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8 Parenting Tools to Get Your Kids to Listen

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8 Parenting Tools to Get Your Kids to Listen

What does it really mean when our kids are listening? It means they are cooperating and being responsible—two very important habits to help our kids master for future success. Parenting that kids can understand teaches habits they will carry for a lifetime, and it will help you and the entire family get along (including you and your spouse!)

I recently wrote an article on what makes kids brains grow bigger which shows that when parents express love to their children through effective and nurturing communication, they become happier and more well-adjusted. Positive parenting without bargaining, yelling, or intimidation will help you develop nurturing communication. Keep reading to learn 8, easy parenting hacks that will teach valuable life lessons.

1. Be a great teacher.

A great teacher takes a hand, opens a mind, and touches a heart. We must be truly honest with ourselves that our role as parents is being the most important teacher your child will ever have. As parents, we are the guardrails in our childrens’ lives, perfectly positioned to keep the car on track. Surely the car will veer off plenty of times on its journey.

Accepting that our children will make mistakes rather than expecting them to be perfect is half the battle in embracing your honorary role as teacher of the year. Learning to tolerate imperfection does not mean sacrificing values; it just means to apply a bit of patience and understanding while your child comes into her own. Compassionate parenting builds and maintains healthy parent-child bonds and supports that all important brain growth that can change the world.

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2. Create house rules.

Enlist your entire family in creating a list of house rules that are easy to understand. Mutually agreed upon expectations gives your family the basis of understanding it needs to create respect between one another. It also makes parenting a heck of a lot easier when everyone is on the same page. A family meeting where rules are brainstormed and agreed upon allows everyone to practice important communication and teamwork skills like speaking in turn, listening, and contributing.

Be sure to select rules which the whole family, including adults, will follow. The single most important aspect in creating respect is that we as adults(parents) should model the behavior that is being asked of our children. Lastly, rules should be limited to 4 or 5 and be phrased in a way that states how you want the behavior to look. For instance; “We will speak kindly to those we love” rather than “Don’t talk back.”

3. Establish clear consequences.

Successful parenting requires a few steps so that the behavior and/or lesson you are trying to teach actually sticks. Consistency with consequences is a way for parents to allow kids to practice the desired behavior. If they don’t get it right the first time, try and try again! Consequences need to fit the offense, so while sitting down to create the house rules it is helpful to get together with your spouse to determine agreed upon consequences for when the rule is broken.

If you want, the kids can even weigh in; they usually pick consequences that are more punitive than necessary so it is interesting to get their perspective. This approach establishes communication and cooperation between parents. It also irons out disagreements that often happen when Mom and Dad bicker over how to handle the infraction as it’s happening, which takes the focus off of the negative behavior. Kids love this as they quietly slip away unnoticed while mom and dad attempt to hash it out.

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4. Count to three.

One of my favorite parenting gurus is Thomas W. Phelen; he wrote 1-2-3 Magic and it was one of the first and most effective parenting approaches my husband and I used as new parents. Among many other concepts, Phelen introduced the importance of giving children a measured warning system when their behavior is annoying, obnoxious, or unacceptable. Children are not little adults, and they are not born knowing how to act. In fact, it is our job as parents to teach them what we expect from them.

As mentioned before, when this is done in a way that is nurturing and supportive, the parenting process supports brain growth in the way of problem solving and emotional regulation. Once you notice a behavior from your child that is annoying, obnoxious, and/or unacceptable, you simply state (without yelling) what it is that you would like your child to do instead. If he/she does not comply with your request in a few seconds, you begin to count, using a firm tone of voice, eye contact, a visual prompt (holding your fingers up to coordinate with the number), and pausing in between numbers to monitor response. What happens at 3? A consequence for not favorably complying to your request.

5.Drop it.

Teaching children is much easier done when parents can learn to reduce the chatter from the peanut gallery. In other words, try to reduce criticism and judgment while getting them to meet expectations. It is very difficult to manage our frustrations while parenting, especially if it a behavior that has to be revisited over and over again. However, modeling how to keep it cool under pressure and expressing a sense of acceptance for the person behind the behavior are values that we want children to internalize.

