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Your Kids Will Listen if You do THIS

Kids not listening? These two helpful strategies are great tips on how to get your kids to listen. Great positive parenting strategies for parents with young kids, toddlers, and preschoolers.

It’s so frustrating to repeat ourselves endlessly. These positive parenting strategies work in a way that kids will listen (almost) every time.

“It looks like a beautiful ballroom!” she said. My five-year-old daughter was awestruck. She approached the open restaurant floor and twirled with wonderment. Even though we had only entered a bistro, I couldn’t fault her enthusiasm. The restaurant was warm and inviting.

As we sat down to dine with some friends from out of town, everything felt connected. We were celebrating was their last night after a fun-filled weekend together. My kids had just spent the last hour swimming, jumping, and moving from the hotel pool to the hot tub and back again.

If there was a good time to bring two young kids to a nicer restaurant, it was now. They were exhausted and ready to eat.

Then it started.

When ten minutes turned to twenty and the food still hadn’t arrived, things weren’t going quite as ‘swimmingly.’ Soon, both kids were up on their knees bouncing. Next, my daughter was playing with the chain links holding the curtains as my son attempted to slip down his chair onto the floor. Of course, my husband wasn’t there yet. And I could sense our company was becoming increasingly unimpressed my kids’ agitation.

One of our guests told them to stop repeatedly. I asked them to sit still again and again and again.

“Stop playing with your cutlery.”
“Don’t touch that.”
“Get down.”

This approach wasn’t working. At all.

Then it dawned on me.

Kids not listening? Your kids will listen if you use these two strategies. Great positive parenting strategies for parents with young kids, toddlers, and preschoolers.


Your kids will listen, you just need to reframe how you speak…

In the past, when I corrected my children only using negative language, things fell apart.  When I try to get my kids to behave, “don’t,” “stop,” and “no, no, no,” is more like white noise than effective communication. The reason? Negative language requires kids to double process. When kids hear, “Don’t do that,” he or she is left to answer:

  1. What should I not do?
  2. What should I be doing instead?

For a young child,  that’s a lofty request. Especially when they’re fidgety, struggling to self-regulate, and bored.

Related reading: This is How Negative Language Impacts Kids & Here’s What to do Instead

And that’s not the worst part.

Already, kids are less inclined to listen when faced with these statements. To compound the issue, the more children hear what they shouldn’t be doing, the less they want to comply. The reason for this is pretty simple. In general, people of all ages lose the motivation to cooperate with someone’s expectations when they feel like they can do no right.

How to talk so your kids will listen.

In order to get our kids to listen, we must phrase our discipline and criticisms positively. My critics read these words and think I mean you should never ever use the words stop or no with your children. That certainly isn’t realistic nor is it the case. However, to get our children to listen to us we must speak in a way that both is easy to understand and is motivating to listen to.

Saying things like, “Sit down,” as opposed to, “Stop it,” is a vast improvement. However, in order to get out children to listen, we must also tell them how to direct their energy when they are struggling to self-regulate.

Related reading: The Surprising Strategy to Get Your Kids to Listen Without Repeating Yourself

When it dawned on me that I wasn’t telling my children what they could do, our dining experience changed.

The more kids hear what they shouldn’t be doing, the less likely they are to comply. My kids instantly lost motivation to make a better choice when they are told repeatedly what they did wrong.

I paused and put myself in my kids’ shoes.

That’s when I realized I wasn’t telling my children what they could do. Sure, I had told them to sit. But I hadn’t told them what they could do to preoccupy their time while waiting.
I replaced my requests for them to sit on their bums with asking if they’d like to go for a walk.

Instead of asking them not to play with their cutlery, I suggested they play with a handful of toys I had forgotten in the bottom of the diaper bag.

It worked like a charm. The last ten minutes spent waiting for our dinners was peaceful and pleasant.

Related reading: Best Positive Parenting Disciplinary Techniques & Resources

This practice started spilling over into other areas too…

  • When my kids ask to go to the park without me (which they’re not allowed to do), I highlight how far they can ride their bikes on the street.
  • After catching my daughter drawing on the walls (and after she scrubbed them clean), I suggested she used chalk on the basement floor.
  • The other day when I caught both using a sharpie to colour, I handed them their washable markers and explained why they aren’t allowed to use sharpies.
  • If they want something sweet to eat, I suggest a healthier choice.
  • When they fight with each other, I tell them that they can’t hit or use mean words but they are allowed to say that they upset or angry and why.

Parenting in this way is definitely more challenging than simply putting limitations on our children. However, our kids will listen so much better as a result of our efforts.

