There are no hard and fast rules on how to make kids listen to you without yelling at them.
But do you hate the idea of yelling at your child? I know I do. But the trouble is, that sometimes kids just need a good raising voice so they can really understand what we’re saying.
However, in this article, I’m going to outline 10 ways you can bring discipline into your children’s lives.
Use a signal for attention.
The first and most important step in teaching kids to listen without yelling is to make sure they hear you.
In the chaos of the household, it can be difficult for your voice to emerge above the fray. Some children are especially prone to be distracted by others’ voices or a toy that catches their eye, which can make it hard for them to listen even when they’re trying.
The solution? Use a signal for attention. A signal lets your child know that you are about to say something important, and he or she should stop what they’re doing and focus on listening.
You might use a secret code word or phrase like “I’m going to sing,” which indicates that your child should look at you immediately (or stop singing along with his favorite cartoon theme song).
You can also experiment with hand gestures—raising both hands over your head, for example, maybe an effective way of getting your child’s attention.
Try different signals until you find one that works well for both of you, then stick with it as much as possible so your kiddo learns by repetition exactly what it means when Mommy or Daddy uses this gesture or phrase.
Once they get used to the routine, this simple tactic will go a long way toward getting them ready to listen whenever you need them!
Avoid asking questions when your child is distracted.
When you ask a child to do something, make sure he is focused on you and give him the opportunity to respond.
Get down on his level and make eye contact, then use very short sentences. For example, instead of saying, “Can you go pick up your clothes so we can get started with dinner?” try “Clothes in the laundry.”
Also, avoid asking questions when your child is distracted. Questions are harder for children to process than statements. When you ask a question, there is no way for them to know what answer you want them to give.
For example, if you are trying to get ready for an outing and your toddler is playing with his toys on the floor, don’t say “Are you going to put those toys away?”
He might think that the only acceptable answer would be yes (and why should he say no?) But if he puts his toys away or doesn’t put them away, he will have disappointed you either way.
If instead of asking a question that makes it hard for him to focus on what he needs to do next (cleaning up), simply state what is going on next: “I’m getting my coat now,” or “It’s time to go outside.”
This allows him the freedom of choice without feeling like whatever he decides will disappoint or upset you.
Give clear, precise directions.
The first step to keeping your cool is to give clear and precise directions.
A few rules of thumb:
- Don’t use more than one sentence. You should never have to say “stop running, put away the dishes, get dressed for bed, and go brush your teeth” all in one breath. It’s too much for any child (or adult) to process!
- Be specific. Saying “Put on shoes” has a completely different meaning than telling your child “Put on your blue sneakers with orange laces, please. Thank you!” The former makes it seem like you’re barking orders; the latter seems like a casual request. Which would you be more likely to respond positively towards?
- Say it with a smile. How many times have you said something with an angry tone that was then misconstrued as an insult? Your words are important, but so is how you deliver them—even if they’re nothing but simple requests, they need to come across as such! Smiling while asking your child to do something not only helps establish a positive connection between you two but also puts them at ease by showing that everything’s OK.
- Use gestures if needed. Some children make sense of things better when there are visual cues involved; others aren’t quite able to process words yet—either way, using gestures can help get what you want across more clearly so fewer frustration sets in for both parties involved
Make sure your child understands the question or request. (If necessary, get down to his level and make eye contact.)
Ask him to repeat the question back to you.
You might not think this is important, but it helps ensure that he actually heard you.
There’s nothing more frustrating than giving instructions and then having them ignored because they weren’t understood in the first place!
Show him how to do it if he doesn’t understand.
This step isn’t always necessary for every question or request, but if there’s any confusion about what you’re asking of him, by all means, demonstrate!
bThis can be a real lifesaver when asking complicated things like “Can you please put away the dishes?” and will help keep your tone happy throughout the process.
Don’t repeat yourself or threaten. Just tell the child what will happen if he doesn’t comply
When you’re dealing with a child who is throwing a tantrum, repeating yourself or threatening can escalate the situation. Your child will think you are being mean and don’t like what he’s doing.
And you think that repeating yourself or threatening him will make him listen to you. But it won’t work. In fact, it can make things worse.
