Children get distracted so easily. You may have noticed that when talking to your child, they are often thinking about something else. It could be a friend at school, a new game they played, a beautiful dress they saw, the teacher who punished them at school, and many others.
It gets quite tricky to get them to follow instructions or respond to anything you tell them. It is frustrating for parents.
Imagine having a 4-year-old and a 6-year-old who keeps ignoring you every time you talk to them. You assume maybe the children didn’t hear you the first time, so you shout and shout. Although shouting will catch their attention, it doesn’t mean they’ll do what you asked them to do. At this point, most parents punish the children and threaten to deny them things that they love.
But does it work? Is there a better way to get kids to listen without feeling like a parenting failure? Well, this article highlights some steps you can take to improve communication between you and your child.
Why Kids May Not Listen
As an adult, you prefer making your own decisions and choosing what you want to do without anyone telling you what to do. Right? Children have this similar in-built feeling of power. It’s a good thing, but we know that we need to help them tame this power and make wise decisions.
A child will want to choose what they want to wear, eat, the friends to play with, which toys to share and which ones to keep personal, etc. If you deny them an opportunity to positively express this power, your child will ignore you and choose to do things their way. In this manner, they are trying to express their power.
There could be other issues affecting your child and making them not listen. Are they hungry? Or are they Tired? Frustrated? Sick? Could someone be bullying them at school? As a parent, take time to dig deeper and find out what is going on with your child before resulting in harsh punishment.
How to Get Kids to Listen?
To establish good communication with your child and get them to listen to you, you’ll need to take the following steps:
Get Their Attention
Yelling and giving instructions from the other room will not get your child to listen. If whatever you are communicating is important and want it done right away, you might need to go to where your child is and speak from there.
Let them drop what they were doing and make eye contact with you. Communicate clearly at their level, ensuring they understand what you are saying. Doing this will ensure that your child is listening and establishing an effective communication structure between you and your child.
Avoid Negative Commands
Commands such as “Don’t do that,” “Don’t touch the remote” only trigger questions in a child’s little exploring mind. They’ll keep asking themselves, “Why did mom say I shouldn’t do that?” The next thing will be to test and see what will happen.
If you’re to give such commands or instructions, make sure you follow up with an explanation. Better still, instruct your child what to DO. This way, your child will be confident of their actions. For example, instead of “Don’t scatter your toys everywhere,” say, “Please arrange your toys well in your room.” You’re saying the same thing, but the latter will be more effective than the former.
Give Them Options
A typical child will request for almost anything they think of. As a parent, it’s easy to say no. But your ‘no’ response only triggers rebellion in your child. Instead of always saying no, think of other ways of saying yes.
For example, instead of “No, you can’t visit your friend,” say, “That would be great. But You can visit her on Saturday when you’ll not be in school.” Such a response will excite your child and make them know that you understand their interests.
Don’t Say Too Much
Your child’s attention can drift to other things so quickly. The minute you get their attention, go straight to the point. If you take long to say what you wanted to say, your child will most likely focus on other things and not listen to you.
It’s okay to want to explain something to your child, but before you begin explaining, ensure that your child has grasped the context of what you want to talk about. It will ensure they become interested in what you want to say and pay more attention to you.
Appreciate their Actions
Recognizing your child’s efforts and highlighting them with gratitude will do more to encourage them to do a better job next time—appreciation and praise work well than yelling and threatening the child.
For example, it’s better to say, “Your room looks neat. Thank you for cleaning it,” than “I’d better not find things scattered in your room.” Your child will develop the courage to do things right, and they’ll listen better to instructions that you give them in the future.
Repeat What You Said
Repetition leaves a lasting impression. You don’t want your child to give an excuse that they forgot what you told them. Repeating your instructions will ensure that your child comprehends all that you said and can execute them effectively.
After clearly explaining to your child what you need them to do, calmly engage them in questions on what you said. You can ask them to tell you what you told them. Their answers will help you determine whether you are on the same page or not.
Don’t scold them if they don’t get it the first time. Repeat it to them as you emphasize the areas they seem to have forgotten.
Avoid Reprimanding Right Away
You could have instructed your child to take the trash out. But for some reason, he didn’t do that. Don’t be quick to yell and reprimand. You can use other tactics to find out why the trash is not out yet.
For example, you can make an observation and say, “The trash can is almost full. Will you be taking it out later?” You’ll be surprised by their response. They could have forgotten about the trash, but your observation acted as a reminder, so they take it out right away. This trick will help your child learn to communicate and heed instructions in the future.
Understand Their Feelings
Most children at around the age of three find it hard to share their toys with other children. It’s normal. If you instruct your child to share and instead of doing it, they start throwing tantrums any time another child touches their toys, then it’s time for you to take some action.
Your action should not involve shouting at the child. Understand that they also have things that they hold close. You can calmly try to explain to your child the importance of sharing. Next time, you’ll notice that your child will do a better job at sharing.
Let the Child Decide & Respect their Decision
You can quickly help them decide what they want by asking them questions related to what they want. For example, if they decide what to wear, let them choose the clothes they want, ask them which shoes they want to wear, the activities they are going to carry out throughout the day, etc., so that you can help them decide.
Doing this will help your child learn critical thinking skills and the ability to make sound decisions. It will also boost their confidence and make them help rely on your help. You’ll notice that they’ll come to you for use next time they need to make decisions. They’ll also listen when you give directions and follow your instructions.
Create a Routine for Your Child and Stick to It
Having a routine for your child will make everything more comfortable because your child will know what to do at what time. It will also help them to be organized and plan.
Yes, there are days when the routine will not be followed, and you’ll be prompted to reprimand your child. Take it slow and emphasize the importance of following the pattern.
Guide your child through it every day; exercise a lot of patience and understanding. It’s easy for your child to slip back into their former habits, but with persistence and consistent reminders, your child will get the routine.
It’s important to remember that when a child starts ignoring you and ‘not listening,’ it is a sign that you need to pay more attention to them. Take your time to evaluate what could be the reason for your child’s change in behavior. Rule out health conditions that can affect your child’s hearing ability or concentration.
Like adults, kids want to be listened to, and their reaction is not very friendly when this is denied. Take time to listen to your child so that you can know their feelings and things that are bothering them. Having a happy child who listens is one of the attributes of good parenting.