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Kids not listening? Your kids will listen if you use these two strategies. Great positive parenting strategies for parents with young kids, toddlers, and preschoolers.

Additional reading you may find helpful:

Scolding Undermines Effective Parenting. This is Why (and What to do Instead).

Why Positive Parenting is Essential Now When it May Not Have Been in the Past

How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk

Why Punishment is Ineffective and what to do instead

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26 responses to “Your Kids Will Listen if You do THIS”

  1. You are doing a good job and it really works!
    Our 4 girls are now 25-15. We had friends that thought this style of parenting only worked with our kids but they never tried it on their own and ended up with constant battles that continued through teenage years. We had our share of issues but because of our positive parenting style we rarely yelled and have been able to have wonderful discussions with them.
    It is harder and takes practice to say what you want rather than what you don’t want, but it is so worth it!
    Great post!!!

  2. i have four year daughter she is always tovthat wht we say not to do i live in join family nd very difocult to be calmn nd teach positivly i always loosr my tmprament. my daughter is very agressive suggest me some tips how to handle a child in join family system

  3. That was useful, thank you

  4. […] my children aren’t listening or are insisting on adding an option to the two choices I’ve given them to get something […]

  5. […] [Related reading: Your Kids Will Listen if you do THIS] […]

  6. […] my daughter will ask for space. Frustrated, my son gets closer. I intervene by getting down to his level and reiterate his sister’s request. I suggest an alternative to being shoulder to shoulder […]

  7. […] Phrase discipline using positive wording. It is easier for children to understand what they should do rather than hear what they shouldn’t. (Read more about this here.) […]

  8. […] to your child? Of course not.  But, I do make a point of trying to tell my kids what they can do when they propose something that won’t […]

  9. […] May 3, 2017Here are Effective Strategies That Will get Your Kids to ListenRead More […]

  10. […] Related reading: Here are Effective Strategies to Get Your Kids to Listen […]

  11. Thanks for great parenting tips.
    Will definitely give it a try

  12. […] Secret Life of Pets puzzle. Since starting this new routine, they have been fighting less and are listening better than […]

  13. Excellent and helpful materials here!. Now that we are raising our grandbaby, our paradigm for relating and training him has changed dramatically from the so-called traditional way. These changes began about 13 years ago while trying to parent our adopted girl who was diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder. She was 11 at the time and up until then we did not understand why the “good-old-fashioned-this-is-the-way-you-parent” was only making things much worse. The big shift came over the past decade but now we are learning better practices to use as parents of our 13-month-old Mr. Boy.

    1. I think we communicated around the time we launched the Positive Parenting Bundle. My prayers are with anyone who parents through RAD. I can only imagine the challenges. I can relate to old-fashioned parenting just not working. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment about positive parenting and getting kids to listen.

  14. […] Related reading: Your kids will listen if you do THIS […]

  15. I LOVE these tips! What a great resource. I love thinking about ways I can tell my kids what to do instead of what not to do. Definitely going to practice this more!

  16. […] have someone else drive. Here are some other basic scenarios to connect with your child to improve listening and […]

  17. How to handle your Difficult Toddlers Tantrums – Junior Trails

    […] to your child? Of course not.  But, you can make a point of trying to tell your kids what they can do when they propose something that won’t […]

  18. […] Follow through on what you say and communicate readily. […]

  19. […] Research shows that rewards decrease intrinsic motivation. However, positive reinforcement is a strong motivator. And, when you’re trying to get from point A to point B as peacefully as possible, it works incredibly well. If the going gets tough or if you’re worried that your trip may go poorly, use a points system to incentivise good listening. […]

  20. indeed very good thoughts and they actually work at times INSTEAD of getting frustrated all the time.. it helps – alot – keeping at it …

  21. I absolutely love this reminder! It is so easy to get exasperated quickly when our little ones act up, especially in front of other people. The pressure to have well behaved kids all the time is daunting when truthfully, kids just want to be kids!

    Walking through these steps is absolutely key to maintaining self control. One additional thing I do with my littles is get their confirmation at the end. Something simple like “So throwing the ball outside (instead of inside) is a good idea, right?” I want for them to confirm “yes” every time so they don’t just run off without confirming the expectation! So far this technique has worked very well.

    Keep up the great work!

  22. […] Related reading: Your Kids Will Listen if You do THIS […]

  23. […] Related reading: Your Kids Will Listen if You do THIS […]

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About Me

Hi, I’m Alana. When I’m not nursing cold, stale coffee, I usually can be found with the baby on my hip, barefoot, and racing after my two older kids.

Thanks to a degree in psychology and a free-range childhood backing onto an expansive evergreen forest, positive parenting and play-based learning are my passions.

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