How to teach kids to listen to what you say, is not about teaching kids to obey their wishes, but it is about improving communication with your child.
Parents often are frustrated with children who simply don’t listen to anything they say. I’ve been there too! Before I learned how to talk to my children so that they do listen, and when I changed my mindset about the difference between listening and obeying.
Yes, it’s true, children can be super stubborn, and it’s not because they don’t want to listen, they just don’t understand why they have to.
Kids want to do their own thing and make their own decisions because let’s face it, they are individuals with rights of their own. They crave independence and freedom just as much as you do, they just can’t have it as much because they still have a lot of learning to do, which can be very frustrating.
Here are my best tips on how to get kids to listen, and I’ll go over these points in better detail later on.
- Get Within Close Range
- Tell, Don’t Ask (But In A Positive Way)
- Limit The Number Of Instructions They Have To Follow
- See If your Child Can Repeat Your Instructions
- Show Some Praise
- Allow Natural Consequences To Occur
So when it comes down to being “commanded” to do tasks all day long, listening and obeying both go out the window. Teaching children to listen isn’t about controlling them, it’s about talking to them so they understand what they should do and why they should do it. If they don’t do it, well then they should face natural consequences.
Commanding kids is the disciplinarian way, and this way of parenting is the “old way.” It caused a lot of emotional damage to children who then grew up to be adults who say they “survived” this style of parenting but then are willing to hit their kids and put them in dark corners to “learn” emotions. There are better ways to teach children, and together we can raise a new generation of kids who are strong, sensitive, can think for themselves, and can solve even bigger problems than we ever could because they aren’t emotionally damaged.
If getting your child to listen seems like an uphill battle for you, then you should keep reading because I’ve got great tips on how to get kids to listen to what you have to say. Whether they follow those directions is up to them, but it is your job to communicate so they understand.
This post may contain affiliate links. Full disclosure here.
Want to learn how to use positive parenting? Register for a free class called GET KIDS TO LISTEN THE RIGHT WAY; an exclusive FREE class from nationally recognized parenting coach, Amy McCready.
How To Help Your Child Learn To Listen
Today’s world has so many distractions, we have cell phones, televisions, video games, and so many other digital devices.
Pair these distractions with children’s selective hearing, and you’ve got a “child who doesn’t listen.”
I hate the phrase ” child who doesn’t listen” because most children would listen if they were approached the correct way.
That phrase is very harmful and does make me cringe because it implies that the child is “bad.”
I tend to believe that no child is “bad” but merely misguided and needs a new direction in life.
The good news is, there are a few simple ways you can help your child listen to you when you speak, so you don’t get into a mad screaming phase after asking 6 000 times to do something.
1. Get Within Close Range
This tip may or may not be a given. I mean, shouting “dinner is ready!” from the kitchen when your kids are across the house, is not an effective way to get kids to come to join you at the dinner table.
If you are asking your child to do something, be in the same room as them. If your children are younger, you can kneel down to their level and make eye contact while asking them to join you at the dinner table or clean up their toys.
If you can’t kneel down, a touch on the arm or some other loving gesture goes a long way.
If your children are older, then ensure that eye contact is made so that you know they are paying attention to your words.
Sometimes your kids may “test” you and ignore you on purpose. Realize that this is just their way of seeing what will happen if they continue to ignore you. It is a very normal part of development.
The way to combat this behavior is to simply ensure that eye contact is made, and your message is loud and clear.
2. Tell, Don’t Ask (But In A Positive Way)
The second tip I have for you is to ensure you are telling your child what you would like them to do and not asking them. When you phrase it as a question, you are allowing them to say no.
The balance in this tip is to ensure you are not commanding your kids around, but are nicely talking to your child and directing them into the desired action.
For example, you would like your child to clean their room.
If you say this: “Go clean your room” in a commanding/assertive voice, your child will likely not comply and just ignore you altogether.
If you say,” Can you please go clean your room?” Your child can respond with a “no thank you!” and move along.
