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4 Ways to Get Your Child to Listen to You

Recently I asked a group of moms, “How do you get your child to listen to you?”

Some replied, “Give consequences till he listens” and others, “Be willing to leave if she doesn’t listen.” Those things do work, but most of the time a parent has to add a reaction to the request in order for it to work.

However what most parents simply want to know is, “Do I really have to resort to yelling  ‘please stop’, before my child will listen?

There are many ways to help parents increase listening. However, unless a parent is clear about the intent behind their wish to be heard, no tip will work for very long.

Knowing What Your Goal Is

In order to be effective when you ask your child to listen to you, ask yourself what your goal is. Is your goal to be heard, or is it to be listened to? There is a difference.

When you want to be “heard” your main focus is on producing words to express your feelings so “you feel heard.” 

When you want to be heard you’re not really aware, and sometimes don’t care, how the other person is impacted by what you’re saying. In other words, when you want to be “heard” you are focused on you.

When your goal is to get someone to do as you ask, or to “listen” to you, you unconsciously look for clues to tell you if your message is getting through. In other words your focus is on the other person.

Here are four tips to increase listening. (This works well when used with adults, too.)

1. Give Your Child Time to Switch Focus

When a person is deeply focused and concentrating on what they’re doing, whether it’s playing, crying, whining, fixing the car, reading or making dinner, they aren’t able to immediately listen to you.

DO observe what’s the other person is doing before speaking. Adults and children need a moment or two to switch from one side of the brain to the other so they can give you their undivided attention. Waiting a moment before speaking also teaches your child how you’d like them to interrupt you, too.

What if it’s an emergency? When your habit is to wait before speaking or respectfully ask, “Is now a good time?” then if you ever really need their full attention during an emergency the alarming and jarring sound of your voice causes them to listen immediately since it’s so different than the norm.

2. Don’t Talk Over a Crying Child

Talking over a crying child to insist that they stop crying is not only fruitless; it also sends the silent message, “What I’m saying is more important than your feelings.”

DO try waiting silently until the crying slows just a bit before you speak.

3. Talk Slowly, with Pauses

When a parent’s words/requests are delivered with rapid intensity most children will unconsciously retreat behind the “I’m not listening barrier” to protect themselves from the onslaught.

DO try to be mindful not to emotionally overload the other person/child. Make sure you give them a moment or two to digest what you’ve just said before you move on to the next point.

4. Watch and Adjust Body Language

Paying attention to your child’s body language is a good way to see if what your saying is getting through to them. If you’re not getting through, don’t blame them or make them self-conscious by calling their attention to what their body is doing. Instead, adjust what you are doing.

DO make eye contact, do reach out and touch them lightly on the shoulder to create a connection, do get down to their eye level, not in their face, and do modulate your voice so your words are warm and accepting versus cold and accusing.

Being mindful of how your words impact someone places you in partnership with them and increases the possibility of listening, whether you’re speaking to an adult or a child.

Do you find it difficult to get your child listen to you?

15 Responses to “4 Ways to Get Your Child to Listen to You”

  1. @GallowayLeslie

    These are good suggestions. Thank you. I especially like the one about not trying to talk over a crying child. I learned that after a while. I find that the softer I speak, the better they listen. Once I lost my voice… and they thought they were in so much trouble all day because I had to whisper!!

    • Life360

      Thanks! I'm happy to hear you found Sharon's suggestions helpful. We would love to hear how they work for you! Come back and let us know!

  2. Lee

    I'm realizing that my tone of voice and level of loudness determines how my children listen. Yelling doesn't accomplish much. When I slow down and drop to a lower level and keep my words as brief and to-the-point as possible, they are more likely to listen. Now, we need tips on getting our husbands to listen.

  3. Emily

    Hi Sharon,
    This is a great topic. I am curios however, how many children do you have?
    With a house full of littles one of the things we do is during meal time you must raise your hand to speak. This helps them to 1.) eat the meal 😀 and 2.) practice the habit of not speaking when someone else is…listening.

  4. alicia zirjacks

    This is a wonderful article. I find it very difficult to try and get my children to listen. I do not often give them time to switch focus but I am willing to try it and see if it helps.

  5. Holly S.

    Good tips and it's nice to have a reminder. Often we as parents are so frustrated we don't stop to think.

  6. LInda Kwolek

    Yes, good tips. My peeve is parents trying to get their kids attention, but the Televsion is blaring in the background. I wish I could go back to having just one television in our house, but my spouse vetoed that. I, on the other hand, won on the decesion of no television during meal times.

  7. Robyn

    My 2 yr old listens pretty well to my husband, but not well at all to me! I have found that talking in a lower voice and telling him sternly instead of begging work a lot better!

  8. Vanessa S.

    It is interesting how sometimes children do not seem to be listening, but they really are taking it all in. I think it is also important for parents to demonstrate good listening when children are talking. Children need to be respected too. Look them in the eye and give them your full attention when they're talking. They will pick up on it and may imitate your good listening skills.

  9. hislovenduresforever

    Thank you for the reminder to give kids time to switch their focus. I am so impatient when my daughter doesn't seem to be listening to me, or listens and can repeat back to me what I asked her to do, but doesn't do it immediately.

  10. RochelleL

    this is a big problem with my 3yo. I have to remember to slow down and make sure he has time to hear me. Thanks for a great post!

  11. Kimberly

    This is good advice for toddlers also, not just older kids. I tend to try and talk over my three year old in the middle on a temper tantrum.

  12. Phil

    Good suggestions. My parents whipped me, but it wasn't out of anger and it definitely made me listen… the rule was that whenever I heard my name called I would stop whatever I was doing and say 'sir?' Sounds harsh, but it is what made me a respectful person. They would also suggest I go to the doctor to get my hearing checked, I knew it was a joke but I also got the point from that. I have seen other parents constantly yell ALL the time and it gets to the point where the child just tunes them out, even when it is an emergency.


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