Why Don't My Kids Hear Me When I Talk?

by Christine Organ

Most conversations with my kids start something like this:

Me: Dearest child, could you please go brush your teeth?

No response.

Me, growing impatient: Child! Go brush your teeth!


Me, getting pissed: Last warning! Teeth. Now.

Still nothing.


Nope. Nada.

Husband: Did you hear your mom? Go brush your teeth.

Tiny feet scamper off to brush their teeth, and I am once again completely dumfounded, a tiny bit grateful, and annoyed beyond words.

What the ever-loving fuck?! Why are my children unable to hear the sound of my voice? And why do they listen to their father, and not me? What the fuckity fuck?!

I feel like a stand-up comedian awkwardly tapping the mic — Hello! Is this thing on? Sometimes I wonder if the words that are coming out of my mouth have gotten jumbled up on the way out and have been translated into another language. Maybe the pitch of my voice is one that can only be heard by dogs and wild animals. Maybe I’m like that teacher in all the Peanuts movies droning on with her whah-wha-wha-wha-whah instructions.

Because my kids suffer from Selective Listening Syndrome, it’s no wonder I have to yell so much. My kids literally do not hear me unless I am yelling so loudly that the dogs run out of the room. Polite request? I get nothing. Touching their shoulder while talking? Meh, sometimes. If I didn’t lose my shit and scream questions and requests at the top of my lungs sometimes, we would literally get nothing done and go nowhere.

It’s a little hard not to take their subpar listening skills personally, but something tells me I’m not alone in this struggle. Maybe the problem isn’t me, but them. Maybe it’s because they’re kids and kids don’t listen, or maybe it’s because they’re boys and everyone knows that males have a tiny problem with listening. Science says so. No, really, it does.

A few years ago, a study came out finding that males have a harder time hearing women’s voices because they have to use a different part of their brain to process the sound of the female voice. Apparently, men need to use the part of the brain that processes music to decipher the female voice, which is a more complex process than that of deciphering a male voice.

So maybe the answer is to start singing everything. In fact, I may or may not have sung “Get your shoes, we need to go, we are late, we are late” to the tune of “Let It Go” on occasion.

I’ve heard all about the Orange Rhinos and the moms who quit yelling, and honestly, that just makes me more bewildered and frustrated. Who are these special unicorns whose children listen to them when they speak at a normal decibel? And what is wrong with my heathen children who don’t respond unless I’m screaming so loud my throat hurts? What is wrong with me that my children ignore me the five times I ask them to do something, but listen the first time my husband says something?

I’m not asking for answers, folks, so you can save your suggestions about giving my children warnings, whispering to them, or getting on their eye level when talking to them. I’ve heard all the advice, thankyouverymuch, and in the grand scheme of things, my kids are good kids. There is nothing “wrong” with them. They aren’t disrespectful or mean; they just get consumed with whatever it is they’re doing and block out the sound of my voice sometimes.

And there’s nothing “wrong” with me either, or you, if your kids suffer from Selective Listening Syndrome too. We’re good moms who nag our kids now and then like any good mother should. Sometimes, we just need to vent from one ignored mom to another, amirite?

And this Selective Listening Syndrome doesn’t just apply to my requests for them to pick up their shoes, take a shower, or put away their clothes. I would almost understand if their ears simply turned off whenever I asked them to do something they didn’t want to do, but they also can’t seem to hear me asking them about things they might want. Do you want some breakfast? I get nothing. What do you want to drink? Nada. Anyone want a cookie? Okay, so I’m kind of glad they don’t always hear that last one.

Now that I think about it, maybe Selective Listening Syndrome isn’t such a bad thing after all, because muttering FTS under my breath while stress-eating a Kit Kat bar is a lot more fun when no one is listening.