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Getting my child to Listen: A Tale of Two Voices

Empathy in parenting turns challenges into opportunities for growth and connection.

It’s a common parent experience: you’re trying to get your little one to pick up their toys, but it’s as if you’ve suddenly turned invisible.

Or maybe you’re softly explaining why bedtime isn’t just a suggestion, all while they’re turning the living room into a makeshift trampoline park.

Sounds familiar, right?

Every parent’s been there, trying to get our children to actually listen. Balancing how to get them to do what you’re asking, with maintaining connection, understanding each other, and building a bond that’s strong and full of trust.

So, how do we get from chaotic living rooms to calm conversations?

In this article we’re diving into the heart of communication, breaking down the barriers, and finding out how to really talk to our kids.

Dr. Zia Lakdawalla - Foundations for Emotional Wellness - Antifragile

Understanding Child Development and Communication

Kids are like little sponges, soaking up everything around them. In their early years, they’re laying down the building blocks of who they’ll become, and we, the parents, are their main source of material. Every interaction, every response to their endless “whys” and “hows,” moulds their understanding of themselves and the world.

When our kids look at us, they’re not just seeing mom or dad; they’re looking into a mirror that reflects back who they are. If we’re patient and understanding, they learn to be kind to themselves. If we’re critical, they might see a world that’s hard to please. It’s a big responsibility, sure, but it’s also a chance to shape a future filled with confidence and compassion.

Do you remember the last time you really felt heard?

That’s the feeling we want to give our kids. When they’re having big feelings and meltdowns, it’s not because they love chaos (even if it seems that way), it’s because they’re overwhelmed and can’t express it. By putting ourselves in their tiny shoes, we start to understand the ‘why’ behind the meltdown. And with understanding comes patience and a whole lot of deep breaths.

How do we build this bridge of understanding?

It starts with listening, really listening. Not just to the words, but to the feelings behind them. It’s about acknowledging their fears, their joys, and their frustrations as valid. It’s about seeing beyond behaviours and paying attention to the feelings that drive these unwanted behaviours. When we do this, we’re not just telling them we love them; we’re showing it in a language they can feel. And that’s where true connection begins.

Prioritizing connection over-correction

I call these “fork in the road” moments where we need to pause and ask, “What’s going on for my child in this moment?” This shift from punitive measures to understanding creates a space for genuine learning and growth. Understanding our children’s needs and emotions is key to guiding their behaviour. Rather than focusing on setting rules and when they are broken; we want to build healthy strong connections where our kids are motivated to follow those rules.

Consistent follow-through in communication teaches children trust and responsibility.

Seeing the world through our children’s eyes strengthens the parent – child bond and helps children to be seen, accepted, and understood. These are the critical conditions under which children are naturally driven to please the adults that care for them. So, strengthening this bond is crucial.

Nurturing Connection and Respect in Parent-Child Relationships

Before we can talk about strategies for getting our children to listen, we need to address the quality of the relationship parents have with their children. At the core of a thriving parent-child relationship lies a deep-rooted connection and respect. This bond is the fertile ground where cooperation and mutual understanding blossom, shaping a dynamic where both parent and child feel valued and heard.

In fact, few other parent strategies are effective without the presence of this solid base. This is where getting our children to listen begins.

Building this bond involves:

  • Quality Time: Regularly engage in activities that both you and your child enjoy.
  • Open Communication: Encourage sharing of thoughts and feelings without judgment.
  • Express Affection: Regular, genuine expressions of love and affection reinforce security and belonging.

Nurturing these elements leads to a relationship where guidance is met with openness rather than resistance. This paves the way for long-term benefits like emotional resilience, social competence, and a positive self-concept in children.

Practical Strategies for Getting Children to Listen

Once we can ensure that our parent-child connections are strong and healthy, we can optimize our ability to get our children to listen. Here are some practical, evidence-based strategies:

  • Set Clear Expectations: Kids thrive on knowing the boundaries. Clearly outline what’s expected in simple, age-appropriate language.
  • Active Listening: Show your child you value their words. Get down to their level, make eye contact, and reflect back on what you’ve heard to ensure you’ve understood them correctly.
  • Positive Reinforcement: Catch them doing good and celebrate it. A simple “I noticed you did X, and I’m really proud” can work wonders.
  • Consistency is Key: Stick to your guidelines and routines. Kids feel more secure when they know what to expect.
  • Follow-Through: If you’ve set a consequence, follow through. It teaches responsibility and accountability.

Follow-through is the linchpin that holds your parenting strategies together. It’s what teaches children that your words have weight. Without it, rules become mere suggestions, and expectations lose their significance.

Your next steps

As we wrap up our exploration of enhancing parent-child communication, remember that every day brings new opportunities to strengthen your bond. This is a marathon, not a race. It takes time, self-reflection, and renewed efforts to reach our goals.

Stay curious, keep learning, and don’t hesitate to seek out resources and communities that support your parenting journey. Your commitment to nurturing a positive relationship with your child lays the groundwork for their well-being and development.

Dr. Zia Lakdawalla - Foundations for Emotional Wellness

Dr. Zia Lakdawalla

I am a registered clinical psychologist who specializes in working with children, adolescents, and parents. My goal is to help clients cope with uncomfortable feelings, improve relationships, and increase competency and efficacy in managing the demands of each new stage of development. I am also a strong believer that the environment in which kids are immersed is a critical factor in how they learn to regulate their emotions and build resilience.
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