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8 Parenting Tools to Get Your Kids to Listen

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 January 12, 2021

Signs of Depression in Children (And How to Help Them to Overcome It)

Signs of Depression in Children (And How to Help Them to Overcome It)

Children, just like adults, can be depressed. Sometimes seemingly normal children with no major life issues can become depressed. It is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes clinical depression to occur. There are specific signs that you should recognize in your child if they are depressed. Getting them help and treatment is crucial to their mental wellness.

In this article, we will look into the signs of depression in children and how parents can help them to overcome it.

Signs of depression in children

The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder) is the widely accepted instruction guide that professionals utilize for diagnosing mental disorders. The DSM characterizes a Major Depressive Episode as depressed behaviors that consistently last for two weeks or longer. Therefore, if your child has been “down in the dumps”, feeling hopeless or having sadness for more than two weeks, it should be cause for concern and investigated.

Below are signs of depression according to the DSM manual. The individual must have at least five of these behaviors present for a period of two weeks or longer to be officially diagnosed as having MDD (Major Depressive Disorder). Below is a summary/generalization from the DSM manual:

  • Feelings of deep sadness or depressed mood that last most of the day (for two weeks or more). For children they can present as irritable rather than sad.
  • Diminished interest in activities (again majority of the day or all the time).
  • Significant weight loss (not through dieting), or a decrease in appetite. In children, they fail to make expected weight gains while growing.
  • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia).
  • Either a slowing of psychomotor abilities/actions or an apparent agitation of these psychomotor abilities. This means that they either have moments that lack purpose and seem to be done because of agitation and tension or there is a significant slowness/retardation of their speech and physical actions.
  • Fatigue and loss of energy.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt every day.
  • Difficulty thinking, making decisions, or concentrating every day. This may be reflected in their grades.
  • Preoccupation with death and dying or suicidal thoughts.

Please note that if your child is suffering from the loss of a loved one and is processing through the stages of grief, it is normal to have these signs of depression. If they seem to be stuck in the depression stage, then it is time to pursue grief counseling to help them along in the grieving process.

However, if they are not suffering from a bereavement or a medical condition that would cause the above symptoms, then they should be taken to a professional for possible diagnosis and treatment of MDD (Major Depressive Disorder).

How to help your child with depression

Depression is not to be taken lightly. Especially if suicidal thoughts are present. The child’s feelings and emotions are real and must be taken seriously. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), suicide is the number two cause of death for individuals between the ages of 10 and 34.[1]

Professional help is recommended if you believe your child fits the criterion for MDD (Major Depressive Disorder). You can take your child to their paediatrician for an evaluation and referral. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, they may benefit from medication such as anti-depressants.

Most professionals do not dispense medication as the first remedy for depression. Instead therapy is the first line of defense against depression, with medication being paired with therapy if the therapy is not enough or the symptoms are severe enough.

Testing

There are assessment tools that professionals can utilize to help in properly determining whether your child is depressed. The three tools used in assessing depression in children are:

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  • The Children’s Depression Rating Scale (CDRS)
  • Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI)
  • Clinical Global Impression (CGI)

Taking your child to a professional mental health counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist can help ensure proper testing and assessment occurs.

Therapy

There are many types of therapy available today. It is important to find a professional that specializes in childhood depression and the treatment of such.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the leading therapy methods in treating childhood depression. For younger children, play therapy is useful in treating childhood depression as children are often able to better communicate through play than conversation alone.

What parents can do at home to help their depressed child

Besides seeking for professional help, there are a couple of things that parents can do at home to help their depressed child:

1. Talk with your child about their feelings in a compassionate and empathetic manner.

It can feel high pressure to sit face to face and ask your child about their feelings. However, going on a walk, playing a board game or playing alongside your child (chose whichever is age appropriate for your child) can allow them to relax and open up about their feelings.

Ask your child open ended questions that require more than a simple yes or no to engage in more meaningful conversations. Never judge while they are being open and honest with you because it will inevitably cause them to shut down and move away from being open with you.

It is okay to allow for periods of silence during the conversations because sometimes the child is processing their thoughts and emotions during your time together. You don’t have to fill the space and entire time with talking as silence at times is helpful.

2. Provide activities that help them relax and de-stress.

For smaller children, there are simple ways to help them relax.

Provide play opportunities that they find relaxing such as coloring, painting, working with Play-do or clay, or playing with sand and sand toys. Again, find activities that interest your child and are age appropriate are helpful in making them relaxed.

3. Limit screen time.

Technology is not helpful in making your child less depressed. It can often be an escape that keeps them from further opening up about their feelings and emotions.

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Limit time in front of the TV, laptop, smart phone, video games and tablets, etc. Any electronics that seem to prevent your child from face to face interactions should be limited. Ask Dr. Sears cites that researchers have found kids who have higher levels of screen time are at greater risk for anxiety and depression.[2]

Provide alternate activities to replace the screen time such as hiking, crafting, drawing, constructing, biking and playing outside, etc. Some children may be so dependent on their screen time as their source for entertainment that they may need you to participate in alternate activities alongside them in order to get engaged in the activities.

You can’t simply tell your child to go outside to play if they are suffering from depression, lack friends and are used to sitting down and playing video games each day after school. Go outside with your child and do a nature hike or take your child to a playground and have fun together to get them engaged in these alternate activities.

