7 Effective Strategies to Get Your Children to Listen
For parents, getting children to listen can be more than a challenge. It can feel near to impossible, at times. Children have a lot to think about as it is, so what their parents are telling them to do may fall low on their priority list. Moreover, children who have experienced a significant family change like their parents' separation or divorce may have even more running through their minds. Still, it's important for parents to have effective strategies in place to get their children to listen when it matters most such as in an emergency. Consider these seven effective strategies to get your children to listen.
- Take a moment to connect. Make eye contact before you start speaking. To do so, you must captivate their attention. Observe what they're doing and see if you can connect with them over that. For example, if your child is colouring at the table, sit down and ask what they're drawing. Let them tell you about it and make eye contact with you. Once that happens, you're more likely to have their attention when you say what you have to tell them.
- Keep it short and sweet. Don't dilute your child's attention span by giving them a 5-minute speech about something that could simply be said in a few short sentences. Consider your child's age and developmental needs, and use those measurements to guide what you plan to say. You might even try using just one word to jog their memories so that they understand what you want. Instead of saying, "Please put your coat on before going outside," try just saying, "Coat." After having gone outside so many times with a coat on, they're likely to get what you're asking for right away.
- Consider an alternative to commands. Children don't always want to listen and be told what to do. They're willful individuals who want to make their own decisions. Instead of always telling them what to do, try entrusting them to make smart decisions. If your child has a pet who needs to be fed, instead of commanding them to feed the pet, tell them that their pet feels hungry just like they do. Eliminating the need always to give commands to your child may also make them more receptive to the commands you do give when they truly are necessary.
- Give them options. It's easy to say to a child something along the lines of, "if you don't do this, you can't have that." Instead, try giving them options. For example, if your child wants to go outside but won't put on sunscreen first, try giving them the option of putting on sunscreen now and going outside right away or helping you with chores in the house. Even if they pick chores, they'll probably give into the sunscreen once they realise that they'd have a better time outside.
- Talk about emergency situations. There may come times where it is vital that your child listens to you right in the moment, such as in a situation where someone's safety is in question. Talk about what kinds of emergencies could come up and how to prepare for them. You might even practise certain safety drills in case of events like a fire, tornado, or earthquake. If you can empower your child by knowing how to handle these stressful and scary moments before they happen, the chances of them listening to you when they happen is more likely.
- Practise listening to your children. To get your children to listen to you, you'll have to show them how it's done. When your child asks you a question, take a moment to make eye contact with them and answer it. If you're in the middle of another task or cannot answer their question now, take a moment to calmly tell them this. Acknowledge that you heard what they said, and help them understand in simple terms that you can't focus on them right now but will when you've completed your task.
- Show your appreciation when they listen. Offer positive reinforcement through your words or simple rewards when your child listens to you and does what you ask them to. Thank them when they help you with something you asked for or tell them how much you appreciate that they listen to you. Now and then, you could reward them with a special treat or offer a little more freedom to do things they like such as extra play time or a second story before bed. While rewards should be used sparingly, they will help to encourage this behaviour to continue.
As a parent, these effective strategies to get your children to listen can help, but they require consistency and practise. Moreover, other factors may need to be considered such as your child's emotional well-being and developmental state. Additional support from child specialists could be required and end up being a huge help in getting your children to listen. Nevertheless, what you practise at home will have the biggest impact on their ability to listen when it really counts.