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This is one of the most interesting, yet challenging, aspects of being a parent.
How to get our kids to listen to us.
And this is valid independently of their age.
It will be challenging when they are toddlers and it will be equally, if not more, challenging when they are teens.
Each age has its own communication challenges and you should address those calmly and, most of all, with a listening approach.
You know, whatever their age is, and read this is a major tip if you want them to listen to you, start by ALWAYS listen to them first.
Reciprocity in these tough challenges is a must, to put you and your kid at the same and respectful level.
But let’s go a bit deeper on how you can make your children listen to you.
How to get your kids to listen to you, a 6-step guide:
1) Start by connecting with them
This sounds simple and obvious but how many times have you “barked” an order to your kids from “a mile away”?
The first step for a positive conversation is to generate proximity and a comfort zone for you both. To achieve this, move closer and build a positive connection.
A great way to do this is by acknowledging something positive the child is doing. Something like “Wow, what a great race track, who’s winning?”.
Most times, for effectiveness, give your child a small and gentle touch because that brings the awareness towards you. Otherwise, you may simply get a “yes” or a “Lightning McQueen” in return.
You’ll understand that you have their attention when they make eye contact with you and that is your window to ask what you came to ask.
It’s not yet time to jump into your question.
Instead, start by asking: “Can I tell you something?”
This is a great way to have them on board and ready for what comes next.
I know this all sounds a bit complex and time consuming where you just want to ask a straightforward question but let’s face it. It took you 2 minutes to read so far, but it will take you 20 seconds to reach this stage in a real-life example.
You now have their attention.
And don’t mind moving forward unless you have their attention.
If you need to, repeat this first process until you have their attention.
2) Make the message simple and clear
This is huuuuugely important.
Don’t overcomplicate whatever you need from them.
Imagine you were tweeting your question to them.
Can you make it in 140 characters or less?
3) Add to the question, why they should care
This is something we, as parents, normally forget doing.
Because it is pretty obvious what we want them to do and why, right?
Well, our kids normally absorb the first message they listen and that is what sticks… because we also normally stop there.
It’s exactly the same as when we say “Stop running!” and end up there. Unless we offer them an alternative, the negative message is what sticks in their gentle mind.
“Why should they go and have their shower right now?”
“Why should they pick up their toys in the living room?”
“Why should they have dinner right now instead of later?”
Why should they care?
What’s in it for them?
On the other day, our older son didn’t want to go to school. He was still in bed and I wanted to wake him up. He was saying he wanted to stay at home since mom and his newborn sibling were staying. I said that he should wake up because he would have a lot of fun in school and he had to go, none the less. Although he was awakened, I wasn’t feeling he was yet convinced. And I focused on a subject I knew he would care. He was recently invited by a friend to that friend’s birthday party. And I said our son… “Hey, you know, you should go today to say A. that you’ll go to his birthday party to make sure he knows you’re coming.” Mission accomplished. He got dressed in no time and went happily to school.
This is just an example of how you can tackle the “why they should care” reasoning.
You may ask that sometimes it is just a small task and that there is nothing to add about “why they should care”.
Let us kill that thought right from the start.
There is ALWAYS something they get in return.
It may simply be to help you out as a mother or a father. And in that case, a hug should be a great way to welcome them.
4) Communicate from their point of view
A great way to get your message to your child, and this will probably sound weird to you, is to bring your point of view to their level, by acknowledging what they’re doing.
For instance. Imagine you had them stop playing whatever they were fully engaged playing, to listen to you. You can easily help them by saying something like…
“I know it is really hard to have to stop playing right now, in the middle of this amazing race… but I need your help…”
Can you see the difference?
We’re not being “parents”.
We’re being friends, asking for a favor.
And, that is when we’re becoming parents, without the “”.
5) Stay calm
Whatever you do, whatever they say in return, remain calm.
This is not supposed to be a Power Struggle between you two.
And remember one thing…
The way you approach your need to talk to your kids will reflect the way they will approach you to talk to you.
We’ve always taught our son about the Power of Communication where when he needs something, the best way to get it is by asking it. Whatever it is.
He may get it or not but unless he asks for it, he will never get it because no one knows he cares about it.
Finally, make sure you listen.
This is the last piece of the puzzle but, to be honest, is one of the most, if not the most, important aspect of communicating with your children.
Even with a newborn, it’s greatly important to listen, for example, to their crying because you’ll figure out why they are crying.
Because not every crying is the same. The colic crying and the newborn gestures are completely different from a “starving” crying.
But this is just an example to tell you that listening should be something you should focus on right from day one with your children.
Communicating with our kids is the first major step for a Positive Parenting approach.
But don’t ever forget about something.
No two kids are the same.
This is not a “cure fits all” type of guide.
If we can get you anything from this article is that you should listen to your child and really see what works and what doesn’t work with them.
Test things out with them. See what works and what doesn’t.
Learn from them and help them learn more about responsibilities, rules, and reciprocity.
If you want to go deeper on this subject, let us recommend a great reading: “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk”.
We hope this helps and feel free to share a story below on how you get your kids’ attention or how you struggle to communicate with them.
Looking forward to your comment.
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