How To Talk So Kids Will Listen




As parents we always get frustrated when our kids don’t listen. Many a times we have to ask repeatedly before we get a response. Words such as “Make your bed!”, “Clear your plates!”, “Stop playing with the iPad and do your homework!” are all too common in the household.


Your child’s unwillingness to listen can be frustrating. But it doesn’t mean you’re being undermined or disrespected. This is not a challenge to your authority, and it doesn’t have to make you feel less of a bad parent. It is just that children have varied interests, which are different. How then can we establish a channel of communication so that our child will listen when we speak?


Here are 9 simple tips on developing effective communication with your child. When you unlock the key to open the communication channels, it proves to be some of the most rewarding moments as a parent.



1. Use Your Child's Name


Our names are music to our ears so our child is no different. Call their name at the start to get their attention before delivering your message. For example, “Jonathan, please put your toys away.” For young children who can only concentrate only one thing at a time, call their name until you have their attention before you speak. Example, “Anna.” (Wait till she stops playing with her doll and looks at you.) “Please go and finish your milk.”






2. Accept and Acknowledge Your Child's Feelings


How a child behaves is also a reflection of how he feels at that particular point of time. Emotions drive behaviour. Many a times we tell our children not to trust their own perceptions but to rely on ours instead. Simply because we are the grown up with more life experiences. Example: “You’re just saying that because you are tired.” or “You’re being silly, there’s no reason to be upset.”


Denying a child’s feelings can lead to a meltdown or screaming tantrum. When I’m upset or hurting, the last thing I want to hear is advice, philosophy or another person’s point of view. That will only make me feel worse than before. Imagine if you have a friend whom you are complaining a problem to, and she starts blaming you or questioning your reactions. You would probably be annoyed too.


So don’t do the same to your child. You want your child to trust his emotions and grow up confident, so don’t give him a reason to doubt himself. Here are 3 helpful tips on how to do this:


A) Listen with full attention. Be the parent that really listens (not just half-listening) and acknowledge your child’s inner pain and give him a chance to talk more about what’s troubling him. It’s much easier to tell your troubles to a parent who is really listening.He doesn’t even have to say anything. Often a sympathetic silence is all a child needs.


B) Acknowledge with empathy. More important than any words we use is our attitude. If our attitudes is not one of compassion, then whatever we say will be seen as phone or manipulative by the child. If our words are infused with our real feelings of empathy that they speak directly to a child’s heart. Instead of questions and advice, show you child empathy and you’re tuned about how he feels with non-judgement verbal cue


C) Give the feeling a name. Instead of denying the child’s feeling, give it a name like, “That is frustrating.” The child who hears the words for what he is experiencing will be deeply comforted. Someone has acknowledge his inner experience.




3. Positive Language Encourages Positive Behavior


Try not to say “No” or “Don’t” all the time. Example: “ Don’t drop the plate.” or “No running inside the house.”


More often than not the child has that image embedded in their minds and they will drop the glass. Instead, say, “Please hold the plate properly, it is a special gift.” or “Only walking inside the house, please.” This requires much thought and practice but it is well worth he effort. Do not use negative words or name-calling if you are upset with your child like, “You are a really bad boy.” This type of language achieves very little and will only leave your child feeling worthless and unloved. It may lead to poor self-esteem in the future.


Instead, use positive and kind words to give your child more confidence, happier so that they will behave better too. Example, “I like the way you remembered to pack your toys,” or “Well done, you remembered to finished all your homework, you are my big boy now!”, “Thank you for helping me clean the chocolate off the floor.” Knowing that their behaviours has made you happy, children are further encouraged to do better.





4. Keep It Simple and Do Not Nag


Young children have trouble following too many directions given at once. Stagger your requests in small blocks.


Instead of saying, “John, go and keep your toys, then go and wash your hands and drink your milk.” Chances are John will only “hear” one of the instructions you have given to mind and do that thing. Even though we want to improve our communication with our child, we need to be preceptive to their level of interest in the conversation.


Parents can also create a Good Job chart with incentives in place. Each time your child tidies his room or does does something you have requested, you give him a tick. And if he achieves a selected number of ticks, he gets a bonus. This eliminates nagging as they will know what is expected of them.


