How to Get Your Kids to Listen
Listening skills are critical. The importance of listening skills for building better relationships and getting ahead in our work and careers is frequently in the headlines. Developing good listening skills is challenging for adults. It takes a focused, concerted effort to improve our listening skills and become active listeners
. So, it’s not that much of a surprise that listening is a challenge for kids as well.
Think about some of the reasons that prevent you from being a good listener:
- We are actively forming in our mind what we are going to say next after the other person stops talking. We are distracted from what the person is saying to us.
- We assume we know what the other person is thinking or getting at with their words, so we stop fully listening.
- We are distracted by other things when someone is talking to us, such as our phone, the television, our to-list, what we are going to make for dinner, or any of about a thousand other things we have to get done in our daily lives.
- We don’t appreciate someone barking orders at us or micromanaging our every task, so we tune them out.
Why is understanding this important for getting your child to listen? Because the number one most significant influence in a child’s life is the example you set as a parent.
If you can improve model excellent listening skills for your children, and have empathy for them when they are struggling to listen, you’ll be well on your way to getting your child to listen.
Good listening starts with focusing your full attention on the person talking. Face them and maintain eye contact.
Same goes for getting your children to listen to you. Move close to your child. Get down on their level so you can look them in the eye and help them focus their attention on what you are about to say.
Just like us, children make assumptions about what we are going to say to them, which prevents them from fully listening to us.
One way to overcome this is to ask your child to repeat back to you what they think you just said. You can check to see if they have heard you correctly and correct any misunderstandings.
Our world today is full of distractions, and our kid’s lives are no different. It’s hard for all of us to concentrate, so simplifying our communication often is a good strategy for communicating more clearly and ensuring we are heard.
In the business world, there are hundreds of thousands of articles, books, and seminars to teach us how to simplify communication. Ironic, isn’t it? So many words written about cutting out unnecessary words.
Using fewer words is a good strategy for helping get kids to listen as well. Kids often know what they need to do, but need some simple reminding. In a great article from Parents.com
, one mom recounts her success with this simple strategy. Rather than giving her girls a 10-minute lecture on why she wasn’t their servant and her house wasn’t a restaurant, she simply started saying “plates,” to remind her daughters that they needed to carry their plates to the sink when they were done eating. It worked.
No one appreciates being told what to do or constant micromanagement; this is especially true at work. We are all adults, and we expect a certain level of respect and trust by our bosses and peers to do our jobs correctly. If a task is assigned to us, we want to know why. We expect feedback and teaching on how we do our work, and most of us hope for encouragement and support in jobs.
If we want our kids to listen to us, we must use this same tactic and try to be teachers and encouragers, not just task czars.
State the facts, not orders. This method is discussed in one of the most praised books around about communicating with kids, called “How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk
.” For instance, instead of saying, “You're ruining the floor,” when your child soaks the bathroom after a shower, try saying, “Water on the floor can seep through and ruin the ceiling below.” This approach says to the child, “I know when you have all of the information, you’ll do the right thing.”
Listening is a life-long skill that requires patience, time, and practice.
“We were given two ears, but only one mouth because listening is twice as hard as talking.” – Epictetus
(AD 500 – c.135)
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