We know that kids are not going to respond instantly, every time. They’re humans, not robots. But when your child is consistently ignoring you and you often find yourself angry or end up yelling to get their attention, it’s a good time to step back and consider what’s going on. Here are 4 ways to help your child listen better.
1. Pause, assess and listen.
Look at the relationship between you and your child. Ask yourself, is there mutual trust? Is it a nurturing relationship? Is there love between us?
If children don’t feel loved and trusted, they will have a harder time listening to you. First show understanding and empathy to your child, and then he or she will be more likely to listen and obey. Sometimes kids don’t pay attention to you because they feel like no one’s paying attention to them. They need to know that you care about them and support them.
You can show understanding by saying something like, “I know you are frustrated right now, so let’s find a way to calm down together.”
2. How’s your delivery?
When you’re giving instructions, are they simple, clear and reasonable? Or are they too complicated? Make sure your child can actually hear you, and make eye contact with them if possible. Be calm and stay cool. Remember, if you are calm, they will more likely be calm.
Also, practice giving directions when you’re alone.
3. Practice together.
Now that you’re ready to give calm, clear instructions, help your child practice listening. Pick a neutral time when your child is behaving well and say, “Hey, let’s just practice listening and following directions.” Give a simple task they can complete, and then give them a small reward for practicing, such as a little more electronics time.
If kids practice listening and responding appropriately during a neutral time, they’re more likely to listen at other times. Get them in the habit. Practice makes better. 🙂
4. Reward and praise them.
Randomly reward kids when they listen and follow directions. Stick to small rewards, and randomize your actions so kids don’t expect a reward every time. Slowly switch from giving rewards to giving more praise, so they’re not dependent on the reward. Teach them to expect a more natural reward of being praised or complimented for good listening. You can offer praise such as, “Great job at listening right away and taking out the garbage,” or “I like how you put away your dish as soon as I asked.”
Praising can include a light touch on the shoulder or a hug. Positive touch goes a long way. (Avoid saying “I love you” as praise for obeying or completing a task; you don’t want children to feel that your love for them is dependent on them doing something.)
Catch them doing good.
So often we focus on our kids’ negative behaviors and ignore the positive. Catch them doing good, and praise them for it. You’ll both feel more love for each other and your relationship will be strengthened.
If your child is strongly defiant, has a history of trauma or problem behaviors, please reach out if you feel you need additional help. You can always call us with questions.