Ask parents of young children, and they’ll probably say a kid who won’t listen. The kid is running ahead of the group. The kid wants to learn to throw a Frisbee, yet won’t take instruction. You told him five times already to stop bothering his brother, yet he is still doing it. It’s incredibly frustrating, especially when you’re already tired from just the normal round of caring for your child’s needs.
Oftentimes, when a kid is “not listening,” it’s because he or she doesn’t understand on some level what is wanted. This can explain why some kids behave well at school but poorly at home. Teachers, camp counselors, and others who handle large groups of kids are experts at defining the exact behavior they want. You can bring some of their techniques into your parenting to get better listening at home. Here are tips to improve “listening” and good behavior:
· No speeches. Avoid giving lectures or yelling. Don’t rail against your child or the universe; don’t ask “why” he isn’t listening (think your kid knows a good answer?) It just doesn’t do anything except further overwhelm your kid.
· Give instructions. Tell your child what you want her to do. Instead of “Why are you running ahead??!”, say, “Sit on those steps until we catch up.”
· Be concrete, quantifiable, and clear. Use concrete terms kids can relate to. For example, rather than, “Hurry up!,” say, “Put on your shoes now.” Rather than “Pay attention!,” say, “Watch the ball until you catch it.” Use numbers (“Eat three bites.”) If you wouldn’t say it in a game of Simon Says, it’s probably not clear enough for a child to obey.
· Remember, a lot of times the “task” is emotional. Pretty often, what you really need your child to do is calm down or slow down. Give clear instruction for this too. For example, if your child has been pulled out of a setting for misbehaving and is crying, say, “You can go back in a few minutes after you calm down.” Then show him how (“Take five slow calm breaths,” “Close your eyes and count to five,” “Let’s go get a tissue and a drink of water,” “If you say sorry and hug me, that will help.”) Start teaching simple, concrete tools for calming down and slowing down.
· Show the path to Goodness. Give your child actionable instructions in how to be good within a situation. Instead of “Stop poking your sister! Can’t you hear her screaming? What is wrong with you?” say, “Stop it means stop it; that’s respect. We stop every time. Move away.”
More often than we think, kids don’t even know exactly why we’re mad at them or what we want instead. Short, simple, concrete and directive coaching will help your kids ”listen” better and behave better as well.