How to Get Kids to Pay Attention


Published:

Shutterstock photo

Feeling ignored? You’re not alone. What parent hasn’t issued a request to their child, only to be met with a blank stare or worse, crickets? With every repeated request, parents spiral further into frustration. It’s discouraging, defeating and just plain maddening — why can’t kids just listen? Because getting kids to listen isn’t as simple as it seems, and reasons kids might not listen are as varied as kids themselves. Read on for age-by-age guidance on creating better communication with your kids, so you and your kids can feel heard and respected.

 

EARLY YEARS

Eye to Eye

Toddlers and preschoolers may appear to disregard your requests, but they aren’t actively resisting. When they’re engaged in play or another activity, they might be genuinely oblivious to your words. When communicating a request, it’s important to ensure that the request was heard before assuming that a child is being disrespectful, says Réa M. Wright, a family therapist in Davidson, North Carolina. Caregivers should treat toddlers and preschoolers with the same respect and care they’d give an adult, she says. “Young children need to feel seen and heard, and be spoken to respectfully, with kindness and care, with age-appropriate requests.”

Offer toddlers and preschoolers two or three choices, say experts Roslyn A. Haber and Marlyn Press, associate professors at Touro College Graduate School of Education in New York City, and use a multifaceted communication approach, combining verbal requests with visual cues and body language to make sure your request gets through. Put this into practice: Get down on a child’s level, make eye contact, use a soft voice, a child’s name and a gentle touch on a child’s arm or shoulder while speaking.


ELEMENTARY YEARS

Brick Wall

Fewer experiences inspire more parental frustration than speaking to an apparently unresponsive child. Being “ignored” is a common experience for parents, and often reflects an underlying power struggle. When preteens feel spoken “at” instead of with, or field lots of repeated requests from caregivers, they may simply tune them out. Tweens may ignore parental requests because experience has taught them that parents soon throw their hands up in exasperation and stomp away without following through on the request.

The best approach? Ensure your child hears you by getting into his line of vision and making eye contact, then calmly and rationally state your request along with reasonable consequences if the request is ignored. Kids can then decide on their own to comply, says Wright, which diffuses any power struggles.

“The calmer I am when I’m being ignored by a child, the more efficient and effective my responses are liable to be,” Wright says. “Give your kids options, and if you’re ignored, articulate the natural and logical consequences. Be prepared and willing to follow through on those consequences swiftly and calmly, without yelling, bargaining, demanding or threatening.”


TEEN YEARS

Two-Way Street

Want teens to listen? Hear them out. Teens need to feel heard in order to open up and be receptive to listening, Wright says. Teens live to test boundaries. Becoming independent is, after all, their job. Keep this in mind as you build healthy two-way communication. “I often tell parents that listening to teens is probably a lot more important than lecturing them,” Wright says.

To encourage teens to talk and listen, simply follow their lead. Talk about topics they’re interested in, ask questions and genuinely listen to responses, even if that means being subjected to a 30-minute verbal essay on the merits of their favorite band. Teens tend to be more open to communicating with parents when they’re side-by-side, instead of face-to-face, so go for a drive, a walk or volunteer together. Try not to interrupt, ask “tell me” or “how” questions, and never act shocked or judgmental, even if your teen reveals something shocking. Model effective and empathetic listening, and teens will follow suit.


Malia Jacobson is a nationally published journalist and mom of three.

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Content

Parent-Child Dynamic of Online Privacy: How Much is Too Much?

How much privacy should a parent offer his or her child on social media, or should they allow them on it at all?

Fun Things to Do in the Triangle This Weekend, Jan. 19-21

Make renaissance crafts in Apex, explore the night sky in Durham, make foil works of art at the in Raleigh, play with Legos in Raleigh and more.

HGTV's 'House Hunters Family' Seeking Raleigh Families

The popular show is looking for outgoing families who are passionate about their search for a new home.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

January 2018

Run Club meets every Sunday at 8 a.m. in Midtown Raleigh or Wake Forest. Stroller friendly; children invited. 

Cost: $10/run or $100/annual pass

Where:
Optimist Park Community Center/Greenways
5900 Whittier Drive
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Sponsor: FIT4MOM
Telephone: 919-348-0472
Contact Name: Missy Currin
Website »

More information

Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
Website »

More information

Ages 5-18 try curling, a sport built on a tradition of sportsmanship and sociability. Equipment provided. Wear warm clothes and sneakers.

