One of the biggest struggles in every parent’s life is getting their kids to listen and follow through with what they’ve asked of them. What’s surprising is, listening isn’t usually the problem. For example, let’s say you’ve repeated, “Go take out the trash before dinner” a few times to your tween, but they still aren’t responding. So now, try whispering the same command in their ear. I can almost guarantee they will respond. But the question is, will they do what you’ve asked of them without backtalk?
The issue isn’t that our kids aren’t listening to us. Kid’s listen, and with a little change in how we can communicate (not nagging, yelling, talking unkindly), this aspect can sort itself out rather quickly. But the biggest struggle comes when parents ask their child to do something, and they are met with disobedience. Sure, the initial trying to get them to “hear” you is frustrating, but the follow-through is where most parents get frustrated.
The why behind “My child deosn’t listen to me”
Let’s get back to the basics real quick. Is your child an adult? Ask yourself, can kids make decisions like adults? Can they hold a job like adults? Have they learned all the social interaction skills like adults have? Now, ask yourself, can kids listen and respond the way that adults can?
The answer? Absolutely not. Why? Because they’re still learning. And guess who their teacher is? You.
Parenting, in a nutshell, is teaching. It’s your job to show your kids how to listen and follow through. But sometimes, we forget that our kids need time and understanding to figure it all out. So as you’re teaching them to listen and follow-through, remember to give them the same grace you like to receive when you’re learning something.
Behavior or heart – Raising a robot or a critical thinker?
If we want to raise robots, we can use whatever means necessary to get them to do what we want to do when we want them to do it. And if we’re all honest here, that’s easier than doing the intentional work that parenting often requires. But where do you think their heart’s posture will be? Will they be doing something you ask of them because they’re afraid or because they truly want to do what you’ve asked of them?
Here on the blog, I want to challenge parents to pay attention to their child’s hearts, not just their behavior. What does that mean? Don’t just react to your child’s behavior but nurture, pay attention and understand their hearts.
For example. If your child lies to you, are you going to simply send them to their room and give them a consequence? Or are you going to talk to them about the repercussions of lying? Are you going to identify with them and share about that one time you lied and how it affected you negatively? Are you going to, with compassion, say, “I totally understand how it’s sometimes hard to tell the truth, but God calls us to be honest because it’s the right thing to do?” And while a consequence might be needed, it’s important that you help them understand the “why” behind it all.
Helping your child with the “why” in life will help them to reason for themselves. It’s the difference between them growing up and becoming a robot who just does things because his parents say so, or becoming someone who reasons, thinks, and makes decisions based on God’s standard for his life, not trying to please his parents.
Now that we’ve dug a little deeper on some of the foundational parts of raising kids who will more likely listen let’s talk about some practicalities.
7 Ways to Help Your Child Listen and Follow Through
1. Help your child to listen by giving them at least 15 seconds to respond
Remember when I said that kids aren’t adults? A child’s brain hasn’t fully developed yet, which is scientifically why they take a little more time to let something sink in. So next time you say something, and they weren’t distracted, give them some time! And if they still haven’t gotten it yet, you can also try saying, “Can I have your eyes on me while I say something?” Or even whisper it in their ear!
Also, every child is different, so figuring out the best way to communicate based on your child will also be beneficial.
2. Help your child listen by having them repeat it back to you
“I need you to be done with reading in 10 minutes so you can go to bed. When do I need you to be done?” Then have them look at the clock and repeat back at what time they should be done.
It’s also good to not give them a long-winded list of things to do and hope they remember all of it. Instead, give them one task at a time as to not overwhelm their little minds.
Again, their brains aren’t fully developed, and they are learning so much within a day! Have patience!
3. Help your child listen by changing up your wording
Instead of saying, “Can you take out the trash?” Turn it into a command. For example, say, “I need you to take out the trash now.” This can be a hard habit to break for most parents, but using commands instead of questions will lessen your child’s desire to talk back and give excuses as to why they don’t want to. Unless I’m gathering information from my child, this has proven to be very helpful in our house!
4. Help your child listen by eliminating distractions
If you’re trying to get your child’s attention while the TV is on, the baby is screaming, and everyone is frantically getting ready to head out the door, then you’re setting everyone up for failure. Eliminating distractions or communicating in times where there are no distractions is one of the best ways to help everyone pay attention. Turn of the TV. Put down phones. This will help clear the air and enable your child to be able to listen better.
5. Help your children listen by having a family attention phrase
If you have a lot of kids and a lot of chaos, it can be challenging to get everyone’s attention. Try coming with a phrase that everyone knows means; pay attention immediately. It could be something like, “Where are your ears!?” and have them say, “Ears right here!” so you know you have their attention.
6. Help your child listen by changing the way you communicate
Barking orders at everyone around you never works well. It might work in a military setting but not in the home. Instead, get down to their level, look them in the eye, and talk to them like you’re having a conversation with them. Talk with respect and love, but be firm if need be. Remember you’re still the parent, but also remember that they are still children. They will respond much better to calm and collected voices rather than yelling and screaming.
7. Help your child listen by modeling the behavior you want to see in them
Are you staring at your phone when your kids are trying to talk to you? Does it take your child saying, “Mom!” a few times before you respond? Model the actions that you desire from your children. The best form of teaching is modeling. Kid’s suck at listening but are really good at imitating!
The longer I’m a parent, the more I know my kids, the better I become at communicating. Learning to have healthy communication in the family takes effort and self-control, but it’s so worth it. And always remember, just like you, your kids are learning as they go. Let grace for yourself and one another be at the forefront of your mind.