Once a consequence is given for the negative behavior, drop it and move on pleasantly with life. Continued expressions of parental anger cause lingering feelings of guilt in our children that go beyond just the rule that was broken; it begins to feel like a personal attack. A healthy sense of self is our parenting goal. If this dynamic of forgiveness is hard to establish, it could be there is a personal feeling of intolerance within ourselves that we may be feeling. If this is the case, talking it out with your spouse, a counselor or someone you trust can help.

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6. Clean it up.

Going back to the brain science again, studies show that any safe, nurturing interaction between a child and a caregiver has positive effects on the brain and how a child feels. Even if your frustrations have gotten the best of you, cleaning it up after you and your child are both calm will help to reset the relationship. Parents can have a conversation with children about how frustration can make us say and do things we don’t mean. We can teach our children to say sorry if we as parents are willing to own up and say sorry too, rather then to place blame on the other person.

Once again, as parents we are modeling another lifelong value of taking responsibility for our actions. Cleaning up does not mean we negotiate the consequence; it just means we attempt to reconnect with those we love to show them that no one is perfect and our love is unconditional. A famous line in our house is, “I do not like your behavior and even when I am mad at you, I still love you.” Once the safe connection is re-established, consequences can be calmly discussed.

7. Wait until they can get it.

I like to take the quality over quantity approach to parenting. Not every parenting moment is meant to be a teachable moment. Children must be receptive and ready to hear what you are trying to teach them. When tempers are high, children are unable to tolerate the boundary being set. Therefore, it is very effective to wait until your child is receptive, so little pauses between the rule being broken and the delivering of a consequence is way to get them to listen.

These pauses also give you an opportunity to connect with your spouse on ways to handle the negative behavior. The more they experience both parents on the same page, the more your teaching efforts will be successful. Not to mention, it just feels really good to know you and your spouse are in agreement around something as important as raising your children.

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8. Love, love, and love some more.

A common misconception for parents is that they should parent the way their parents did. “My father would NEVER tolerate that.” The truth is, times are forever changing. Our kids are exposed to so much that no matter how hard we try, we cannot shield them from it all.

In order to roll with this changing world, parents need to be flexible. Certainly I am not suggesting that we sacrifice family values for the sake of change; however, we must have a plan for parenting and also identify something that we can hold onto regardless of change. That thing is LOVE—simple L-O-V-E, love. It costs nothing but has such insurmountable value to our children.

Children who feel felt, children who feel loved by their family develop brains that have a lot of potential to solve problems, help themselves and help others. Children who feel loved develop a sense of self worth that gives them courage and stability. This kind of self-worth keeps them from the things we want them to stay away from anyway. Show love through kind words, an unsolicited hug, curiosity in their interests, non-judgement, communication, expressed kindness to your spouse, being on the same page, and firm boundaries. Want until you see the closeness you can establish and how much better they will listen!

Featured photo credit: Monkey Business Images Via Shutterstock via shutterstock.com

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Last Updated on October 7, 2021

Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important (And How To Do So)

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Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important (And How To Do So)

In today’s chaotic world, having family time isn’t always easy. It can get pretty hard to coordinate schedules, especially if the family is large. Life demands that we work, attend school, nurture friendships, hobbies, etc. All of those things are extremely time-consuming and important—but so is spending time with your family.

Why is family time so important? Because we all need love and support, and a good, strong family can provide that regularly. For children, spending time with their family helps shape them into good, responsible adults, improve their mental health, and develop strong core values.

There are many positive effects of spending time with your family. My family and I, for instance (and this includes grandchildren as well), meet every Tuesday night for dinner and games. My older son and I take turns cooking. This gives all of us a chance to try some new recipes. After dinner, we play games. And without fail, they inspire competitiveness and laughter. As family night has evolved, the grandkids have invited their friends over as well, creating the need for more chairs but also expanding our circle of fun.

Aside from the obvious fun and games, there are other reasons why spending time with your family is paramount. In this article, I will provide you with multiple reasons why spending time with your family regularly is a win-win. And then, I will lay out some ways on how to do it.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important

Here are six reasons why it’s important to spend time with your family.

