How to Get Kids to Listen: 7 Don’ts of Communicating with Children

How to talk so kids will listen

Communicating with children in an efficient manner is a paramount for their healthy development. But, how to get kids to listen? What you get them used to, while they are growing up, will reflect in how they will behave as adults.

Parenting is sometimes rewarding, sometimes challenging, and learning how to get kids to listen along the way is something all parents do. Some parents tend to be over-controlling, micromanaging their kids and imposing rules with an iron fist. The kids raised in such an environment usually develop little to no independence, and they tend to be weak as adults, without a personal voice.

How to get kids to listen?

Other parents, on the other hand, exaggerate in the opposite direction, leaving their kids with too much freedom and no ability to identify limits. There is a way to do it right: the most efficient and caring parenting is the type that is based on respect and is aimed at getting the kid to learn something, rather than to submit to your will. Communicating with children is often followed by certain mistakes all parents tend to make. They are listed below, along with advice on how to change them into effective communication that will get you the real results you are after: a well behaved kid you are proud of bringing up.

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The so-called “helicopter parenting,” can lead to unconfident, overly dependent kids

1. Don’t nag incessantly

Too many parents are getting used to micromanaging their kids from an early age. But while small children do need more guidance and more numerous reminders, this kind of reinforcement of rules must weaken overtime, in order to help the kid develop a personal sense of responsibility. Otherwise, the kid will just learn that there is someone who always keeps track of these things, while they don’t have to. See the following situation, along with the solution, for better understanding of this kind of miscommunication. You need to learn a skill of talking so you get your kids to listen.

Situation

Your kid has homework to do, but they show no sign of wanting to start working on it. You know it very well, so you remind them that they need to do it. However, your kid ignores you or simply forgets, so you end up coming back to them again and again.

“Don’t you have homework to do?”

“I see that you still did not start working on your homework. What are you waiting for?”

“Get on with your homework, would you? I told you a hundred times already.”

This can go on and on, with the kid caring less and less about your warnings. What happens is that you transfer the responsibility the kid has – to do their homework – to yourself, and this doesn’t do any favor to you or the kid. Also, as you become more frustrated and more negative in your communication with the kid, you do nothing but contributing to your kid’s behavior transforming into passive aggression, since they see themselves as being harassed for no reason.

How to do it right

What you need in order for the kid to listen is to communicate in a clear manner and to enforce the idea that it is their responsibility to do their homework.

“Tomorrow you have school. If you are not done with your homework by tonight, you will have some explaining to give to your teacher tomorrow morning.”

As you can see, there is no blaming or frustration expressed. You are just presenting the situation and the consequences the kid will have to face on their own, as a result of their own actions.

2. Don’t use guilt and shame to get your kid to listen to you

As adults, we tend to forget that empathy is something we learned along the way, and not something we were born with. It can be extremely aggravating for a parent to see their child behaving in an inconsiderate manner, and it is easy to think that they should know whether you are sad, mad, or experience other bad feelings because of their behavior. When a kid does not listen to their parent is not because they are a bad child. Kids live in the present, and do not have yet developed this sense of caring for others that adults have. Managing yourself and your own needs is very important, or, otherwise, you will feel tempted to interpret your kid’s behavior as being inconsiderate. Take a moment to think the situation over and do not start communicating with children until you made sense of it on your own.

Situation

For instance, you may notice that your kid’s room is very messy, and you really do not have time to clean it up for them. Seeing all the clothes and toys spread all over the floor will surely trigger you into a flurry of bad emotions. You may start accusing your kid of being inconsiderate about how you always work hard for the family.

“I work all day to keep this house clean, and this is how you repay me? You are .. You’re so selfish!”

While such things may be obvious to you, your kid doesn’t have the same perspective on things. The words that will come out of your mouth, though, will leave a mark. Accusations that the child is selfish, uncaring and unloving, will just hurt them, and they will learn nothing.

How to get kids to listen in situations like these?

First of all, you need to label the situation as being the one that makes you feel that way, and not your kid. Kids tend to internalize labels and think badly of themselves when you are behaving as described above. However, you can turn things around, by communicating effectively.

