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How to Get Your Child to Listen

4 Ways to Get Your Child to Listen to You

Recently I asked a group of moms, "How do you get your child to listen to you?"

Some replied, "Give consequences till he listens," and others, "Be willing to leave if she doesn't listen." Those things do work, but most of the time a parent has to add a reaction to the request in order for it to work.

Hanan Y. wants to know, "Seriously, how many times do you have to say, 'Please stop,' before you are pushed to the point of screaming at them?"

There are many ways to help parents increase listening. However, unless a parent is clear about the intent behind her wish to be heard, no tip will work for very long.


Knowing What Your Goal Is

In order to be effective when you ask your child to listen to you, ask yourself what your goal is. Is your goal to be heard, or is it to be listened to? There is a difference.

When you want to be "heard," your main focus is on producing words to express your feelings so "you feel heard."

When you want to be heard, you're not really aware, and sometimes don't care, how the other person is impacted by what you're saying. In other words, when you want to be "heard," you are focused on you.

When your goal is to get someone to do as you ask, or to "listen" to you, you unconsciously look for clues to tell you if your message is getting through. In other words, your focus is on the other person.

Here are four tips to increase listening. (This works well when used with adults, too.)

1. Give Your Child Time to Switch Focus

When a person is deeply focused and concentrating on what they're doing, whether it's playing, crying, whining, fixing the car, reading, or making dinner, they aren't able to immediately listen to you.

DO observe what the other person is doing before speaking. Adults and children need a moment or two to switch from one side of the brain to the other so they can give you their undivided attention. Waiting a moment before speaking also teaches your child how you'd like them to interrupt you, too.

What if it's an emergency? When your habit is to wait before speaking or respectfully ask, "Is now a good time?" then if you ever really need their full attention during an emergency, the alarming and jarring sound of your voice causes them to listen immediately since it's so different than the norm.

2. Don't Talk Over a Crying Child

Talking over a crying child to insist that they stop crying is not only fruitless, it also sends the silent message, "What I'm saying is more important than your feelings."

DO try waiting silently until the crying slows just a bit before you speak.

3. Talk Slowly, With Pauses

When a parent's words/requests are delivered with rapid intensity most children will unconsciously retreat behind the "I'm not listening barrier" to protect themselves from the onslaught.

DO try to be mindful not to emotionally overload the other person/child. Make sure you give them a moment or two to digest what you've just said before you move on to the next point.

4. Watch and Adjust Body Language

Paying attention to your child's body language is a good way to see if what you're saying is getting through to them. If you're not getting through, don't blame them or make them self-conscious by calling their attention to what their body is doing. Instead, adjust what you are doing.

DO make eye contact, do reach out and touch them lightly on the shoulder to create a connection, do get down to their eye level, not in their face, and do modulate your voice so your words are warm and accepting vs. cold and accusing.

Being mindful of how your words impact someone places you in partnership with them and increases the possibility of listening, whether you're speaking to an adult or a child.

Image Source: Shutterstock
MelonyGrumbleyZissler MelonyGrumbleyZissler 4 years
I have been having a hard time with my 11 year old daughter. I continually repeat myself and she always talks back. I try to stay calm. She has ADD tendencies and is on medication.
kjforce kjforce 4 years
I had a very demanding career in the Medical profession when my children were growing up and made it a point to NEVER speak loudly/yell " to or at " my children , ( my mother used to scream 24-7 ) now they are grown with children of their own.... I have the children the majority of the time ever since they were infants, I speak in a normal tone but always make sure I have their attention before speaking, always getting a positive reaction...however when mom ( single ) is home they sometimes appear to be in lala land...The reason for this is she is stressed and overwhelmed from working all the time, children want undivided attention, which leaves communication in dire need of help...We as parents need to relax/unwind and have downtime so we can do a better job as parents....but much of society is in this predicament these days... Enjoyed the very helpful article, thanks for the share.
MoniqueCaissie1378729289 MoniqueCaissie1378729289 4 years
What a well thought out post! To the second point, I would add checking in to see if they understand what you are saying. For example "can you repeat what I am asking you to do". They may simply not understand your request. Clear communication takes more time but the results are so worth it!
NicoleCoakley NicoleCoakley 4 years
I used to do yell when my children (now ages 19,17,13 and 9) were very young. but then I realized that not only were they not listening but I was losing my temper so.. i started counting. At first it was to calm myself down but it slowly grew into a warning to my children. My friend used to tease me that she wanted those parneting skills. Whenver I was starting to get irritated over the (fill in the blank shouting fighing not listening etc.) I would start to count. they would immediately stop what they are doing and stake stalk of their situation and then correct it. I didn't even have to say which child was in trouble they just knew it was time to think about what they were doing and fix it fast. It worked like a charm and my husband to this day doesn't undestand how or why that works. I love it.
LeslieWeimer LeslieWeimer 4 years
You also go over there and remove them from the area. You tell the all day by saying your hands in front on them or tell them all done. Give them another toy to play with instead of causing trouble.
MomofJB MomofJB 4 years
I kept getting into these situations where I knew my 6-year-old was going to argue about something I absolutely would not budge on (playing violent video games, staying up late, buying another toy) and I would just cut him off (even raising my voice) before he had a chance to plead his case. In my mind I thought I was trying to quell the situation before he got really worked up, or saving disappointment by not letting him get his hopes up about whatever it was. But it took an epiphany to realize that by not letting him speak, I was telling him that what he had to say wasn't important. Brilliant, right? Now - no matter how unreasonable the request - I give him a chance to ask at least once and patiently hear him out ("Mommy, if you let me drive, you can rest on the way to school..."). It has cut down arguments between us by at least half.
NatalieAnaya NatalieAnaya 4 years
Chantal- I am going through the same situation with my four year old. His tantrums are terrible and they come out of nowhere, he hits, screams and spits and refuses to back down. We have seen some improvement, though, after setting his bedtime an hour earlier. I'm not saying this will work for everybody, but it is a good idea to rule out the simplest things first- like tiredness- before taking measures that will inevitable take some time to work.
melaniebrown12737 melaniebrown12737 5 years
Ive learned the worst thing you can do is lose your temper. When my kids stress me out I try to remember that i am the parent and they are just a little kid..and I shouldnt let them stress me out so easily because it doesnt change their behavior it just makes life harder for me. If its not something dangerous i will sometimes ignore it. pick your battles.
ChanaHyams ChanaHyams 5 years
To Chantal- bend down to his level, take his hands and look him in the eyes, and say "I hear that you are angry. Wait to see if he calms down and responds, if not try giving him a hug and a rub until he calms down. But kids want to know that you hear them and part of the reason they have tantrums is because they dont feel heard. So you need to get into your sons boots and validate his feelings by parroting him and his feelings
ChantalBarton ChantalBarton 5 years
I am the proud mother of a 3 year 5 month old son! I am having the worst time of my life with regards to my child's temper! He gets so angry and aggressive, stares me down with hateful eyes, that I am at my wits end I have tried everything in the book including the above in the article, but he still seems to throw the worst tantrum I think I have ever yet to see. It is breaking my heart and I feel helpless. Please advise.....
DianaSilva89416 DianaSilva89416 5 years
great article!
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