How to communicate with kids so they actually hear you
Do you struggle with your child not listening to you or even caring about what you are saying? They are watching their tablet and you’re talking and they completely ignore you. Or you’re talking to your child and they just start talking and playing blowing you off. Or if you have a teenager they may just walk away and not care what you’re saying.
Of course this pisses you off. You start yelling for them to hear you and to listen to you. You are yelling to the point your throat is starting to hurt, and yet nothing has changed.
You experience this almost everyday and their behavior and your anger just gets bigger and bigger until someone explodes, and still to find nothing has changed.
Well, today we will talk about how you can communicate with your child so they will hear you, and you will finally feel heard and get the cooperation you are needing in your home.
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What type of communicator are you?
Take a minute here and think about your conversations with your child, with your spouse, family, even co-workers.
Are you an aggressive communicator? Are you a passive communicator? Or are you a compassionately assertive communicator?
Let’s talk about each one so you can make a decision and then we can go from there to see how we can alter your communication towards your child.
Aggressive communication is where the parent yells a lot, puts their child down, using attacking words, even belittling them. The tone here also means something, sometimes we try to stay calm and use “nice words”, but our tone is demeaning or passive-aggressive, kids pick up on this.
Passive communication is where the parent doesn’t like confrontation so they try to avoid their child getting mad at them or avoiding a tantrum. These parents do use soft words and tones but it seems that their child “walks over them”, then when their child has pushed your limit you end up becoming aggressive with your words and your tone.
Compassionately assertive communication is where parents are consistent, clear with their communication, positive and calm, and also firm because you are still the parent. This is the communication skill that we as parents want to aim for.
Model the behavior you want to see
If you want them to talk politely then we need to model that to them. Especially in the ages of 12 and under you may hear a lot of “mommy I want my juice right now.” It’s easy to react and tell them to ask nicely, but this is a perfect time to teach in a non-manipulative way and a non-corrosion way. We don’t want to hold the juice box up and demand that they repeat what you just said- “mommy, can I please of a juice box”? And hold it until we hear them repeat what we said.. We want to stare away from control.
You can say, “remember, we want to ask for things not demand things. Remember we need to say ‘can I please…’.”
If we say go pick up the socks in your room, then tell them to not talk to us a certain way, it’s sending them mixed signals and not modeling the behavior we want to see.
How empathy plays a huge part in our communication
We often hear and say that kids will get attention no matter what even if it’s negative attention. But, if you think about it, why would they want negative attention? You think they want to have attention so badly that they will do something to get any attention, even if it’s us yelling at them? Do they want to feel scared, and unsafe just to get attention?
We need to go deeper than that. We need to see what our kids are trying to communicate with us with their behavior. And that is how empathy comes into play. We need to shut up for once, and listen to them, not talking, judging, comparing, interrupting, or thinking that you already know what they are going to say and why. Even if you do already know, give your child the chance to say it, to get it out.
When a child keeps hearing no, or getting ignored or shut down at every chance, they start to get more irritated and that is when behaviors start to happen because they are having a lot of unmet needs and they don’t know how else to get those needs met, than to act out and get your “negative attention” so to speak.
Showing empathy to your child is a huge step to connecting with your child. Rather than yelling and reacting to them, sitting down practicing active listening and reflective listening will open up connections, and also will open them up to talk and have non-violent communication with you.
The more calm and willing you are to listen and listen intently, the more they will be willing to listen to what you have to say and what you are needing.
Parenting can’t be a me, me, me situation. If you need them to cooperate, listen to you, and care about your needs, you need to be willing to model that and show them that same behavior.
Here is a video that gives a great example on how this can look like. This is for both younger kids and teenagers. They all need to be heard, understood, and listened to just as badly as you need to be heard and understood.
Everyone is equal in this conversation
So parenting today, in my eyes, we make it so much harder than it needs to be. The most simple adjustments will make everyone’s lives so much easier and enjoyable.
A huge part of the adjustment is how we are communicating with our kids and how often. Yes, we will need to talk more to our kids and even more importantly be able to listen to our kids. This seems SO easy and like common sense, but at the same time so hard to do and grasp because most of us weren’t raised that way. We weren’t heard and we didn’t have a voice as a child.
So, when we are parents it’s easy to take that hurt, frustration and anger with us and unintentionally project it onto our kids. We are adults now, I finally get a voice, you are a small child and you need to listen to me.
If we can look back at how that made us feel as a child, I’m sure you don’t want your child feeling like that either. Showing empathy, understanding what it’s like to not have a voice is where it can all change.
This is where you get to grow and explore with your child, because we are all still learning and growing every day even as adults.
Use this time to model to your child the behavior you want to see in them. Use this time as an opportunity to teach and not control. Use this time to grow with each other.