I remember telling my son to clean his room a zillion time: clothes all over, books on the floor, legos everywhere. It drove me crazy at times! Somehow at the age of seven I knew he was capable of listening a lot more then he lead on.  Then I remembered some of my business communication skills and tailored them for a child.

Kids are hard wired for empathy, listening and cooperation. We just have to nurture and guide them to use those skills.

Did you know that 93 percent of communication is “nonverbal” in nature? We know this from several studies led Dr. Mehrabian back in the 1960s and 1970s. The messages you send to your child rely on how you respond without using words.

So in summary Dr. Mehrabian found:

  • 7% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is in the words that are spoken.
  • 38% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is the way the words are said (voice, tone).
  • 55% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is in the nonverbal (body language).

This study is a reminder that nonverbal cues can be more valuable and telling than verbal ones.

All this is awesome news because you just landed about five brand new parenting techniques in your pocket.

  • Communication becomes incredibly effective when both parent and child are on the same level. Squat down to the ground before gesturing or instructing. When children are constantly looking up to listen to an adult, they may feel threatened or scared as you are are hovering over then, as well as, talking down to them.

  • Smiling and raising your eyebrows helps children feel happy and safe. When you smile, you communicate to your children that you love them. You communicate, “I see what you are doing makes you happy.” Smiles work even better when you are looking into your child’s eyes.
  • Develop rapport with your child. Mirroring their behavior. Performing the behavior you want your child to perform is key to gaining cooperation. For example, getting down on the floor, focusing on the mess and the toys to be put away, can help get your child started.
  • The simple mmm….Hmm. Teaching kids to listen starts with listening as a parent. When your child speaks to you and says things like…

“Mom, I didn’t do it.”  “He hit me.”  or the infamous, “No!”

Go ahead and nod and smile and bust out a few “Mmm…hmmms.” This shows your child that you are actively listening.  Your kids feel heard. They feel noticed. They feel validated. And when kids feel all those things, they will begin to listen to you.

  • What is your posture saying? Are your arms crossed? Are your hands on your hips? Are you waiving your finger and shaking your head? Did you know that when you place your arms at your side, kids are more receptive to instruction? Simply positioning our arms correctly can ward off an argument and improve listening skills.

When you and your child experience a disconnect, try these techniques to connect first, repair and then correct. Ask yourself, “Where is your child coming from, what is his intent?” Leave the judgement at the doorstep and ask yourself how can you help your child?

So with these reminders, I got down to my son’s level, gave him a big smile and began to show him what I meant by “cleaning up your room”. I bought bins and labeled them for the toys and legos. A new bookshelf now showcases his books. We worked together and now at 13 years old, he has one of the most clean and organized rooms in the house!

Written by Cindy Marvin

Cindy Marvin

Cindy Marvin is a parenting coach, educator, speaker and founder of Repairenting, LLC. Her mission is to help families reconnect and begin to enjoy their time with one another and Bring Harmony Home. Through her ability to deeply listen without judgment and create a safe environment, Cindy helps families create positive changes in their lives that have dramatic lasting effects for years to come.