In both situations, you lose.
So how would you tell your child to clean their room without losing the battle?
“Son, the house is all clean except for your room. I need you to go clean it up now. You can get back to your video games after it is all clean.”
If they continue to protest, you can go ahead and give the warning to turn off their activity and follow through if need be. This doesn’t need to be a negative experience, it can all be done positively. Your attitude matters a lot in how your kids respond to you.
3. Limit The Number Of Instructions They Have To Follow
If you really want your child to respond to your instructions, make it super easy for them to follow your direction.
If you provide too many things to complete, your child could get overwhelmed and, in turn, just tune you out altogether.
Take the instructions one step at a time for your younger children.
For older children, you can provide a few more steps, but not too many.
For example, for a 4-year-old, you can direct your child to pick up garbage around the house and put it in the bin.
This is enough activity for him to start with, and any more instruction could send him over the edge into overwhelm, which will lead to the child laying on the floor and refusing to help out.
If you have a 14-year-old daughter, you may ask her to pick up all the dishes around the house and put them into the dishwasher and remind her to be sure to wipe down the counter tops.
This is enough instruction for a teenage girl.
If you ask her to also sweep and wash the kitchen floor and then take out the garbage too, she will likely give you the eye roll and the attitude, because you are asking too much, all at once from this child. Once she has finished her tasks, you can ask her if she can do additional tasks to help you out.
Asking too much at once is going to lead to no clean dishes, and a teen who is sitting on the couch glued to her phone completely ignoring you.
4. See If your Child Can Repeat Your Instructions
If your children are younger, it’s a good idea to ask them to repeat to you what you have just asked.
This ensures that the child did, in fact, hear what you had to say.
This simple act can take the conversation from “Hey, did you hear me? Hello!!! I asked you to clean up the living room!!” to “Thank you so much for helping out around the house! I really appreciate it.”
5. Reward Positive Behaviour
If your children do listen to instructions, it is always a good idea to give some appreciation for the act. I don’t mean bribing your children to do the work and then getting ice cream after, but I do mean after the child has finished their family contributions you should show appreciation in some way like a hug or a thank you.
Showing appreciation like this can build self-confidence. Need some ideas on how to tell kids you are proud of them, click here!
6. Allow Natural Consequences To Happen
If your child is still not listening and following directions, then you’ll want to advise them that there are consequences for this kind of behavior.
It’s a good idea to avoid negative punishment when disciplining children, but natural consequences are definitely ok.
Instead, a discussion of what will happen if instructions are not followed is the better option.
You asked your child to clean up after dinner, and your child refused to do so.
Your next step would be to remind your child that dishes will pile up twice as much if they are left until the morning time, and it will be even harder to complete the task at that time.
You can also let your child know that they could choose to complete dishes the following evening after dinner, but they will have to battle stuck -on food, which will be more complicated than getting the task completed right away.
These are natural consequences because you are teaching them that if they are in their own home and they do not finish the dishes, the house will start to smell, and their workload will double every time they ignore the kitchen.
These are life skills that need to be taught so follow through with these lessons and raise independent and self-sufficient children. Remember you don’t need to be a helicopter parent when asking your child to complete a task either.
Things To Keep In Mind When Teaching Our Children To Listen
These are tips for parents of children who are in preschool or older.
Younger children need to focus on self-regulation skills because following instructions is too difficult a task for them at this time.
1. We Cannot Control Others
Accept that you cannot control your children, and you’ll create a peaceful family environment and have children who listen.
The reality is, we cannot control other human beings, but we can control ourselves. We must learn to control ourselves.
We can guide others.
We can teach others.
When children are younger, we must control children because they have no control over themselves. We control them for survival. But that ends when they learn to think for themselves.
How many adults do you know that they won’t speak to their parents when they move out because their parents were too controlling?
If you’re wanting a close and engaged relationship with your child, you have to learn to let go of the theory of controlling your children. When you control your little ones, they resist, and this creates power struggles.
