Missing Hairpin

a blog full of real-life hacks for daily overwhelm.

How To Get Your Kids To Listen (Without Yelling)

by | Parenting

Last year, my daughter’s teacher told me that my daughter “is very strong-willed and is still learning to listen well.” Some people would maybe see it as a positive. But as a teacher, I know what this really meant. She was just stubborn and didn’t listen.
She would have what I would call selective hearing, a very common hearing problem :). If you asked her to do anything  she didn’t want to do like tidy up for example, she would not respond. Not even as much as a twitch.

I bet her real name was not what I named her, as she would not respond to that either.

But she should know what I expect, right? She is my child after all. And since my expectations have not changed then why was she behaving this way? The answer is simple.  A baby would respond to “No” because their comprehension is limited and long instructions would be incomprehensible.

However, as kids grow up and become more independent and want to make their own choices. Which is great, but not ideal if their choice is to empty their toy box as you are trying to get them ready to leave the house. Or if they want to pick up flowers or play with sticks when you are rushing to get to the train station.

I decided things must change. And the best way to change anything is to change something. And the only thing I could change right there and then was me. My actions. I looked at the way I communicated with my daughter and the responses it triggered. I discovered a few interesting facts. I realised, that the positive discipline I applied at school within my class, were not fully implemented in my home. What a shock! I realised that I did not treat her with the same amount of patience as I would my pupil.  But I didn’t do it intentionally. So I decided to make a change.

Things had to change, and fast.

How I got my daughter to listen (without yelling)

I decided to get my daughter to listen and follow instructions using the positive discipline strategies I used in the classroom.

If you are currently struggling to get your kids to listen to you, these steps will help you too!

1. Listen

And HEAR what they are saying. Stop what you are doing and give your child your full attention. Let them express themselves and acknowledge what they are saying. A simple “I see” will do. But don’t just listen to the words they are saying. There are feelings hiding behind them. Listen to the feelings and name them.

“I understand you feel disappointed/angry/sad/tired.’

2. Get to their level

I don’t mean starting to have a tantrum too but the position of your body.

Whenever I addressed my daughter, I kneeled or squated down to be at the same eye level. There are two reasons for this.

Number one is crucial. Trying to communicate with someone looking down at them creates barriers. Remember the last time someone has spoken to you when standing above you? If you can’t remember, imagine you’re laying down and your boss comes over to you to discuss something your did wrong. How did it make you feel? Uncomfortable? Threatened? Or maybe you got up as a result?

This is exactly how kids feel when they are spoken to by a parent towering above them.

Effective communication is almost impossible until both sides feel connected and comfortable with each other.

Number two. It facilitates eye contact. And this brings me to the next step.

3. Establish Eye Contact

Make sure you gain your kids attention before you start talking. Eye contact is one way to ensure that nothing else distracts them from hearing what you say.

I used to ask my daughter to do something and then get upset because she didn’t listen. But the truth is, she was occupied by something else and had no clue I was even talking to her.

Being close to our kids and maintaining eye contact creates a connection. This is really important for effective communication and builds trust.

4. Use calm voice and positive language.

This one is huge. Have you ever tried to talk to someone who was shouting at you? Were you interested in what they had to say? We tend to respond  to raised voices two ways. One we get angry ourselves or two, we switch off and try to ignore the shouting. Either way, the message shouted is not getting through. Children are the same! But they may not even understand why we are shouting and therefore feel threatened. Again, not something that facilitates communication. 

Take a deep breath before you open your mouth, use calm voice and show understanding to the child. Make them feel accepted and acknowledge their emotions “I understand you are tired… I know you are impatient… I see you feel sad/angry/bored…. “

Then explain why they should to do the thing you ask them to do. Be it tidying up the toys, not jumping on the bed, eating their dinner or anything else it is you want them to do. Give them a clear reason and explain what is in it for them. And there always is something in it for them.

“Tidy up your toys so that we can walk safely. Remember when you tripped and fell? We don’t want to fall and hurt ourselves.”

“Eat your dinner, please, so you have energy to (an activity that your child loves doing).”

5. Establish routines.

The more the better. It’s simple. If a desirable behaviour becomes a habit you no longer have to nag them to do it. Routines are established through repetition so don’t expect an overnight miracle. Help your child by introducing a task board where they can follow a chart and tick completed tasks. It is crucial to praise and reward each completed task or a series of tasks (depending on your child’s age) with something meaningful for them. This will encourage their independence and give them a sense of achievement.

6. Praise, praise, praise.

There is never enough praise you can give a child. Catch them making good choices as often as you can. Even when you are not asking them to do things. Everyone wants to be appreciated and admired. By praising them you are giving them attention and recognition they need and crave.  This helps them build their confidence and self-worth which empowers them to take on more complex tasks head on.

Recap: How to help your kids to listen without yelling?

1. Listen.

2. Get to their level.

3. Establish eye contact.

4. Use calm voice and positive language.

5. Establish routines.

6. Praise.

So to build a more meaningful relationship with your kids and to live a more peaceful and harmonous life, forget about raising your voice or yelling once and for all and follow these steps.

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Maria Guerra

Maria Guerra

I’m a working mum, a chocolate lover and a stubborn wife who is finding ways to live  a more fulfilling life.

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