4. Promote outdoor time and physical activities.

Encourage your children to take part in activities that especially involve nature such as nature hikes. Do these activities with them to help them engage in the activities. Again this is an opportunity for open conversations to occur and quality time to take place.

5. Help your child when problems and difficult tasks arise.

Assist them by helping them break down the task into smaller and more manageable parts. Children with depression often have difficulty taking on large problems and tasks and find them overwhelming. Helping them by breaking down the task into smaller and more manageable tasks will assist in helping raise their confidence when the small tasks are mastered.

Small tasks mastered lead to bigger tasks being mastered over time. It is a process over time, patience and a willingness to work alongside your child. This does not mean doing the task or taking on the problem solely yourself. Many times all the child needs is for you to break down the larger task into smaller more manageable tasks and for you to patiently talk your child through the completion of these smaller tasks.

6. Help your child reduce life stress.

When children are depressed, they have greater difficulty handling life activities in general. Cut back on activities that cause stress to increase and look for ways to help reduce stress in your child’s life.

7. Foster a positive home atmosphere.

Reduce or eliminate negative attitudes, language and conversations. Also avoid raised voices, passive aggressive behaviors and any form of physical violence in the home.

Make your home a safe haven for your child instead of an atmosphere that is ever volatile (in words, emotions or physically). Make it a calm environment that makes your child feel safe and secure mentally, emotionally and physically.

8. Help your child see the positive in life situations.

Point out the positives in a situation rather than the negatives. Help them see the bright side of any situation.

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Be a model of seeing the positive in life by speaking words that are uplifting, encouraging and positive. Resist the temptation to voice negative thoughts that come to mind as your child can feed off your emotions and words.

9. Believe your child when they talk about how they are feeling.

Listen to them patiently and take their words seriously. Do not discount or minimize their feelings. Express empathy and compassion when they do open up about their feelings. Help them utilize “I feel” statements in expressing their emotions.

10. Keep watch for suicidal behaviors.

Such behaviors include your child/teen researching this topic online, them giving away their possessions and a preoccupation with death.

Seek professional help immediately with the presentation of suicidal behaviors or thoughts. Keep this number on hand and use it when in doubt: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Phone Number 1-800-273-8255.

11. Keep all prescriptions, alcohol, drugs and weapons locked and away from children and teens.

This is a given for all children, but even more imperative for children who are depressed as they have an increased likelihood to abuse drugs and alcohol. They also have an increased likelihood to attempt suicide. So keep weapons and tools such as ropes and knives that can used for suicide out of the child’s ability to use.

12. Spend quality one-on-one time with your child.

Make the time during your day, every day, to spend quality time with your child. You may have limited time and cannot provide an hour or more a day to dedicate to one-on-one time with your child, but you should provide a minimum of 20 minutes a day with your child spending quality one-on-one time together. Try the suggested activities listed in point #3.

13. Be an encouragement and supporter of your child.

Show love and not frustration or anger because of the situation and your child’s condition. Help keep your attitude positive so your child can also see the positive.

Provide daily words of affirmation that are not based on end results (such as a grade or a win) but instead praise the effort they put forth. If you praise the outcome, they will be disappointed when their efforts don’t pan out. If they are praised for their efforts regardless of the outcome, their confidence is built based upon something that they can control (the effort they put into things).

14. Help your child to live a healthy lifestyle.

Sleep is a very important factor in your child’s mood. Not getting enough sleep can cause an entire day to be upset. According to Sleep Aid Resource, children between the ages of 3 and 18 need between 8 and 12 hours of sleep each night:[3]

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    Ensure your child is eating a healthy and balanced diet, getting physical activity/exercise daily and plenty of sleep time.

    15. Help your child foster positive relationships and friendships with their peers.

    Set up play dates for your younger child and encourage older children to invite friends over to your home.

    16. Talk about bullying.

    It can be one of the causes of your child’s depression, so discuss their life outside of home and their interactions with their peers. Help them recognize bullying and discuss how to handle bullying properly.

    17. Help your child follow the treatment plan outlined by their doctor, counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist.

    Make sure you know the treatment plan that your child’s health care professional has outlined for child. This may include counseling session recommendations, medications and recommendations to follow through with in the home. Completing the plan will help provide optimal results for your child in the long run. A plan doesn’t work unless it is followed.

    18. Recognize that professional treatment takes time to show results.

    Don’t expect results for the first few weeks. It may take a month or longer, so be patient and understanding with your child.

    Depression in children is curable

    Depression in children can happen for a variety of reasons. It is quite treatable.

    Professional help is recommended if your child can possibly be diagnosed with a depressive episode. There are interventions that can be implemented in a professional setting, at home and at school. The key is having a plan of action to help your child.

    Ignoring the problem or hoping the depression will just go away is not a good plan. Treatment is imperative to curing depression in children.

    The first step is talking to your child’s paediatrician to get the ball rolling. He or she will refer you to specialists in your area that can help your child overcome and conquer their depression one day at a time. With you by their side, each step of the way you will get through it together and it is quite possible for your relationship with your child to be strengthened in the process as well. That can be your silver lining or positive outlook on the situation at hand.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] National Institute of Mental Health: Suicide
    [2] Ask Dr. Sears: It’s a Virtual World: Setting Practical Screen Time Limits
    [3] Sleep Aid Resource: Sleep Chart

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