Power struggles are my least favorite thing to deal with, especially when I know they can be prevented.
2. Let It Go If It’s Not Urgent
Sometimes it may seem like your children just don’t listen, no matter how many times you ask.
When this happens, have you taken a step back and listened to what you are asking them to do? If you are asking your child to do something important, then maybe there is a different way to talk to your child, so they will comply with the request. If you are asking your child to do something and your reason is “Because I said so,” then you should re-evaluate your request. If there is harm to your child or someone around your child that will come, then this is an excellent reason to push the listening.
If there is no direct harm and your child is having a nice time, then maybe it’s a good idea to let go of the request.
3. Punishment Is Not the Answer
If your children are not following directions, punishment is not the answer.
We must let our children learn to make their own decisions and learn from their mistakes when they make the wrong decisions. Making bad choices is how children learn to make the right choices.
When your little one makes the “wrong” decision, guide them through their mistake with love and understanding.
Punishment can make your child develop low self-esteem and anxiety, and they will not be learning any lessons this way. Punishing your children can also lead to angry kids. If you have an angry child here are some tips for you.
4. Let Them Make Decisions
We have discussed this a little bit, but let’s expand on the topic. Children should not be bossed around, that is not the positive parentingway.
Do you enjoy being bossed around?
Neither do kids.
So let your children make decisions, even if you don’t agree with them.
If you truly believe that your child is making the wrong decision, ask them questions to help them analyze the situation further. You can ask them what they believe the outcome of the situation will be if they do things this way, or how they would like the situation to turn out in general.
Teach them critical thinking skills and guide them in their decision-making journey. In time, your child will learn to trust what you say and be willing to listen to your suggestions.
5. Keep Calm
When our kids don’t listen, it’s easy to get heated and “make” the kids listen by resorting to screaming and shouting.
When we get angry, we cannot make logical decisions!
An essential ingredient in getting kids to listen is to control our own emotions and keep calm and collected, even when it’s hard.
Frequently Asked Questions About Kids Listening
What’s the most psychologicalally damaging thing you can say to a child?
A falsehood that is subsequently shown to be false is the most psychologicalally destructive thing you can say to a child. If this cycle is repeated frequently enough, it can be exceedingly detrimental to one’s mental health.
Why does my 5 year old not listen?
Lack of consistency is the cause of many 5-year-old outbursts and difficulty with listening. If you have a set of rules or a method of doing things that works, stick to them. Too frequently, parents put in place a structure that works, but then they deviate from it, causing complications.
What to do when children do not obey?
It’s a waste of time to provide directions to our children or anyone else whose attention you don’t have. Make sure your children are paying attention to you when you want them to do anything. If they’re doing something else, make sure their attention is drawn to you. You’re not only ensuring that your instructions reach them; you’re also preparing them to be accountable and responsible for hearing and acting on what they’ve heard.
Need More On Communication?
- How To Use Open Ended Questions For Kids
- Would You Rather Questions For Kids
- Things You Should Never Say To Your Child
- How To Raise Children So They Can Be Someone You Can Talk To
- 13 Things I Do To Communicate With My Kids Better
- How To Correct Your Child’s Behavior With Connection
- 3 Things Your Child Needs To Hear From You
- Common Mixed Messages Parents Send Kids
- Dinner Conversation Games For Kids To Encourage Communication
- How To Have Successful Family Meetings
- The Best Get To Know You Questions For Kids
- The Secret To Being A Calm Mom
- How To Help Your Child Learn To Listen
Need More Parenting Help?
Register For A FREE Parenting Class
Register for a free class called GET KIDS TO LISTEN THE RIGHT WAY; an exclusive FREE class from nationally recognized parenting coach, Amy McCready.
“GENTLE PARENTING IS A LIFESTYLE THAT EMBRACES BOTH YOUR PHYSICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL BEHAVIOR, NOT ONLY TOWARDS YOUR CHILDREN, BUT TO YOURSELF TOO“— SARA HOCKWELL-SMITH