Getting an adult to listen to you is relatively easy—when two grownups have an issue, they can usually sit down, discuss their feelings and resolve it. But getting your kids to pay attention to you can be a whole lot trickier. And that’s a real problem, since you need them to listen to you all the time, about all sorts of things.
The result? We parents find ourselves saying the same things over and over and over to our kids. And then we find ourselves yelling them.
So here are five tips to help get your kids to hear what you have to say—before you develop a full-fledged case of laryngitis.
1) Model the Behavior You’d Like to See
You can actually start communicating messages to your kids before you even open your mouth. That’s because parents are powerful role models in their children’s lives. So just seeing you do something will make it more likely that your kids will want to do it too.
This is great news! If you want your kid to keep her room clean, make sure that your bed is made and your dirty underpants are put in the hamper on a regular basis too. This makes the behavior you want to see in your child seem standard (plus you won’t seem like a total hypocrite later).
The bad news? Modeling also applies to negative behavior, like cursing. So when you hear your little one yell, “Outta my way, a-hole!” from the backseat of the car, it’s almost definitely your fault.
2) Get Their Attention!!!
Sometimes the hardest part of getting your kids to listen to you is getting their attention in the first place. Maybe they’re mid-tantrum, in the throes of a heated sibling dispute or just too busy doing their own thing to switch gears and listen to what you want them to do.
So surprise them into listening to you by doing something totally unexpected.
Try tickles, back pats or a massage to distract from that tantrum. Get close and whisper a joke to make them forget their fight. Sing a song to help your kids transition from one thing to another. Or bust out some totally insane dance moves you haven’t done since college to get them to finally look up and notice you.
Whatever it takes, people. Whatever it takes.
3) Keep It Brief
As much as you get sick of giving your kids lectures, they get sick of hearing them. So instead of boring your kids with the same long, drawn-out explanation that they’re unlikely to listen to anyway, try switching it up by being as brief as possible, like this:
- Say it in one sentence. Instead of repeating your full rationale for why kids need to put their dishes in the sink after every meal, just say: “Remember to put your dishes away!”
- Try a quick question. This can help you be even briefer, while also forcing children to analyze their own behavior: “What did we forget?”
- Use just one word. If it’s a frequent issue, your kids probably need very little input from you to get the message. So the single word “Dishes!” might just do the trick.
4) Write a Note
Try saving your voice altogether and writing a note instead. Kids may have heard your message a thousand times, but seeing the message in this new way may help them finally get it!
You can use the power of the written word to help:
- Promote behavior—a note in the bathroom that says, “Remember to wash your hands!”
- Prevent behavior—a sign at a play place that says, “Do not climb this fence.”
- Comment on behavior—a letter on the kitchen table that says, “Mr. Dish lives in the cupboard, and now he’s homesick because you forgot to put him away yesterday!”
Think this won’t work because your kid can’t read yet? Think again! Kids are intrigued by text, especially during the preschool years when they’re first learning about it, so they’ll want to know what you’ve written. Plus, using text in new and unexpected ways like this can help promote those budding reading skills!
5) Stay Positive
Sick of hearing yourself nag? Then stop focusing so much on bad behavior—and reward the good behavior you see instead. Telling your kids that you notice when they’re doing something extra good or rewarding them with a few extra kisses and cuddles can help them actually want to be good.
And isn’t that what you really want?
If you have an ingenious trick for getting your kids to listen to you, we want to hear about it—share your stories in the comments below!