What parent hasn’t experienced this? You’ve asked your child the same thing again, and again, and again. You’re so frustrated- no matter how hard you try, they just aren’t listening. Even worse, your little human is arguing with you! I mean, really? How dare this tiny person show such disrespect!
It’s easy to get frustrated with your little ones and feel like you’re going to blow your top. After all, we’re all human. Those who claim to be perfect parents are either in denial, lying, or just don’t have kids of their own. We’re not going sit here either and pretend it’s easy. Many of our best clinicians have kids of their own, and let me tell you- it’s really very difficult to practice what you preach in the parenting department.
There’s a saying, “when we parent in anger, we’ve quit parenting.” For those of us who’ve lost our temper with our kids, we know exactly how true this quote really is. When we lose our cool, the situation becomes more about us, our feelings, and less about our little ones.
You see, parenting is really about teaching and role modeling the skills children need in adulthood. When we lose our temper, we aren’t just role modeling maladaptive coping skills, we’re also disrupting the trusting relationship we have with our kids.
Something that’s long been toted in the training of social workers is the importance of relationships. After all, when was the last time you wanted to listen to someone you didn’t like or trust? There probably wasn’t one, and the same is true for our kids.
The truth is, your child will only be little for so long. As much as you don’t want to think about it, pretty soon they’ll start on their path to adulthood and become a teenager. It will be at that point that it’s critical that your child trusts you enough to turn to you for guidance. You see, in those ever so important teenage years, there is the potential for your child to make dangerous choices that will forever change the outcome of their life.
So, what’s a parent to do? How do you get your child to listen in a way that’s effective, doesn’t involve losing your cool, and preserves your relationship with them? Have no fear, we’re going to break it down for you!
Below is a simple five-step process to help you get your little one to listen.
Step One: Calm Down Before Engaging
Parenting in anger will not only muffle your message, it will surely result in saying or doing something you’ll regret. After all, scaring your child won’t help them to listen, it will only frighten them into compliance.
While it’s a hotly debated topic, years of scientific research have supported that tactics that employ fear for compliance, such as physical discipline, may work in the short run, but are ineffective and can backfire in the long run.
So, don’t take the chance that you’ll do something you’ll regret. If you’re upset, step away from the situation for a minute, take a deep breath, and collect yourself before approaching your child.
Step Two: Get Down On Their Level
Okay, have you calmed down and centered yourself? If so, it’s time to make your big approach! Strut over to your child, get down on your knees, and look them eye-to-eye.
Getting down on your child’s level will help them know you’re connected to them and that you’re listening.
Step Three: Take Their Hands & Ask Them to Look at You
Now, at this point it’s entirely possible that your child has completely worked themselves into a full-blown tantrum. In order to get them to calm-down and to ensure that they’re internalizing your words, you will need to make sure they aren’t looking away.
Take their hands and ask them to look you in the eyes. This will help harness in their emotions and pull them back into the present. Your touch is an important tool to comfort your child and calm them down.
Step Four: Ask Them to Repeat Back What You’ve Said
Okay, you’ve calmed your child down and primed them for communication- now is your moment to shine! It’s time to deliver your message and ensure that they’ve heard it.
So, once you’ve gotten down on their level, taken their hands and are looking them in the eyes, say what you need to say and have them repeat it back to you. Not only does having them repeat back your message ensure that they’ve heard it, it forces them to process and internalize your words.
Added bonus- if they haven’t already calmed down, the mental load of listening and repeating back what you’ve said will surely do the trick!
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