Make sure you have got their attention before you speak.

  • Squat down and make eye contact
  • Hold their hand gently in yours
  • Ask for a response - can you hear me?
  • Don’t call out from another area

Check they can actually hear you.

Is it noisy or are there other distractions around? Take them to a quieter, calmer place.

If they’re always ignoring you, you might want to get their ears checked - it’s free for under-fives.

Start by acknowledging their feelings.

  • Acknowledging their feelings first can make listening more likely. No one likes to be told to stop doing something they enjoy. 
  • Kids deal with frustration better when they feel understood. For example: “I can see you want to keep playing, but….”

Try not to expect too much for their age and stage.

  • Most under-fives find it hard to stop what they’re doing and listen. The younger they are, the more support they will need from you to learn this new skill. 
  • Find out more about your child's age and stages.

Pick your battles.

  • Focus on getting them to listen to the really important stuff - consider letting the rest go for now.
  • Wait until your kids come to you wanting your attention, and raise lower priority stuff with them then.

Ask in a calm voice.

Calm requests work better than loud orders. Shouting raises a kid’s stress levels and releases cortisol, which can reduce their ability to listen.

Offer choices rather than demands or threats.

Offering choices makes kids feel like they have some control and can reduce tantrums. For example, getting dressed is not an option but what you wear can be.
Keep choices simple - red socks or blue socks? If you ask them what socks they want to wear, they’ll choose the ones in the wash!

Give lots of praise when they do listen.

Young kids like to please. Praise the behaviour you’d like to see more of. “Kapai – thank you for putting that away when I asked you.”

Give clear and specific requests.

  • Give one instruction at a time - too many at once can be confusing and too much for them to remember
  • Be specific: “please put your blocks back in the toy box” - not “please tidy your room”.
  • Say what you do want them to do, not what you don’t. Instead of “don’t run in the house” you could say “walking inside please you might hurt yourself if you run”
  • Give them your full attention when they want to tell you something.
  • When they ask you for something, acknowledge their request and say yes if you can. If you can’t, try to explain why in a way they’ll understand.

Over it? Use your phone timer to set a time limit for a play activity – your full attention for five minutes is better than half pai for longer.

Need back-up? Family members might be willing to help but not sure what to do. . Be specific – “could you please bath/feed change/dress baby”

Feeling like a bad parent? Look around and check is there anything that could be dangerous to the kids? If not, relax – you’re doing OK!

Feel like you’re always on the go? Your kids are the most important thing - and they’re only young once. Think about what absolutely must be done now and what can wait.

Worried what others think of your parenting? What your kids think of you is what really matters! If you focus on them, you’re already doing a great job.

Feeling down? Talking with someone you trust can be the first step to finding help. Working out whether your feelings are temporary or more lasting is important. Depressed? Writing down your feelings in a daily diary will help you monitor whether it’s getting better or worse. This will also help you explain better if you go to your doctor.

Sick of yelling? Try singing your frustration instead. If you hop or jump at the same time, everyone gets the giggles — another great tension buster!

Feeling yuk? If no-one else can help with the kids, grab a pillow and blanket - set up camp in your lounge until you start to feel better

Had enough? You may feel like you need alcohol or drugs to relax – but they often make the situation worse, especially when you have to deal with kids. Who could help you cut down or cut it out?

Stress over unpaid bills? Have a banking setup that automatically takes money out for your main bills first. Then you know what you have left to survive on.

Determined to stay calm?

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Putting it all together

SKIP’s approach is based on six things which children need from parents to help them grow into happy, capable adults.

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  • Love & warmth

  • Talking & listening

  • Guidance & understanding

  • A structured & secure world

  • Consistency & consequences

  • Limits & boundaries