Practical and Helpful Parenting Tips to Create Better Listeners in Your Home (and at school!)
Want to help your kids listen better? Doesn’t everyone?
Why is it so hard to get the follow through?
Here’s one example from my own parenting journey…
It happened again. I’m pretty sure I had asked my sweet daughter to get her jammies on, put her dirty clothes away, and then come in the bathroom to brush her teeth.
5 Minutes Later…
Why was the task incomplete? Why are the dirty clothes strewn about her room?
Maybe I should just raise my voice a little louder. That’ll help us both be successful. Nope.
Commence a frustrated daughter and a frustrated mom trying to make it through the bedtime routine. Fail!
Sound all too familiar?
I think we’ve all been there.
And we’ve had the thoughts: Why won’t my child just do what I ask the first time? or Doesn’t she know that by not listening she’s making this process sooooooo much harder than it needs to be?
Notice the pattern already?
The blame is solely on the child and never on the parent. We are so quick to point the finger and never examine our own hearts.
Yes, sometimes our kids are definitely stinkers. They hear us loud and clear, but the follow through just isn’t there.
They need some serious improvements and to own their choices.
But as parents, we need to look within ourselves as well.
There are many times with Addie when I’ve been so frustrated with her and in reality, I was the one that needed to change. I was making the situation a bigger deal than it needed to be.
Too concerned about controlling the moment and getting the results that I wanted.
I should have cared more about Addie’s heart and spirit and seen that the situation had escalated because of my own doing, not hers.
In order to make sure your child is listening, you first need to be certain you even have their attention.
So how do you help your kids listen better?
As with anything in parenting or teaching, there’s no magic formula. Lots of trial and error.
And lots and lots of grace extended to both the parent and the child, the student and the teacher.
I think I will forever be a student when it comes to the parenting journey.
So how about we walk through these parenting strategies together?
Let’s do this!
*This article contains affiliate links (my book rec!) which means I may make a small commission from any items that you purchase.
1. Get Their Attention
In order to help your kids listen better, you first need to make sure you even have their attention.
For instance, sometimes Addie will be watching TV and this will happen:
Me: “Addie, please come eat your breakfast.”
Me: “Addie, Mommy would like you to come and eat, ok?”
Me: (Getting frustrated) “ADDIE! I’ve asked you 3 times now. Please come EAT!”
Addie: (furrowed brow) “Mommy, I didn’t hear you. Don’t talk tough to me.”
7:30 am and we are already off to a terrific start!
My child (and my husband!) completely zone out when they are in front of the TV. It’s pretty common.
You would think since this happens often, I would be more understanding and patient.
How can they respond if they aren’t even listening?
You need to move to where your child is, and make sure that they hear you.
For me, I need to quit yelling from the kitchen and take the extra 15 steps to the living room to calmly ask Addie to come to the table.
Continuing to yell at your kids from another room when they clearly didn’t hear you the first 3 times is super unhelpful for both the parent and the child.
They aren’t listening, you’re getting frustrated, and no one’s winning at life.
Actually your child might be winning because they have no idea you’re talking anyway!
Don’t worry, I’m laughing at myself too because this happens all the time.
2. Eye Contact
Another way to help your kids listen better is through eye contact.
I need to see your eyes.
How many times have I said that in my kindergarten classroom and in my own home?
Too many to count.
But there’s a reason for it. Eye contact is super important in communication.
Think about how weird it is when you’re having a conversation with another adult and they’re looking any and everywhere except at you.
Doesn’t seem like they’re listening, right?
Something that I’ve done with Addie since she was very little is hold her little face in between my hands and say, “I need to see your eyes.”
Another tactic I’ve used is to grab her hands and place them on the sides of my face, getting down on her level so that both of us are looking at each other.
I noticed when she was very young that by having her hands on my face, it gave her a point of physical contact and helped her focus better.
Try that the next time you’re talking with your child or with one of your students.
Use the phrase Give me your eyes or Let me see your eyes and see if that helps your little one focus.
I’ve found that in my crazy parenting moments, getting eye to eye with Addie and having her little hands on my face makes it much harder for me to be irritated with her.
It’s calming for parents too!
I’m not talking about your child listening to you. This is about you listening to your child.
Yes, you can help your kids listen better by making sure you’re listening to what they have to say!
I’m sure you’re thinking, “Isn’t this article supposed to be about my child being a better listener, not the other way around? I’m not the issue.”
Ahem…pride. It’s rearing its ugly head right now. For me too.
There are definitely times when what you’re saying to your child is of utmost importance and needs to be heard and obeyed.
I get it.
But have you ever experienced moments with your kids when you continue to repeat yourself, sometimes even interrupting your child, simply to make sure that you’ve gotten your point across?
Rather than a happy moment of obedience and rewards, you are left feeling like a broken record on repeat and your child is near tears because Mommy won’t listen.
Has this been your experience? This has happened many times with Addie.
Listening requires interaction between the speaker and the hearer.
When I’m giving Addie instructions, the expectation is that she will hear and respond to what I’m saying.
There’s also an expectation that if she needs to share something with me, I will respectfully give her a chance to share, even if it has nothing to do with what I’m saying in the moment…which is often!
4. Talk To Them Not At Them
Have you ever been talked at as an adult?
Not very pleasant in my opinion.
There’s nothing worse or more demeaning than to feel like you’re being lectured or scolded by another adult.
The same is true when dealing with children.
