Family expert Jesper Juul: Why kids sometimes can’t hear – and what parents can do about it
It is the absolutely classic way of everyday family life: parents demand something from their children, but they simply do not listen. In a recent book, family therapist Jesper Juul, who died in 2019, explains why this is and how parents should better treat their children.
Almost every day I meet parents who at some point say, “My kids never listen to what I say.” Sometimes, this means that kids don’t always follow through and do as they’re told. But it often means that parents don’t actually have the experience of having kids listen to them.
Excerpt from “Parent Training”
From my experience, I know the root cause is always the same: what an adult says is not worth hearing! This is of course a provocative and harsh thesis, but in fact it is almost always true. It rarely means that there is something wrong with the content of what adults are saying. On the contrary, it is often correct and reasonable. There are other factors that count.
One has to do with contact. Many adults seem to assume they are in contact with their children as soon as they are within earshot. it’s not like that. The child’s consciousness is active and attention is focused everywhere or entirely on what is happening. Children have to learn more every day than most students learn in a week, yet we still assume we can ask for closeness and attention from them at any time.
Waiting pays off
That is why it is useful to “knock” in front of the letter. “Hello Trine…hello!” The cute one then look her in the eyes and see when she’s ready. From the first year of life, it usually lasts 4-7 seconds. When you’re there, you can continue: “Hey, I want to tell you something. Can you listen to me now?” Most of the time, the answer is yes, and the few times it isn’t, it’s worth the wait: “Okay, I’ll wait a bit then.” “
This advice has a provocative effect on many parents because it shakes a child’s usual sense of property rights. Should we really treat our children like strangers? Yes, it is definitely worth it, and the children learn behavior that the parents will be happy with later.
Advice book (advertisement)
“Parent Training – Quiet Parenting” by Jesper Juul
The next step is to express yourself in a friendly and personal way. Not friendly in the sense of being overly loving or clearly child friendly, as it has unfortunately become a common occurrence. But warm, confident and respectful. Friendship here means that both the voice and body language say, “I have positive expectations for our communication and cooperation and will make sure we have enough space.”
The connection between the speaker and the words
Who am I, what do I want, where are my limits and what values do I represent? Although it is very clear that personal expression works best when communicating with our partners, friends, and the rest of our family, it is not always easy. It’s not just about starting all sentences with “I”. What is required is that there be an association between the speaker and the words – that there is a “body” and substance in the words, and that the expression be as original as possible. Not everyone can be real all the time, but it’s the desire to try that makes others listen and take us seriously.
- I hope you play something a little less noisy.
- I want you to go to sleep soon.
- I don’t want you to bite me, but I want to know why you’re angry.
Of course, this requires parents to examine who they are and what they want or don’t want: that’s exactly what it takes to get a successful date, to seduce your partner, or to decide where your next family vacation should go. Among adults who know each other well, it often takes less because they know between the lines. This is not easy with children because they get confused by hidden or indirect messages.
Dialogue and negotiation
Do you always work? No no. No matter how much we want it, how gently and personally we express it, it is always possible that a child will not play with it. This is where dialogue and negotiation begin, and children are given optimal opportunities to learn about their limits and needs. To gradually provide parents and other adults with a qualified countermeasures.
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Do you have to constantly negotiate everything between heaven and earth? No, I mean definitely not. Parents have power: the ability to take the child seriously and make the right decision – even if the child does not see the genius in him. This often leads to frustration in children that it does no harm to them. Negotiate briefly, make up your mind, and act accordingly. This creates great frustration and great security. Parents ignore their leadership role when children’s frustrations make them helpless or excessively resilient, and fail their children when they criticize their dissatisfaction or act only unanimously.
Some conflicts are more important than others. It often happens that the needs and desires of both parties are equally important, which is why being an adult is so difficult. Fortunately there is an alternative solution! Children want nothing more than to make their parents happy and experience their value to them. That is why it is advisable to ask them for help.
Now I don’t know what to do. I understand you want a day off from kindergarten, but I have to go to work. can you help me?
Take the baby seriously
This does not mean giving leadership or responsibility to the child. It’s a way to get the child involved in the driving process without letting them take the driver’s seat. Sometimes kids have a solution, sometimes they don’t, but the conflict is always mitigated when the child feels it is being taken seriously. This form of leadership is an art that very few are born with. We must learn it with our children, and when there are many children in the family, we must practice it differently.
This process of mutual learning is essential for the quality of the relationship, for the development of empathy and the ability to read cues from other people, and for everyone involved in it to feel comfortable. A healthy family is one in which everyone feels free to express their desires, dreams, and needs – and gradually learn that this does not guarantee everything. Do not be afraid of conflict and frustration. Fear only indifference and lack of words.
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