Before you can expect your child to listen, you need to ensure you really listen to your child.
As a parent, the pressure of 101 things that need to get done can sometimes make it hard to listen. But when a child is not feeling listened to, they are more likely to whine, shout or throw a tantrum to get your attention.
Careful listening shows that you respect your child’s feelings and gives her space to explore a problem and, often, find her own solution. Being listened to can cause difficult feelings to evaporate…cue less moaning, less tantrums, less tears. Most importantly, if you listen to your child, she is more likely to listen to you.
How to Listen
- Give your full attention. Stop what you are doing, turn to your child, make eye contact and listen to what they are saying.
- Acknowledge what your child is saying with a non-committal, simple “Mmm”, “I see,” “Oh,” “right”.
- Often behind what your child is saying (or even behind how they are acting, if not yet talking) is a feeling. Identify the feeling and give it a name.
“That sounds frustrating”
“You’re disappointed that we have to leave now”
It’s crucial to accept feelings and resist the temptation to make things better by denying them (“hey, there’s no reason to be so upset”).
- Diffuse difficult situations by giving your child his wishes in fantasy. Wave a wand with words!
“You’d really like it if you could stay up later”
“If only I could make that orange juice into your favourite apple juice”
How to Communicate
To get your child to listen, think carefully about exactly how you communicate. Subtle differences in words, tone and body language may affect whether your child tunes in or out!
Tone of voice
How you say something is as important, if not more important, as what you say
- Use an up-beat, encouraging, positive tone as much as possible.
- When indicating limits, sound definite and confident. Any hint of uncertainty and you’re more likely to be ignored, debated (But “please, can’t I just…”), or guilt-tripped (“It’s soo unfair”).
- To indicate disapproval, use a firmer, lower, authoritative tone, but don’t shout.
- Avoid nagging. Ask once nicely, once firmly and then take action. If you typically repeat yourself several times before your take action, your child will learn to ignore your initial requests.
- Communicate from close by. Don’t shout through from the next room.
- Always get down to your child’s height and make eye contact. An adult towering above a child can be intimidating.
- Use clear commands and keep requests brief and to the point. Limit yourself to a few important words (e.g. “8 O’clock. Bedtime”).
- Avoid accusing (“you never listen!”), criticising (“you’re so lazy”), or threatening (“if you don’t hurry up, then I’ll leave without you”).
- Avoid phrasing which implies that cooperation is an option!
- “Shall we…?” “Could you…” gives your child a get out clause (i.e. “No!”)
- Instead, make requests clear, short and specific: “Bedtime now”
Think you need some personalized suggestions on how to better communicate with your children? Contact Heather to find out how she can help. 650.898.8367