Seven Steps to Help Your Child Become a First-Time Listener
Picture this: You tell your child it’s time to get ready for bed…and they say, “ok, mom/mommy/dad/pop/etc.)” – and then ACTUALLY do all the bedtime readiness activities!
If you just laughed and laughed because that just isn’t possible in your household, you’re not alone – “my kids don’t listen” is the number one issue of parents. Unfortunately, getting your children to be first-time listeners won’t happen with you saying one little sentence like above. But – it CAN happen – with a few proactive parenting techniques.
Warning: This tips require you to work a bit – but, if you do them, you’ll likely have a child who does what they’re asked.
Determine a time where you can meet as a family where everyone is ready to listen and participate. During or right after dinner is often a great time for this. During your family meeting, let your children know the ground rules and what the consequences of breaking those rules are. Focus your rules on a few things that really matter – you should not have 50 rules for your kids – that’ll just lead to a lot of stress and anger. For bigger issues like not doing homework, set up a contract with your child where you work together to come up with action steps of getting that homework done, and allow them to work with you to determine consequences – both good and bad.
Pro Tip: Consequences should be related to the misbehavior – if a child doesn’t brush their teeth before bed, their consequence should be that they have to go back and do it while you supervise to make sure it’s done.
Make A Connection
You need to make both a physical and mental connection with your child first, to be sure they’re able to listen to you. When you’d like for them to do something, go to them, get on their level, and acknowledge what they’re doing and then really listen. After they tell you what they’re doing, make a gentle physical connection, like putting your hand on their shoulder. Make eye contact with them, and then, with as few words as possible, state your specific request and use either their name or your nickname for them – “Emily, I need you to go to your room to begin getting ready for bed.”
Pro Tip: Teach your children that, whenever you speak, they should look at you. Help them out by asking, “Where should your eyes be?” Have them answer, “On you!”
Tell Them What You Specifically Want Them to Do
The younger the child, the more often you’ll need to give them one direction at a time: eg “You need to head to the bathroom.”
Pro Tip: Your child’s brain processes things a lot more slowly than our adult brains do. Allow them a few moments to process your language, interpret what you’re saying, and following through on their action.
Give Them a Few Choices – the more fun, the better
“Do you want to walk like 🐘 elephants 🐘 or 🩰 ballet dance 🩰 our way there?”
Pro Tip: Let your inner child come out and have some fun, too!
Use Positive Phrasing Instead of Negative
Instead of saying “Stop touching your brother”, instead you can say, “Please keep your hands to yourself right now”.
Pro tip: Be proactive in coming up with your positive phrasing by sitting down and thoughtfully thinking of the most common negative phrases you might be using, and swap them for something a little more positive. This way, you’ve got it ready to go so you can remain calm and not negatively react.
Make Sure They Understand
We all have our own perceptions and opinions of things so you need to be sure that you and your child are on the same page by asking them to repeat what you said.
Pro Tip: Again, let your inner child come out and make this fun! Ask your child if they want to repeat it in a robot voice or in Elsa’s sing-song voice. And maybe do one yourself, too!
Thank Your Child for Doing What You Asked
Everyone wants to feel appreciated, valued, and like they belong. There’s no better way to do that by letting your child know your gratitude when they do what needs to be done – “Emily, thank you so much for going to bed on time – I really appreciate it, and you too!”
Pro Tip: Be sure to thank your significant other from time to time, too – they want to feel appreciated and valued as well, and it’s so easy to forget that sometimes.
What to do when your child still doesn’t listen?
Calmly and consistently give the consequences you all worked on in your family meeting. When you already know what the consequences for not listening are, you can remain proactive and rational versus reacting, repeating, and even losing your control over your emotions.
Written by Carol Chapman – Coach Carol C Kids Life Studio
Richmond, Texas, USA