How to get your child to listen

Whether your child is straight out ignoring you when you speak to him, or putting up resistance to every request, there are strategies you can try to make things run a little smoother.

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Have you ever wondered how your little one’s teacher gets your child to do things without an argument or tantrum at school, and why all the kids listen? Jeni Oberem, a grade 000 teacher at FasTracKids Preschool in Parkmore, Johannesburg has a few tips.

Respect your child

Instead of saying: “Tidy up your toys.”

Try: “It’s tidy-up time so please start packing away the toys.”

“Be polite and speak to your child the way you would like to be spoken to,” says Jeni. “Your child will immediately pick up on it if you have double standards. You can’t expect your child to say please and thank you if you don’t do the same.”

Don’t play the shame game

Instead of saying: “Stop crying, you’re not a baby.”

Try: “It’s OK to cry if you feel sad. Try to use your words to tell Mommy how you feel.”

OR

Instead of saying: “You’re being naughty! How could you do that?”

Try: “I really don’t like how you’re chasing the puppy around the house. He looks very scared.”

Jeni says there’s nothing wrong with your child crying, but they also need to learn how to express their emotions verbally. “But don’t play the shame game,” Jeni explains. “It may work in the moment, but can cause your child to shut down.”

ALSO SEE: Is your toddler acting out, or acting her age?

Be specific

Instead of saying: “Stop doing that.”

Try: “Please don’t jump on the couch – Mommy is worried you might fall and hurt yourself.”

OR

Instead of saying: “Tidy your room.”

Try: “Please could you put all your cars back in the garage.”  Show him the specific box where they belong.

Children often don’t absorb general statements. “Make sure you’re letting your child know exactly what you expect from him and give a reason why if it’s appropriate,” advises Jeni.

Make things fun

Instead of saying: “Stop dawdling and get in the car.”

Try: “Let’s have a race to the car. Whoever wins gets to choose what we listen to on the radio.”

OR

Instead of saying: “Stop shouting, I can hear you!”

Try: “Hey, should we try whispering to each other? I bet you can’t hear what I’m going to tell you.”

Your little one learns best through play, so making things fun will elicit a positive response from him. Plus, anything out of the ordinary will grab his attention.

Use time

Instead of saying: “It’s time for bed.”

Try: “OK, in 5 minutes it’s time for bed. That means when the clock says 7 o’clock, we will go to your room to read a book.”

OR

Instead of saying: “Let’s go!”

Try: “Would you like to go home now or play for 5 minutes and then go?”

Children like to have a sense of control and any sudden decision they haven’t been prepared for will upset your little one, especially if he’s having fun at the time. You can use your watch to show your child where each hand will be when it’s time to go, or use the timer function on your phone.

Avoid repeating yourself

Instead of threatening (for the third time) to take the ball away if he throws it inside again.

Try: Give one warning and follow through immediately.

“Children pick up on patterns of behaviour very quickly, so if he knows you will only follow through with consequences after 4 or 5 warnings, he will continue to test that boundary,” explains Jeni.

Give options and alternatives

Instead of saying: “Eat your food.”

Try: “Would you like to eat your supper with a green or red fork tonight?”

OR

Instead of saying: “I said no more toys, we can’t afford it.”

Try: “I’m not going to buy that for you today, but we can put it on your Christmas wish list for Santa if you like.”

“If your child feels he has some control, he is more likely to co-operate,” says Jeni. “Just make sure that you will be OK with either choice. This approach also helps to teach your child how to make decisions for himself and wait for what he wants.”

ALSO SEE: How to teach your child to make decisions

Be realistic

Instead of saying: “If you don’t come eat dinner at the table now, you’re never allowed to watch TV again.”

Try: “If you come eat dinner at the table now, you will have time to watch one more show before bed.”

“Make sure any consequence you give is reasonable. If it’s something that’s impossible for you to follow through with, your child won’t heed your warning the next time,” says Jeni.

Getting your child to listen and co-operate boils down to consistency and positivity. “For those kids who struggle to listen, make sure you immediately reinforce the behaviour when they do. Make a big deal and tell him how proud you are,” says Jeni. Parents and caregivers also need to be on the same page and Jeni advises putting ground rules and routines in place when your kids are young so they know what’s expected of them. “By the time they’re teenagers, you will no longer need to be pleading with them to go to bed or brush their teeth – it will just be the way it is.”

More about the expert:

Jeni Oberem is a grade 000 teacher at FasTracKids in Parkmore, Johannesburg. She has many years of experience and is known for employing the use of music and dancing to facilitate learning. Learn more about Jeni Oberem here.

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