The Secret to Getting Your Kids to Listen and Talk to You

The Secret to Getting Your Kids to Listen and Talk to You

For a stronger relationship with your kids, now and as they age, this trick works magic.

By Lorraine Allen

I don’t really believe that there is one real secret or right method to parent, because every kid, and every parent, and every day is different. But this trick I learned from my grandma who raised me and about eight other kids over her lifetime is one ingenious way to get kids to listen to you and talk to you. I’ll admit, I definitely don't always remember to practice this simple trick myself, unfortunately. It takes a bit of patience. But it’s a great parenting tool to have up your sleeve.

Here it is: Don't tell kids what to do or not to do, especially when they are frustrated or angry. Instead, guide them toward finding the right answer or action on their own in any situation, problem, conflict, or frustration.

For example: Your 4-, 7-, or 14-year-old is really upset, because you told him he cannot go to his friend’s house or watch a TV show or eat an ice cream right now. He is screaming, he slams the door, and he is mad. He carries on and on. Often, in this scenario, a parent might get frustrated and either give in, or raise her voice, or threaten with consequences. Any of these things might make the kid even more upset, though, and increase the distance between you. And neither the kid nor the parent will benefit in any way.

In fact, after years of this, relationships become more closed between parent and child. What kids learn is to hide their feelings from you, and to not listen, because they feel they are not being heard when they are hurting. So instead, try not telling your kids how to act, or feel, or what to say or do when they are upset -- and show them that you recognize their feelings and frustrations, which are valid. Then, help them find a way to feel better about the situation on their own, by saying something like, “I know you’re upset/sad/angry, and I’m sorry you feel this way. What do you think would help you feel better/what can we maybe do together to cheer you up?”

More from P&G everyday: 5 Tips for Teaching Toddlers to Listen

If your kid cannot think of solutions, guide her to ask herself: “What are things that make me happy? That make me laugh? That take my mind off of unpleasant thoughts? What are activities that I love that I can do right now? That calm me down?” Maybe it’s as simple as reading, or drawing, or baking something together. Perhaps it’s going for a bike ride, playing ball, or walking the dog.

Telling kids they are doing something wrong when they get upset, or even punishing them, is not teaching them to calm down or listen. It is only cutting yourself off from them and making it harder for the kids to deal with and fix their behavior, or contain their emotions, or soothe themselves.


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Child and adolescent family therapist Darby Fox points out that to open up to you, and listen to you, kids “need to feel they will not be judged or ridiculed” when they are upset or there is something troubling them. “If your kids feel that you will listen, they will talk,” she says. She suggests, too, as kids grow up, that we take the time to ask them their opinion on all sorts of topics, from current events, to peer interactions, and age-appropriate moral dilemmas, in general. “When they respond, don't correct them,” she advises. “Be curious about why they responded the way they did. It's critical they feel free to express themselves.”

Darby also believes that if we teach our kids that we will listen to them, they will in turn grow up wanting to talk to us when they have a problem or are in tough situation. This is a key factor to developing and maintaining a strong parent-child relationship. All we need to do is take the time to listen to them, acknowledge their frustrations, value their opinions, and guide them to find their own solutions.

How do you get your kids to listen and talk to you?

Lorraine Allen is a writer, and mom and personal chef to one spunky 6-year-old girl with severe food allergies. You can enjoy their delicious recipes and follow their amusing family cooking adventures at Feeding Lina.

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