Feel like your kids don’t listen? Or worse – ignore what you say? Here we have 5 ways to get your kids to listen, without yelling!
How do you get kids to listen, without yelling and losing your temper?
Have you ever found yourself repeating the same thing over and over – and then realising that your children actually didn’t even hear you?
Or – they do hear and just don’t respond?
Getting kids to listen can feel like a major barrier to behaviour, and causes immense frustration for you, the parent.
Mainly because the moment when you give up on the patient voice and gentle reminders, and let the parent ‘tone’ in, is the exact same moment your child looks at you as if you are some kind of monster for raising your voice!
“There’s no need to shout”
“Well if you listened the first time……..”
Does this sound familiar?
But if this is you, don’t lose hope! There are things you can do to improve your child’s attention to your requests, before they become shouted commands.
Let’s unpack 5 ways you can get your kids to listen!
1 – Mindset
So we are going to start with the hardest part, your own mindset. Unfair right? You are doing all the right things and YOU’RE not the one not listening!
I understand, it’s frustrating. But, if you want results you’ll need to start with the most influential factor – you.
Your child watches you, consciously and unconsciously, learning everything from your movements, to your language, to your values and beliefs. They are learning from you what you want them to, and what you don’t!
So we have to start with looking at your mindset to communication.
Are you fully present in your communication with them? Or are you sometimes muttering ‘uh huh’ whilst preparing a meal, sorting the washing and not really hearing them?
If you are the latter – don’t berate yourself, we are all human and none of us function at perfect the whole time, if any!
But – you can make sure your child knows that this is not how we should do things. As soon as you notice yourself slipping into distracted communication, stop. Apologise and tell your child what you were doing, and what you should be dong (and therefore expect from them), and then listen with 100% attention. Chances are your child needs no more than a few minutes of your time – and we can all pause for just a few moments for something so important.
Furthermore consider, are you taking it personally when your child doesn’t listen? If you read the previous blog on Mindsets for effective parenting, you may already know that your child isn’t actually doing this on purpose.
Let me explain this further.
Behaviour is nothing more than communication of an emotion or need, and as parents we have to decipher their language to find the hidden meanings and reasons for their choices.
So we have to consider the other possible causes for their choice?
– Are they tired? The most common times for children to ‘zone out’ and not listen are unsurprisingly after school, and before bed. Both times when their tiredness can be unite overwhelming. Think about how you deal with a long day at work – do you ever zone out? It’s nothing more than the brain reaction times slowing as it runs out of energy.
– Are they hungry? The same slowing of brain function happens when the body needs refuelling, along with some tunnel focus on the goal of finding food! What would have had our children hunting in centuries past has been replaced with repetitive requests for snacks.
- Are they distracted? Have they had a bad day at school, a friendship issues or a negative experience? Have you had lots of changes recently which are taking up a lot of the grey matter space in their heads?
Building your own understanding of emotions and behaviours will support a more positive parent mindset towards challenges – and a more patient parent of you!
2 – Routines
Think for a moment about environmental norms, and how as adults we ‘zone out’ and do things on autopilot.
The same is true for our children.
They become accustomed to routines, tones and expectations (even though they may not meet them at times), and when we become accustomed to anything, it moves into the unconscious competent arena of our brain. That is to say – we learn to do it without thinking. We generally snap out of auto pilot when something unusual happens and our conscious mind switches back on.
For example – you drive the same route every single day, at some point you realise you have just driven for a length of time whilst being totally engrossed in thought, with no memory of the journey. This is unconscious competence.
Now say a deer ran out in front of you on that same journey? You can bet your conscious mind snaps back into action to tell you what evasive action to take!
When we are dealing with repetitive, or routine lack of attention from our children this is often the main cause.
They have travelled this route often before.
Think of routines in your life – when is ‘normal’ potentially an issue?
After school – do you almost always ask for and expect the same things?
“Hang your coat up”
“Have you done your homework”
If they are ‘normal’ questions your child may have just zoned out from hearing you!
