Get Your Kids to Listen to You

Tired of not being listened to? Tired of being ignored by your kids?

Here are things you can do to improve your communication with your children and to have them pay more attention when you speak.

● Connect before you direct. Connection governs cooperation. Be interested in your child and what your child is doing. Show curiosity. Ask them questions about their lives or what activity they are engaged in. Enter their world and build some rapport before asking them to do things or giving instructions.

● Inject loving presence. This is particularly important if you lean towards a more aggressive or direct way of speaking. Get close, use eye contact, use your child’s name, and touch your child gently on the shoulder before you speak. Speak more from your heart.

● Watch your tone. Get rid of the “parent tone” in favor of a respectful and connecting tone of voice. Watch your body language too. Get rid of rolling eyes, furrowed eyebrows, sighs, hands on hips, gritting your teeth, and shaking your head. Being mindful of your non-verbal signals is really challenging, but super important. So much is communicated through body language.

● Aim for balance of voice. When asking your child to do something, be assertive and encouraging, not aggressive, but not passive either. Attempts at being soft and non-threatening can sometimes backfire. Parents who slip into passive communication can get ignored. Getting ignored can cause frustration and often leads to yelling.

● Speak clearly and concisely. Don’t give lengthy, meandering requests or lectures. Slow down. Breathe. Think before you speak. Choose your words very wisely. Your words will be more valuable and carry more weight this way.

● Be clear about your intention. If you are giving an instruction, do not make it into a question. Many parents suffer from up-speaking and/or adding lots of “Okays?” to the end of their instructions. If you are asking a question, ask a question. If you are giving an instruction, give an instruction. Be careful not to confuse the two…okay? If you want to check for comprehension, ask: “What did you hear/understand?”

● Be positive. If you are giving an instruction, word it in the positive instead of the negative. For example: “Hang your jacket here, please” Versus: “Don’t leave your jacket on the floor!” This lets children know what to do, instead of what not to do.

● Demonstrate the skill if you are asking them to do something. “Like This” reinforces what you want done. “Hang your jacket here. Like this. Now you try it. Great, thanks.”

● Offer to help. Many young children need help getting started and staying on track. Calmly offering, “Can I help get you started?” has resolved countless challenges and potential conflicts.

● Be calm. (If it’s not an emergency) Walk slowly across the room to speak to your child in a calm voice. Yelling across rooms runs the risk of training your child to answer you only after you have yelled.

● Try giving your child some choice and control. They’ll feel less need to be defiant if choice is a part of their world. This was especially true with my strong-willed child. “Would you like to do this first or that first”?

● Deliberately Notice and then Appreciate your Children when they follow an instruction: For example: “You put your toys in the toy box. Thank you. That was helpful.”

● Perhaps most important. Listen to your children when they want attention or when they want to speak to you. If you can’t listen at that exact moment, take 10 seconds to pause what you are doing, face them, make eye contact, and tell them when you will be able to pay attention. We teach how to listen by HOW WE LISTEN.

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