it. All of these things are signs that your teenager is not listening to you. When your teenager won't listen to you, they need to be disciplined. In fact, they're craving it. They're asking for it. 

They want to know where their boundaries are. So, these are five steps that you can take to discipline your teenager who's not listening to you. Step number 1, when it is not the time that you are actually correcting this problem. So, before the moment when they've chosen not to listen to you, what you need to do is you need to teach them to look in your eyes when you talk to them. This just needs to be the family way that we discuss things together. 

When you say, "Jonathan, I need to talk to you. Come here." Jonathan knows. He looks right at your eyes, you look right at his eyes, and you both pause to have a moment where the instruction or teaching can sink in. If you establish the habit of looking in each other's eyes whenever communication occurs, this increases the possibility that the child is going to remember what you say and focus on your words as you're saying them. 

The second step is children need to be taught the skills they need for communicating effectively with you so that they don't choose to listen. So, if you've been able to tell, the first 2 steps have to do with correcting a problem before the problem even starts. And that is the best way to handle a problem. In fact, I'm known as a self-government lady all over the world. I always look through every problem through the lens of self-government. And a key principle of self-government is you plan ahead of time. You look ahead. 

You decide what it is that you need to learn before a problem occurs so that handling that problem is much easier. So, what skills do your children probably need to learn how to do? They need to learn how to follow instructions, accept no answers and criticism, accept consequences, and disagree appropriately. I have other articles that go into more details on those 4 basic skills. 

So check those out. But the first step to every one of those 4 basic skills is to look at the person. So, if you've taught them how to look at the person and keep a calm face voice, and body while they're looking at you, you have conquered the biggest piece of the problem of them not listening to you before you even have the interaction where you're trying to get through to them. 

Step number 3: To discipline, someone means to correct them. So, what you need to do is plan ahead of time exactly how you will handle corrections before they even start. Uh-oh, it's more pre-planning for success and more pre-planning for them to actually listen to you when they need to be. So, let's say your child is ignoring you when you're talking to them. There's a certain script that you're going to use every single time. 

Even if they act like they're ignoring you, you know they know exactly what you're saying. So, it doesn't matter if they don't engage with you and act as if they are paying attention. You can rest assured they know the words you're saying and they know the correction that's coming. There are certain steps that we go through in correcting our children. One of those key steps is describing what happens when we describe what should have happened and then we tell them what they earned and we practice things the right way. 

So, that process needs to be understood by the children. So, that they don't feel anxious that they don't feel like you are doing something out of the ordinary. If they know this automatically before it ever even happens, then even if they're pretending to ignore you or they're walking away, you can say the words and they know what they earned. 

Number 4, the children need to know how to stop furthering corrections from occurring. So, some children start ignoring and not listening because they don't want the corrections to happen. Well, then just teach them how to stop a correction. If you teach them how to follow instructions which have 5 steps to them, you look at the person keep a calm face voice, and body. Say, "Okay" or you're asked to disagree appropriately. 

Do the task immediately and then check back. Then why does the person even have to worry about a correction occurring? They can just do those five steps and the correction interaction goes away. 

Finally step, number 5: You need to teach the children exactly how you'll handle the situation if they choose to continue to go out of control or act like they're not listening to you once you've already done the initial correction. We call this intensive teaching. And I have another article that talks about how to go through something called the rule of 3. But there are a few key pieces in there that I want to bring out to you so that you are aware. 

Number 1, if they walk away. So, in our family, in the rule of 3, there are 3 negative consequences that my children can earn. And they know that if they choose to turn and walk away from mom when I'm talking to them, then they will choose to earn all 3 of those negative consequences without me even needing to do the words for that rule of 3. 

Also because I've taught them the exact script that I will follow when they choose to become even more oppositional and are going out of control, then if they are not focusing on me and still not listening to me, I just keep talking. Even if they are yelling at me and trying to talk over me, I just keep saying the words with the same calm tone, looking at them thinking "I love you. It's going to be okay." No matter what it's the same every single time. And they know that. No matter how out of control they choose to try to become. 

It can be frustrating to try to get a teenager to listen to you who is determined to show you that they're not listening. But they're just being strong-willed and there are things that you can do. You don't need to worry about it. In fact, you really shouldn't worry about it. Instead, work on creating the environment and teaching the skills that they need to learn to analyze themselves and to have better self-government.

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