I know you just read the title and instantly doubt my sanity. “How I got my children to listen without ever saying a word” is quite the claim to make. Hear me out. Like most moms, I’ve struggled with my children & their selective listening. It never ceases to amaze me how they can hear the whisper of the word ‘ice cream’ from half a mile away, but I have to repeat “brush your teeth” fourteen times in my loudest voice while standing right next to them before they ever reach for a toothbrush. After endless hours of research & trying every strategy I have come across, I’ve come to a conclusion; there is no simple solution, no one perfect method for getting children to listen. A child’s ability & desire to listen is dependent on so many factors: age, emotional state, physical state, how engaged he is in his current activity, time of the day, etc. So, as parents, we need to be flexible & willing to try different techniques to reach their little ears.
There are times whispering works, other times physical touch while talking is just what my kids need. Sometimes a firm voice or a warning really motivates, but my favorite new trick involves using no words at all. So do you want to know how I got my children to listen without ever saying a word? Instead of speaking my requests, I’ve taken to using gestures. And I have been amazed by my boy’s positive response. I have concluded that this silent method is effective based on four reasons:
1. It’s new – like I said, it’s good to switch things up. Sometimes a little change is all they really need.
2. It’s like we have our own secret code. Little boys love the idea of anything mysterious & covert; it makes them feel like an undercover spy trying to distinguish the meaning of my nonverbal message. My oldest loves it, he claims our little signs make him bilingual in English & sign language.
3. Once they’ve physically laid eyes on you they can’t deny seeing your instructions (they can’t use that oh-so-common excuse, “I didn’t hear you.”).
4. They feel involved. Some signs were easy to come up with & more-or-less universal. Others took teamwork to create & identify. I let the boys come up with their own agreed upon signs for common requests at our house.
Some signs we’ve come to utilize in our home are:
- Time’s up: I point to my wrist (like a watch)
- Stop: I hold my hand up
- Quiet/inside voice: fingers to my lips in a hush motion
- Bedtime: I put my palms together & put them next to my head
- 3-minutes/your time is almost up: I hold up three fingers
- Brush you teeth: Mimic brushing my teeth
- Chore time: I hold one hand palm up (like a table) & use the other hand to make a scrubbing motion
- Homework time: Again, I hold one hand palm up like a table & I use the other hand to make a writing motion
- Clean up time: I cup one hand palm up & use the other hand to mimic picking up things & dropping them in the first hand.
- Get out the door/it’s time to leave: I literally shoo them with both hands toward the door
- Chill/relax: I make a wave motion with my hand
- We also have a few special signs of love & encouragement. These signs mean “I love you,” “Your doing a good job,” & “You can do it.” They are secret little motions I sign to the kids & they sign back when we are in busy places or far apart. It’s a sweet way to put some drops in our love buckets without anyone knowing.
I have noticed that since I began using physical gestures rather than words, my children watch me more. They are learning to utilize all their senses more. And they are a little more attentive. You can incorporate some of our family signs or come up with signals to meet your own parenting needs. Give it a try and soon you will get your children to listen without ever saying a word. The options are literally endless.
Learning how to really communicate with our children is a so important, but can be a difficult process! We’re here to help. Here are a few more ideas on how we can better connect with our kids: