(Are your kids not listening most of the time? Follow these 5 tips to learn how to get a child to listen and follow directions – without having to yell at them)
Get Kids to Listen With These 5 Tips
We’ve all been in a situation like this – it’s the day of the doctor’s appointment we really need to get too, but we’re already running late and suddenly our child is moving like a sloth. We ask them to go put on their shoes, but they act like they don’t hear us. We ask them again and again, all while trying to figure out where we left out phone, and after the zillionth time we finally scream,
“FOR THE LAST TIME!! GO PUT ON YOUR SHOES!!!”
…and they still don’t.
Eventually we make it out the door but we’re cranky, they’re cranky and we’re thinking, “There’s got to be a better way to get my kids to listen!”
Yup, you’re not alone. Kids not listening is a common issue parents face, and often times if we don’t have the right tools we just end up going down a cycle where they don’t actually learn how to listen and we spend 18 years repeating ourselves non-stop.
Yikes! That’s not what you want though, right? You want a better way to handle things?
I thought so.
So I want to share with you these gentle parenting approved tips to get kids to listen.
Instead of having to use punishments or bribes to get kids to listen, we’re going to be respectful and keep their development in mind.
Why Kids Don’t Listen
There are a number of reason why your kid isn’t listening to you, it’s not always going to be for the same reason.
Here are some examples of why kids don’t listen
- They don’t understand the instructions
- They don’t have to will power to follow through (read more here)
- They want to assert some control over their life by not listening
- They don’t want to do what you’ve said
- They forget
I could go deeper into each of these reasons, as they’re each fairly deep on their own. For example, there could be a lot of reasons why children don’t want to do what you’ve said.
I go into this further in my paid course, The Gentle Parenting Course but one thing to keep in mind is to try to see things from your child’s point of view.
5 Tips to Get Your Kids to Listen
Let’s get into it now, the actual tips you need to get your kids to listen. These tips to get kids to listen are all in line with gentle parenting.
1. Tell them what to do (not what not to do)
Instead of telling your child what not to do, (“Don’t jump on the couch!”) tell them what you do want them to do, (“Come down here and we can go jump outside”).
Why does this work? Well because it can be confusing for kids when they’re always told, “NO” “STOP” and “DON’T” Eventually they can feel like they have no idea what they should be doing. To us it might seem obvious – no jumping on the couch means you can sit on the couch, right?
But for kids it can turn into a game of boundary testing. “Hmm, I can’t do this…but maybe I can do this…” and it can turn into a process of elimination to figure out what they can do.
It’s better for them if we’re just super clear about what the boundaries are to begin with and tell them what they can do.
2. Follow up immediately
Once you’ve asked your child to do something and they don’t respond, follow up with them immediately but NOT by repeating yourself.
Instead, come close to them and say something like, “Looks like you need help with that, let’s do that together.”
Because do you know what actually happens a lot?
Parents repeat themselves a million times and eventually give up. And know what the teaches kids? “Hey, if I just ignore them eventually they’ll give up and I won’t have to do that thing!”
So let’s be consistent and avoid repeating ourselves.
Get down to their level, and without using a nagging tone, come with the energy of, “I’m here to help.”
Eventually they’ll pick up on the fact that in the end they always have to do what you said anyways…so they might as well just do it.
3. Don’t ask for unreasonable things (be willing to work together)
If you want your kids to listen, you need to make sure you’re not asking for unreasonable things.
This is where the importance of understanding child development really comes into play. You can’t ask a 2 year old to do the same things you would ask a 12 year old to do. They just don’t have the same abilities to follow instructions or the will power to actually get it done.
And this is where YOUR superpower comes in as a parent.
YOU KNOW YOUR CHILD BEST.
You know which requests are reasonable for them and which request would be unreasonable. Don’t compare them to other kids, and what other kids are able to do.
If you ask your child to go pack a bag for grandma’s house, you should know whether or not they’re actually capable of doing that and packing all the right items.
If you ask your child to do something that’s unreasonable for them, their age and their development, then of course you’re going to be frustrated thinking, “My kids never listen to me!”
It’s not that they didn’t listen, but they just weren’t capable of doing what you asked.
So here are some things you can try
- Break the task down into smaller steps (first tell them to get their shoes, once they have their shoes tell them to put them on)
- Reflect on your child’s abilities, is there something maybe you need to teach them to do so they’ll be able to do it on their own
- Create visual instructions for tasks they do everyday (such as getting ready for bed)
4. Super clear instructions
Whenever you ask your child to do something, make sure the instructions are super clear.
Short and sweet can work really well with kids because then they only hear the information they need to hear.
And if it’s short and sweet then it’s more likely they will actually remember the instructions, and understand it.
Your child might be perfectly capable of doing the task you ask, but the way you asked it confused them. Either it was too much information for them to piece together, or they just didn’t understand it.
So remember to keep your instructions short and sweet, and to confirm with them that they actually understand.
5. Tell them what’s happening (Tip from Mr Chazz)
The idea though is that instead of telling your kids what to do, you make observations about what’s going on so they can learn to put two and two together. For example….
This helps take off the pressure of all day just telling them what to do (they don’t like that anyways, they like to have control) and also teaches them problem solving skills. Instead of solving the problem for them by telling them what they have to do next you’re giving them the chance to figure it out. An important life skill to have!
The number 1 thing to avoid when teaching kids to listen
Once you’ve got all these listening tips in your bank of discipline skills, there is something I want you to make sure to throw away.
Telling your kid, “You never listen.”
Did you know kids will take on the labels we give them?
If you tell your kid, “You never listen,” (even if it’s mostly true) it teaches them that that’s what you expect from them…so why should they ever try anything different.
This goes for all areas of discipline, which can be really different from how we were raised, but also really respectful.
If you tell you kid that they never listen, then they’re going to live into that identity, and it’s going to be even harder to get your kid to listen.
Now that you know these tips to get your kid to listen you’re going to start to see a change in your home, but you have to remember to stay patient.
Sometimes kids are just kids, which at the heart just means that they’re going to do things according to their development.
For kids to listen and actually follow up with what we’ve asked it can take a lot of practice and patience, and just developmental growth on their end.
So stay patient, take deep breaths if you need to, and stay on your child’s side as their coach and guide.
If this article has inspired you at all, you might be interested in joining my free Gentle Foundations for Parenting course. It’s a quick video course that will teach you the basics of gentle parenting so you can transform your parenting. You can sign up below.