Home > Do You Hear Me? Teaching Kids to Listen
Posted by Shannon M. on Wednesday, March 14th, 2012
There are few things more frustrating (save, say, banging your head against a wall) than when your kids ignore you. So maddening is it when kids don’t listen, that sometimes yelling or raising your voice seem like the only viable options. Resist those urges and instead choose to empower yourself by implementing a few behavior-modification tools.
The problem behind the problem
Sometimes kids are like puzzles and it’s up to us, as parents, to attempt to “solve” them. Ask yourself if there is, perhaps, a root cause for your child’s behavior. Sometimes that which would qualify as “bad” behavior can be cured by simply feeding your child or putting them down for a nap. Look at their life beyond you. Maybe they have been teased or bullied at school; maybe they feel like you or your spouse are too busy for them; maybe they feel threatened by a recent change in their life. Ask them questions to help determine what it is that is bothering them and, of course, always listen.
Keep it simple
Instead of rattling off a list of demands, prioritize by placing the most pressing request first. For example, you may want your son to pick up his room, tidy his toys, stop hitting his sister, and brush his teeth. Start with the most important request (his sister) and, once that’s accomplished, move down your list.
In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to bark non-specific demands such as “Clean your room!” or “Do your homework!” However, your child is more likely to do what you say, when you say it, and actually listen, if he or she has a specific task. Instead, try addressing your child directly and asking specific questions. For example, “Lauren, let’s put away your shoes” or “Mikey, please work on your art homework.”
Always, always, always connect with your child when making a request of them. One of the best ways to do this is by squatting down to their level and looking at them in the eyes. This can be difficult for some children so you may want to say “Johnny, I need your eyes” or “Mary, I need your ears.” Give them the same attention when they are talking to you.
After you make a request, ask your child to repeat it back to you. This can be as simple as “Billy, what did I just ask you?” If your child is too young to repeat your request or your question is too complicated, try saying something like “Peter, please put on your shoes so that you can go play outside.”
A little sunshine goes a long way. Instead of yelling a decidedly negative command at your child (“No running!”) try making it into an affirmative and thus positive command (“Inside the house we walk, outside the house we can run…”)
No matter what tips you choose to adopt, regardless of whether you see immediate behavior returns, or no changes at all – always remain calm and consistent. In other words, don’t back down and keep your cool. When you see positive changes in your child, reward them. Avoid the use of bribes or threats.