How Can I Get My Kids To Listen?

Posted by on Dec 30, 2015 in Uncategorized | No Comments

dreamstime_xs_30782897Here’s a question from Nancy as she asks, how can I get my kids to listen?  It’s a very common question and here’s my answer.

Question:  How can I get my kids to listen?

Hi Annie,

I’ve got 3 kids, my oldest is turning 4 in January, the middle is 2 and my youngest is about to turn 1.

My biggest source of frustration is getting the kids to do what I ask, the first time I ask. I typically have to ask at least 3 times then I have to physically redirect them to do whatever it is I asked them to.  Have you got any tips on how I can recondition my kids just to do what I ask the first time?  Right now I’ve just started to ask once and wait but now I’m finding that I’m just using the phrase, “I’m only going to ask once” a lot more.

Thanks and have a great day!
Nancy

Hi Nancy,

Many parents ask the same question of how can I get my kids to listen?  I understand how frustrating it gets when the kids simply don’t listen to you and you end up having to say the same thing over and over again. The question to ask yourself when this happens is, why are they ignoring you?

They learn how to listen by what you teach them

As kids grow from babies in to toddlers they start to relish their burgeoning independence and realize they can either decide to take notice of what you say or ignore you. Most will take you at your word unless something comes along that teaches them not to. Most times that’s because saying something is one thing and following through is quite another and it’s the following through that’s integral to teaching your kids to listen to you.

Let’s take your situation. You have to ask your little people several times and then physically redirect them. Ok, yours are little so their memory is short, particularly for your baby so that accounts for some of that ‘forgetfulness.’ However you can’t say that so much with regards your three year old.

Take stock of how much they are really listening

So I think we can safely say your eldest and your two year old (at least some of the time) is ignoring you until it becomes really necessary to listen. The reason for that would be that something happens to you between the first request and the ‘third’ or ‘physical redirection’ request. My guess would be your voice changes, perhaps not a lot but at least a bit. Perhaps it goes up a few notches. I would guess too that your physical stance changes as well and you look and sound more serious by the time you’ve had to wait.

In short, by the time you get to the ‘redirection’ they are going to do what you request. But they won’t respond until you get to that point, which means responding to your earlier requests lack any sense of the same immediacy. That’s why they wait, until you demand an answer.

Consequences and consistency are everything

To solve this you have to follow through with a consequence. I’d give your children two opportunities to do something. Each time you make a request, don’t say it from a room away, make sure they hear and see what you’re asking. Get eye contact and if they don’t do what you’ve asked, remind them once and then act. Do whatever it is with or without their cooperation.

If you’re waiting for your two year old to put their own boots on and they haven’t started the attempt, then do it then do it quickly and calmly yourself without comment. Because two year olds love to try and be independent, they might make a fuss. Stay calm and just mention you’re now out of time and you’ll will have to do it. Make sure though you don’t reinforce the ‘not listening’ by making it a ‘cuddle’ moment, otherwise your child will simply wait, hoping for that same positive reinforcement the next time.

Notice when they get listening right

If they do as asked, made a big fuss and give them some heartfelt congratulations for getting it right. Kids love you to notice when they’re doing things right.

So what you’re essentially doing is removing the negative feedback which comes with not listening because you’re simply going to do it anyway and only give them positive feedback when they do get it right. If you can stay calm when they are uncooperative and be pleasantly pleased when they do try, you’ll find they’ll want to help out and be co-operative because you notice.

Take time out to help your kids learn to listen to you

Sometimes parents have a really tough time following though and that’s because ‘life’ gets in the way. If you want to make your words count, remove all the other aspects in life like shopping and other trips that would normally that would normally make it harder to follow through. Pick a few non play school days when you don’t have to go anywhere, except for a walk, bring in easy to prepare meals and make those few days central to following through on everything you say 100%. Sounds fun right?

You’ll have the time and opportunity to notice both when they get it wrong and when they get it right and to react accordingly. By appreciating their efforts and bypassing their failures, you’ll show them that they’ll have more to gain by co-operating than being dismissive.  In a nutshell, that’s how to get your kids to listen. For more parenting help, visit my parenting services page.

I hope that helps, Annie

Did you know I like to write for other parenting support sites too like Calgary Moms and Kiddycharts?  Would you like me to write for your group?  If so, get in touch on the contact page.

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