Top 5 ways to get children to listen and end the nagging!

By Jaime Rivetts, MSEd

1. LOOK THEM IN THE EYES. 

The best way to do this is to get on their level. Get down on one knee or both knees and/or bend over. Children like to know that you are thinking about them and connecting with them. Imagine the world from their perspective: people towering over them and telling them what to do all the time. When we get down on their level and look them in the eye, they are more likely to feel heard and therefore listen. 

2. CONNECT WITH THEM AND THEN REDIRECT. 

Affirm that you heard what they said, and then try to redirect them after you have listened. Often adults tell children what they don’t want them to do right off the bat. Stop and listen to what they are asking for, and then redirect them to other choices. “I hear that you want a cupcake at 9 am, and I am sorry that isn’t a choice right now. Here is why you can’t have a cupcake at 9 am…..” 

3. TELL CHILDREN WHAT TO DO INSTEAD OF WHAT NOT TO DO.

It’s easy to say “STOP IT” or “DON’T DO THAT!” If that’s what we do all the time, then that’s what kids hear and thus what they will do ALL the time. Tell them what you want them to do, i.e. the replacement behavior instead of what you don’t want them to do. Turn a negative into a positive. “Can you please stand by the car while I load your sister. I am worried about cars, and I would feel safer if you put your hand on the car and stood there patiently.” (This is instead of: “Don’t run in the parking lot!”) 

4. TELL CHILDREN THE “WHY”  BEHIND WHAT YOU ARE ASKING THEM TO DO.

“I would like you stop hitting your brother because you could hurt him and then we would need to take him to the doctor AND he will probably start hitting you back. Let’s use our words to tell him how we feel instead of our fists.”  OR “ I would like you to go to bed right now. When you don’t go to sleep on time, you wake up tired and have a hard day at school. Don’t you want to have a great day tomorrow?” 

Children are more likely to comply if they understand why you are asking them to do something. If you just say no and don’t give a reason, then it becomes about them getting upset or angry with you. If you tell them why you don’t want them to do something, then they understand the reasoning behind it and compliance is more likely to happen. 

5. TELL CHILDREN HOW THEY ARE MAKING OTHER PEOPLE FEEL BY NOT LISTENING – TEACH THEM EMPATHY.

This is probably the hardest thing to teach children, but it can have long-lasting positive impacts on their behaviors. “When you run around the room and refuse to put on your pj’s, I get really frustrated. Can you take care of my feelings and come get dressed?” Explain to them the impact they are having on others around them. Teach them how important it is to take care of other people’s feelings and how this can help them make better choices. 

Jaime Rivetts