how to get your child to listen the first time: father with loud speaker talking to a child

Imagine asking your child to do something once and they… just do it. Yes, as in: they actually listen and follow your instructions the first time you speak. No nagging, no having to repeat yourself and no threats of consequences. Sound too good to be true? It’s not! Experts say that getting your child to listen to you is all about how you ask them to do something. Still not convinced? Try these tips.

Make sure they can hear you

It almost sounds too ridiculous to be an actual tip but if the TV is on, your child is engrossed in a game or distracted by what’s happening outside, it’s quite likely that they actually can’t hear you. Of course, there are times when it’s a case of ‘selective listening’, which is exactly why making SURE your child can hear you is the first step to getting them to follow your instructions. Ideally, you’ll get down to their level and make eye contact so there’s no doubt that your child knows you’re speaking to them.

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Always ask calmly

It’s tempting to raise your voice when you want your child to do something (especially if it’s the second, hundredth or millionth time you’ve asked) but they’re actually less likely to follow instructions if you don’t keep your cool. Why? Because shouting becomes less effective over time and you might unintentionally be giving them the impression that you’re not serious until you start yelling.

boy covering his ears: how to get your child to listen the first time

Use your words (but not too many!)

Be clear on what you want done and say only what’s necessary – this should include giving just one or two instructions at a time (although older children might, of course, be able to handle more). It can also help to give a reason for your request, such as ‘put on your shoes because we’re going to the shops’.

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Mean it (because they’ll know if you don’t)

If you aren’t sure they’re going to follow your instructions, they’ll know you aren’t being serious about your request. So talk to them confidently and with purpose. But the most important part of asking your kid to do something – and actually getting them to do it the first time you ask – lies in what happens if they don’t do it. You have to be consistent with your follow through and consequences. If you let them get away with something today, they’ll be less inclined to follow instructions tomorrow because… well, nothing is going to happen so why should they?

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