Most parents have encountered this “Selective Deafness Syndrome,” I daresay, when kids suddenly “do not hear it” if what is being said is not in their interests to hear. Most of the time Selective Deafness shows up when you ask the child to come over and especially to do something. Usually, they know that the request will be repeated and they will eventually have to comply, but at least they can defy you for a while by making you say it over and over again.
My friend John, a father of four, had had this problem with his oldest daughter. As soon as Jenny was old enough to understand simple requests, she figured that doing what she was asked was not always fun, especially when it interrupted her playing. That had quickly developed into Selective Deafness. Jenny would hear “Would you like a candy?” if you whispered it in the other end of the room, but when you asked her to pick up her scattered crayons her hearing would mysteriously drop.
John wasn’t the kind of parent who would put up with being manipulated by a toddler, so he had found a solution. He and his wife implemented a simple One, Two, Three program that worked like this. They would say, for example, Jenny, come here. If Selective Deafness kicked in and the request was ignored, the next thing to say was, Jenny, One. More deafness? Jenny, Two. Deaf again? Jenny, Three – where Three meant Consequences.
According to John, the case was cured very fast. You only had to say Jenny, One and the girl would be already coming. When I asked John whether it was fear of punishment that made the system work so well, he said no. It is not about punishment, it is about establishing (and maintaining) your parental authority. Consequences do not have to be harsh, but there have to be consequences. Every parent knows that they must be consistent and follow through with what they say, or they won’t be taken seriously.
The child needs to see that when you speak to them, you mean business. You’re not someone they can defy and ignore. You know it full well that they do hear you, and you won’t be played. When the child understands this, Selective Deafness will go away, no visits to the ear doctor required.