Getting your children to listen to you can be a problem at times. You’ve probably already tried a variety of methods from shouting, finger pointing, scowling, threatening, and the infamous counting to ten–or else.
Children seem to tune out your words if your tone is saying something else. Your tone of voice carries a tremendous amount of meaning to your children. Every child is different, of course, and you’ll have to figure out exactly what will work for your unique, special, and totally different child.
Here are some rules of thumb that I’ve found useful:
Always treat your children’s problems as large as they think it is.
Don’t downplay their problems. To them it might be the biggest thing they’ve ever faced, and if you downplay it or ignore it, they won’t see your love. In fact, you may push them away as a result of your apparent lack of concern, and they’ll learn not to bring their problems to you.
If they see that you care about their problems, they’ll listen to your advice and comments. But if you keep telling them to grow up, or saying, “it’s not all that bad,” they’ll tend not to listen to you. After all, you never listen to them.
Don’t shout or holler at your kids.
Shouting should be reserved for emergencies…such as when your kid is about to step in front of an oncoming car. I knew a woman once that always shouted at her daughter. Her daughter became so used to the shouting that it hardly made an impact on her. Mom would shout and shout, until finally she had to go and physically pick her daughter up to get her daughter’s attention.
If you shout, it should so startling to your kids because it is so rare that they give you their attention immediately. But this will only happen if you reserve shouting for emergencies.
Try getting down so that you are eyeball to eyeball and whisper to them.
Make them strain to hear what you’re saying! I prefer the whispering method, because you have to invade their personal space. This helps get their attention and focus. It will also allow you to explain things better and more rationally. They’ll hear more of what you say, too.
The louder you are, the more angry you’ll get. It is hard to think rationally when you are angry. Fill their entire vision up with your presence. That’ll get their attention. The younger your children are the more invasive you can be into their personal space. With teenagers, I would just barely invade their space and talk in a calm quiet tone.
Insist that they look at you while you talk.
I’ve trained my children to look steadily at me when I am talking to them. A child who is not looking at you when you are talking is not listening to you either. When they were young, I would gently hold their head still while I was talking to them until they got the idea to look me right in the eyes.
Insist that they look you in the eyes while you talk. You may need to work on this. If their eyes tend to slide off to one side or the other, then insist that they look at you. Tell them to listen with their eyes. Don’t talk if they are not looking you in the eye.
Don’t rush it.
Repeat yourself as many times as you need to. Have them repeat what you’ve said back to you.
Ask them questions about the situation and what you’ve just said.
Questions are amazing, and they will bring your child into the conversation–particularly when they get older. When they are young, asking them why they did something will probably just frustrate you–it certainly frustrated me as they didn’t know how to explain why they did what they did. Instead, ask questions about what they did or what they should do. When they are older, you can ask about the whys.
If your children are always hearing negative things from you, they’ll begin to think that the only time they get attention from you is when they do wrong. If they get as much or more attention from doing right, then they will me more apt to do right too–and they’ll be more interested in listening to you.
Hopefully, these tips will be useful to you.
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