How to get your child to listen

You are probably wondering, like more parents, how to get your child to listen! I’m sure we’ve all been there. You are on your way out the door, running late again, and your child just won’t cooperate. They are dragging their feet, or won’t get into the car! Everyone’ stress level is rising….
Perhaps it is time for chores and your child is coming up with every excuse to avoid helping. They know it is part of the family rhythm but that doesn’t seem to phase them…

Many parents would turn to threats, bribes or punishments at this point. But what if there was a way to win their cooperation?

“Remember children are more likely to listen to you after they feel listened to.” ~Jane Nelsen of Positive Discipline

First step to get your child to listen

The first step is to check in with how your child is feeling. It may be obvious but it is always good to check in. This helps your child to feel understood, and will give you some insight into what is going on. 
I have been surprised sometimes when I thought my child was refusing to cooperate and it tuns out they were anxious. Our children generally are not out to give us a hard time, although it may feel like that at times. If we can remember that they are stuck, having a hard time, or have an unmet need, our tone softens and we can work together.

After you listen, show empathy

Show empathy for their situation. This does not mean you have to agree or condone. But I’m sure you can help your child see that you understand their point of view. If he mood is right, you could also share a personal story of when you felt the same way. Be careful that this doesn’t come out as patronizing. 

When we show empathy for another person they feel understood. This is a deep human longing and basic need. The self defence guard goes down and they realize you are on their side, or at least want to try to cooperate.

Share your feelings and concerns

Now if you have done the first two steps well you’ll be able to then share your feelings, concerns and point of view. The key here is that your child has to feel that you were sincere and caring so that they will be willing to listen to you. If not, you may need to go back and check in with how they are feeling now.

When sharing your side of the story avoid blame or shame. This will put a guard right up again and shut down communication. If you are still upset, then it may be best to work through and sort out your own issues before this step. If you are feeling angry and resentful it will come out in your tone. If you are truly seeking cooperation and connection then sharing your concerns comes through as loving. 

Problem solve solutions together

Now its time to move forward. I strongly suggest problem solving and asking your child to brain storm solutions that might work for both of you. If your child hasn’t got any ideas you may have to offer some suggestions. Ask what they can do or what might need to happen to avoid the problem in the future. The goal here is to respectfully work together toward a solution.

When we show empathy for another person they feel understood

WAIT! This all sounds like it is going to take forever. What if I haven’t got time? What if my child is too young to problem solve?
It’s okay I understand.

Everything will depend on the situation and age of your children among other things. But you may be surprised at how well the first two steps work together to win over your child. You don’t always need say much, just letting them know you love them and want to help.

Other strategies to get your child to listen

There are times when another strategy needs to come into play. This is why as parents we need a lot of tools to pull from.

  • Humour can lighten the mood
  • Playfulness works great with little ones
  • Kind and firm let them know you understand, but it is still time to do as mom says.

There will be occasions when you just don’t have the time for problem solving at the moment because you have your own needs that need to be met (like getting somewhere on time).  You can still offer empathy and revisit the issue later when you do have time to problem solve. Then you can work together on sharing your feelings and coming up with ideas of how to avoid the same situation again.

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Remember children are more likely to listen to you after they feel listened to