Don't Make Me Tell You Again: Getting Kids to Listen
How to get your kids to listen to you the first time
Posted Oct 09, 2015
If she has to tell them once she has to tell them a thousand times – pick up your toys, stop playing your video games, go brush your teeth, put on your shoes. Cate starts out calm, but by the 3rd time, she yelling. And fed up.
This is the lament of millions of parents who get frustrated because their kids don’t listen the first time. The problem here is that kids have learned that you don’t need to really take Cate seriously until she reaches that ultra decibel level. This buys them a few more minutes of TV or game time. Essentially the kids and Cate have both trained each other and fallen into a negative pattern. The way out is breaking the pattern.
How to Get Your Kids to Listen
The key here is training the kids to take you seriously the first time. Here are the steps:
Make your request calmly directly to them. This means not yelling across the house where it’s easy for the kids to tune it out. Walk up to them, look them in the eye, tell them what you want them to do.
If you’re asking the kids to make a transition, set a timer to let them know when they need to act. You wouldn’t like it if your boss suddenly interrupted you when you’re engrossed in something and asked you to immediately do something else. Kids are even more sensitive to that switch. So you go to them, tell them they need to shut off the computer in 5 minutes and go take a bath, and literally set a timer (big kitchen ones are great). When the timer goes off, they need to stop.
If they need to do something right away, stand over / next to them until they do it. If Cate wants her 4 year-old to put on her shoes now, she needs to say it once and stand there until her daughter does it. Don’t repeat the request, just stay there.
Have consequences if they don’t respond. The timer goes off and your kid ignores it. Have consequences: less game time, go to bed a few minutes earlier. Again, key is to state this calmly, one sentence, no ranting, no explaining. Actually the first time or two you implement these changes, expect the kids to test it. So have your consequences worked out ahead of time and at the ready.
Work up routines. Kids love routines and they can save you from turning into what sounds like a nag. For example Cate can establish a bedtime routine with the kids – brush teeth, bath, etc – so she doesn’t have tell them to do teeth, then bath, etc.
Praise good results. The rule of discipline is to be matter-of-fact but clear about negative comments (like consequences) but make a big deal about positive. So when you child does respond first time, jump up and down (no, not really) and praise him.
Map this out with your kids. Before you put this all into effect, have a heart-to-heart conversation about this – your frustration, your realizing that they don’t like you yelling all the time, give them so forced choices about routines (want to brush your teeth before or after a bath). Again, expect a bit of push-back initially, but with your following through with consequences, they’ll get the message.
Good luck! And don't make me tell you twice.