Cost: Free

Where:
Triangle Curling Club
2310 So Hi Dr.
Durham, NC  27703
View map »


Sponsor: Triangle Curling
Telephone: 919-818-1177
Contact Name: Dina Gerber
Website »

More information

Enjoy a sneak peek of the new Goldfish Swim School in Wake Forest. Meet staff, learn more about Goldfish Swim School programs and more.

Cost: Free

Where:
Goldfish Swim School Wake Forest
14460 Falls of Neuse Rd.
Wake Forest, NC  27614
View map »


Sponsor: Goldfish Swim School Wake Forest
Telephone: (919) 435-3753
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Celebrate community heroes on MLK Day at Marbles. From 10am-2pm, meet real community heroes like a paramedic, teacher and police officer. Be a hero by packing food for Backpack Buddies to...

Cost: $7 ages 1 and older

Where:
Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
Rale, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Spend the afternoon helping to maintain and beautify the area around Good Hope Farm in honor of MLK Jr. Day of Service. All ages. Volunteers age 15 and younger must be accompanied by an...

Cost: Free

Where:
Good Hope Farm
1580 Morrisville Carpenter Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday with cake, crafts, storytime and various activities for kids of all ages. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Northgate Mall
1058 West Club Blvd.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Book Harvest hosts the Dream Big Book Drive, a community-wide celebration of diversity, literacy and books for all children. Donate new or gently used children’s book, volunteer to...

Cost: Free

Where:
Durham Central Park
501 Foster St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Sponsor: Book Harvest
Telephone: (252) 497-BOOK
Contact Name: Daniele Berman
Website »

More information

Celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and view digital art created by local youth. Enjoy refreshments, networking and artwork created by youth in the community based...

Cost: Free

Where:
Microsoft Store at the Streets at Southpoint Mall
6910 Fayetteville Rd.
Suite 174
Durham, NC  27713
View map »


Sponsor: Microsoft
Telephone: (919) 361-3140
Contact Name: Sherry del Rosario
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Enjoy the story "Snowballs" by Lois Ehlert and enjoy time outdoors. Ages 18 mos-3 yrs with caregiver. Register online. 

Cost: $2/child

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Telephone: 919-870-4330
Website »

More information

Take a magical journey through China's divine culture. Classical dance, music and storytelling highlight this live show. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $80-$150

Where:
Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Rising kindergartners and their families learn about Wake County magnet elementary programs. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Washington Magnet Elementary
1000 Fayetteville Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy stories with Amy Godfrey.

Cost: Free

Where:
The Regulator Bookshop
720 Ninth St.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Website »

More information

Learn what wild animals do in winter as they hibernate, migrate and stay warm in the cold woods. Ages 3-5 with adult enjoy a hike, do a craft and learn how to help...

Cost: $3; no fee for accompanying adult

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Wilkerson staff
Website »

More information

Enjoy the first live theatrical production based on Shopkins, the wildly successful brand launched in 2014. The Shoppies and Shopkins characters will take to the stage in performance featuring...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

Take a magical journey through China's divine culture. Classical dance, music and storytelling highlight this live show. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $80-$150

Where:
Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Explore a part of art. Ages 2-5 with caregiver. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $5/member, $8/nonmember

Where:
N.C. Museum of Art
2110 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Explore a part of art. Ages 2-5 with caregiver. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $5/member, $8/nonmember

Where:
N.C. Museum of Art
2110 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Join local churches and community organizations for a public celebration honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Friendship Chapel Baptist Church
237 Friendship Chapel Rd.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Go nutty for nature as children satisfy some of their curiosity about the world around them and parents share in the joy of discovery. Ages 3-5 with parent. Register online.

Cost: $10/resident, $13/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

A wonderfully kid-paced hour featuring music, play and dancing with toddler stars singing on the mic at Cotton's gently amplified & participatory music show. Children delight in...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Pump It Up Raleigh
10700 World Trade Blvd, #112
Raleigh, NC  27617
View map »


Sponsor: Pump it Up
Telephone: 919-828-3344
Contact Name: Owner/manager Kellie Paterson McHugh
Website »

More information

Head out to Lake Crabtree to learn all about our most commonly seen mammal. Spy on the gray squirrels that abound in the park. Park staff will answer all your gnawing questions about squirrel...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Parkway
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Celebrate Zaniac's first year in business by attending an open house event with free course demos, hands-on activities, a scavenger hunt and cake. Sample camp and after-school programs,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Zaniac
1206 Parkside Main St.
Cary, NC  27519
View map »


Sponsor: Zaniac
Telephone: 919-342-8536
Contact Name: Matthew Pepe
Website »

More information

Learn how to express yourself with color, pattern and imagery as you make your own art book with artist Anna Podris. All ages and skill levels welcome. Materials provided.

