Getting your child to listen can feel like an uphill battle. Most of the time, kids don’t seem to want to pay attention to what you’re saying because they’re distracted or are simply just not interested. This can be quite frustrating, and it’s easy to assume that your kids are doing this on purpose just to upset you or show defiance. Out of frustration and desperation, you end up yelling at your child just to get them to pay attention.
While yelling may get your child’s attention for a short time, this can be exhausting in the long run and isn’t the most effective approach to discipline. In fact, yelling can even result in negative long-term effects for your child.
The real question we’re here to discuss is “Is it even possible to get your child to listen without having to yell at them? If so, how?”
Age Is a Big Factor
It’s important to note that age plays a significant role in your child’s ability to listen. For instance, younger kids or toddlers often seem like they’re simply ignoring you or outright refusing to do what you ask of them. They may even end up doing the exact opposite, which further reinforces the stereotypical belief about the “terrible twos.”
When this happens, you may be inclined to think that your two-year-old is disrespecting you, or you’re doing something wrong. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. Instead of thinking that your child is out to get you or make your life miserable, consider that they’re just beginning to figure out what’s going on and their young minds are only starting to develop and understand how the world works.
When dealing with toddlers and younger kids, you need to remember three important things:
- Be consistent: Since toddlers are just learning, you need to be consistent with your rules so they don’t get confused. When you say you’re going to do one thing, make sure that you follow through exactly the way you stated it.
- It takes repetition: Dealing with toddlers is like forming muscle memory — you need to repeat words and actions so they’ll have an easier time remembering and learning how certain things work.
- Have a lot of patience: Of course, it takes a lot of patience to deal with a toddler. They have a lot of growing up to do, and exercising patience on your end will enable them to develop at a pace that results in them better understanding the world around them.
Speaking of growing up, it may be the case that your child’s ability to listen isn’t growing at the same rate as your instructions and expectations. Instead of yelling to get your child to listen and understand, take note of the simple but powerful parenting tips and discipline advice you can apply:
Tip #1: Make Sure You Have Their Attention
When speaking to your child, make sure you aren’t in another room just barking orders or giving instructions while talking to the back of their head. If you want your child to really listen, make sure you have their attention by making eye contact with them. This doesn’t mean glaring at your child or giving them a threatening look, but having eye contact with them will signal in not so many words that their undivided attention is needed.
If your child is busy doing something, you may want to wait a few minutes until they finish so they won’t be distracted. If what you have to say can’t wait, make sure you have their attention and calmly make your statement.
Tip #2: Make a Verbal Contract
When speaking to your child, ask them to repeat what you’ve just said to confirm that they fully understood what you told them. Of course, don’t do this when you’ve given them multiple instructions. Verbal contracts work best when you want to highlight an important statement and foster mutual understanding between you and your child. If their buy-in is really important, then consider including consequences that are part of the verbal agreement.
Keep in mind that verbal contracts may be more effective when speaking to older children as younger ones may not understand or even remember what they agreed to. Verbal agreements are a good way to keep everyone informed, but be sure to enforce these contracts if you want your kids to continue listening.
Tip #3: Create a List
Verbal contracts are good but written lists are even better as these let your child know which rules they’re expected to follow. Having a list of tasks can also help them keep track of what they’re supposed to do and what they’ve already accomplished. With a list that they can see, kids can’t make the excuse that they’ve forgotten what they’re supposed to do.
Tip #4: Provide Choices
Children like to feel as if they’re in control and, more often than not, they tend not to listen simply because they feel like they don’t have a choice in the matter. To get your child to listen without yelling, provide them with choices. For instance, if you want to get them to clean their room, ask if they’d like to do it before or after dinner. That way, they won’t feel like they’re being controlled and will be more inclined to pay attention since they have a sense of independence.
Some kids might offer a third option, thinking that they’re being creative. For this, you can simply say, “I’m sorry but that’s not one of the options.”
Tip #5: Ask Questions
You may not realize it, but commanding and instructing your child all the time is just another way of spoon-feeding them. To give them the ability to learn and solve problems, ask questions instead. By getting them to answer questions, it forces them to think of the situation and learn as they go along. The ultimate goal of parenting is to teach children to think and learn for themselves, and this can be done if we ask them questions. Additionally, this will make kids more inclined to listen since they’re actively learning the behavior instead of passively following instructions.
Tip #6: Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement is one of the most powerful yet underutilized techniques in getting your child to listen and modify their behavior. Sometimes, parents may have the tendency to simply point out what their child has done wrong, but fail to acknowledge what they’ve done right. By making a big deal of what your child has done right, not only will they listen to you more, but they will repeat the action that you’ve praised as it gives them a sense of accomplishment and pride.
Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, don’t expect your child to behave differently overnight. Change will take time and you need to give your child that breathing room to slowly modify their behavior. Similarly, yelling whenever they don’t listen will not give you the long-term results you want.
Yelling is a short-term fix, and while your child may listen to you in the moment, they ultimately won’t learn the behavior you want them to. What you must understand is that fatherhood is not a sprint but a marathon, so patiently and consistently practice these techniques. Stick with them and continue moving forward.
What are your thoughts on the topic?
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