5 tricks you can try today

Psychotherapist Liza Finlay shares five simple yet effective tips to help you get your kids to listen.

Why won’t they listen? I hear this lament a lot. In fact, just recently, at a workshop I was leading, I asked the parents attending to name their beefs, and almost every one complained, “My kids just don’t listen.”

So, how do you get your kids to listen to you? It’s this simple…

1. Stop talking

Sorry to say it, but parents talk too much. One expert clocked the number of corrections (“hang up your coat,” “clear your plate”) a child is given daily at 200. How many of those do they actually retain? Only about 25 percent. Now, 25 percent doesn’t sound like a good batting average, but in fact, what it means is that they’re absorbing about 50 directives a day. Not bad. So make them count.

2. Allow natural consequences to unfold

It’s time for less talk and more action. Essentially, I want you to put some teeth on idle threats. If your kids won’t put their lunch bags away no matter how many times you tell them, allow them to face a stinky, yogurt-smeared lunch bag tomorrow. If the Lego doesn’t get picked up no matter how many times you tell them, pack the Lego into a box and put it in the garage for a while.

3. Model active listening

Children learn most from observing and, let’s face it, many of us aren’t good listeners either. Oh, sure, we hear something of what others are saying, but we’ve got one ear cocked for an incoming text, our eyes on the road and, quite possibly, our head in the clouds. Active listening involves more than the ears—it puts our entire body in service (and that includes our heart). Active listening requires us to hear more than mere words; it’s about hearing the (sometimes hidden) meaning behind the words and responding to it. How often can you say you do that?

4. Love, love, love

Sometimes, kids don’t listen in order to send us a message, They tune us out to make a point: “You can’t make me, and I’m tired of you bossing me around.” It’s time to restore goodwill. You’ve got to put some deposits in the love bank. So, even though you feel like strangling them, hug them instead.

And, if you’ve tried all of that and they still won’t listen…

5. Whisper

As our frustration levels rise, so do our voices. Kids end up feeling yelled at—perpetually. Lowering your voice to a whisper is exactly the opposite of what they’re expecting, and that may result in a surprising new outcome for you. Besides (and this trick works with everyone, spouses and bosses included), when you speak sotto voce, people are forced to lean in. And don’t we want our kids closer?

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