YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


What to Do When Dad Just Won't Listen


So, my lovely and patient oldest daughter asks me a simple question. Being a simple dad, I answer her directly.

"Uh-huh," I say.

I nod when I say this, which gives the "uh-huh" a little more force. A lot of dads will just say "uh-huh" without nodding. I prefer the nod. A nod shows you really care.

"Dad," my lovely and patient daughter says, "I wasn't even talking to you."


"I was talking to myself," she says. "I was talking to myself and you answered."

Now, you might think that my oldest daughter, being lovely and patient, would be able to handle this by now. But no. She has to rub my ears in it.

"Dad is deaf!" she shouts. "I swear, my father does not hear me at all."

I think about this a moment. My 13-year-old may be right. I don't always hear her. I would like to, but sometimes there is just too much to hear. So, I block some of it out, which can easily be misinterpreted as not listening.

"Uh-huh," I say, giving her an even bigger nod.

So, how do you handle a dad who won't listen? How do you get his attention, then keep it for more than three or four words? I don't know. But here are a few tips anyway.


Speak slowly. Most dads have only 30 megabytes of their brains devoted to hearing. Most children have a 40-megabyte mouth. So adjust your conversation accordingly.

Studies have shown that some children have achieved remarkable results by working the words "golf" and "tax refund" into the conversation. These are important buzzwords to any father and will help alert him that you are actually speaking to him.


Be prepared for the seven-second delay. Many dads have a seven-second delay installed in their hearing. It functions in much the same way as a seven-second delay on radio call-in shows, screening out cranks and lunatics.

So when a father appears slow in reacting to a request, just wait patiently. Do not sigh loudly and tap your foot. Fathers are very tuned in to impatience. They see impatience as the root of all that is wrong in the world.


When asking for money, don't call him "cheap": For some reason, dads always take "cheap" the wrong way.

Instead, call him "thrifty." Or "fiscally responsible," even if you don't know what it means. Dads like to hear their kids say multi-syllable words. Just don't overdo it.


When asking for money, don't be cheerful: Requests for money should always be done in a serious and apologetic manner.

For example, a kid should approach a dad for money the way Luca Brasi approached Marlon Brando in "The Godfather," rehearsing in the hallway first before bravely entering the room and making the request.

Kid: Father, it is with a heavy heart I ask for a small favor. A very important favor.

Father: You come to me on the day of my daughter's wedding to ask a favor?

Kid: Yes, Father, I have nowhere else to turn.

Father: What is it, my son? What small favor can I do?

Kid: Can I have 10 bucks for a movie?

At which time, the kid should drop to his knees, clutch his father's sleeve and plead for mercy. Just don't overdo it.


Beware of the screen saver: In addition to the seven-second delay, many fathers today come equipped with screen savers. These internal screen savers activate in the middle of long, boring stuff that dads don't really want to hear, and are particularly sensitive to whining and complaining. As soon as the whining begins, the screen saver kicks in.

Suddenly, your dad is not sitting in the den listening to you go on about not having any decent clothes. Suddenly, your father is on the 18th fairway at Pebble Beach, and he and his caddy are trying to decide between the five-iron and the seven.

He squints into the wind and grunts, "Give me the nine."

This causes his caddy, Cindy Crawford, to inhale sharply.

"A nine-iron, sir? With this wind? Are you sure?"

"Give me the nine-iron, Cindy," he says confidently. "Just give me the nine."

At which point you tap him on the shoulder, costing him his first major championship.


Dads hate crying. They see crying as the root of all that is wrong in the world. Most fathers will not react at all to crying, unless it is done with such emotional range that it convinces him that you are in "actual anguish."

Most fathers will react to "actual anguish."

It is, perhaps, the one emotion the two of you share.

But pick your spots. "Actual anguish" should be reserved for the really important stuff, like getting a new skateboard or marrying a Kennedy, stuff that he would never agree to otherwise.

Los Angeles Times Articles