A Teacher’s Tricks for Getting Kids to Listen
By Aviva Patz for Healthy Kids from Teeth to Feet
Most parents have uttered the words: “How many times have I told you ... ?” at some point, but teachers rarely need to go there. They manage to hold a group of kids’ attention for hours every day. What’s their secret?
Mike Anderson, a consultant in a teaching technique called Responsive Classroom, shares the strategies for getting kids to listen, pay attention and follow directions.
- Get his attention to begin with. We often call out instructions to our kids when they’re playing or watching TV and then get frustrated when they don’t hear us. Make sure you have your child’s eyes and ears before speaking.
- Tell; don’t ask. If you want your daughter to put the milk away, say so. But don’t phrase it as a question. Saying, “Sweetie, would you please put the milk back in the fridge?” makes it optional.
- Follow through. If you ask your son to do something, don’t let it slide. “When we allow kids to not follow our directions, the lesson is that they don’t have to listen to what we say,” says Anderson.
- Examine expectations. When your child is struggling with a task, it pays to consider: Did I explain exactly what’s expected and show how it’s done? “Sometimes it seems like kids aren’t listening, but in fact, they just don’t know what to do, or they find it overwhelming,” says Anderson. Walk your child through the task to make sure he understands.
- Rethink rewards. When kids get rewards for performing a task, they sometimes develop a “What’s in it for me?” mindset and lose the incentive to do anything that doesn’t result in a prize. Explain at the outset the reason for the task: “You set the table every night because we’re all members of this family and we all do our share to help out.”
- Keep the tone positive. When kids feel respected, they’re more likely to be their best selves. Instead of “Why do you always bring your muddy shoes into the house?” try “Let’s find a way to help you remember to leave your muddy shoes by the door.”
Nobody likes to be yelled at or nagged. The clearer you are when communicating your expectations, the more likely your kids will be to listen and complete tasks.
has written for many national publications, such as Parents, Parenting, Health, Self, Redbook and Marie Claire. She is a frequent contributor to Healthy Kids.