It is important to make sure you recognise and praise effort, and reward desired behaviour.





5. Engaging Cooperation


One of the daily frustrations that we have as parents is our struggle to get our children to cooperate and behave. Part of this problem lies in the conflict of needs.


The parent needs order, cleanliness and courtesy. The children couldn't care less. This often leads to parents taking a more aggressive approach like blaming, issuing threats, sarcasm, lecturing and commanding, to get the child to keep the order. This only leaves the child with negative feelings and may lead to more rebellion.


Instead use these 5 simple steps to create respect and harmony in the home and encourage cooperation from your child:


A) Describe what you see, or the problem. It’s hard to do what needs to be done when people are telling you what’s wrong with you. It’s easier to concentrate no the problem when someone just describes it to you. “The is water on the floor.”


B) Give information. Information is a lot easier to take than accusations. When a child is given information, he can figure out what needs to be done. Instead of saying, “You’re ruining the floor!” try, “Water not he floor can seep through and ruin the ceiling below.”


C) Say it with a word. Children dislike hearing lectures, sermons, and long explanations. For them, the shorter the reminder the better. Example: “The ball!”


D) Talk about your feelings. Make no comment about the child’s character or personality. By describing what we feel, we can be genuine without being hurtful.


E) Write a note. Sometimes nothing we say is as effective as a written word.


Our purpose is to speak to what’s best in our children - their intelligence, their initiative, their sense of responsibility, their ability to be sensitive to the needs of others. We want to create an environment that breeds cooperation because they care about themselves and for others.





6. Using Alternatives to Punishments That Promotes Self-Discipline


Punishments usually create more problems than they solve. Punishments like grounding your child or time-outs is just a short term quick fix to get the child to listen, but it doesn't teach much. Instead we want to give our children tools that will last them a life-time. One that they can take out tot he world and enable them to be active participants in solving problems that confront them.


A) Express your feelings strongly. Let your kids understand how their behaviour makes you feel and how it effects you. Keep it short and clear as it is hard for a child to listen to a parent who goes on and on about his worry.


B) State your expectations. Give them responsibilities and a sense of duty.


C) Give your child a choice. Example, “You can return the book to the shelf, or you can give up the privilege of borrowing any more books.”


D) Brainstorm together to find a mutually agreeable solution. Brainstorm on all possible solutions and write them down, even the silly ones. Then eliminate the ones that don’t work, and the ones that you both plan to follow through.




7. Be Gentle But Firm


If you have made you decision about something, stick to it. Make sure you and your partner agree not he issue and stay united on your decision.


Your children may not like the decision at that time, but they will know it stands firm and won’t bother persisting with either of you or playing one parent off against the other. Make your requests important and speak as though you mean it.


Requests made in a wishy-washy tone gives the children the impression that you are not that concerned whether they follow your requests or not.





8. Ask Open-Ended Questions


This will get your children to think more and open their minds.


So instead of asking questions with a “yes” or “no” answer like “Did you like school today?”, you could ask him, “What was the best part about school today?”. Respond to their ideas to show them you are interested in what they have to say and that they are important to you like “That is interesting!”





9. Understanding the Difference Between Helpful and Unhelpful Praise


Most of us are quick to criticise and slow to praise. Praise can greatly improve a child’s self-esteem and confidence, but don’t overdo it or the child can wind up feeling like the world owes them everything.


So praise generously, but wisely. Be specific and descriptive. Appreciate their work and efforts, instead of their traits. So instead of saying “You’re a great artist!” try, “I love how the colours mix. How did you do that?”This shows them evidence of their own talents and lets them draw conclusions about what they might do with these talents.


Make conversation with your child a priority. Develop an open and comfortable communication with them. It not only keeps the peace at home but more so it greatly helps in boosting their self-confidence, self-esteem and establish good peer relationships. So take time and effort to foster your relationship with your child. And remember, listening is just as important as talking.






© Rise & Shine is established to provide our children with a better opportunities for their upcoming future. Our founding vision was to help and educate parents to nurture healthier, happier and brighter children. As part of what we do, we organise parenting workshops, carnivals and the largest play and educational festival in Asia. We also organise a series of children events throughout the year where families can bond, learn and have fun.


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