A classic example of this is the frustrated parent who has children who bicker and argue (or sometimes physicality fight). Over time the carefully planned responses and dedicated time to work through things understandably wains, replaced by the same reactions or responses.
“Boys stop that!”
“If you don’t pack that in there’ll be no telly for a week”
Sadly, the children may have tuned out to these responses. They literally do not hear the parent ‘noise’ in the background as they know what is going to be said.
Being aware of the ‘norms’ will remind you to manage these times with more mindful focus on being heard.
So how do we deal with breaking these ‘norms’, without being inconsistent in our parenting? The answer lies in method number 3.
3 – Cues
With practice it is possible to use highly effective cues that you need to be listened to – and these come in several forms.
Visual cues – Your child will pay attention to changes in their immediate environment.
If you really want your child to listen, you need to get in their line of sight. (Especially if they are engrossed in screen time). Walk in front of your child to indicate you need their attention. Maintaining eye contact during communication sets an expectation to be listened to.
Auditory cues – Literally telling your child that you are about to speak is actually highly effective, especially if you then wait to get their attention before you continue. You can literally say:
“Focus now, I am about to tell you something”
Tone – What we say to anyone only accounts for 7% of what they hear. The other 93% is made up of body langue and tone. So adjusting your tone is likely to get their attention better than just calling through from the kitchen. Often a quieter and more purposeful tone will actually have a stronger impact on your child’s attention.
You can also use your body language to increase attention. We have looked at eye contact, but what about your posture? What posture does a firm request have? (Hint – it’s not hunched over a phone).
4 – Practice
We take communication for granted. It’s something we learn in our early years and will be competent in varying degrees, depending mainly on the influences around us.
However we can actually improve our communication skills in our families very effectively through games and challenges aimed at increasing children’s awareness of good communication.
To give you an example – when was the last time you wholly listened to somebody? That is, listening without thinking about your response. And when was that person last your child?
We are our own worst enemies when it comes to teaching our children, because we forget the golden rule.
Children learn from what they see – not what you want them to learn.
That means if you are distracted when you call out a request – they learn that distracted when communicating is ok.
Equally if you are stop what you are doing and listen intently when your child talks – they learn that this is what is expected of them.
Now we are all human, with busy lives, so don’t berate yourself if this aims seems high – remember, every little bit you can do supports better learning for your child.
You can also play games to practice talking. Have a. Talking ball/stick or similar, and pass it around the table, each person saying one thing about their day. At the end of each round one person has to repeat back the comments made. This helps children learn how to listen with focus.
5 – Effective consequences
Ok so sometimes, no matter how hard you try, your child may present you with more difficultly than can be managed with the persuasive methods, and you need to up your game.
Consequences are highly effective learning tools for children, when used properly.
Many parents make the mistake of using punitive punishments alone, which singularly don’t provide your child with an opportunity to learn and do better.
Consequences work best when they are:
- Focused on outcome (the child learning to do better)
- Relevant to the action of the child (proportionate and topically similar)
- Provide an opportunity for learning (what do I need to do next time)
- Applied without anger (emotionally nurturing, or neutral)
Here are some examples of appropriate consequences for not listening.
A formal (sat down together) conversation about how not listening could be unsafe, and why.
An exchange of time – if it took 2 minutes for them to stop and listen, they owe you 2 minutes of time
Removal of objects which distract from listening (short and immediate removal works best)
5 ways to get your kids to listen – Preparing and planning to make positive improvement:
You will find that you will create deeper and more effective change if you sit down and plan your approach. You can use the Planning for Parenting workbook to do this. You can get a free copy from the Empowered Parents website.
If you live with a child for whom listening has become a challenge, set yourself a challenge to put in place the 5 ways to get your kid to listen, without yelling.
Set a date on which you will commit full to the 5 ways to get your kids to listen – and then implement consistently from this day.
Track your progress using a daily score or note, so that you can see the difference you are making in the lives of your family members.
If you want to know even more about good communication there is a particularly good article on the Help Guides website which you can read HERE: