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How to Talk so Your Kids Will Listen
Watch your tone. It’s important to use an encouraging voice to talk to kids. This helps keep your attitude in check, while encouraging them to open their ears and listen. While being encouraging, be consistent and confident. If you sound insecure or uncertain, and your child is at the “boundary pushing” age, they might take that as a window of opportunity to take you head on.
Don’t ask. If you have a child that’s challenging you, the last thing you want to do is ask if they want to help clean up their toys. While you don’t have to necessarily demand it, giving clear and concise instructions will cut down on confusion and frustration.
Ask. I know I just said “don’t ask”, but this is in a different context. When your child is throwing a fit – or getting an attitude, or whatever – ask him what’s wrong. He will tell you, and then you should respond with something like, “Wow. That sounds very frustrating”. Validating their feelings – even if you don’t agree with them – will help them see that you understand them. Especially with older kids, like tweens, you know they’re all “so misunderstood”. 🙂
Listen. Oh but you do listen… right? Me too! Now, it’s time to really, really listen. Don’t just give half of your attention, give it all to them. Turn your phone off (or at least put it away!), get off the computer, and turn to face your child. Get on their level if you’re not already, and open your eyes and ears.
Avoid nagging and shouting, as it’s stressful for you (and them), and pretty much useless. Oddly enough, whispering is much more effective. It forces your child to try harder and listen to the words that are coming out of your mouth. If you’re shouting instructions from the next room, there’s a chance of miscommunication. Getting up close and whispering them will yield better results.
One word. This is kind of fun, and I love doing it with my kids. Instead of giving long, drawn out instructions like “After dinner, I need you to clear the plates off of the table and put them in the dishwasher” — say “dishes”, or “plates”. This is a tip I picked up from parents.com a while back, and it works! The kids giggle, and get started on clearing the plates off the table. The same idea works with other things like brushing teeth (“teeth!”), bed time, etc.
Another way to make things fun: Speak in an accent! Obviously this doesn’t work if there is already turmoil brewing, but if it’s just time to stop playing video games and brush teeth, speak in a different accent (or a high/low voice combo) and their ears will perk right up… promise!
Make it fair. The punishment should fit the crime. Instead of giving a never-ending grounding (which they won’t care much about after day 2 anyway), give extra chores for the evening or take a privilege away. If they continue to misbehave, and you continue to tack on extra consequences, it ends up being pointless because they’ve lost everything and have no reason to get back on track. Give one consequence at a time, and if they’re still refusing to listen, kindly remind them that you do have other things to take away as well. I know that for tweens, taking electronics away for even a few hours can be extremely effective.
Here are a few books that are great resources as well.