Helping Them Hear You


“I’m going to write a blog on getting kids to listen,” I told my kids.“What?” My son said.
“I’m going to write…”
“That was a joke, Mom…”

Kids do listen and they do hear us, but they don’t always do what we ask—which is really the most important part of the listening.

You only have to say once where the cookies are and bang, they’ve got it. Try to get them out of the bath or into bed or to clean up the toys? Forget it. Kids don’t like to be told what to do any more than we do, which is why ordering them around often doesn’t end well.

To get kids to listen, sometimes all we have to do is a better job of asking. Our tone, our manner, our words, our volume and our timing are all key to increasing cooperation. Here are some suggestions:

  • Get down to their level, get their attention and say their name
  • Look them in the eye, touch their shoulder—gentle physical contact of some sort
  • Wait until they are fully focused, not distracted
  • Say it with one or two words: “Toys, please.”
  • Say it calmly and quietly
  • Let the routine be the boss, not you: ‘We pick up toys before bath. Or, ask a question: ‘What is it we do next in our house?’
  • Ask for their cooperation: “Johnny, I’m here to help with the toys. Would you like me to pick up the blocks or the cars?”
  • Respect what they are doing, give a transition warning: “Bath time in five minutes.”
  • Say what you will do: “I’m starting story time, are you ready?”
  • Give a small choice: “Do you want to brush your teeth before or after your bath?”

Write a list, or a picture list, with the routine on it—toys, teeth, bath, story, bed, hugs. Working to communicate with them in simple terms that they’re more likely to connect with will help to make sure that message gets across.


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