Boys Town’s Top 5 Ways to Get Your Child to Listen, The First Time

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Boys Town releases strategies for parents to tackle poor listening by toddlers and school-aged children.

Boys Town releases strategies for parents to tackle poor listening by toddlers and school-aged children. The national child and healthcare organization, started over 90 years ago, is a leader in parenting advice. Boys Town Behavioral Health Experts offer this advice for parents to get children to do what they have asked, the first time.

1.    Be direct – A direct command leaves no question in the child’s mind what he/she is being told to do. The choices are clear. For example, “Sit in the chair, please” instead of “Could you please sit down now?”
2.    State commands positively – Tell your child what to “Do” instead of what not to do. Whenever possible, avoid the use of “no,” “don’t,” “stop,” “quit it”. For example, “Keep your feet on the ground” instead of “Stop climbing on the furniture.”
3.    Give one command at a time – Children have a hard time remembering more than one thing at a time. Avoid stringing commands together. For example, “Put your toys in the bin” instead of “Put your toys away, wash your hands, and come to dinner.”
4.    Be physically present – Instead of yelling across the room or house, get directly in front of your child, make good eye contact, and give the command with gestures.
5.    Reward compliance – Immediately acknowledge that your child has completed a command by using praise, attention, and affection.

Teaching your child to listen is a process that relies heavily on communication and consistency.

“You are the message-sender; the traffic light for your child. Real traffic lights go predictably from green to yellow to red. Imagine if traffic lights changed at random. You wouldn’t know whether you needed to go or not!” says Dr. Thomas Reimers, Licensed Psychologist and Director of Boys Town Behavioral Health Clinic. “As a parent, the more predictable your signals are, the more predictable your child’s behavior will be.

Boys Town counsels families and schools across the country on best parenting, health and discipline practices. Visit for more key listening tips.

The Boys Town National Hotline also offers free advice to parents 24/7. Call 1-800-448-3000.

About Boys Town:
Nationally, Boys Town has been a beacon of hope for America’s children and families through its life-changing youth care and health care programs for more than 90 years. In 2011, Boys Town’s Integrated Continuum of youth care and health care programs impacted more than 500,000 children and families across America. This includes those who received services from Boys Town’s residential programs as well as those served by the many varied programs that comprise the Boys Town Integrated Continuum of Child and Family Services, including In-Home Family Services, health care services provided by Boys Town National Research Hospital and the Boys Town National Hotline.

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Lauren Laferla
Boys Town
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since: 08/2011
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