Getting Your Kids to Listen to You

I’ve been a little frustrated with my son lately. It seems like I have to ask him ten times to do anything, and even then he still won’t do it. He’s unbelievably stubborn; and too smart for his own good. That whole reverse psychology thing doesn’t work with him anymore. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve lost my cool with him before when he won’t do what he’s told, much less acknowledge that he’s even been asked to do anything. He’s a pro at ignoring. After our nightly shower battle, I finally decided to do a little research on the subject, and I think I might be on to something here!

Kids need gentle reminders of what they are supposed to do, but if your instructions are too long they start to tune you out. Instead of saying, “It time to go upstairs and brush your teeth.” Try simplifying by cutting it down to one word. “Teeth” works equally as well and reminds them what they are supposed to be doing. With a little reinforcement, they will start doing this on their own, even without your little reminders.

Embrace teaching moments. Instead of simply issuing demands, take the opportunity to do a little teaching at the same time. The next time your child refuses to brush their teeth, remind them that you can get cavities if you don’t take care of your teeth properly. Instead of, “Go put the milk away,” you might try, “If you leave milk out it can spoil and make you sick.” That way you are giving them the information and trusting them to make the right decision with it, of course, they may need a little extra prodding every now and then.

Give your kids choices. Nobody likes to be told what to do, but giving your child choices allows them to feel in control. Both of the choices are in the realm of what you want your child to do, but you allow them to be involved in the decision as well. “It’s time to eat dinner, would you rather have your blue plate or your red plate?” “You need to wear long sleeves today because it is cold outside. Do you want to wear your pirate shirt or your truck shirt?” The options are up to them, but it doesn’t really matter which one they choose because you’ve chosen two options that you are already ok with.

Be clear in your expectations. Your child can’t read your mind. If you are going to the store to pick out a birthday present for their friend and nothing else, you need to tell them that beforehand, so you don’t end up with an unexpected temper tantrum when they find something that they want at the store.

Last, but not least, don’t forget to validate your child’s feelings. “I can see that you are really sad that we couldn’t get another toy at the store today. I know you really wanted one. Maybe if you save your money then we can get it next time.” That way you’ve acknowledged that your child is disappointed, but you’ve let them know where you stand as well.