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How to Get Kids to Listen

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Many a mother has puzzled over this: how to get kids to listen and follow through on what they’ve heard. As a wise man wrote, We want our children to be doers, not just hearers.

I know that I have a part in guiding my children from hearing to doing. I know that talking to my son while he’s playing video games does not work. I know that bombarding my daughter with lessons and lectures first thing in the morning doesn’t work. And I know that if I really want to get my kids to listen, I need to consider these 5 tips for how to get kids to listen:

1. Make eye contact.

Your children’s ears have a better chance of hearing, and their mind has a better chance of comprehending when their eyes are on you. So before you start talking and directing, ask your child to look at you. If your child looks away, redirect his attention back to you. And, make sure you’re doing what you should to be a good listener, too. 

2. Keep it concise.

Avoid the Charlie Brown Syndrome—the droning, incoherent voice used by adults in the Peanuts cartoons. That’s exactly how you’ll sound to your child if you talk too long. So when you get on a roll and you see your child’s eyes glazing over, stop. Try to use as few words as possible.

3. Keep it simple.

If you want your child to really hear what you’re saying, keep your message simple. Yes, you might want her to pick up her toys, put away her books, and go brush her teeth before bed, but if you give multiple requests in one breath, you’ll set up your child to not follow through. Also, talk to your child in an age-appropriate way—little child, little words; big child, big words.

4. Avoid yelling.

Screaming at your child will actually distract her from your message. Sure, she’ll hear you, but you could also spark feelings of anger and fear. Even if you’ve had to repeat yourself several times, try to be patient. Explain, once again, what you want your child to do. If firmness is required, be firm, but keep your voice in the scream-free zone. (And, remember, screaming is one of the 23 habits moms should try to break.)

5. Ensure understanding.

As soon as you finish making your point or making your request, say something like, “I want to be sure that I’ve made myself clear and that you understand me, so tell me what you heard me say.” If your child didn’t quite get the message, patiently repeat yourself and have him try again.

How do you get your kids to listen?


How can someone become a good listener?

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