What can I do?
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.
And what about you?
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.
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?