You can help your kids listen better by talking to them.
Just because a child is smaller and younger than an adult, doesn’t mean that they should be scolded like they have no idea what they’re doing or are incapable of participating in a conversation.
In the early toddler years (1s and 2s) it can be harder to not talk at them because many times they aren’t using words to respond.
When you talk to your child you are showing them that they matter.
They are a valuable person worthy of a respectful voice and positive demeanor.
You are extending grace in your words, actions, and attitude.
When you talk at your child you are showing them that you are in control, and it’s more about exercising power over them.
Do what I say because I said so mentality.
When you speak to your child in that way, which we’ve all done, it doesn’t welcome a positive response or invite any kind of good conversation.
For me, when I’ve experienced being talked at by other adults, it definitely caused me to move away from that person.
It didn’t bring about anything positive and made me feel small. Their way or no way and I’m just along for the ride.
Show your kids and students the value of these types of conversations and attitudes by modeling it to them in your daily life.
And when you screw up and cause hurt feelings, own it, apologize, and move forward.
When you talk to your child, you are showing them that they matter. They are a valuable person worthy of a respectful voice and positive demeanor.
5. Speak With Respect
Another way to help your kids listen better is to make sure you speak to them with respect.
Everyone knows what their voice sounds like and how they feel in their body and spirit when they’ve spoken to their child without respect.
Normally you feel lousy, your heart rate may be elevated, and you feel like you need to cool down…and apologize.
It’s a sweet sweet thing, but also challenging.
I have lost it with my kindergarten students and Addie more times than I care to admit.
But I’ve also learned and grown a lot through those failures.
Think about these synonyms for respect: esteem, regard, approval, favor, consideration, thoughtfulness, attentiveness, politeness, courtesy.
6. Check For Understanding
You can also help your kids listen better by checking for understanding.
This is a big ticket item for me in teaching and in parenting.
And it all has to do with teaching kids the proper response.
In my classroom, I would have my students respond with “Yes Mrs. Johnson” to anything I asked them to do.
During the first 6 weeks of Kindergarten Boot Camp (that’s what our team called it) there was
But they learned. And it helped to develop a strong relationship of mutual respect right from the beginning.
It wasn’t just the response that mattered to me, it was their tone of voice and how they said it.
I can think of certain students who had to repeat “Yes Mrs. Johnson” 5-10 times before they said it with respect.
Some people might think that’s going overboard, but I was unwavering on this one.
Because when a child responds with respect, you know that they have submitted in their heart.
You can hear it in their words.
With Addie, after I ask her to do something, I’ll check for understanding by having her respond with “Yes Mommy.”
There are many times she has to say it more than once because I’m working towards that submissive heart.
I hear it in her voice and see it in her eyes and body language.
Normally after she has responded with respect, obedience is soon to follow.
Checking for understanding and having an expected response doesn’t lead to magical obedient children frolicking in the fields, but it is a great step towards developing a great listener in your child.
I encourage any parent or teacher to have a set expectation of a proper response with their kids when asked to do/not do something.
Implement this now, and I believe you will be encouraged by the progress that you witness!
7. Be Consistent and Follow Through
Help your kids listen better by being consistent and following through with rewards and consequences.
Then why is it so hard to be consistent?
How come I can consistently make coffee in the morning, but being patient in my parenting doesn’t always happen?
I can consistently keep up with This is Us every week, but making my bed in the mornings is a different story.
Hmmmm…I am consistently inconsistent. E for effort, right?
Being consistent and following through with kids is so huge.
It can make or break whatever lesson you’re trying to drive home.
But it requires great effort on our part. We have to be willing to do the work, which oftentimes is the hardest part.
If the expectation with your child is that they respond with “Yes Mommy” to what you ask, complete the task, and then receive a “Thank you” or some kind of praise from Mommy, then that needs to be done every time.
If your child chooses to ignore the directive or responds in a disrespectful way, the expected consequences should ensue.
Your child needs to know that you mean what you say and your word matters.
Just like their actions and responses matter.
I’ll be the first to admit, sometimes I am just so tired during the day that I don’t feel like following through and doing my part. I’d rather just ignore it and move on.
You know what? Sometimes I have ignored disobedience or a disrespectful response. But it didn’t amount to anything positive. It just delayed the inevitable of the same situation happening again.
Consistency is key. It’s helpful for you as a parent to establish those expectations and realize that you can follow through. It builds confidence!
But it’s also very helpful for your child. It will strengthen your relationship and build greater trust and respect in the long run.
Being consistent and following through with kids is so huge. It can make or break whatever lesson you’re trying to drive home.
You Can Do This!
Here’s a quick recap of those 7 strategies:
- Get their attention
- Eye Contact
- Talk to Them Not at Them
- Speak with Respect
- Check For Understanding
- Be Consistent and Follow Through
So now that you’ve read through all seven strategies (and taken copious notes!) just pick one to focus on implementing in your classroom or in your home.
Give yourself and your kids lots of grace, and enjoy the ride. Celebrate the progress along the way!
Here’s to helping our kids become better listeners!
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Other Helpful Articles
There are probably 8,000 great books on parenting, but this is one of my favorites.
Ginger Hubbard has so many real life examples from parenting her own children and writes in a way that is super helpful and applicable! She covers behavior issues such as whining, lying, tattling, disobeying, defiance, and many more. She includes lots of conversations and role play scenarios with your kids. It’s awesome! Definitely check it out!