1. Provides the Opportunity to Bond

When you spend time together as a family—talking about your day, your highs, your lows—it fosters communication. As parents, it gives you the chance to listen to your children, to hear them out, to learn about what’s going on in their world. It also provides you with the opportunity to use life situations as teaching moments.

Before our Tuesday night dinner/game nights, my family used to see each other pretty regularly but not consistently, especially the grandkids. Our family night changed all that. Now, it’s guaranteed that the grandchildren, along with some of their friends, will be there. Not only do I get to find out what’s been happening in their lives, but they also get to know us better. It’s creating memories they can treasure forever, as well as modeling the Get-Together tradition for when they eventually have families of their own.

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“Spending time partaking in everyday family leisure activities has been associated with greater emotional bonding within families.”[1]

2. Teaches the Value of Family

Taking the time to be with your family lets your children know they are valued—that spending time together is a priority. I know that in today’s world, both parents are busy as both usually working. What better way to let your children know they are loved than by carving out time each week to spend with them?

According to Marilyn Price-Mitchell, Ph.D., “words like honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage are core to centuries of religious, philosophical, and family beliefs. Use them and others to express and reinforce your family values. Teach children the behaviors that flow from these principles. Use quotes to ignite meaningful dinner conversations and encourage kids to talk about these values.”[2]

3. Enhances Mental Well-Being

Spending that quality time together gives your children a safe platform in which to express themselves, ask questions about things that are bothering them, or talk about their day and things they’ve learned. I know that my 9-year old granddaughter can’t wait until it’s her turn to talk about her day. She usually goes on and on and has to be stopped to give everyone else a chance to talk about their goings-on.

“Research shows the quality of family relationships is more important than their size or composition. Whoever the family is made up of, they can build strong, positive relationships that promote wellbeing and support children and young people’s mental health.”[3]

For children, having the opportunity to seek advice from parents they trust—as well as being able to have a sounding board and help with problem-solving—is priceless. In addition, being able to voice their opinions and be heard—and to feel like what they have to say matters—is an esteem-builder. All of these can have a very impactful positive effect on their well-being.

4. Helps the Child Feel Loved

How do you think a child feels knowing their parents want to spend time with them—talking, sharing experiences, playing games, listening to them? It will make them feel as though they are important, and a child that feels important is happier and more apt to thrive. Setting aside chores or work to spend time with your children demonstrates that they’re essential—that they matter. What a gift to give your child!

“If a child has your undivided attention, it signals that they are loved and important to you. This can be further nurtured by experiencing joyful activities together, as it demonstrates that you want to spend time with your children over and above all of the daily demands.”[4]

5. Creates a Safe Environment

If you regularly spend time with your children, you are also creating an atmosphere of trust. The more trust they have, the more likely they are to share with you what’s going on in their world. As they get older, you’re going to want to know. Negative influences can show up at any time, but if you’ve always been there for your child, they are more apt to come to you and ask for your advice.

Spending time together generates familiarity and feelings of being supported. When a child feels safe and comfortable, they’re more likely to open up. This is one way to get to know your child and know what’s on their minds. Are they okay? Do they need your guidance? If so, how?

6. Reduces Stress

This is significant. We all suffer from stress at one point or another in our lives. Spending time with family helps alleviate that stress. It’s an opportunity to talk things out, get feedback, and maybe brainstorm for a solution to the problem that is causing the stress.

According to Brandy Drzymkowski, “During the holidays, your closest five people probably shifts to family and friends. You may even get to see loved ones who live far away. Good news! This can actually help lower your stress levels. Studies show ‘face-to-face interaction…counteracts the body’s defensive ‘fight-or-flight’ response.’ In other words, quality time spent with loved ones is nature’s stress reliever.”[5]

So, now that you know some of the benefits, what are some ideas for making family time happen?

How to Make Family Time Happen

Here are four things you can do to make family time happen and spend more time with them.

1. Family Dinners

This, as I said above, is a wonderful way to spend time together. While you’re having dinner, you have the chance to discuss things that are going on in your lives—the ups, the downs, and everywhere in between. It’s like having a buffer against life’s challenges.

