As parents, we can get incredibly frustrated when our children do not listen to us. A three-year-old might continue crashing toy cars while his sister naps, an eight-year-old might not get dressed soon enough to make it to school on time, or your 13-year-old might not put the trash out. Though the consequences for such infractions will be different at different ages, good communication is the key, no matter what the age.
As parents, what can we do to help our children to listen? Are there communication skills we can employ and listening skills we can model?
Communicating Effectively with Your Child
Make it short and sweet: Don't ramble or give a full explanation if you are making a simple request or giving a reminder.
Use age-appropriate words: Kids will tune out if you are using words they don't know or understand. Depending on the age of your child, words and phrases like responsibility, sarcastic, dawdle, spic and span, and facetious may be over their heads.
Talk to them directly: Don't try to compete with the T.V., phone, tablet, or book. Start a conversation with their name, get down to their level, and make sure you have eye contact.
No yelling: Don't yell across the house or between rooms. Do not yell requests or accusations; have a conversation.
Consider using lists: Is morning a rush to get everyone ready and out the door? Make each child a list (with checkboxes!). Do teens need to get chores done before hanging out with friends? Give them a list.
Ask for your child's input to solve repeated problems: If your child's shoes are always missing, or there are always books all over the bedroom floor, or he can't seem to get through his weekend chore list, ask them to help. Is there a better place to keep shoes? Would moving a bookshelf closer to the bed help? Is one particular chore overly time-consuming?
Modeling Listening Behavior
As parents, we should model good listening behavior for our kids: The things that annoy us when we are talking also annoy them. Show your children how to be good listeners.
Give your full attention: When your children want to talk to you - about schoolwork, a serious problem, or to tell you a joke - put down your phone and turn to them.
Give eye contact: Look directly at your children, and don't rush them through or put words into their mouths. Don't only pretend to listen.
No accusations or yelling: Respond calmly to what you hear - no accusations, no yelling, no eye rolling. If there is a problem, ask for their opinions: how do they feel? What ideas do they have to solve the problem? Work together to find a solution.
Dishing Out Consequences
If your children are not listening to you in spite of your use of more effective communication skills and modeling behaviors, ask yourself what consequences need to be put in place and how or when you will enforce them.
Consequences should be logical: If your child has not put his shoes on or gotten dressed, being late to school is a logical consequence. If chores are not finished, teens can be late for scouts or sports practice or can miss a movie with friends. Consequences should not be pleasant, but should not be out of proportion to the problem.
Children and teens should know what the consequences are in advance: The consequences should not surprise them - this means there should be less arguing and pouting.