A Parenting Strategy So Simple You’ll Wonder Why You Never Thought Of It Yourself

getting kids to listen

Is this familiar?

Me: “Hello? Did you hear what I said?”

H: “Yes. I heard you.”

Me: “What did I say?”

H: “Ummm. I’m not sure.” Guilty look “I wasn’t listening.”

Gahh! I go internally berserk. Do I really have to say everything twice? Or even three times?

What am I? Some sort of recorded message, saying things over and over and over.

I don’t know about you, but this can drive me mad.

If the TV is on I don’t expect them to hear me. I know I need to mute the television, or stand in front of it, or otherwise gain their attention before speaking.

But when they’re playing with toys or drawing, and the room is quiet I expect things to be different.

Am I alone, or do you also find it difficult to get your kids to listen?

It’s enough to make me want to yell. And rant.

And the really frustrating thing is that one of my two girls often hears me. But not my youngest. Not my little dreamer.

She’s in her own little world. Perfectly content and cocooned.

But I’ve found a solution. Something so simple I’m kicking myself for not thinking of it sooner.

In fact, it not only solves the problem, it allows me to vent too.

And it all started when my daughter hated her teacher.


Get Your Kids To Listen

A little while ago my older daughter had a teacher who yelled. A lot.

She didn’t like it at all and used to complain to me. At one stage she even started saying she didn’t want to go to school.

Of course, I worked with the teacher and the school so we could turn the situation around.

But I remember one day when she complained about her teacher yelling. I said it must be very frustrating for her teacher.

I asked, “If you were in charge of a bunch of kids and they weren’t listening to you. What would you do?”

My daughter looked at me like I was an idiot.

Then she said, “I would just put my hand in the air until everyone was quiet.”

This might not happen at your school but at ours, the teachers use this strategy all the time. Whenever I go to an assembly and the room is full of chattering kids and parents, a teacher quietly puts up her hand.

One by one, as each child and parent sees the teacher, they close their mouth and put their hand in the air.

Until the room is quiet and attentive and waiting for a teacher to speak.

My daughter knew this. So she couldn’t work out why her teacher felt the need to yell.

More importantly, my daughter had the solution to the problem. The problem that her teacher hadn’t solved.

We just had to ask her.

The Solution Is Simple

And that got me thinking about my younger daughter, who never listens because she’s always another world away.

The next time she was in her own little world and not listening to me, I didn’t yell or get frustrated.

Instead, I went over and knelt down next to her and waited until she looked at me. Then I told her my problem.

I explained that I got frustrated when I had to tell her things more than once. And then I asked her, “How can I get your attention so you’ll listen to me?”

And she told me. She said, “Just say, ‘Excuse me, I need to talk to you.’ "

Head-smackingly simple. So simple a six-year-old thought of it.We ask adults how to solve problems we have with them, but we don’t think to ask our kids. Why is that?

We get so used to telling our kids what to do that we forget to ask their opinion.

We might ask them about simple things like which cup they want, or which vegetables they prefer.

But we don’t think to ask them about problems, even if they involve them.

Maybe we don’t want to blame them, but we don’t have to.

All we have to do is stay calm and solution focused, and remember to make it about ourselves.

To say something like, “I have a problem that you might be able to help me with. I get frustrated when I have to repeat myself. How can I get you to listen to me?”

And then listen to what they say.

Ask The Experts

Our kids may not come up with the best idea in the world, but then again they might.

They’re pretty smart and more worldly than we give them credit for.And they’re often better problem solvers than we are. Because that’s what they spend their day doing – solving problems.

They work out how to stand up, then how to walk and talk. They work out how to build stuff out of blocks and Lego.

They make up games and come up with creative solutions. They build castles out of sofa cushions and sheets.

So they’re perfectly positioned to give us creative problem-solving ideas.

Give it a try the next time you have a problem. They might just surprise you!

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Cate is on a mission to help parents stop yelling and create families that listen to each other. She does this while imperfectly parenting two boisterous girls of her own, and learning from her mistakes. She has contributed to Tiny Buddha, Think Simple Now, A Fine Parent and many other awesome sites.