Aside from that, eating dinner together has many additional benefits. Studies have shown that for kids who eat regularly with their families, there is less risk of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and depression.[6]

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“Our belief in the ‘magic’ of family dinners is grounded in research on the physical, mental and emotional benefits of regular family meals.” It further states, “We recommend combining food, fun and conversation at mealtimes because those three ingredients are the recipe for a warm, positive family dinner—the type of environment that makes these scientifically proven benefits possible.”[7]

According to Parenting NI, “children and adolescents who spend more time with their parents are less likely to get involved in risky behavior. According to studies done by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse via Arizona State University, teens who have infrequent family dinners are twice as likely to use tobacco, nearly twice as likely to use alcohol and one and a half times more likely to use marijuana.”[8]

As you can see, there are multiple benefits to spending time with each other routinely. You can’t go wrong with this family activity.

2.  Regular Movie Nights

This is another fun event, although, from personal experience, I have to caution that choosing a movie that everyone wants to see is not easy. So, give yourselves plenty of time so you don’t spend two hours searching for a movie, and then end up watching no movie at all because the night is practically over. Try and choose a movie before the day, if possible.

Afterward, open it up for discussion. Ask questions pertinent to the movie. What do you think of ABC? Should they have done that? Would you have done something differently? There are so many questions you can ask to spark a conversation and keep the night going.

3. Game Night

This is another occasion for great fun. If you have a competitive spirit, it makes it even more fun. There are numerous games out there—Balderdash, Pictionary, Apples to Apples, Charades, to name a few—that can create fun havoc. All I can say is, on game nights, don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s okay if you lose the game. The fun is in being together, laughing, debating, and having a good time.

In addition, “Playing board games is great for children for many reasons besides the obvious; it’s fun to play games! Age appropriate games can help children to think strategically, solve problems creatively, work on pattern recognition and build simple math skills. They also help children develop social skills such as following rules, taking turns, and graceful winning or losing. Additionally, a family game night provides an opportunity for children to bond with siblings, parents and family members as well as peers. It can promote tradition building and establish a fun routine.”[9]

So, go find your family a game and start having fun!

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4. Sharing a Hobby

If you and one of your kids like to do the same things, do it more often. For example, my oldest son and his teenage son go on long bike rides together on the weekends. Not only do they get to exercise, but they also get to talk and look at beautiful sceneries. They’ve also incorporated cooking into their routine. They plan the meal, shop, and prepare—activities that bring them closer together.

Sharing a hobby is a great way to bring family members together. It bonds people in amazing ways. According to Alison Ratner Mayer, LICSW, “One of the easiest and most important ways to build a child’s self-esteem is to spend time with them doing something not only that they enjoy but something that you also enjoy. There is a special magic that happens between a parent and a child when they share a mutually beloved activity. It sends the message to the child that their parents are having fun, true, honest, real fun, with them.”[10]

Final Thoughts

Spending time with the family is an investment. It is an investment in the happiness, well-being, and security of that system. It can also serve as a way to break out of the daily rut and the constant worldly demands, while at the same time, building a strong family unit.

Even though it isn’t always easy to find the time, finding the time is key to staying close and to providing and receiving love and support. There is no greater gift than the gift of time. That’s what we all seem to be missing nowadays. So, in giving that gift consistently, everyone feels loved and appreciated.

The family that takes the time to interact regularly is typically happy. They know they are part of a tribe, and that’s essential in today’s chaotic world. To know that there are people whom you can count on—people who will have your back in times of need—is invaluable.

Now, go and plan something plan with your family, if you haven’t already.

Featured photo credit: Jimmy Dean via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Pittsburgh Parent: Spending Time Together—Benefits of Family Time
[2] Roots of Action: Integrity: How Families Teach and Live Their Values
[3] Beyond Blue: Healthy Families
[4] Esperance Anglican Community School: The importance of family time
[5] Brandy Drzymkowski: Spending Time With Loved Ones Reduces Stress
[6] Harvard Graduate School of Education: Harvard EdCast: The Benefit of Family Mealtime
[7] The Family Dinner Project: BENEFITS OF FAMILY DINNERS
[8] Parenting NI: The Importance of Spending Time Together
[9] WNY Children: Family Game Night- The Benefits of Game Play
[10] Child Therapy Boston: The Benefits of Sharing a Hobby With Your Child

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