Have you ever had a conversation with your child, only to realize that every word you’ve said has flown in one ear and out the other?
We’ve all been there before.
Whether they have their eyes on the phone or their head in the clouds, kids aren’t always the best listeners. However, learning how to talk so little kids will listen is just as vital as it is difficult. Learning to effectively communicate with children can make a huge difference in fostering positive relationships, nurturing development, and inspiring their creativity.
Let’s take a look at some of the best strategies that can help parents and educators learn how to talk so kids will listen.
Be an Active Listener
The first step in knowing how to talk so little kids will listen might be surprising; it starts with being a good listener yourself.
Being an active listener is one of the best skills a parent can have. When kids feel like you’re listening to them, it shows that you respect their time and attention. In turn, they may be more inclined to show respect and listen to you. After all, a conversation is a two-way street!
Here are the four steps of being an active listener, according to the CDC:
- Give your full attention to your child
- Make eye contact and stop other things you are doing
- Get down on your child’s level
- Reflect or repeat back what she is saying and what she may be feeling to make sure you understand
Get Down to Their Level
The CDC notes that getting down to your child’s level is a smart way to be an active listener, but it’s also a great way to encourage them to listen to you.
When you tower above your child as you speak with them, it can be intimidating. There’s a reason so many movies use a low-angle shot in powerful scenes. Crouching down and getting eye-level with your child, however, establishes a physical connection that evens the playing field and lends to better listening.
So next time you have a discussion with your child, squat or sit next to them so that you’re at eye-level. This easy act shows that you respect them and value their presence, in turn making them more engaged and receptive to communication.
Use a Calm, Warm Tone
Children are masters of deduction. They can often pick up on emotions conveyed through the tone of voice parents use in speech—even if their perceptions are incorrect. When parents use a loud voice, kids may think that they’re mad or frustrated. On the other hand, they might perceive a quiet voice as being sad or upset.
On the other hand, a calm, warm tone works wonders.
Using a calm or warm tone creates a peaceful atmosphere that helps children feel safe and secure. Speaking calmly reassures children that they are in a nurturing environment, allowing them to put any anxiety or fear to the side as they focus on the content of your words rather than the tone of voice you’re using. This, in turn, encourages their active listening skills to turn on and promotes better understanding from both parties.
Keep It Simple
Let’s face it: English is a pretty complex language. In fact, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary notes that there are likely over 1 million words in English! Many of these words are large, complex terms that can communicate small ideas. While complex words are useful when writing an article or composing an email, they aren’t as helpful when speaking with kids.
Instead, keep it simple!
It’s crucial to use simple and concise language when speaking with children. Kids can easily get lost in large words or complex sentences, making them tune out what’s being said altogether. Avoid using complex or ambiguous terms that might confuse them (including the word ambiguous!). Instead, use short sentences and simple words. Speak at a comfortable speed and emphasize the key words so that they understand your message properly.
Sometimes, kids don’t listen because their visual environment isn’t stimulating enough to keep their attention. To keep both their ears and eyes interested in the conversation, try using gestures to illustrate your speech.
The benefits to this are twofold: in addition to keeping kids engaged, using gestures can help them better understand what you’re saying. Certain gestures can serve as cues to highlight essential information or emphasize specific details. Similarly, children who are still developing their verbal language skills can interpret gestures in a way that leads to better understanding. It’s no wonder kids thrive in environments that use sign language!
Give Your Child Time to Respond
An important part of knowing how to talk so little kids will listen is giving them the time they need to respond.
Kids often need more time to understand what is being said than adults, so be patient as they formulate their thoughts. Don’t interrupt or attempt to finish their sentences—give them the time they need! By giving your child space to iron out their thoughts and express themselves at their own pace, you’re also showing them that you care about their response. In addition to inspiring them to be better listeners, this can help in fostering their confidence and communication skills.
When kids aren’t playing an active role in a conversation, they may tune it out altogether. If you feel yourself rambling without letting your child get a word in, help them listen and take an active part in the conversation by asking them questions.
Asking your child questions is a powerful tool that encourages them to stay engaged in a conversation. When kids are asked questions, their brain naturally focuses more on the content of the conversation in order to help them formulate a response. Additionally, asking questions can help you gauge whether or not your child is listening and really understanding what’s being said.
Offer Kids Choices
Like asking questions, offering kids choices is a great way to inspire their ears to listen. When children are given choices, they become more invested in the conversation as they try to understand the options presented to them. This may encourage them to play a more active role in the conversation as they ask clarifying questions and listen to the answers.
In addition to helping kids listen, offering them choices also helps them put their independence, critical thinking, and decision making skills to the test.
Listening Is a Two-Way Street
Knowing how to talk so kids will listen is pretty difficult—but it doesn’t have to be. By employing these eight simple tips, it’s easy to create an environment where children feel safe, nurtured, and receptive to communication.
As you practice how to talk so little kids will listen, remember that listening is a two-way street. Communicating with kids requires quite a bit of patience, empathy, and flexibility on the adult’s part. It might sound exhausting, but it’s worth it in the end. After all, if you put in the effort to listen to your child, they will put in more effort to listen to you!
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