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3 Things You Can Do Right Now to Get Kids to Listen
by Horsefeathers. February 5th 2014, 10:56 PM

3 Things You Can Do Right Now to Get Kids to Listen
By James Lehman

This piece was written by one of TeenHelp's partners - Empowering Parents - who help to support parents struggling with their children. While this was written from and for the perspective of parents, building mutual trust and respect is a two way street, so we hope you will find this helpful in improving the relationship you have with your parents.

Getting kids to listen is one of the most frustrating and difficult challenges parents face. Often parents give up or approach it in the wrong way. If you want your child to pay attention and listen to you, here are three important things you can start doing right away.

1. Talk to your kids face-to-face

When you talk to your child, look at him - don’t yell from the kitchen. Walk into his room, shut off the TV and talk to him face-to-face. And be sure to tell him that this is a new communication rule in your house. You can say, “Hey Jason, I wanted to let you know that from now on when we need to talk about something, I'm going to ask you to come downstairs so we can talk face-to-face instead of yelling. And I'm going to shut off the TV, music, or other electronics, so that neither of us will be distracted and we can really listen to each other.” It’s important to note that face-to-face doesn’t mean eye-to-eye. Don’t get caught in a "look at me" power struggle with your child.

2. Don’t wear your emotions on your sleeve

There are studies that show that children get up to 70 percent of your meaning from the look on your face. So when you talk to your child, be sure to have a positive, calm look, no matter how upset you are. Kids get agitated during emotional discussions, and if your anger and annoyance show on your face, they will immediately shut down and not listen to a word you say. Practice wearing an expression that does not look angry or frustrated, even when you’re talking to your child about something really difficult or upsetting.

3. Give your kids structure

When there’s no structure in place in a home, parents often resort to yelling to get their kids to listen and comply. Without set rules and expectations, each day is different—and is based on what the parent wants (or allows) the child to do. The child’s requests often become personalized, which leads to frustration, yelling and power struggles.

When you establish structure in your home, you immediately have a way of de-personalizing requests from your kids. Set up a daily schedule that’s posted in a central location in your home. Then, you can simply point to it and say to your child in a direct, matter-of-fact way, “4 p.m.—time to stop playing video games and do your homework. If you don’t, there will be consequences.” And let him know he’ll be rewarded if he is able to meet his responsibilities consistently.

When kids have structure, they are far less likely to challenge every request you make. They may still moan and groan, but the focus will be taken off of you and placed on the structure you’ve set up.


[i]The late James Lehman was a behavioral therapist and the creator of The Total Transformation Program for parents. He worked with difficult children and teens for three decades. James held a Masters Degree in Social Work from Boston University.
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