Do you ever feel like you are talking to a brick wall? Do you ever watch the blank stare that indicates your child is seeing that words are coming out of your mouth, but you just know that nothing is being absorbed? Learning how to get kids to really listen can be challenging at times, but with some intentional actions, you will have a lot more success than you are currently experiencing. See my parenting tips tab for more “works for me” moments.
This parenting journey hasn’t been the easiest thing in the world, and trying to get kids to listen can lead to frustration. That said, I have found the most success when I have been more consistent and diligent following some simple guidelines.
How to Get Kids to Really Listen
- Get Quieter – This is often counter-intutitive, but the advice to “get quieter” was one of the major motivators for this post. Is it what I have done all the time? Absolutely not. I am more prone to get louder when I don’t feel like I am being heard. However, I’ve been in my children’s classrooms enough to observe that when the good teachers want the students’ attention, they lower their voice. My husband was recently in the classes and noticed the same thing. When you bring the level down, it not only brings their own level down, but it brings an intensity to what you are saying. When you almost whisper what you want to say, they begin to listen…like magic.
- Get to Their Level and Make Eye Contact – They are more likely to listen intensely when you are down at their level. Have your husband stand on top of a stool and talk down at you. It can be pretty intimidating. If you get down on their level and make sure you have their eye contact, you have a much higher chance that they are going to hear what you have said. It is an active listening skill to have eye contact.
- Appeal to their Heart – Kids will really listen and absorb what you are saying more if you grasp their heart in the concept. For example, if you are saying, “Don’t hit your sister,” you’ll be more effective if you ask them how it feels when someone hits them. When they can respond and have empathy in a appeal, than you have captured an emotion, making it more likely that they will really listen and take in the lesson.
- Keep Your Words Few – Kids will tune you out if you ramble on and on. Make your words concise. I’ve heard that for littler kids when you keep your directions under 5 words, it has the most impact. Be concise and meaningful. Words can hold great value, and I believe they especially do when words are thoughtful but few. You know those people who you always want to tune into what they have to say because of their carefully chosen timing and wording. Work on cutting down the lecture to create more meaning. “The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint.” – Proverbs 17:27
- Have them Repeat What You Have Said – You know they heard you if they can repeat back what you have said. They can re-phrase it in their own words, but make sure they’ve grasped the main points of what you are asking or saying.
- Give Short Lists – I try to give lists of three. “Go brush your teeth, go potty and get your pajamas on.” Another list might include, “Grab a glass of water, sit at the desk and do one page of homework.” Make sure to do the suggestion in the bullet point above – have them repeat your short list to make sure they remember it all.
- Give Directions in the Same Room – I don’t know if you are better at this than I am, but I need the reminder to teach in and tell in the same room. Yelling directions or having conversations across the room has no impact or up the stairs. I don’t know if they are listening or playing with their dolls. I need to not be lazy and get in the same room as them.
- Teach Them to Respond – In our family we teach our kids to respond with a “Yes, Mommy” or “Yes, Daddy.” This has worked fabulous for us. You need to teach them that it is appropriate and respectful to acknowledge what people are saying. They need to show that they have listened and understand.
- Let Them Know Who is in Charge – “Mommy’s voice should be the most important in the room right now,” is a phrase my friend uses. Kids often want to talk over you. You need to let them know that there are times they just need to listen. When appropriate, teach them to have a conversation where there isn’t talking over one another and interruption. I don’t believe children should be seen and not heard. That said, I do believe there are times they do just need to listen and then obey.
- Listen to Your Kids – Model the behavior you want. It is one of the important components of parenting. As stated, there are times your kids just need to listen. However, we want to build in them what it is like to have a conversation. Make sure they are heard. Repeat back what you hear them saying. Acknowledge how they feel, even if you disagree. Adopt the phrase, “That’s interesting. Tell me more.”
- Have Them Check Back in After Task is Completed – We can become distracted. So can our kids. You can end your instructions with, “Check back me when that is done.” This gives accountability to what has been asked. It also gives you the opportunity to follow up with what has been asked or ask them to accomplish another thing.
- Praise Listening – I often give advice to praise. Kids respond to praise, so do it when they are following through with things. “Thank you so much. You listened so well! I really appreciate that.” “Wow, what good eye contact. That felt so respectful.” Building up our children is such an important thing to weave into parenting.
- Have Common Parenting Phrases that You Repeat – Kids learn through repetition. I recently wrote a post for Kids Activities Blog titled, “20 Catchy Mom Phrases that Really Work.” There are links there to some of my favorite parenting phrases.
I hope you have been inspired to take the time to really teach our kids to listen. Parenting takes so much intentional behaviors. I see that as adjust my parenting and remain present with my kids, our family runs much smoother. It means teaching…every..single…day. I know that can be exhausting, but it remains rewarding as you see the fruits of your labor.