Experts at Toddler Town British Nursery offer advice on how to get your child to listen to you
21 August 2019| Last updated on 5 September 2019
Most parents have the best of intentions
But when their child repeatedly ignores instructions, requests or orders, even the greatest mums and dads can lose it and start shouting, bribing, threatening or doing whatever it takes to get their child to listen.
It’s a universal problem - the best way to get a child to listen, they insist, is to listen to them. One of the biggest sources of frustration for parents is when children don’t listen.
Here are the three steps they say are more likely to make young children listen without parents having to shout or threaten them:
The first step in communicating well with your child is to attune to what’s going on for them. Ultimately, listening to your child makes him more likely to listen to you.
Pausing before you react can be very important, although not at all easy. Parents need to consider what’s happening with their child and try to understand. Although this approach may seem unrealistic in the heat of the moment. If a child feels understood by their parent even when they’re being difficult or misbehaving, they reap enormous emotional and cognitive benefits, and parent and child stay connected.
And even though kids technically ‘know’ rules, there’s a difference between knowing them and putting them into practice in the moment.
It’s normal to get upset when children aren’t listening. The problem is that when you jump into the ring, your child’s defences go up and their brain goes into fight-or-flight mode. Either they become more adversarial or they squash their ideas because you’ve scared her.
If you approach with a sense that you’re trying to understand and be helpful, and not just order them around, their defences are lowered. Now you can work together.
2. Limit set
If there’s a limit or reality that applies to the situation, tell your child, and give a brief reason. For example, this could be ‘We have to leave the playground now because it’s getting dark. Limit needs to be clear and factual, and parents should avoid asking a question or just saying ‘no’.
Instead, parents should say what they do want, and what the child can do. Avoid using a harsh tone, Instead, keep your voice calm and informative.
It can feel like a constant battle between us and them, but they are meant to test things and, depending on a child’s temperament, it might take one hundred times of testing a limit or hearing a rule before each of the ‘experiments’ is over.”
3. Problem solve
After attuning and setting limits for your child, the aim is to help them see how they can achieve what they intended in an acceptable way.
Try to adopt a tone of voice which suggests you’re in this together, you both have to work out a solution, and you’re open to any ideas. Even though you may be frustrated, try to use humour if at all possible, as that can really help defuse the tension for everyone.
Other tactics include giving your child a ‘follow-up choice’ you can use if they’re still not complying – this could be something like “Do you want to put the toy back, or shall I do it for you?’.