Getting Your Children to Listen to You

Avoid Misinterpretation

Here are some real-life comparisons of interpretations from your mouth to your child's ears.

  • What you say: "Jordan, you need to be responsible and put your dirty clothes in the clothes hamper every night."
  • What he hears: "Jordan, you need to be rah-pitty-blah and put your dirty clothes in the clothes hamper every night."
  • What you say: "Jeremiah, don't piddle. You're supposed to clean your room."
  • What he hears: "Jeremiah, don't pid hole. You're supposed to clean your room."
  • What you say: "Don't be sarcastic to your sister."
  • What he hears: "Don't be sark a stick to your sister."

Talk to your kids by using words that they understand. Getting your point across is easier when your kids know what you're talking about. If you don't think they understand, ask them to explain what you've just said. That is a great test to see how well you're getting your message across.

When you don't talk to your kids using words that they understand, you may as well be speaking Swahili. That's why you hear many successful parents talking in short, blunt sentences, using simple commands, although they sometimes sound like they're talking to a pet: "Sit. Stay. No, no, no! Stop, stop, stop! Good boy."

At some point, you'll have to expand your vocabulary; you won't always have to talk on a preschool level. When you begin introducing new words to your children, take the time to ask whether they understand what you've just said. Many times, they'll smile meekly and say, "Yes," insincerely. Just ask them to explain what you said. If they're missing your meaning, explain it to them in another way or define the word that's throwing them off.

Always ask children whether they understand. If they seem unsure or hesitate, then ask them to explain it back to you. That's really the only way you'll ever discover whether you're getting your point across. Of course, you may have a child who doesn't hesitate to ask you what certain words mean. Then there's no question as to what is understood.