You’ve probably grappled with this topic for years. Fortunately, there are a number of educational principles that you can apply to improve your child’s attentiveness.

Here are some helpful tips:

  1. Limit distractions. If the television is on, or your child has his or her earbuds in, it’s unlikely that anything you say is going to resonate. Children are often tuned in to something at the exact moment when you want to express an important point. Before beginning, take a moment to focus your child. He or she will be more attentive to the point you’re making.
  2. State your expectation. Have you ever felt like your boss was asking you to do something that you didn’t understand? It’s quite possible that the communication problem was caused by a lack of clarity on your boss’s part. This can happen with your child as well. Before you make your point, be sure you’re perfectly clear on what you want your child to do or learn. It’s hard to blame him or her for not listening if the expectation was not clearly expressed.
  3. Follow through. Children are smart, and they are aware of what they can and can’t get away with. Since you’re the one setting the precedent, be sure to mean what you say and follow through with your promises. Children want to please you and do their best. By “walking the walk,” you’ll gain your child’s trust and encourage him or her to listen more attentively.
  4. Be consistent. This goes hand-in-hand with following through. Children like a consistent setting where they know what to expect, and this goes for the home as well as the classroom. By setting habitual patterns that your child can anticipate, you will increase his or her attention span and focus.
  5. Focus on your child’s actions, not his or her character. We all make mistakes, children included, and it’s important to help them understand which behaviors are acceptable. By focusing on an action, instead of your child, you’ll teach him or her to learn from a negative experience. For example, instead of saying, “You’re awful,” concentrate on the action, “Speaking to your brother that way was terrible.”
  6. Responding instead of reacting. When your child does something that you don’t approve of, don’t react to it automatically. Take a few seconds and ask yourself two important questions, “What is my end goal in this situation? How can I best achieve it?” For example, imagine that your child was playing ball in the house and broke something. Before you begin yelling, ask and answer those questions. “My end goal is to not have him play ball in the house. I can best achieve this by reducing his spending money.” Your improved response may sound like this, “We don’t play ball in the house for a reason. I’m reducing your allowance this week to pay for a replacement.”
  7. Selective engagement. Reacting to everything your child does can be a daunting and stressful task. It’s a good idea to select what you are and are not going to respond to. The objective is to pick your battles. You have the power to ignore things, deflect certain situations, and address the issues that are important to you. By being a reliable, consistent, and fair parent, your children will find it much easier to listen.

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