As a parent, do you ever feel like your words don’t resonate or you’re not being heard? Do you feel like you’re saying the same things over and over and your child STILL isn’t listening? You’ve told your child the boundaries over and over and over and they still keep challenging them and disobeying you?
If so, we want to give you some good news… you are not alone… not even close. All parents go through this at some point, and thankfully, we have some great solutions to help navigate these frustrating moments that can help you grow leaps and bounds in communicating with your children.
If you have already read the first few questions and in your head said, “YES! THAT’S TOTALLY ME!” We want to congratulate you because you have just made a very positive first step in the right direction: Acknowledging your frustration.
With identifying your own frustration, you can begin to come up with a plan to communicate more effectively with your child. This will in turn help you and your child be less frustrated, help you be more confident in handling non-compliance, and resolve issues quicker in order to get back to what you are doing and spend less time being upset.
You are probably thinking, “Guys! This sounds amazing! But like, it’s impossible…How?!”
This is a great question that we have come up with a solution to.
Let’s start with Giving Clear Instructions
Giving clear instructions is vital because it gives your child an opportunity to hear what you have to say and truly listen. Instead of yelling commands across the room, make it a point to have their full attention and move close to them. Remove all distractions, whether it is turning off all screens or covering their activity with your hand so they must look up at you.
Now that you have their attention, frame what you’re going to say in a positive way. Instead of “stop running” you could say, “use your walking feet.” Keep your instructions short, sweet, and to the point in order to avoid confusion, especially for young children or children who have a harder time processing language and fast talking. Instead of posing a question like “Do you want to clean up your toys?”, give them an intentional statement such as “Clean up your toys, please.” Priming them for what is going to happen next is also a useful tool and let’s them clearly know what is going to happen next. A great example of priming is saying, “We are going to play outside for 5 more minutes and then it’s time to come inside.” This advance notice makes a big difference in helping your child to follow your directions.
After priming, asking your kids follow-up questions is a great way to make sure they fully understand the tasks at hand. For example, you might say, “We are going to play outside for 5 more minutes.”, you can ask, “How many minutes until we come inside?” and their response should be, “5”, if they get it right, affirm them positively with, “Awesome, I am really proud of you for listening.”
This is a great segue into Making It Fun!
There will be situations that a child will not listen EVEN if you do all of the things listed above. A really great way to change that is by making it fun for the child and giving them choices. Involve them in the next activity. For instance, you know it is really difficult to get your child inside because they LOVE to be outside and don’t want to come in for dinner. You can involve them in the next step by giving them options. Example: “Sweetie, when we go inside, which chair do you want to sit in for dinner tonight?” or “When we go inside for story time, who should pick the book? You or me?”
If the item the child wants isn’t available, a great way to present that is to give them other options they will love. For example,
Parent: “Katie, which book do you want to read?”
Katie: “Where The Wild Things Are!”
Parent: “I love that book! We don’t have that book here though but we do have this book about fairy princesses and another about baby animals. Which of these would you like to read?”
You can also turn things in to a game! Kids love games and a little healthy competition. They also love being silly! Embrace your inner child and be silly with them. Speak their language. When you catch them doing something good, praise them for it! We are so used to catching something “bad” and acknowledging it but it is so powerful to praise the good and speak on what they are doing well. For instance, you can say “Great job putting your toys away!”, “I love how you are listening!”, “You are working so hard!”, or even congratulate them with high fives! These positive affirmations are contagious for children and they will want to keep receiving them.
A way to practice making things more fun for your child is to write down a few of the normal commands you would give them. Let’s use, “Hang up your jacket.” and we will call this the “boring way”. Now to make it fun, you can say “We both need to hang up our jackets! Let’s race! Ready, Set, Go!” By saying this, you have successfully made it fun and turned it into a game!
TRY THIS: What everyday tasks or chores can you make more fun to successfully communicate with your child? Try writing three down and see what fun you can come up with!