Do They Zone Out?


You’ve seen that look before. You’re in the car with your child, and you’re bearing your soul. After your son came home late the night before, it took everything not to tell him how frightened you had been.

You were so grateful when he came home in one piece that you didn’t even think of lecturing him. His deliberate disregard for curfew immediately took a backseat to your gratitude to see him home.

The next morning, you took the opportunity to talk during the drive to school. You wonder if his unapologetic curfew breaking had more to do with the fight the day before, or his petition to extend his curfew to the same hour as that of his girlfriend.


You cherry-pick an anecdote from your own adolescence—one of several times you snuck out after curfew. You hope that by showing him a lesson from your own rebellion, it will prompt him to talk about why he chose to switch his phone off and deliberately disobey you.

But then, the look. He doesn’t appear to take in a word you’re saying; he shows no recognition at all. You talk and talk as he stares unblinkingly out the window.




Why does my child ignore me?


The “why” behind zoning out is important, and informs us on the fix. Before you scold your child or demand to be listened to, remember what it is you want to talk to him or her about. Don’t veer off point.

The fact is, even at our best when we’re trying to be open, more to educate than reprimand, our children may hear things differently. Most kids will think they’re in for a lecture if they have gotten into trouble. You may need to frame the conversation upfront to make it clear where you’re coming from.

Be explicit. Start with, “I’m not going to lecture you,” or “I want to tell you something, just a story of my own.”


When you open up to share a personal anecdote, you may feel vulnerable. It can be hurtful if your child doesn’t listen when you’re bearing your soul. Just remember:

  • Without framing the conversation, your child may be responding to the idea that s/he’s in for a lecture.

  • Don’t ask rhetorical questions like, “Is this boring?” Take ownership of your feelings and communicate what you want from your child in the conversation.

  • Confirm that s/he is listening using partial-confirmation, for example “You know what I mean?”



My Thoughts

As vulnerable as you may feel in a soul-bearing conversation with your child, you can incentivize his or her participation in a natural way. Don’t take it personally if s/he appears to zone out. If they know they’re in trouble for something, children will expect a lecture and won’t be primed for a real “give-and-take” conversation. Understanding the “why” behind zoning out can enable you to re-frame the conversation from the start.

Don’t miss a single opportunity to relate with your child(ren) on the important stuff. Contact us for more insights and resources at openhonestcommunication@gmail.com.

© 2019 by Sandifer Consulting Group for Open Honest Communication LLC.