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The Shocking Truth About Getting Kids To Listen

getting kids to listen

Does this sound familiar?

You’ve asked your child to pick their shoes up and put them away and they’ve agreed.

Well, sort of.

They’ve said, “Yes, I’ll do it in a minute” and then gone back to watching their TV show.

Half an hour later you come back in the room and the shoes are still not put away, so you ask again.

This time you tell them that “If the shoes are not put away before the end of this show, the television will go off!”

Your child says, “Yes, mum.” In that dreary, brow-beaten voice they impersonate so well.

Of course, when you come back a few minutes later the TV show has finished and … the shoes are still on the floor. Where they’ve been since the kids arrived home from school.


Does this happen to you?

Do you have trouble getting kids to listen?

Because here’s the thing that no one will tell you.

You may be communicating with them all wrong.

You see, I realise I’ve been setting a poor example, and you may have been doing it too.

Here’s why.

I use all the strategies I tell you with my kids.

But sometimes they don’t work.

Sometimes my kids don’t listen to me.

And I think I know why.


How You Listen Is Important

It’s because I don’t always listen to them. Oh, I think I’m listening, and on many levels I am listening.

But I’m making a big mistake with HOW I’m listening.

Because I’m not demonstrating that I’m listening.

My body language is telling a different story all together.

I say things like, “OK, let’s do your hair” and my daughter goes to grab her brush and an elastic.

Then I think, “I’ll just wipe down this bench while she’s doing that, and I’ll do her hair once she sits down”.

Or I say, “Are you kids good to go? I’m about to leave the house!”

But the kids can see I still have my slippers on, and a toothbrush in my hand.

You see, I’m busy and I’m trying to fit in a lot of things. So I multi-task.

Maybe not multi-task, but juggle. I do a bit of this, and a bit of that, while I’m on the way to do something else.

So I say I’m going to do my daughter’s hair, and I expect her to jump up and get ready for that task.

But I don’t go directly to that task myself.

Or I say I’m about to leave the house, but I’m clearly not quite ready to do that. I still need to brush my teeth and put some shoes on.

What Happens With Your Kids

So what does that say to my kids?

I mean, an adult might work it out. They might realise I mean I’m going to leave in 5 minutes.

But even an adult would get a bit annoyed if I said I was about to do a joint task (like putting up their hair) and I stopped to do something else first.

It’s not right.

And it’s hardly any wonder my kids get confused.

I mean, I’m clearly saying one thing and doing another.

I’m giving them mixed messages. And it’s rubbing off.

Because you know what? They’re now doing it to me.

My 10-year-old now asks me to do her hair, and when I say, “yes” she goes off to do something else first.

I can’t get annoyed.

Because she’s doing exactly what I’ve been doing to her for years.

So what’s the answer?

Why Consistency Matters

The answer is obvious. It’s to think about what I’m saying and doing.

It’s to have a little congruency. And a bit more honesty.

To say what I mean.

If I’m about to brush my teeth and put some shoes on before leaving, I need to say that to my kids.

I need to take a few minutes to explain exactly what I mean.

If I’ve said I’m going to help my daughter with something, then I need to help her. Or say, “Just let me wipe this bench and I’ll be with you”.

I need to stop and slow down. Not rush through life getting things done.

Madly ticking things off my mental “to-do” list.

Because as satisfying as it is to get things done, I have to remember something.

I have to remember that my actions are unintentionally training my kids. That what I do has as much – or more – influence as what I say.

Break The Cycle

I have to ask a big question. And that is: what do I want for my kids when they’re older?

Do I want them to be just like me?

And then I need to behave in a way that keeps that in mind. I need to become the person that I want them to be.

So they’ll become the person I model for them.

Not someone false and plastic who never loses their temper.

But someone who’s honest and compassionate and understanding.

Someone who’s human. Who makes mistakes but does her best to fix them.

Someone who fails but picks herself up to strive forward.

Someone who listens to her kids and demonstrates she’s listening, too.

What about you?

Do you demonstrate that you’re listening?

Because it’s never too late to change.

You can start today. You can give your kids your full attention when they need it.

You can listen when they need to talk to you.

And who knows? Maybe they’ll start demonstrating that they’re listening to you too.

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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.