Are your children not listening? Ask any parent of young children what they wish for, and the list may include things like strong coffee, a good night’s sleep and how best to get a child to listen the first time. Not sure how to talk to kids? You’re not alone. Most parents feel like pulling out their hair when trying to get their children to listen. Perhaps you feel that way too.
Have you ever found yourself saying things like, “Hey guys, please pick up your toys for me?” You may begin in a cheerful voice, but when time passes, and they still don’t listen, you might raise your voice just a tad: “Hey guys, I’m asking nicely. If you don’t pick up your toys, you will lose your playdate tomorrow.” Then, when they still refuse to listen, you may find yourself at your wit’s end. “Pick up your toys NOW! Forget it! You’re in a time out!”
It’s not uncommon for parents of youngsters to fall into a pattern of ask, remind and repeat, followed by threatening, lectures and yelling. But what if I could show you how to talk to kids in a way that’s easier? Imagine children listening to your requests becoming the norm and not the exception. Imagine? You may not have to anymore.
Getting a child to listen the first time involves asking 3 simple questions
Why is my child acting this way? Don’t just focus on what is observable. Recognize the hidden reasons that drive your child’s behavior. Is he hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired?
What do I want my child to learn from me at this moment?
How do I want to teach my child at this moment?
Connect and get their attention before you make your request
If you want to know how to talk to kids and make your request known, it’s essential to connect first. Emotional connection is pivotal when it comes to getting your child to listen. Instead of simply making a demand, try starting a conversation. Slip into their world for a moment and join the activity. Perhaps you might say something like, “It sure looks like you are having fun playing with those Legos. I love what you’ve built.” Connecting first lets children know you think they are important. Joining this way gets children listening. Even more, it gets their attention so you can transition into your request.
Say it with as few words as possible
When it comes to getting your child to listen, it may be tempting to launch into a long lecture about the importance of cleaning up their toys, brushing their teeth or taking a bath. However, sometimes less is more. Try stating your request using as few words as possible. Remember, a child’s brain is not fully developed, and throwing a bunch of data at him may cause more confusion and lead to anxiety, resistance, or full-blown misbehavior. Since children listening is your goal, try saying things like, “Hey, Joey, clean up time.” or “Hey, Sarah, are your pajamas on?” may quickly do the trick.
Children Not listening? Ask them to repeat what you said
We all want children listening to our requests. But the big question is how to make that happen. Here’s one of the best way I know. Asking children to repeat what you stated will force their brain to engage in the conversation and come up with the answer. If you’ve already requested that the toys get picked up, try saying, “Can you tell me what I’ve just asked you guys to do?” That question will challenge them to stop what they’re doing, process what you said, and come up with the answer. It will also make following through with the task much more likely.
Engage cooperation and state why you are asking
When making a request of your child, try engaging cooperation, and state why you’re asking them to do such a thing. This will help them feel like part of the plan, and they will see you as a cooperative partner rather than an unfair dictator. For instance, if your child is resisting putting on his pajamas, you could say something like, “Hey, Joey, please put on your pajamas. I love our storytime together, and I would feel sad if we couldn’t do it tonight because you’re not ready for bed.”
Children listening requires empathy and compassion
One of the best ways to talk to kids is to keep your child’s developmental context in mind. It is mission-critical. If you were 5 years old and enjoyed playing with your Legos would you want to stop and go to the breakfast table to get ready for school? Most likely not. A child who feels accepted and understood tends to listen, respond and cooperate much better. So, take a quick moment and try putting yourself in his shoes. Take a moment to reflect on and acknowledge his state of mind. Doing so will help you find your empathy and compassion before asking him to do something.
Acknowledge feelings as you listen and talk to kids
Along the lines of empathy and compassion, it is important to acknowledge your child’s feelings as you relate to him. If his homework needs to be done and he wants to play outside instead, try giving his feelings a name instead of discounting or denying them. Instead of saying, “Let’s not get upset about this!” try saying, “I am sorry you are upset. I can see you want me to know that.” Instead of barking, “You’re acting disrespectful young man!” try saying something like, “You’re upset because you want to go outside and play. I understand… When I was your age, I was just like you. Playing outside on my swingset was always more fun than doing homework.” Making comments like this will help your kiddo understand that you truly are on his side and he’s not alone.
Use routines and habits to your advantage
Routines are not only important for adults, but they are essential for children too. Routines help children tap into their procedural memory and help eliminate the guesswork for figuring out what comes next. What do your morning routines look like? Perhaps you wake your child, make him breakfast, help him brush his teeth and hair, check his backpack and then send him off to get dressed. Sticking to these routines can work to your advantage, as your child will know what to expect each morning. This will help eliminate power struggles when trying to get him to listen. You can even say something like this: “You know the drill, Johnny. Every morning, we brush our teeth before we go downstairs and play.”
Provide a calm presence as you talk to kids
Providing a peaceful and quiet existence helps set the tone for your child. However, if you want things done strictly and methodically, your child will tend to focus on making you happy at the expense of staying on task. Meanwhile, if your child sees you as comfortable, relaxed and confident, chances are he’ll remain relaxed and cooperative because he has the freedom to put his spin on getting stuff done.
A Point to Ponder
Getting children to listen to you the first time can feel about as achievable as enjoying a hot cup of coffee uninterrupted in the morning. However, it is not impossible. By connecting with your child, using empathy and compassion, sticking to routines and maintaining a calm presence, you can lower the chaos in your home and reclaim your family harmony! To learn more, click here.