How do you make kids listen to you? If you find yourself repeating endlessly ‘You just don’t listen to me!’ here’s a guide to help you!
Close observation over many years has revealed to me the fact that children have very selective hearing. We all do, to be fair, it’s not just them, and it’s for very similar reasons. We screen out so much around us in order to stay sane; too much information overload would send us mad, so we focus on what’s relevant and important and our brains do a pretty good job of automatically sifting out and discarding the unnecessary and distracting. So it’s healthy and good that our children have this ability! Really.
Here’s what children tune out:
Orders and directions that inconvenience them. Like bedtime, or anything really that will stop them doing what they are doing right now
Lectures, even when disguised as ‘explanations.’
Insults and critisisms.
Anything you say more than once.
And here’s what children always hear:
Private conversations, even when whispered in the next room.
Anything you say about them to another person.
Anything they stand to benefit from in some way.
So how do you make kids listen when it’s pretty important that they do?
Perfect your ‘I mean it now’ voice and use it sparingly. Take out any hint of emotion: disapproval, anger, threat, desperation, persuasion, smarmy niceness or pleading and replace it with absolute assumption that they will do as you say.
Act like a Sargeant Major, or a robot, or Nanny McPhee, or Mary Poppins, ham it up.
Make statements instead of orders: ‘We’ll go out now! Off we go.’
Replace ‘you’ with ‘I’ – instead of ‘(you) listen to me!’ say ‘I have something to tell you!’ or ‘I expect you’re wondering what I’m about to say!’ (cheerfully, not sarcastically..)
Say it once, say thank you, and disengage, leave them to it. You trust them don’t you?
Be prepared to give two short simple reminders, with slight surprise in your voice that they haven’t done it yet. You still trust them don’t you?
Make your first pronouncement loud (‘Hey!’) and then get quieter and quieter.
Use your body language more and words less.
State what you do want, not what you don’t want. Words paint pictures, so state the desired behaviour and the positive result (‘Up we go to bed! Bedtime story and cuddles time!’)
Say ‘I don’t know what we’ve got to do to get ready on time’ like you’re really confused about it. Kids so love to help you out with their superior knowledge.
Whisper it in the next room.
OK that last one was a joke. But to make kids listen you’ve got to be creative and varied to keep them on their toes. An added bonus is that we also stop boring ourselves half to death with the number of times every day we say in exasperation ‘How many times do I have to TELL you??’