How To Talk So Kids Will Listen

It can be difficult for a child to think clearly when someone is asking or advising them. If you're having trouble getting your kids to listen to you, here are some tips on how to talk so kids will listen.

By URLife Team
14 Jun 2024

Have you ever noticed how your words can make or break a moment with your child? The way we talk to our kids isn't just about getting them to listen—it's about teaching them how to communicate, understand, and connect with the world around them. Our tone, our choice of words, and our approach shape their behavior and their response to us.


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Think about a time when you were in a hurry, and your child wasn't cooperating. Did you find yourself raising your voice, only to be met with resistance or tears? Or perhaps you tried asking them nicely, but they seemed to ignore you completely. These scenarios highlight the different ways parents communicate and the varied responses they get from their children.


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The Way We Talk To Our Kids Matter

How we talk to our kids greatly impacts their ability to learn and listen to us. Our words and tone teach them how to act and communicate. When we speak to them, we're showing them how we want them to speak back to us. Let's explore the three common communication styles parents use with their kids—aggressive, passive, and assertive—and see how each one impacts our children’s behavior. 

By understanding these styles, we can learn to talk to our kids in a way that fosters respect, cooperation, and positive relationships.

  • Aggressive communication involves yelling, putting kids down, and using harsh words. For example, a parent might shout, "Why can't you ever listen?!" This approach often leads to kids feeling scared, yelling back, or ignoring their parents. It creates a tense and fearful atmosphere.
  • Another type of way is passive communication which is soft and cautious, lacking firmness. These parents might say, "Could you maybe please clean up your room if you want to?" Kids often take advantage of this and run wild, not taking the parent seriously. Sometimes, when pushed to their limits, passive parents might suddenly snap and become aggressive, which can confuse and upset kids.
  • Lastly, assertive communication is the most effective way to talk to kids. It is firm, clear, positive, and warm. For example, a parent might say, "Please put away your toys now so we can have dinner." This way of communicating shows confidence and consistency, helping kids understand expectations and feel secure.


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How To Talk So Kids Will Listen

Communicating effectively with children is a form of art that every parent should learn and master. Here are some key strategies to help ensure your words resonate with them and encourage positive responses.

1. Acknowledge And help your child to deal with their feelings

Children often struggle to understand and express their emotions. Validate your child's emotions by acknowledging their feelings. Saying, "I see you're upset because you can't play outside right now," helps them feel understood and more willing to listen. 

  • For example, if your child is crying because their toy broke, you might say, "I see you're really sad about your toy breaking. It's okay to feel upset."
  • If your child is frustrated because they can't tie their shoes, say, "It looks like you're feeling frustrated because tying your shoes is hard. 
  • Or, if your child is scared after a bad dream, hold them and say, "It's okay, I'm here with you. Let's talk about it."


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2. Show understanding and empathy

Getting children to cooperate without resorting to threats or bribes can be challenging but is essential for fostering mutual respect and effective communication. Show that you value what your child has to say. 

  • Be specific and clear with your requests. Instead of saying, "Behave," try, "Please put your toys in the basket."
  • Children are more likely to cooperate when they understand why a task is important. For example, "Please put your shoes on so we can go to the park and have fun."
  • Giving children choices empowers them and reduces resistance. Instead of commanding, "Put your coat on," ask, "Would you like to wear your red coat or your blue coat today?"


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3. Encourage them to solve things playfully

  • Turn any task into games. Instead of always providing solutions, encourage your child to come up with their own. Make cooperation fun by turning tasks into games. 
  • For instance, "Let's see who can pick up the most toys in one minute!" This makes chores feel like a playful challenge rather than a burden.
  • Ask, "What do you think we can do to solve this problem?" This promotes critical thinking and cooperation.


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4. Allow kids to make age-appropriate decisions

Fostering independence in children helps build their confidence and decision-making skills. When safe and appropriate, let children experience the natural consequences of their actions. 

  • For example, let them choose their outfit for the day or pick out a book to read at bedtime.
  • If they forget their homework, they might learn to remember it next time without being scolded.


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5. Provide responsibilities and praise their efforts

Assign simple responsibilities that match their abilities, such as feeding a pet or setting the table. Praise their efforts and contributions to the family. Giving praise is vital for boosting a child’s self-esteem, but it should be done thoughtfully to be truly effective.

  • Instead of general praise like "Good job," be specific about what they did well. For example, "I love how you used so many colors in your drawing. It looks beautiful!"
  • Say, "You worked really hard on that puzzle. I'm proud of you for not giving up!"
  • Do you think you did well today?" This fosters self-reflection and internal motivation.

Children learn by observing. As a parent, it is imperative to model the behavior you want to see in them. Show respect, patience, and effective communication in your actions. Also, be aware of praising too much as it can make children dependent on external validation. Balance praise with encouragement that helps them feel confident in their abilities without always seeking approval. By incorporating these strategies, you can foster a more open, respectful, and effective communication channel with your children. Ultimately, the goal is to create a supportive environment where children feel heard, respected, and motivated to listen and respond positively.


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