Be calm and direct when you say something that requires immediate action.
Another way to make kids listen without yelling is being calm and direct when you say something that requires immediate action is a very effective strategy.
For example, if your child is running out into the street, there is no point in beating around the bush with a sugar-coated speech about how dangerous that can be.
Children will benefit from a simple, direct command to stop what they are doing immediately.
Keep in mind that this technique should be used only for issues where safety is being compromised or when you need to get your kids’ attention quickly before things escalate.
Even then, it should not be overused, as it will lose its effectiveness. When you want to teach your children about positive behavior instead of just correcting bad behavior.
Try having a calm discussion with them about consequences instead of just barking, commands at them like an army drill sergeant (unless the situation calls for it).
If your child doesn’t listen, give him a choice. For example, if he won’t put his shoes on, ask him to put them on or get ready without going outside.
You can also give a choice when you ask your child to change an activity that he’s doing or stop doing something.
For example, you can say “Do you want me to help you clean this up right now or do it yourself in five minutes?”
The key is that the options presented must be positive ones for both of you.
Giving choices helps avoid the power struggle and gives kids some control while they are learning what is acceptable behavior.
Make sure your tone and body language are neutral as you present the choices so that your child doesn’t feel there is a preferred answer.
Remember: The goal is simply for your child to listen so that she can learn about appropriate behavior and actions!
Stop talking as soon as your child starts talking to you. Wait until he’s finished before responding with one simple sentence.
When your child starts talking to you, stop talking yourself.
Don’t interrupt or talk over him.
Wait until he’s finished before responding with one simple sentence.
This means you have to focus on what your child is saying, not what you want to say. Which can be really hard when all you want to do is hurry up and finish the conversation.
So that you can get back to doing whatever it was you were doing before your child interrupted you.
This will also help your child learn how to listen. If he’s busy trying to tell his story at the same time as listening to yours, he will miss what you’re saying.
Use consequences that fit the crime and make sense to the child – for example, no more television for the rest of the day means he can watch it again tomorrow.
- Consequences need to be understood by the child. You can’t punish a kid for misbehaving if you haven’t first taught him what kind of behavior is and isn’t acceptable.
- The consequences should not escalate into something that causes more conflict, such as talking back to your child or using physical punishment. This will only teach them that bad behavior results in worse behavior, which is of course not what you want.
- Consequences should be immediate, such as no TV for the rest of the day means you can watch it again tomorrow (or whenever).
- Consequences should be fair and reasonable. For example, if your child breaks something important like an iPod or laptop computer then their consequence should reflect this (no electronic devices for one week).
- Consequences should be consistent each time so there’s no confusion about what will happen when someone does something wrong again in future instances. For instance: “You’re grounded until dinner!” may sound harsh at first but after being used consistently over several months it becomes clear.
Keep distractions at bay by removing potential sources of noise and turning off the TV or radio during key moments (for example, you’re trying to change over laundry or dish out dinner).
If you’re trying to give your child clear instructions and you have a TV on in the background, or if you’re listening to music while he’s telling you what he wants to do tomorrow, it can be hard for either of you to focus.
Make sure that when your child is trying to tell you something and needs your undivided attention, the atmosphere is quiet and distraction-free.
Sometimes this means turning down the volume on the TV or radio during these moments; other times it may mean moving into another room entirely.
Generally, quieter environments are better for focusing on what’s being said and acting as prompted.
It’s possible to get kids to listen without yelling at them.
The problem with never yelling is that kids don’t learn how to listen.
You shouldn’t be a drill sergeant, but you aren’t being fair if you expect your child to behave and adjust their volume when everyone else in the house has been screaming at them since they were born.
If your kids hear you yell all the time, they’ll grow up accustomed to it and will think it’s normal, which means they’ll be more likely to act out as adults, too.
It’s best to use a calm voice and stay calm yourself, even if what your kid is doing is pushing your buttons (like throwing food on the floor or running away from you).
When you’re upset, take a moment for yourself—take some deep breaths, count to 10 or leave the room—and then approach your kid in a calm manner.
It might take some practice before you get kids to listen without yelling, child learns what “calm” looks like after years of hearing shouting in the household every day.
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