7 easy ways to get your child to listen to you

One of the most major sources of frustration for parents is that of their kids’ selective hearing. Children who are defiant continue to stubbornly refuse to cooperate with their parents and ignore even the simplest of requests, thereby making every day feel like an uphill struggle. On any given day, many parents have two or three showdowns with their kids over things like getting in the car seat to brushing his teeth. To tackle such a situation, you basically need to make your child feel as if the two of you are on the same team.

Parents get truly frustrated when they realize that their kids aren’t listening to them when they’re talking. The most annoying bit is when they ask their children to do something as simple as getting their homework done, only to find out that their request was outright ignored. When kids just stop listening to their parents, it can drive just about any parent out there lose their mind. Yes, it is normal for children to be argumentative and non-compliant at times, but this problem needs to be addressed if it turns into a habit. Presented here are 7 ways to get your child to listen to you:

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7 Realize that your child may not be ignoring you on purpose

Young children, particularly those who are under 14 years of age, get distracted rather easily and often don’t take much notice of the things that are happening around them. They lack what is known to us as ‘peripheral awareness’, meaning that when they are engaged in a certain activity like reading or playing, they do not register any other aspects of their surroundings.

With such limited peripheral awareness, kids don’t get to register the things that are happening around them – and this obviously includes a parent who is standing close and talking to them, even if the parent thinks that the kid can’t miss it. For this reason, you need to give your child the benefit of doubt when you start feeling that he is ignoring you. Even if you think that he is ignoring you, there is a good chance that he is so engrossed in something that he’s doing that he isn’t even listening to what you are saying.

But your child might even be ignoring you on purpose

This in no way means that children don’t ignore their parents on purpose – many do. For a majority of kids, they put their parents through a bit of a test to see what will happen if they ignore their parents or don’t listen to them. For them, this bit of ‘information’ is rather important and is a normal part of their growth and development. However, you may be at fault here too, because at some point in the past, you may have made your kid feel like he ‘can’ ignore you.

6 Get your kids to pay attention to you

If you really want to teach your child to listen to you the first time, it is necessary for you to help him develop the habit of paying attention to what you say to him. To get things going, it is necessary for you to initially pay attention to how you talk to him. Why is that so? Well, for the simple reason that if you continue to ask him to do something again and again and then end up either doing it yourself or giving up, or resort to yelling, you may unintentionally teach him that you can be ignored – ignored to the point that you either give up or start yelling at them.

Yelling does not help grab a kid’s attention. However, it is rather problematic considering that it triggers a rather dysfunctional pattern of communication. The worst part is that yelling can have extremely harmful effects on kids – the sort of effects triggered by physical punishment, including hitting. If you start being verbally aggressive towards your kid, he may even exhibit lower self-esteem, signs of depression and higher aggressiveness.

What should I do?

To begin with, you need to make sure that your kid really hears you when you ask him to do something. Shouting from up the stairs or across the house does not count here. If you have a very young kid, kneel down in front of him and make eye contact with him while making your request. One thing that is bound to help you out in this regard is a friendly touch on the arm or some other form of positive physical connection.

5 Talk at eye level – be close

At times children learn that a parent is not going to follow through on a warning until the third or fourth time that they are asked to do something. For this reason they continue to ignore their parents the first few times that they make a request. If this is the case with you, then it is necessary for you to make sure that your child listens the first time, for which you should set them up for success. While doing so, make sure that you don’t raise your voice or ask him to do something from across the room. Instead, you should make requests in close proximity to him, right at his eye level.

When your child is non-compliant, there is a good chance that he is looking for a bit of control. The best way to tackle things is to give your child that ‘control’ but on your own terms. However, all requests and decisions pertaining to these choices need to be stated outright whenever possible. Instead of telling your kid to get dressed right away, say something like, “Do you want to put on your pants or shirt first?” and hold up both the options in your hand. This way, your kid will be able to make the choice by himself and won’t throw a tantrum.

Restrict your questions

If you really want your child to stop practicing the ‘not listening’ behavior, it is highly recommended for you to stop firing questions and directions at him that he fails to respond to. Instead, just make a request and when you have time to follow through, ask a polite question that your child is likely to respond to. 

4 If you give directives, follow through on them

Irrespective of whether the consequences are positive or negative, it is highly recommended for you to make them known well in advance. For instance, say, “If you put that toy in your mouth again I’m going to take it away”. Now that you’ve made a directive, make sure that you follow through on it if your child does not listen to you. However, if he complies, then you need to acknowledge his good behavior with lots of ‘descriptive phrases’ like, “I’m so glad you listened to me. Thank you so much for putting all your toys aside”. This is going to give your kid all the courage he needs to continue on with his good behavior.

