This is one of the top questions I get from frustrated moms who just want their kids to do what they ask them to! Factor in that most of us have been at home with little distractions for what feels like a year and this becomes a huge pain point for most moms. Ever notice how kids will wait until at least the 3rd time you have asked them to do something and now are yelling with a bulging vein in your forehead???? We actually inadvertently teach kids that they don’t need to listen until “we really mean business.” Some could argue that this applies to husbands too 🙂 Now, teaching occurs over many, many opportunities so re-teaching is going to be a process and take time. These strategies are effective but are not magic. The key is to implement them consistently in order to see progress.
So here you go, top tips to get kids to listen the FIRST time we tell them.
1. Only give a direction if you are able to enforce it.
As busy moms, multi-tasking is a way of life, however, if we give a direction and then don’t stick around to make sure our kid follows through then we have just taught them that they don’t have to do what we say. Usually this happens because we tell them to put on their shoes, then go and finish the breakfast dishes. Or come back and tell them again, as we go find our purse. Sound like a typical morning? The message to our kids is that they don’t have to do it yet.
2. Make sure you have the child’s attention first.
Don’t give directions while kids are watching TV or gazing into their phones. Make sure they are listening and have them repeat back what you said to ensure it sunk in.
3. Tell don’t ask.
We often frame things in the form of a question. “Are you ready to go?” “Do you want to clean up?” “Can you wash your hands?”
Well, of course the answer is probably “no” and we have just provided an out by giving a choice. When what we really mean is “It’s time to go, please clean up” or “go wash your hands.” Use simple and concise language…. This is an easy but powerful switch by just choosing different words.
4. Be ready to follow through.
Now, you might be thinking, what happens if they don’t follow the direction. Good question…. this is where the work comes in. We have to provide any help they need and be ready to step in to make sure they do the task. Supervising to ensure that they got it done, modeling by starting to pick up the toys, guiding them to the area they need to be are all ways to follow through. If a kid thinks they have an out because no one is going to make them, they will take it every time. This is how we set up a pattern of behavior that works against us.
5. Praise and make it fun.
We all like to get positive attention when we did a good job! Providing verbal praise is one way to reinforce the behavior of listening. Reinforcement is just a fancy way of saying that if you reward positive behavior it will increase the likelihood of a child doing it again in the future.
Give these steps a try and watch the difference that happens in your home. If you are struggling to make this work and need help, look for a professional who can provide behavioral parent coaching to problem-solve your individual situation.