Cost: $10/member, $15/nonmember

Where:
Artspace
201 E. Davie St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Telephone: 919-821-2787
Website »

More information

Make a craft and sing favorite songs. Ages 11 and older. Register online. Choose course #111599.

Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

Where:
Page-Walker Arts and History Center
119 Ambassador Loop
Cary, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Go nutty for nature as children satisfy some of their curiosity about the world around them and parents share in the joy of discovery. Ages 3-5 with parent. Register online.

Cost: $10/resident, $13/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Learn what wild animals do in winter as they hibernate, migrate and stay warm in the cold woods. Ages 3-5 with adult enjoy a hike, do a craft and learn how to help wildlife friends...

Cost: $3; no fee for accompanying adult

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Wilkerson staff
Website »

More information

Enjoy a puppetry arts program inspired by the children's book "The Interrupting Chicken" by David Ezra Stein. Ages 4-9. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Carrboro Branch Library
900 Old Fayetteville Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC  27516
View map »


Sponsor: Carrboro Branch Public Library
Telephone: 919-969-3008
Contact Name: Jody Smith
Website »

More information

This annual festival features more than 75 musicians, storytellers, dancers, chefs, historians, playwrights, authors, artists, re-enactors and more. Enjoy dancers, singers, storytellers and...

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of History
5 E. Edenton St.
, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Look up close and untangle clues to find the hidden story in works of art. Ages 5-11 with caregiver.

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of Art
2110 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Each year, Cranberry Tree Farm donates its unsold trees to the Conservators Center for its animals to enjoy as a special form of holiday enrichment. During this walkabout, watch as wild animals...

Cost: See the website for fees.

Where:
Conservators Center
676 E. Hughes Mill Rd.
Burlington, NC  27217
View map »


Telephone: 888-650-1139
Website »

More information

Learn about local birds and build a bird box. All ages with adult. Register online.

Cost: $18/resident, $24/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Take part in an event run by Triangle TechGirlz. Learn about networks that are connecting objects and devices to make our lives better, in the same way that social media does. From cars to...

Cost: Free

Where:
IBM RTP - Employee Activity & Fitness Center
3039 E. Cornwallis Rd.
Durham, NC  27703
View map »


Sponsor: TechGirlz
Contact Name: Jane Bossert
Website »

More information

Stop in and experience Rock Band at Bach to Rock Music School. The band program starts at age 7.

Cost: Free

Where:
Bach to Rock Music School
958 U.S. Highway 64
Apex, NC  27523
View map »


Sponsor: Bach to Rock
Telephone: 919-446-5386
Contact Name: Kelly Foster
Website »

More information

Take a new or gently-used children’s book for donation to benefit kids in Wake County. Also enjoy special celebrity story times, craft activities, balloon...

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Website »

More information

Girls ages 11 and older enjoy a manicure and pedicure, makeup application or face painting, and a tiara-making station. Punch and snacks served. Register online. Choose course #111626.

Cost: $11/resident, $15/nonresident

Where:
Cary Senior Center
120 Maury O'Dell Place
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

More information

Explore the historic heart of downtown Raleigh on a walking tour of Fayetteville Street. Tours highlight the people, places, architecture and political movements that have shaped...

Cost: Adults (18+) $10; Youth (7-17) $4; Children (6 & under) Free.

Where:
City of Raleigh Museum
220 Fayetteville St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

​Sibshops give brothers and sisters of kids with special needs an opportunity to meet other siblings in a relaxed, recreational setting to explore their feelings in creative, light...

Cost: Free

Where:
Hargraves Community Center
216 N. Roberson St.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Sponsor: Adapted Recreation & Inclusion program: Chapel Hill Parks & Recreation
Telephone: 919 968-2813
Contact Name: Marian Kaslovsky
Website »

More information

Take a hike to listen for owl calls and learn why these creatures are well adapted to living in darkness. After the hike, enjoy s’mores around  acampfire while practicing...

Cost: $4/person

Where:
Durant Nature Preserve
8305 Camp Durant Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit Module

Magazine

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Directories

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Annual Guides

Education Guide

The 2017-18 Education Guide offers 660 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools and academic resources.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our debut Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. Plus, find out who our 2017 Readers' Favorites are.