Another tactic that you need to follow is that of giving information to your kid. This is basically going to help you communicate with him in such a manner that it does not reinforce non-compliance. By giving him information like, “It’s time for you to get changed”, you express your hope that he will consider the information and change his behavior, without being demanding or instructing him to do so right away. This will also give you time to test the waters and then figure out how you should proceed.

Staying brief is necessary

When asking your kid to do something, it is recommended for you to follow the one-sentence rule: put the main directive in the opening sentence. If you keep rambling on and on, your child is just going to give you the silent treatment and become parent-deaf. Instead, just keep things simple and brief.

3 Don’t speak without connecting

You should not start talking till the time that you have your child’s full attention – connect with him before you start speaking. What this means is that you shouldn’t starting yelling orders at him from another room and then expect your child to follow through on them, never mind respond to you. What you should do instead is to move in close to your child, get down to his level, touch him gently to get his attention and then ask him to do whatever you want. Before anything, observe what he is doing and make a polite comment about it to connect with him. Something like, “Hey, that’s a really nice drawing there!” is going to acknowledge respect and liking for his activities, thereby making him more inclined towards listening to you.

Once done, wait for him to look up at you, and when he does, look at him straight in the eye and start talking. In case he doesn’t look up at you, gain his attention by saying something like, “Can I tell you something?” Start talking the moment you have his attention. Just making simple changes in the way you say something can go a long way in getting him to comply. Also, it is recommended for you to tell him do something – don’t ask him to do it.

Model good manners

Good manners, no matter where you and your kids are, should never be optional – they should be obligatory. As long as you model good behavior, your children are going to follow lead and do the same. Teach your kids phrases like ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ and make sure that they use them. 

2 Don’t nag your kids

A friend of mine who is a teacher wanted her students to tidy the classroom before home time at the end of each school day. To her, it was important for them to tidy up after themselves and take pride in their room. She obviously couldn’t go around asking every single child to do a certain job because that would get nothing done. What she did was create a job chart that listed a child’s name next to a specific job. The chart was shown to the kids at the beginning of each week and duties were hence assigned. The jobs were rotated weekly so as to avoid monotony. Five minutes before home time, as she explained to them, were “job time”. The children who completed their jobs to perfection were given a prize or bonus, which served as ample encouragement to the kids. The room was found immaculate each day and she barely had to say a thing.

Things like these can work wonders at home too. Instead of nagging your kids to do things around the house, either write things down or create a chart with incentives in place. This is going to eliminate all those bouts of nagging that you may have. With that, make sure that you recognize and praise your kids’ efforts and reward their good behavior. If possible, try to get your kids to finish a certain task in a specified time limit because kids are wonderful at following routines.

Be gentle but firm

If you’ve made a certain decision, make sure that you stick to it. It is vital for you and your partner to agree on the issue and stay united on your decision. As long as you stand firm, they are not going to persist with either of you, but for this, you need to speak as though you seriously mean it. 

1 What message do you want to give out?

Before triggering a battle of wills, it is extremely important for you to make sure that you are concentrating on things that actually matter. Kids have a talent for ignoring their parents, particularly at times when they are asked to do something they’d rather not. For this reason, it is necessary for you to weigh the importance of your requests. For something totally essential, such as setting the table before the family sits down for dinner; do anything to make sure that your kid does it. If the task is not as important, you should either wait until later or just let it go. Remember, kids can at times feel rather overwhelmed and they are more likely to cooperate with their parents if they feel that they are being asked to do something really important. Critical tasks like family chores and homework need to take precedence over small issues that may come up during the day.

At times kids don’t pay attention to their parents because they feel like no one is paying attention to them. Parents often get so busy themselves that they don’t focus on things they deem ‘insignificant’. However, the same ‘insignificant’ things may mean the world to their children. At the end of a rough day at work, you may have no interest whatsoever in discussing Harry Potter, but the events taking place at Hogwarts may be as important to him as his unfinished homework is to you. As long as you can make your child feel cared about, respected and understood, you can rest-assured that he is going to listen to all that you have to say.

Consider his point of view too

How would you feel if someone told you to stop doing something you liked doing and were busy with and ordered you to do something else? This is how your child may feel at times when you order him about while he’s busy with something interesting. Your child doesn’t share your priorities, and you should acknowledge how much he wants to do keep doing whatever he is doing. Keep his point of view in mind too when asking him to do something.

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