Even the most well-behaved children can have selective hearing at times. One day they don’t seem to even recognize that you’re speaking. The next, they clearly hear you, but are failing to follow your directions. It can be frustrating when children won’t listen. As parents, we sometimes inadvertently teach our children that it’s okay not to listen.
Get your children to listen and to follow your directions:
- When possible, be in the same space. Children are more likely to listen and follow through if you speak while in their presence. It’s less effective to holler down the stairs, out the window, or across the house. Stand in front of your child and say what needs to be said.
- Remove distractions. Stand in front of the TV, pick up the toy they’re using, pull the earbuds out of their ears, put your hand on the book they’re reading. The distractions available today are more powerful than ever before. Remove the distraction before attempting to gain their attention.
- Use their name. People are more responsive when their name is used. Use your child’s name at the beginning of the request. Anything else can be interpreted as normal parental noise and is quickly ignored.
- Give a reason for any direction. Instead of saying, “Put away your clothes” try “Put away your clothes so you can play before dinner.” Many children don’t like to be bossed around, but are much more receptive when a logical reason is provided. Some parents dream of being obeyed instantly and without question. These parents aren’t realistic.
- Use appropriate vocabulary. It’s not possible to address an 18-year old and a 3-year old in the same manner. Ensure that you’re being age-appropriate. Speak in a way that is tailored to the child in question. You’ll quickly learn how to address each child in the most effective manner.
- Control your volume. When you get louder, the child gets louder. Convey your emotion with the words you choose rather than your volume. Children can be sound sensitive and getting loud rarely has a positive outcome. Maintain peace and order by speaking at a sensible volume.
- Be firm. Children aren’t fools. Once they learn you can be out maneuvered, they’ll continue to do so again and again. You only increase the likelihood of resistance by caving in on occasion. Your children should learn that resistance is futile.
- Be consistent. Children are more likely to follow directions when you’re consistent in your requests. Inconsistency and children don’t mix well.
- Offer alternatives. Everyone wants more control over their life, children included. “Do you want broccoli or carrots for dinner?” “Would you like to wear this shirt or that shirt?” It may seem trivial, but children value having a little bit of control. Just ensure that you’re providing alternatives that work for you!
- Be clear in your expectations. “Pick up your room” may not be sufficient. “Pick up your toys and put them away. Then put your dirty clothes in the hamper” is likely to provide more satisfying results. Give your child as much information as they need to meet your expectations.
You can get your children to listen. Be consistent in how you speak to your child and be sure to use their name in order to get their attention. Remove any distractions prior to engaging with your child. With patience and a few strategies, you can have a productive conversation with your child that provides real results.