Listen Up! How to Get Kids to Listen to You


Perhaps the most common question of every parent in the world is: “How to make kids listen to me?” Many of them have tried everything, but it doesn’t always work. It’s even harder for single moms who have to take care of their kids all by themselves. This gets even harder when we have two or more kids. Sometimes they just tune us out – whatever we say and more kids usually mean more trouble. Also, yelling usually doesn’t work – just because you’re yelling, it doesn’t mean you’ll be heard.

Believe it or not, you can discipline your kids in many ways without losing temper – and be in control of both your kids and yourself. Before you start reading these parenting tips, have in mind two important things. Whenever you speak to your children, address the unwanted behavior, never their personality – this is the essence of good and effective communication, not just with kids but with adults as well. Also, be aware of the fact that a strong parent – child emotional bond is the best precondition of good discipline.

1. Take a deep breath and calm yourself before you begin talking

When kids see that we are upset or angry, they can react in several ways. They can become afraid, annoyed, they can try to ignore the unpleasant stimuli (us) and they can adopt similar behavior by observational learning. To prevent this, take a deep breath before speaking if you’re irritated and angry. Collect your thoughts, take some time and think of what you’re going to say before you say it. This way, you’ll minimize the chance of flaring up. The skill of staying calm is especially needed if you had already spoken to your children and they didn’t do what you asked them to do. Before you go any further, take a deep breath (again) and try to get their attention in another way.

2. Don’t talk until you’re certain you have their attention and don’t repeat what you have already said

If you start speaking while your kids are completely focused on what they’re doing you started off on the wrong foot. Connect with your child before you speak to them, engage in their activity for a short time and make them look you in the eye while you’re speaking. Not only that your child will dedicate your full attention to you, but they’ll also pick up on such behavior and practice this good communication skill in the future. If you spoke to your child and didn’t get the reaction you were hoping for – go back to the previous step to make sure they were ready to receive your message to start with. Or, proceed to the following steps: it’s possible that the approach was wrong.

3. Avoid using complicated and long words, especially with toddlers

The point of these tips is to be understood, first of all. If you use complex words which are not suitable for your child’s age – the chances to be heard and understood drop significantly. Besides using as simple words as possible, try to use short sentences and give clear instructions. Don’t get the wrong idea – children’s vocabulary should be enriched, but if you’re trying to make them listen to your instructions – long speeches are not such a good idea. They won’t understand what you’re saying, their mind will wander and your efforts will probably fail. Always make sure that your child understands you when you’re explaining them what kind of behavior is bothering you and what they need to do.

4. Let empathy, listening and cooperation be your best methods

When you’re trying to “convince” your kids to stop doing something they find extremely enjoying (playing) and dedicate themselves to less enjoying activities (brushing teeth and going to bed), just step in their shoes for a moment and think about how they must feel at the moment. If someone ordered you to stop having fun and get back to work, you probably wouldn’t be very happy. Have in mind that children have wishes that don’t have to match your own, and sometimes they need to realize why they have to do something they don’t really want to. Instead of being bossy, explain the reasons why your children need to listen to you and be warm and loving but firm. If possible, give your children a choice between two possibilities.

Teaching kids about acceptable (and desirable) behaviors and habits can be a challenging venture – but if you use empathy, patience and try to listen to your kids as much as you expect them to listen to you, it will be a rewarding and satisfying experience as well.

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