Easy Steps to Listening Kids

by Michelle Donaghey

Elizabeth Pantley, author of "Kid Cooperation and Perfect Parenting" says instead of yelling there are some easy steps parents can take to get kids to do what they ask.

1. "Think before you speak." Sometimes as adults we ask our children to do things before we think of what we are doing or what the consequences are. Instead of just yelling your kids it's for everyone to get ready to go out to eat and then taking another 15 minutes to find your car keys, find the keys first. Before you ask them to clean their rooms and let them get away with not doing so for days, decide exactly how long you will allow them to stay dirty. These kinds of things help "create kids who have selective hearing" says Pantley.
Children don't listen unless they know it will impact them in some way. Why should they? We all have to have a reason to listen!" adds child psychologist, Susan Quinn.

2. "Be very specific." Do not give incomplete requests that are hinting at the things you would like your child to do, hoping their good hearts will prevail. "It would be nice if you.." or "Don't you think you should??.." is not clear and specific. 
"Children don't listen unless they know it will impact them in some way. Why should they? We all have to have a reason to listen!" adds Susan Quinn, MA, Marriage and Family Therapist.

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3. "CONTROL YOUR EMOTIONS. Convey authority."  "Pantley notes that when you, as a parent, "lose your temper and raise your voice" logically you think that "your kids will pay closer attention to you." But the opposite is actually true as kids "key in on your anger." Instead of yelling "keep your voice even and calm and your words clear and specific."
4. "Get up close and personal." Everyone is guilty of it- yelling from across the room or house. "While it is a whole lot easier to yell from two rooms away, its much less effective. Children respond much, much better to a parent who is facing them eye-to eye," says Pantley. "Get down to their level and explain why they need to listen," adds Elise.
Being physically close, eye-to-eye not only helps you make a point better but also helps you observe whether your child is looking at you and listening or looking at the ceiling, laughing, talking under his or her breath at siblings or friends or sighing at your requests.
Pantley urges parents to post a reminder of the steps she suggests at home (See box.) to practice their skills in  getting their children to listen. "You need to remind yourself of what you are trying to do and to keep your goals fresh in your mind…It's a tough job, but with a few new skills and enough practice you will be successful."

Be unified, set limits

"Parents need to be unified in what they expect and what they convey to their children. It's always important to have a common, unified front," says Paul Gettinger, a family physician who is also the father of five young children.
"If parents set AND ENFORCE limits, children will be interested in listening because we as people always listen to what is going to affect our lives. The problem I sometimes find and what I try to educated parents with is that limits are loving and they must be enforced because they contain and teach the child what to expect. Limits represent the real world and so they (children) have to learn them to exist in society," notes Quinn.
Susan Smith, a musician and mother of six children ages 2 through 12 says one of the biggest problems with parents keeping their children in line is "lack of direction. With our kids, we have learned that you have to decide as an adult what you want and expect and to tell them the rules."

Remember, you are not their friend, you are their parent!

You can't be your child's best friend- "The number one problem with many parents is that they want to be their child's buddy. There is so much inconsistency in these kinds of families. Often these are the parents who give them too much stuff, such as toys, as well to make them happy," says Smith.
"Children need the boundaries. Being a "best friend" to a child is great but at some point I think that the respect issue or lack of respect comes into play. When you are a parent and set boundaries and consequences as well as discipline, you can't be the best friend also. A best friend is a peer that understands and feels a kinship to you. Being a "best friend" is not effective in most situations because the child becomes confused as to what role the parent is playing in their lives and will become less likely to follow the rules or accept the consequences to their actions," says Snead.

All parents are capable

"Parents are dedicated in helping children grow up strong. Most of all, parents have a built-in motivation to do what's best for their child. By building on these kinds of strengths, parents can develop better who is in charge of their lives and succeed," says the US Department of Health and Human Services, SAMSA, National Mental Health Information Center.

Some useful reminders
– Think first.

 – Be specific.

 – Control Emotions.

 – Convey authority.

 – Eye-to-eye.


Michelle Donaghey is a freelance writer and mother of two boys, Chris and Patrick, who are her inspiration. She lives in Bremen, Indiana just south of South Bend, home of Notre Dame. When she isn't writing, Michelle can be found in her perennial flower garden or working on small home improvement projects. Michelle has written for parenting publications including Metro Kids, Atlanta Parent,Dallas Child, Great Lakes Family, Family Times and Space Coast Parent and websites including iparenting.com.

No part of this article may be copied or reproduced in any form without the express permission of More4Kids Inc © 2006    

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