“It makes me upset to see your room so unkempt. Everyone in the house works to keep things in order. The toys will sleep with me tonight. Clean up your room and they will be returned to you.”

You do not have to hide your real feelings. Your kid needs to understand that the situation upsets you. Also, the ability to communicate an undesirable consequence for bad actions is important. Offering the child the solution for getting back the toys is what helps them learn how to do things the right way.

communicating with children
Empathic resonance helps the kid to develop more interconnected brain pathways to process and make sense of emotions

3. Don’t ignore your kid when they are talking to you

Kids take after their parents in their behavior, so if you notice something you do not like about how your child behaves, take a moment and think whether they have taken that undesirable personality trait or behavior after you. A good example in this direction is how to offer attention to your kid when they talk to you. Ignoring them or brushing them off just teaches them to be disrespectful of others, something you surely do not want. When your kid tries to get your attention, make sure you listen; that will work wonders for their self esteem and how they develop.

One thing kids tend to do when they try to communicate something that is confusing, upsetting or even exciting, is to tell just a small part to see if you are truly listening. If you are constantly telling them that you are busy with doing other things, they will just consider that you never have time for them.

What you can do is to give them a time limit for you to finish what you are doing, so they can have your undivided attention.

“I need to finish washing the dishes. Just sit at the table and play with your doll for a few minutes. Once I’m done, we’ll go watch cartoons together.”

Keep in mind that the smaller the child is, the less tolerance to waiting they have, so don’t prolong their waiting time.

Situation

A kid is excited because they got a good grade at a really tough discipline.

Kid: “Mom, I got an A in math!”
Parent: “Oh, great. Did you bring the mail? Now when was I supposed to send this?”

Apparently, in this situation, the parent acknowledges the kid and their success. But, to make the scene clearer, the parent never makes eye contact with the kid, and is clearly more interested in something they need to do. Remember that communication is more than just verbal. It includes gestures, behavior, eye contact, and so on. What happens when you are not properly listening to your kid is that you leave them the impression that they are not good enough.

How to do it right

Here is the good way to respond to a situation as the one described above.

Kid: “Mom, I got an A in math!”
Parent: “Wow, this is great! Was it tough solving the problem? Tell me all about it!”

In this new setup, the parent makes eye contact with the child, drops what they were busy with until then, and shows interest in learning more about the kid’s success. When your child tries to get your attention, remember to encourage them to tell you more. This way, you will help them develop a sense of pride, and you will teach them how to respect others in similar situations. The kid will also develop a sense of self value that can only be taught inside the family, while growing up.

4. Don’t yell

How to get kids to listen
PHOTOS: London Scout {Unsplash.com}

This is a tough one, but, as adults, we are the ones responsible to control our emotions, if we want to teach the kids how to manage theirs. Remember that parents are the first role models in a kid’s life, and what they see, they will just imitate. Of course, it is not exactly easy to rein in your emotions, when you feel really angry with your little one.

First things first, just think that no matter how angry your kid makes you, you will not yell. Of course, that will not make you not angry, but, at least, you will not convey your feelings in a way that will confuse and scare the kid. Let’s see how this works with an example.

Situation

Your kid nonchalantly takes a bag of candies from the counter, while you are preparing dinner.

“What do you think you’re doing? Drop those candies right this instant! And go to your room!”

Verbal abuse will never take you a long way. First of all, you are clearly not explaining why you are mad, and that just makes the kid confused and even scared.

How to do it right

How to talk so kids will listen? Do not be afraid to communicate your feelings, even when they are negative. To a situation as the one above, you can respond as follows.

“I am preparing dinner now. Sweets come next after you are done with real food.”

In case they insist or just ignore you, you can say.

“You are making me angry right now. Go to your room until I will call you for dinner, in 10 minutes.”

This way, you will not yell, but still let your kid know when they do something uncalled for. Do not forget that you can also use humor to deflect tension.

“Are you thinking about eating soup with candies?” And just playfully take the candies away from the kid.

