Parents want their children to listen. We want them to listen so we can teach them and keep them safe. But sometimes we sabotage our efforts at getting children to listen.
We sabotage our efforts at getting children to listen by lecturing. Children stop listening when parents go on and on. Instead of listening and learning, they shut their parents out and focus on how their parent could do things differently (AKA— “is crazy). Instead of lecturing, keep it clear and concise, to the point. In fact, you can often boil down what you want to say to one, two, or three words. For example: “Nice words, please.” “Brush your teeth.” “Please help me.”
We sabotage our efforts at getting children to listen by giving commands without any education. Children like to “exercise their free will.” (Don’t we all. But when adults do this, we call it “standing up for ourselves.” When children do it, we call it rebellion.) Many times, a little education goes a long way in getting children to listen and learn. So tell your children the reason behind the directive. For instance, “Milk spoils when it’s left out, so we better put it away.” “Glasses break easily.” “Unflushed toilets start to smell.” Statements like these offer the reasons behind our directives and communicate a trust that our children will do the right thing when they have all the information.
We also sabotage our efforts at getting children to listen by neglecting to be polite. We constantly tell our children to say “thank you” and “please” but neglect to give them the same courtesy. Remember, our children learn from our actions. They are more likely to listen when we remain polite. Our children also deserve our respect. When we treat our children with respect, they know they are valued. They are more likely to listen to a parent who has expressed respect and value toward them. So don’t forget the “thank-you’s” and “pleases” when speaking with your children. “Can you help clear the table please?” “Thank you for watching your sister.”
We sabotage our efforts to get our children to listen by cajoling and persuading rather than giving choices. Cajoling and persuading gives your power to your children. Your children become the ones in control when a parent resorts to cajoling, demanding, and persuading. Many times, parents will then threaten punishment in an effort to re-exert control. Unfortunately, threatening punishment results in a power struggle. Your child digs in their heels and accepts “the challenge.” They “call their parent’s bluff” to see who is really in control. You might avoid this whole power struggle by offering a simple choice. Rather than cajole, persuade, and threaten, calmly offer a choice. This choice may involve a consequence, or it may not. If it does involve a consequence, use a natural consequence—a consequence directly related to the behavior. “Please put on your coat to go out or we can stay in.” “Put your toys away please or they will go into time out for a day.” If the choice involves a natural consequence, state it calmly AND make sure you are willing to allow the natural consequence to occur. If you save your child from the consequences of their actions, you rob them of the opportunity to learn.
These four suggestions may not work every time (nothing does). But they will work much of the time. And you will no longer find yourself sabotaging your efforts at getting your children to listen.