How to get your child to listen the first time

Do you feel like a broken record repeating the same things over and over again to your child? You’re not alone. Getting your child to listen the first time isn’t easy work, but with a few steps, you’ll be on your way to more hugs and less stress.

1. Wait until you have your child's full attention

If you want to make the most impact with your words, it’s important to establish a connection with your child first. This means making sure they are tuned in and attentive. A great way to connect is to get down to your child’s level, lightly touch his or her arm, and wait for eye contact. 

2. Get to the point

We all know how children’s attention spans are short, so make sure you’re choosing your words wisely. It’s easy to lose their attention when we ramble or move away from the point of the message. Use as few words as possible. 

3. Put yourself in their shoes

Would you enjoy being pulled away from something you enjoy? Think about why it’s difficult for your child to listen. Accommodating your child to fit your needs will go a long way. When in doubt, remember this quote from parenting expert Bonnie Harris: “My child’s agenda is just as important to them as my agenda is to me.”

4. Stay calm

This may be the hardest item on the list, but it’s arguably the most important. It’s so easy to lose your chill when your child just does not want to listen what you’re saying. Raising your voice (or lecturing them about their poor listening habits in the moment) is sure to backfire. Take a deep breath and refer to Step 1.

5. Lead by example

If you’re scrolling through your phone while your child is talking about their day, you’re setting a poor example of communication. When they start talking, stop what you’re doing and make them feel like the priority.

6. Keep things happy

Does anyone enjoy taking orders? It’s no different for young children. If you want them to do something, keep your language light instead of harsh. If that doesn’t do the trick, lower your voice to a whisper to draw your child in closer. 

7. Don't be afraid of the consequences

It’s raining and you need to get your family out the door. If your child would rather wear flip flops instead of rain boots despite your warnings, allow the consequence of wet feet be the best teacher. You can turn harmless actions like these into important teaching moments. 

8. Give thanks

Don’t be afraid to hand out the Thank You’s like candy if they are deserved. This simple form of praise will remind your child of the good they’ve done and hopefully will encourage the good behavior to continue. 

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