How to Get Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Yelling or Reminding

Getting children to listen can be incredibly difficult, and there has to be a better way than by screaming yourself hoarse, right? Children can be frustrating, especially if they are doing something they are not supposed to, acting out, or simply just not listening. There are many ways in which parents and guardians can approach getting a kid’s attention that are effective as well as healthy on a number of levels, not to mention a lot more stress-free.

For the most part, children may not actively be ignoring you, so taking a different approach to communicating with them can prove to be more effective than you think.

A Simple Reminder
If your child forgets to do something, it’s normal. They are still young and still learning. They may not be actively defying you or their chores – they may have simply forgotten. Instead of sitting them down for a lecture after a forgotten or overlooked chore or command, you can instead remind them simply. Kids actively forget, which is not unusual considering their brains are working at maximum capacity as they learn and take in the world around them with overly active imaginations. The moment you realize your child has forgotten something, see if a simple reminder will get them going – chances are, they simply just forgot what you asked them to do for you earlier.

Empower Their Ability to Think for Themselves
Kids may not always do or act as they are told, but in general kids tend to be fidgety and do things without thinking of them beforehand or without thinking them through. Instead of purely condemning this natural behavior with commands like “Sit still,” or “Mind your manners,” offer them information that is more useful to them. Reminding them that “chairs are meant for sitting,” or that certain behaviors may be seen as rude to others in a calm and informative manner, can allow them to come to the conclusion on their own that they need to change their behavior to suit the situation. Simply telling a child to do something may not always work, and in such instances telling them why they should do something instead of just to do it, can help them listen and come to a state of truer understanding more effectively.

Give Them a Choice
Instead of offering up an ultimatum for not listening, offer kids a choice in a persuasive and negotiable manner. If they won’t sit in their stroller or do as they are asked, let them know what the consequences are, but not in an “if, then” format. “If, then” statements can be helpful but they can also be threatening, and some kids may react adversely to that by acting out even more or throwing a tantrum. According to How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, “threats and punishment don’t work,” Faber explains, “Rather than feeling sorry for not cooperating, a child tends to become even more stubborn. But when you make him part of the decision, he’s far more likely to do what’s acceptable to you.”

Explain Yourself and Your Expectations
Sometimes, kids may not realize why you ask them to do things, or how their compliance can help you get things done as well. Many parents struggle with these kinds of issues when it comes to getting ready for work and school in the morning. Trying to get everyone ready and out the door in time can leave you scrambling, so a non-cooperative child can certainly throw a wrench into the mix. Instead of yelling or just getting frustrated, explain why their behavior is unhelpful to you as well as them, “I need to get to work on time, but if you don’t get dressed you’ll be late for school, too.” The same goes for other kinds of behavior as well. Explaining what your expectations are beforehand can help significantly, whether you’re getting ready for the day or explaining how you want them to clean up after themselves or get their chores done.

Acknowledge their Feelings
Sometimes kids are inconsolable because they haven’t gotten their turn, they want to play with something, or they otherwise think something is unfair. Telling a child to calm down or ignore what is upsetting them can only make them even more distraught. But not only that, everyone wants to be heard and understood. Stating that you understand how your child feels can tell them that you care about them while also telling them to calm down and relax. “Everyone wants to know they’ve been heard and understood,” says Adele Faber. Telling a child to stop crying sends the message that their feelings don’t matter. Kids often cry or act out because they can’t communicate why they’re upset or don’t know how to deal with the emotion that they are feeling.  However,  if you empathize with them and their situation, you can get through to them while also providing them with better tools to handle their emotions and feelings as well.

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How To Effectively Discipline Children

One of the most difficult things that parents will need to navigate to their children is dispensing discipline. Discipline is not just a means of punishment or a system that perpetuates action and consequence. It is important that children learn to understand how to behave and why certain behaviors are deemed unacceptable or unsafe. Disciplining your child is not about punishing them but it is about teaching them how to act in society in a way that is safe as well as respectful of others.

So, how does a parent go about effectively disciplining their child?

There are several things that you should remember, but one of the most important things you should keep in mind is to be clear about the rules and be consistent with them.

First off, it is important that children understand what sort of behavior is unacceptable. In some cases, children will learn this by example whether it is through their own behavior or by watching other children, and in some cases other people in general. It is vital that you have a discussion with your child as to why something is unacceptable, whether it is throwing a tantrum, stealing, being rude, or anything else along those lines. If they understand why something is bad or unacceptable, they are more likely to listen. It is important that children have some sense of personal understanding beyond the idea that something is “bad” or undesirable. Not only is it better for them in the long run, but it can help to better ensure that the idea sticks. It also helps you create a strong sense of communication and respect with your child.

Disciplining Your Child

Once your child understands what the rules are, or what behaviors are acceptable and unacceptable, it helps that you remain as consistent as possible. Sometimes, contradictions will arise as new situations and exceptions present themselves, but overall it is important that you remain as consistent as you can in order for children to retain a sense of understanding. If you’re inconsistent, then your children will not have a reasonable idea of what to expect from you or how they should ideally behave.

As a parent, it is also important that you lead by example. Children are visual learners and they often learn how to behave by mimicking the way that their parents do. If you often contradict the rules that you set for your children, not only will they not understand what the rules are but they will disregard anything you try to tell them about their behavior because of it. The way that you act around your children and others will have more of a lasting effect on them over what you say, so if you support your advice and your rules with your own behavior, children are more likely to take note and to listen.

Raising disciplined children is not going to be easy. There will be good days and bad days, and some kids will be more difficult than others. It is important that you remember the advice above, but it is also essential that you employ tactics that work best for you and your children as individuals. Setting boundaries, being clear, and remaining consistent is vital, but the ways in which you discipline your child should be appropriate to them as a person involving the situation at hand.

~ KD Novelties is a publisher of personalized children’s books and are advocates for promoting literacy in children. They share parenting resources and reading tips here on their blog.