If Only My Kids Would Listen

By JCS Staff

I talk to people for a living. That’s what I do. As a video producer, I ask strangers a ton of questions about themselves and, generally, they seem to respond. As a public relations coordinator, I relate to the public by talking – some might argue I chat a little too much. But regardless, talking to people is what I’m paid to do, and I like to think I’m relatively good at it. So why in the world is it so hard for me to talk to my 5-year-old twins? Actually, talking to them isn’t really the issue. The challenge is getting them to listen.

“Get dressed!”
“Eat your breakfast!”
“Brush your teeth!”
“Put on your shoes!”

Why do I have so much trouble communicating what I want (and need) them to do? It’s because, as it turns out, I’ve been doing it all wrong. Apparently, I’m not the only one (whew). Author Joanna Faber wrote a whole book on the subject. It’s called How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen: A Survival Guide to Life with Children Ages 2-7.

As a parent, it’s hard when you feel that your kids just aren’t listening to you, especially when you’ve got places to go and people to see. Adults are clock watchers – we’re obsessed with time. Mornings in my house are crazy because I have to get two kids up, dressed, fed and off to school so I can go to work. But as far as my kids are concerned, they would be perfectly happy to stay in the house all day. They don’t care about being late, they don’t care if their toys are strewn all over the family room or their dirty clothes are everywhere but in the hamper. They couldn’t care less about the things that matter to me.

So how do I get them to meet me halfway? Here are some of Faber’s strategies:

• Talk it out. Kids will be more cooperative if you teach them how to compromise. Using this problem-solving technique will get them feeling more in the mood to work with you, instead of against you.
• Make them laugh. Kids love it when parents are playful. Pretend their oatmeal can fly and their shoes and socks can talk.
• Offer creative choices. Instead of telling them to hurry up and get in the car, ask if they prefer walking or getting a piggyback ride to their destination.
• Factor in some chill time. None of us like being told what to do. Allowing kids some free time in between what you need them to do helps them be more willing to respond to your needs.

It’s not always easy to fit suggestions like these into your day. Sometimes you just want to tell them to stop whining and put on their coat. (That’s certainly how I felt this morning.) But once you start putting these strategies into place, interactions with your kids will become more fun, and they will actually start listening to you. And that will lead to happier parents and kids.

Jewish Community Services (JCS) provides programs and services for people of all ages and backgrounds, helping them achieve their goals, enhance their wellbeing, and maximize their independence. To learn more, visit jcsbalt.org or call 410-466-9200.

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