How to get your kids to listen - two girls lying on a hammock
Growing up

How to get your kids to listen – A simple trick

All the things I tried and an embarrassingly easy technique that works.

At moments parenting can be exhausting:

“Don‘t do that.”

“Pick up your toys first.”

“Get off the window.”

“Be careful, you‘ll brea…k it.“

No one warns you that you‘ll spend so much time monitoring, warning, and cleaning after your own children. And that there comes the time when they just won’t hear you. Because they don‘t want to.

So, how do you get your kids to listen to you then?

With so many schools of thought on how to raise children, you get confused in the end. You tend to overanalyze things:

“Am I doing everything right?”

“Am I turning them into soldiers?”

“Am I making irreparable psychological damage?”

“Am I too lenient?”

“Or too oppressive? When I see other kids, I think mine are too disciplined…”

“Will they be able to persevere when they grow up?”

“How happy will they be with such set of characteristics?”

Or is it just me? I tried different stuff to tame them but – then again – not to break their little spirits.

To talk it out.

A good old explanation because we are a little commune of hippies who each blossom at their own time. As if you could change an adult’s opinion with it, let alone make a deal with a kid.

The “You should be ashamed of yourself” criticism.

The yelling.

Because WTF…

Timeouts for tantrums.

Let them shout until they calm down. As if you can pull yourself together in a couple of minutes when you are 5… But I saw it on TV, the Supernanny said it’s fine.

The table with smileys and angry faces.

Then I realized I was killing their intrinsic motivation by the constant carrot and stick approach. I didn’t want them to listen only because they will get a reward. Or because they are afraid they won’t get something they truly want.

The “Listen to my heartbeat” and parental hugging.

It works, I will still use it.

But I needed something that will make them DO what I tell them.

I was a very obedient child. They would tell me to do something once and I would do it.

They rarely spanked me but I thought even that was undeserved. I swore I’d never hit my kids. Still, the fear of my dad’s anger was more damaging. Therefore in adolescence, I grew into a rebel.

And now I get the chance to be irritated by my kids’ behavior:

How dare they?! I ask myself sometimes. I ask them, too.

I know they are testing the limits but still! At moments parenting can be exhausting.

Of course, my children don’t have total awareness of the world and their place in it. No cause and effect. No sense of structure. They draw a castle on the sea. They can also watch cartoons for 100 hours a day.

So, getting them into the real world is an effort. But I found embarrassingly easy tactics that work. It is taken from my former career as a teacher. It serves the purpose of strengthening a child’s intrinsic motivation.

First ask them to do something for you, and then give them a little reward to fulfill their immediate wishes:

“You want to draw on the computer? Have lunch first.”

“Wanna watch a cartoon? Eat your breakfast.”

“Do you want to have ice cream this Saturday? No sweets until then.”

This little carrot works. No threats, no tantrums, everything finished easy peasy lemon squeezy. You just have to be consistent.

Once the habit sticks, reward their good behavior for something else.

No force, no blackmail, just giving them the options to choose from. The world doesn’t play by their rules and wants, better equip them with patience and understanding of the hierarchy.

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