10 Tips on How to Get Children to Listen

You don’t have to have read my blog, Children Will Listen (Part One) before you read this blog, but you won’t want to miss it, as it’ll help you communicate with your children in two very interesting ways. Here are some more talking tips I’ve found helpful as a mom and a grandmother.

1. You Listen

If your children are shorter than you, as often as you can, when they have something to tell you, kneel down or sit down together so you are on the same level and can really pay attention. After all that’s what you want your children to do when you have something important to say. I suspect adults who are unable1_mom_and_child to have eye contact in conversation, probably were not listened to as children. (Just my guess, but something to think about.)

Have you ever noticed that kids talk way more when they’re in the car with you? I think it’s because everyone is on the same level. Car listening is a great way to find out what your children are thinking, so limit their use of headphones in the car and listen.

2. Sound Check 

What do you sound like when you talk to your children? If you can sing Happy Birthday (in tune or not),_2_Yelling you have a range of notes to your voice. If your voice tends to be a little shrill, practice lowering it a few notes and see if it elicits better attention.

In Sidetracked Home Executives: from Pigpen to Paradise, I wrote about mom’s who use a “church” voice with their kids when they’re in public. You don’t want to be phony by changing your voice just to impress your congregation, but you can get more attention from your kids (and your spouse) when you use a kind, strong voice (like Bambi’s mother). Think of a woman you know with a kind, strong voice and practice sounding like her.

3. Get Down 

If your children are shorter than you, before giving them direction, get down on their level. Kneel down (or put the child up on a chair, counter or table on your level) and let your eyes connect, so you know you 3_mom_and_childhave the proper attention. It’s so important to use this eye-level tactic for good news, as well as instruction and reprimands. If the only time you bend down or lift up is to scold, your tactic will soon turn into another opportunity for your child to blank out your message. Child psychologists say to use your children’s name, “Sarah, I have something to tell you.” “Jason, I’ve got good news!” when you want get their attention.

Also start with the children’s name when you want them to do something. “Jenny, please feed the kitty.”

4. Use Social Media 

Use Twitter, Facebook, email, text messaging and cell phone calls to get your message across to your kids. Also, when giving a directive in the same room with your children, use the same limited 4_child_on_smart_phonenumber of characters as you would when you tweet. The longer you ramble on, the more likely your children will tune you out the same way you tune out people who go on-and-on.

Too much talking is a very common mistake when dialoging about an issue with your kids or your spouse. We women are especially busted for that trait. When you talk too much, you give your listener time to check out, leaving you with that common-among-women feeling, “nobody listens to me.”

5. When…Then 

“When you get your teeth brushed, then I’ll read the story.” “When your chores are finished, then you can watch TV.” “When,” which implies that 5_cartoon_henyou expect obedience, works better than “if,” which suggests that the children have a choice when you don’t mean to give them one. Also, don’t ask, “Will you finish your chores so you can watch TV?” Kids don’t understand rhetorical questions. They may think they get to answer “NO.” Then there’s the Little Red Hen way that really worked with my kids. “While I bake the cookies, you do your chores and then you can have a cookie when they get out of the oven.”  

6. Age Appropriate Speak

The younger your children, the shorter and simpler your directives should be. Consider your children’s level6_asian_girl of understanding. For example, a common error moms make is asking a three-year-old, “Why did you do that?” Most adults can’t answer that question about their behavior. Try instead, “Let’s talk about what you did.”

I remember saying to my toddler, “Stop that! You’re acting like a two-year-old!”

7. An Offer you Can’t Refuse

During the power-struggle stage, (two and three-year-olds) you can reason with your children to avoid it. “Get dressed so you 7_pouting_childcan go outside and play.” Offer a reason for your request that’s to your children’s advantage, and make it one that’s difficult to refuse. This gives children incentive to move out of their power position and do what you want them to do.

8. Talk with a Pen

Reminders can evolve into nagging so easily, especially for preteens who feel being told to do things puts them in the slave 8_pen_and_papercategory. Without saying a word, you can communicate anything you need to say. There is authority in the written word. Talk with bright and happy shaped Post-It Notes and don’t just write notes to get them to do something, leave humorous notes and compliments to convey your love and approval.

I had chores on 3x5 cards and each of my children had a set of chore cards and they knew what had to be done around the house and in their rooms. If your family has invited the House Fairy in to help, you know the vast array of printed material the House Fairy has to leave for your children.

9. Get Close Before You Speak

Instead of hollering, “Turn off the TV, it’s time for dinner!” walk into the room where your children are 9_mom_and_daughter_watching_tvwatching TV, and join them for a few minutes. Then during a commercial break, have your children turn off the TV. Going to your children conveys you’re serious about your request.

10. Replay Your Message

Toddlers need to be told a thousand times. Children under two have difficulty internalizing your directives. Most three-year-olds begin to internalize directives so that what you ask begins 10_Replay_buttonto sink in. You’ll do less and less repeating as your children get older. Preteens regard repetition as nagging.



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