Getting your children to listen to you can sometimes feel like a never-ending battle. What many parents miss is that children need to be taught how to listen. It's not an innate talent. For your kids, learning to pay attention when you're speaking is an invaluable skill. Aside from saving you headaches, it can also improve their learning abilities at school, keep them safe and improve their relationships with others.
Move away from distractions and into a situation where not listening is not an option. Rather than talking while your child is watching TV or you're trying to cook, leave everything else you're doing and step aside for a moment. Either sit next to your child or directly across from her so her attention is focused on just you. Turn off the TV or the computer, or move to another room to avoid further distractions.
Start the conversation with "I need you to listen to me" or similar words. Then state your message using few words. You can always explain things more thoroughly after you've caught your child's attention, but the first few words should get the message across clearly and quickly. The younger the child, the shorter you should keep the conversation, and the fewer details you need to give. Small kids don't have the capacity to listen for long periods of time.
Let your child know there will be consequences if he doesn't do what you're asking. This is especially important if you're trying to request something or convey a safety message and your child is not listening. Be very clear about the consequences and follow through immediately the next time your child ignores you. If you say, "I need you to turn off the TV when I ask you or you will miss the evening cartoons," then that's exactly what should happen the next time you ask and the TV isn't off immediately.
Use praise to reward appropriate behavior. Comments like "thank you for listening" and "you did a great job" instill a sense of pride in the child and could make him more likely to listen the next time you ask for something.
Use visual cues to reinforce what you're saying. If you're asking your child to "put down his coat so we can go," move toward the coat rack and start putting on your own coat. Younger children might respond better to visual stimuli.
- Resist the temptation to shout or repeat the same request ten times. Explain the consequences of not listening just one time. The next time the rules are broken, don't say anything, and instead do what you said you would. If your child complains, remind him of your conversation. This will reinforce the idea that you don't need to keep asking for something over and over to get results.
- Keep in mind the age of your child when talking. A toddler might need to be told something several times before he can process the information. Older children have a better listening capacity, and they should be able to grasp the information immediately.
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