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How To Talk So Kids Will Listen

We've all seen it, right? The person who just won't listen no matter what. You're trying to get their attention and they're like, "Talk to the hand." Or they just pretend you're not even in the room. How do you talk to your children so that they'll actually listen to you? To talk to your kids so that they'll actually listen to you, first, we're going to talk about what self-government is. And then after we discuss what self-government is because that's a key piece in them being able to choose to listen to you when you actually talk to them. 

Then we'll talk about three ways that parents can communicate with their children that will increase the attention of their child. So, what is self-government? Around the world, I'm actually known by most people as the self-government lady. My website's even called teaching selfgovernment.com. What is self-government? Is it actually a form of government? Well, when I went to teach in China, they said, "You can't have the name self-government." 

We have to call this teaching self-management because people will not understand government related to the individual to yourself. And so we had to change the title for all of the teachings that we were doing there in china and with the Chinese book that was translated for them. So, what is self-government? Essentially it is being able to control and manage yourself. The definition of self-government is being able to determine the cause and effect of any given situation and possessing a knowledge of your own behaviors so that you can control them. 

This means that you understand cause and effect, not just newton's laws of if I throw it up it must come down. But you understand that if I get angry at my children they won't trust me. Or a child understands, if I don't do my chores, when I'm told to, my parents won't trust me. And I probably won't get as many opportunities to do fun things like with my friends and stuff like that. So, that is what self-government is. It's understanding cause and effect and then the second part is possessing knowledge of your own behaviors so that you can control them. 

That means the goal is I'm going to be in control of my own behaviors. Nothing else around me is going to be allowed to control me. I get to choose. And how to help a person learn to want to make the choices for self-control which means they won't be blaming other people for all of their problems and everything else. This is an empowering move that parents make to allow their children to have the maximum amount of freedom in their lives and attachment in their relationships. A person cannot learn self-government without making a plan first.

When we're helping our children plan to control themselves, that's called pre-teaching. Pre-teaching is essentially telling the child ahead of time. This is what's going to happen. And when this happens, you have choices to make. If you choose to do this positive action, then this is what naturally follows. If you choose to do this negative action, then this is what naturally follows. And it explains also to the child why they would want to make the positive decision. And it tells the child exactly what the parent will say when something goes wrong. 

So, every time I brought a new foster child into my home or when we were on the BBC program that they were most known for, which you can see if you go to that article there. We always started with the pre-teach. "Who are we? Why are you here? Where are we going? How are we going to communicate?" All of those things are contained in the pre-teach. Then we would explain to them these are the skills. 

The exact words that you can use to always be understood. And if things go wrong and you go back to old habits, then we will help you by using these words that we will always use the same way. We won't change it up on you so you can rely upon it. It's going to be very predictable for you. This was good because almost every foster child we had come into our home had things like anxiety add ADHD, OCD, odd, rad, anxiety issues. 

You know, kleptomania, compulsive lying, anger control issues, attachment issues, sensory issues. So, many of those things revolved around anxiety. So, we taught them exact skills that they would need for success and we taught them the exact skills we would use when we were correcting them when things didn't go right or when we were praising them when things did go right. 4 basic skills take care of 99.9% of all behavior problems. 

I know this because, with all of the troubled youth I've had come through my home and now with over 20 years of teaching this program to people, I have never seen problems that cannot be solved by applying the steps to these four skills. These children's books each teach one of the four basic skills to children. They are following instructions, accepting no answers and criticism, accepting consequences, and disagreeing appropriately. Let's say I teach my child to accept a no answer. 

The steps to that skill are to look at the person, keep a calm face voice, and body, say okay, or ask to disagree appropriately. And then drop the subject. This means let it go, don't think about it anymore, don't pout about it, don't go talk to dad about it if I said no. You know, whatever it is. Let's say I teach my child that skill. And I tell them "If you choose to follow this skill or to do this skill of accepting a no answer" If I've already pre-taught my child the skill for accepting and no answer then when I start doing a correction and they earn an extra chore as their negative consequence that is one of the steps in that corrective teaching that I do for them to help them get back on course, they're not going to get as upset about it. 

Because they already know, "Oh, that's right. I didn't accept a no answer. I didn't drop the subject. Mom was able to point that out to me. I know that's what I need to do for next time." And part of that correction I am going to definitely be explaining what they should be doing for next time. So, this helps them know what's coming. If you tell your children this is what's coming, this is how we're going to communicate, then when you start talking to them about something like giving instruction or giving a no answer they're a lot more willing to listen. And if they don't listen, you're also prepared for how to handle it. 

The second easy way that you can talk to your children is with your heart. So, for an environment to be good for learning self-government, it requires 2 things. A certain kind of tone and a certain kind of structure. We want our children to feel our hearts and we want to feel their hearts. When a person learns self-government, that means they've had a change of heart. They've chosen on their own to do the good or the right thing because it is good and it is right. 

They actually want to succeed in the relationship and to communicate in more effective ways. Well, one key way that we can convey that condition of the heart and that tone of love and calmness and acceptance and trust that that person does want to do what's good. The way that we can convey that, the most simply so easily is to just look into their eyes when we're talking to them. 

When we're giving them instruction or giving them a no answer or correcting them when they need to be corrected or praised. When they need to know that they've done something well, we can look into their eyes and we can think "You did so well" or "I love you. It's okay." Many times when I'm talking to my children I think to myself, "I love you. I love you, it's okay." And that feeling comes through to them even though I'm having to talk to them about something they may not normally want to talk about. The third easy thing you can do while talking to your children that makes them want to listen instead of wanting to emotionally react at you is to describe. 

When you're doing your corrections or when you're doing your pre-teaching or your praising, describe more not less. Don't lecture because that doesn't help/Fewer words are better. A child usually has about a 30-second attention span on a speech before they just shut you off. So, choose your words carefully. But if you start out your discussion about a problem (say a correction) with a description then you started out telling a story. And everybody loves a story. 

So, it might sound something like this: "Just a minute ago, I gave you an instruction to take your dish over to the sink. You looked at me and you kept a calm face voice and body and you said, okay that you would do it. But you actually didn't make the dish over to the sink. And you didn't check back with me to let me know that it had been done. So, you weren't following an instruction." Because those are the 5 steps to following instructions. 

Then I would describe to them what they should have done. "What you should have done was you should have looked at me, kept a calm face voice and body, said okay, or asked to disagree appropriately. And then remembered to do that task immediately and check back." And then I would go into what they've earned and we would do some practices, more pre-teaching for doing things the right way. 

But that description pulls them in. There's remembering with you. "Is that what happened? Oh, that's true. Oh, I was going to do it. But then I thought this. And this is what happens." And then you can actually have a discussion about it. But they still get the opportunity to earn that negative consequence because of course, you're going to be a consistent parent. And consistent parents follow through with teaching their children when the children don't do the skills that they should have. 

Because this frees. The child it helps them remember in the future to take more control of themselves. Instead of not paying attention to what they're even doing themselves. Self-government is liberating. And it really does open the door to communication with our children. It bonds our hearts together. And it is not reactive.

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