Kids Not Listening? Time to Change Your Language

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Mischievous Child
28 Nov 2012

Today, I was at the ice cream store, and I watched a mom trying to convince her 3-year old child to leave.

She pleaded with her daughter, “Please, Karen, please. Come with Mommy.”

I remember those days. I am not a take-charge person, so I had a very hard time getting my children to cooperate. I was similar to the mom in the ice cream store. I would plead, cajole and sometimes bribe. It was exhausting.
I read lots of different parenting books and at some point I realized that this was not good for me, but even more so, it was not good for my kids. Kids want their parents to be in control. It makes them feel secure. So it may seem as if they want to be left alone to do their own thing, but deep down–deeper than even they realize–they want you to be in charge.

Mischievous Child

So how can we do this?

One way that works is for parents to develop a voice of authority. This is to be used when your child ignores you and challenges you. This will help you avoid a lot of the conflicts that come up in your daily life with your child.

Many parents–okay, I have to say it here: particularly mom–will say:

“Would you mind turning off the TV and coming to dinner?”

“Come on honey, please put your pajamas on.”

“It is time for the bath, okay….”

“Is it alright for you to come help me now?”

What is the problem with the above phrases? The “okay?”  “alright?” “would you?” and   “come on” makes it sound as if we are asking our kid’s permission.

We are essentially saying you should put your pajamas on, but only if it is okay with you. It is confusing for kids. They may think, “Does she want me to put my pajamas on or not?  It sounds like she is not sure. Well, if she is not sure then I will just continue playing.”

When you ask you kids for cooperation, you want your voice to sound firm with a ring of authority to it. You can be polite but firm.

“The TV needs to be turned off. It’s dinner time.”

“Time for pajamas.”

“The bath is ready, now. “

“Your help is needed, now.”

This was tricky for me. I am not assertive person by nature. I was only motivated by the fact that I knew that I had to do it for my kids’ well-being.

When I do use my voice of authority, it feels kind of nice. I sound confident and sure. And that is what my kids really need: a confident and sure mom.

Adina Soclof, MS. CCC-SLP, works as a Parent Educator for Bellefaire Jewish Children’s Bureau facilitating How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk workshops as well as workshops based on Siblings Without Rivalry. Adina also runs

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.