Have you ever asked your child to do something as simple as “come to dinner” and all you received in response was a distracted, “I’ll be there in a minute,” or even worse, no response at all? Have you repeated your request several times, with increasing intensity and ended up feeling frustrated and upset? Teaching your children to listen to your requests and follow your instructions takes patience and practice. However, there are several things you can do to help your child listen and comply with your requests.
- Communicate effectively when asking your child to do something. Often by simply changing the way you speak to your child, you are able to increase your child’s compliance.
- Make sure your child is paying attention to you.
This involves reducing distractions when you give a command. Turn off the TV and/or the computer game before asking the child to do something.
- Make eye contact with your child when you make the request.
Moreover, to be completely sure that your child heard and understood the command, have him repeat it back to you.
- Simplify your requests.
Don’t ask your child to do too many things at once. Or, break the task down into parts, and write these on a piece of paper for the child to carry with them to help them remember what to do.
- Apply consequences if the command is not followed.
Don’t ask your child to do something if you are not willing to follow up and apply a consequence when she does not comply. Mean what you say. Otherwise you are teaching your child that she doesn’t always have to do what you ask.
- When you want your child to do something, don’t phrase it as a question or a suggestion.
For example, “Would you pick up your toys?” is not as effective as using a firm, clear voice and saying, “It is time to pick up your toys.”
- Make sure your child is paying attention to you.
- Work on your relationship. Having a positive relationship with your child is essential to helping your child be a better listener and more compliant.
- One method of doing this is to spend about 10 minutes with your child at least several times a week engaging in an activity of their choice. Commenting on what they are doing and simply paying attention to them helps your child to feel that you are interested in them. It also provides a time in the day when you are interacting positively with your child. This is very important for those parent-child relationships that involve a high number of negative interactions (e.g., arguing or nagging). This positive attention helps to improve your relationship, and your child’s willingness to listen.
- Catch them being good. Children get a lot of attention when they are misbehaving. They often receive much less attention when they are “being good.” For example, noticing your child’s positive behavior and saying “Lizzie, I like how you are sitting quietly and playing all by yourself!” rewards your daughter for her good behavior. By attending to your child’s positive behavior, you are increasing the chance that he/she will continue or repeat that behavior. In addition, you are increasing your positive attention, which improves your relationship, and the likeliness that your child will listen to you.
- Be a Role Model. Do you ever find yourself checking your phone, or texting someone when your child is talking to you? Do you sometimes engage in other activities when your child is speaking? Children imitate their parents, so it is important to model good listening behavior. The next time your child is trying to tell you something, stop what you are doing, make eye contact, and give your child your full attention when they are talking to you. This shows them that what they have to say is important to you and it models good listening skills.
Many of these strategies take practice and time to create change, but by using some of the techniques mentioned here, you should find that your child not only listens better to what you are saying to them, but is also more likely to follow your directions.
Educational Psychologist Dr. Katie Boggs provides psycho-educational assessments (for children ages 4-18), individual counseling, and parent education. She specialises in the treatment of issues including, but not limited to, learning difficulties, depression, anxiety, attention difficulties, grief and loss, social skills, self-esteem, behavior difficulties, stress, and separation/divorce.
Dr. Boggs provides parent guidance on both an individual and group basis, and is a facilitator of the “How to Become a Love and Logic Parent” class. Dr. Boggs has worked as a psycho-educational consultant in Shanghai, China and has worked as a school psychologist in the United States, where she provided psycho-educational services to children (primarily K-8); assisted in the planning, implementation and evaluation of a systemic education reform process (Flexible Service Delivery System); advocated for children and families in the school system, and served as co-chairperson for the Department of Pupil Services.
Dr. Boggs is originally from the U.S. and obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology at Indiana University, her Master’s degree in Educational Psychology at the University of Arizona, and her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology at the University of Minnesota.