So I did some research on how to talk to children so they actually listen. Why? Because mine have a hard time doing that! Now don’t get me wrong, doing these little tips are challenging, especially for me. I tend to go back to old habits. But I’m sharing them with you all in hopes we can all get our children to listen.
Children tend to not listen because they feel ‘powerless.’ When they don’t listen, they can assert their power. Of course, this is a behavior where they express themselves and show a need for more control and decision making abilities in their lives. We need to make a balance so that they listen and feel they have power but with boundaries. So below will be 7 tips on how to talk to children so they actually listen.
Get on the Child’s Level
Firstly, we need to get the attention of the child prior to talking to them. Otherwise, we will be talking to a brick wall. When speaking to them, try to get yourself on their height level and look them in the eyes. This helps strengthen the communication as they don’t feel they have to constantly look up while being spoken down to. This means talking to them face to face, not while doing something in another room yelling so they can hear you.
Don’t say ‘Don’t’ a lot
This is a hard one. We tend to say ‘don’t’ a lot, but out of habit. I know I do. And that word is a negative command which causes kids to double process. For example: “Don’t touch your sister.” The kid may now be thinking “what exactly does she mean? I can’t hug my sister? I can’t play chase with her?” Instead of saying ‘don’t,’ tell them what TO DO. So try saying “right now, she doesn’t want to be touch so please keep your hands to yourself.” This is same for when saying “don’t make a mess.” Instead try to say “please put your things away when you’re done.” Make sense? Gotta get the negative word out of habit.
Say Yes Over No
Parents are bombarded daily from kids requests and usually the response is NO. If the word NO is a constant response, kids will end up stopping to listen to their parents requests. A YES will make them happy and pay more attention. But this is not to say that you should say YES to every request. For example, “We can’t go to the library today, but how does after school tomorrow sound?” See what happened there? Instead of just saying NO, you let them know it won’t work right now, but let’s aim for another time. And yes, there will be NO situations and that’s okay, just aim to not have it be constant.
Shorten Your Speech
We need to remember that children are not adults. When trying to get their attention, we need to be short and to the point instead of reading an entire page from a book. Children’s attention spans are short and short speeches keeps them attentive.
Say Thank You in Advance
Try to say thank you as much as possible. “Thank you for putting your plate in the sink after dinner.” “Thank you for cleaning your room on your own.” Give attention to their good behaviors. Don’t always dwell on the bad. Try not to say “I better not…” when talking to them. Giving kids positive words and using ‘thank you’ will let them know in advance you trust them to do what is right.
After speaking to the child, ask them to repeat back to you what you have just told them. This way, there is no misunderstanding. So when speaking to a child, make sure there is eye contact, shortened speech and explain clearly what needs to be done, etc and then ask them to repeat it. This way, there is cooperation.
Make an Observation
If you notice there are tasks undone, try not to dive in straight for giving the child ‘crap.’ Instead, make an observation. “I see your shoes.” “What’s the plans on keeping the room clean?” This strategy helps your child not feel they’re being spoken down to giving them power struggles which could backfire. This is giving the child the opportunity to come up with a plan if they didn’t already have one.
How to Talk to Children so they Actually Listen
As parents, we tend to need to work on ourselves too when wanting something from our children. It’s a two way street. When the child doesn’t listen, we may take it as inattentive or defiance, but in reality it’s just their expression to get OUR attention or to express their need for power.
Children and parents have a need to be seen and heard. When not met, children stop listening altogether and parents are frustrated. Hopefully these 7 tips on how to talk to children so they actually listen will help parents out there!