8 Ways To Talk To Children That Encourage Listening & Cooperation

8 Ways To Talk To Children That Encourage Listening & Cooperation

“Eat your vegetables or you’ll never have dessert again!” you try, beyond tired of having this veggie argument yet again…

“GO TO SLEEP already…How many times will I have to tell you to go to SLEEP!!” you say exasperated, just wanting to rest at the end of a long day.

“Share that toy NOW or I’m putting it away for good” you find yourself threatening and still the kids continue to fight.

Do you feel like whatever you say to your kids doesn’t matter because they just don’t listen to you?

Obviously if you are asking them to eat vegetables, go to sleep and play nicely it’s because you care a great deal about your kids. Children sometimes have a hard time listening to us well. Not so much because they can’t hear us, but because the way we speak doesn’t always invite cooperation.

The Downside of Threats, Bribes and yelling

Can you recall for a second the last time someone yelled at you or asked you do to something in a way that felt really rude?

Threats and bribes just don’t ge

promises or lies seldom gets us any closer to “getting” children to willingly do what we hope them to do – well at least not without a whole lot of hurt feelings, resentment, struggle and disconnection.

Children are much more likely to respond positively, with interest and cooperation when they feel welcomed, involved, encouraged and respected.Getting Kids to Listen

So here are 8 ways to talk that encourage listening and cooperation:

Turn No into YES: Instead of saying “NO yelling” try instead “Let’s speak quietly” and “NO throwing!” try instead “Can you show me how to drive that truck in big circles?”

Be Inclusive: Children are capable of doing lots of things on their own, but sometimes starting together or doing things cooperatively gets the job done faster and better. I love inclusive language like “LET’s do it together” and “how can WE do this?”

Avoid Lectures: Try not to go on and on about all the reasons and how fed up you are about something “I can’t believe it…not again…how many times…” Chances are they stopped listening at the first “how many…” anyways.

Be Specific: Children are much more likely to follow through on a request if the instructions are very specific. For example instead of saying “pick up your toys” say “Can you pick up all the red legos and place them in the lego bin?”

Connect First – Ask Later: Before making a request, get close, notice what your child is doing, connect and then make your request.

When my boys are playing lego, they tend to get really immersed into it. When it’s time to shift into doing something else I try to approach them and really connect first. The other day they were rescuing prisoners and superhero’s were flying and so on…I came close to them and just sat there, listening. A minute or so later there was a pause and I used a little lego figurine to join the story “Excuse me Lego dudes, that lady behind me has an important announcement, shall we hear it all together?” Everyone laughed and listened attentively after that too!

Be open to Alternatives: Welcome an acceptable alternative when possible, for example “If you don’t want to put napkins on the table, what job will you do to help set the table?” or “Can everyone come over and pick one vegetable they will be having at dinner?”  “Would you like tomato wedges or slices?” Inviting Cooperation and ideas usually goes a long way.

Be mindful of the timing: Asking a child to finish up their veggies at grandma’s house when this is otherwise never asked at home will come as a surprise and cause possible conflict. Asking a child to put away their laundry when a friend is visiting will probably not work well. If a child is really distressed, giving directions or trying to get them to do something before they have cooled off will also likely back-fire.   Being mindful of when we are asking something to be done can make or break how our request is received.

Be playful: Small children especially like it when silly things happen – teddy bears asking for help cleaning up, using games for getting dressed, toothbrushes that trap dragons and so on…the more fun and playful the better.

When we speak kindly, with the intent to connect, explain or share, our ideas become appealing and interesting and the other person can feel welcomed into the conversation, welcomed into potential solutions and ready to listen and cooperate.

Peace & Be Well,


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Ariadne is a happy and busy mama to three children. She practices peaceful, playful, responsive parenting and is passionate about all things parenting and chocolate. Ariadne has a Masters in Psychology and is a certified Positive Discipline Parenting Educator. She lives on top of a beautiful mountain with her family, and one cuddly dog.

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