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Negative labels can become a self-fulfilling prophecy

5. Don’t label your kids

Labeling is one of the most dangerous things that parents can do to their kids, although they mean no harm in doing so. Even when you are not addressing the kid directly, calling them “stupid”, “lazy”, “mean” and so on, and you are just dropping the labels in communication with others, they will hurt the kid nonetheless. As mentioned a bit earlier, kids tend to internalize negative labels, and they tend to think of themselves in a bad light, as a result. The whole plan of a parent who thinks that by calling the kid names will determine them to change their behavior, practically backfires. A kid who is being told they are mean, they will continue to be mean, just because they believe that this is how they are and it cannot be helped.

Situation

Your kid is striving to make their arts and crafts project, and they have a tough time gluing some leaves onto a piece of cardboard. Because you are already busy with other things and you are frustrated with how slowly the kid progresses with their project, you say: “You are so hopeless! There, this is how you do it!” and you quickly put a dab of glue on the cardboard and then you smash a leaf on top. The kid casts their eyes down and acts even more hopeless than before.

How to do it right

Even if things seem simple to you, they are not the same for your kid. You can help them by using effective communication.

“It looks like you are having a little trouble with your project. Let me see if I can deal with these pesky leaves.”

You slowly follow the same steps as above, making sure that the kid follows your moves. You should follow with an encouragement. “Now you try it.” Don’t forget to praise any progress and your kid will surely learn something.

6. Don’t ignore their emotions

For kids, emotions can be really powerful and that is why they often identify their own selves with these strong sensations. As a parent, you should treat the kid’s emotions with proper respect, in order to help the kid understand them better.

Situation

Your baby starts crying because their favorite toy just broke.“Don’t be such a baby, stop crying,” is the first thing to say that comes to your mind. When the kid hears this, what they really hear that they have no right to cry, and that is not alright to do so when they feel sad over the loss of a toy.

How to do it right

There is always a way to do things right and a crying baby can be calmed down with the proper reaction.

“Oh, it was your favorite truck! I know you must feel sad.”

You are offering your baby an explanation for their behavior, and this is called empathy. Kids have a hard time expressing what they are feeling into words, so you are really lifting a burden off their shoulders when you do this for them. With time, your kid will learn more about how to express their feelings in words, rather than crying.

7. Don’t threaten your kid

Threats are often seen by parents as the ultimate tools for controlling a misbehaving child. Nothing could be further from the truth. The thing with threats is that they must come to fruition at some point, and when they do, they become less and less effective. Another thing that parents fail to see when they are issuing threats is that they are simply buying the kids time when they do not want to do what is requested of them. Simply put, they know that until you are not making good on your promise, they can just ignore you.

Situation

Your kid must take a bath, and you have already prepared the bathtub. You yell from the bathroom:

“The bath is ready! Get in here right now!”

Frustrated that you get no answer, you go to the door to the kid’s room and yell again through the door this time.

“Get to the bathroom right now!”
“Do as I say or I’ll tell your dad when he gets home!”

And the list can continue, with the kid complying to your request only when they see you are really upset.

How to do it right

It is important to use your non-verbal skills when communicating with children, as well as verbal ones when you are communicating with children. Go to the kid’s room, and make sure you draw their attention by touching their shoulder and making sure you have their attention. After that, make eye contact and explain what you need them to do. That will be more effective than any threat.
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Efficiently communicating with children is a difficult job, but It is well worth it

How to get kids to listen may not be easy, but it surely has its rewards, when done right. As adults, it is our responsibility to teach our kids respect, responsibility, limits and all the rules of good behavior. If we are incapable of offering them a good example, by behaving in a just respectful manner, our expectations of them will remain unfulfilled. It is up to us to identify our automatic responses that cause kids to misbehave. By taking them into account and by modifying our behavior to get the desired feedback from our kids, we will teach our offspring the most valuable lessons parents can offer their children. It is also our duty to have enough time for ourselves so that our kids can benefit from the best part of us.

If you liked this article, share it with your friends and see what they have to say! Feel free to sound off in the comments below about anything you didn’t like or that resonated particularly with you. Share your stories and tips on how to make kids listen? Remember, we’re all in this together!

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