If you’re a parent, you know that few things will bring you as much joy as your young children. You also know that nothing will try your patience more than your kids and they will test you constantly. With frustration, you may find that they methods that worked six months ago won’t work today, and the advice you may receive from your parents or from other parents of small children doesn’t always apply.

One important thing to keep in mind is that the goal isn’t to raise a willful child who’s never told “no”, or to give up even an inch of your parental authority. On the contrary, these ideas are designed make your authority clear while saving your own sanity – all in the hope that your child will grown up to be responsible, safe and kind.

If you feel like you’re yelling more than you’d like, or that your child never listens or does what you tell or need them to do, here are a few suggestions that may help.

Girl Silhouette
Credit: MorgueFile

Things To Do With Your Child

Listen. When you child has something to tell you, pause what you’re doing and give your child your undivided attention. Put down your phone, mute the television, stop the shopping cart, turn down the radio and just listen to your child. Whenever possible, don’t interrupt and make eye contact. This simple act will show your child that his words matter, and will demonstrate that when someone is talking, he too should stop talking and not interrupt. This also demonstrates to your child that he should listen to YOU when you have something to say.

Turn your voice down. Start a new path of interacting with your child by trying this for one day. No matter what’s happening, stop yelling (unless it’s an emergency). Don’t raise your voice, speak clearly and concisely, and use words that you know your child will understand.

When possible, include a reason why you’re asking the question or giving a direction. “It’s time to put your toys away, or you won’t have enough time for stories later.” “Hang up your coat, or you won’t be able to find it tomorrow when you leave for school.” Most importantly, showing your kids a calm front will demonstrate that yelling won’t be tolerated from them. (Want to see some magic? If your child whines, tell him that you don’t understand his words when he speaks that way – and try not to show too much shock when the whining stops immediately.)

Play with your child 15 minutes a day. Just 15 minutes may be all it takes to get your child to really talk and interact with you. Sit on the floor and play with her toys for a few minutes – let her make the rules and play along. Simple play will demonstrate what your child thinks about the way the world works, and can help you tailor some of your communication to get through to her in ways that she can understand.

Read to your child every day, even if it’s only for ten minutes. Read a short picture-filled book to smaller children, or a chapter in a more mature story to older kids. The more you interact with your child, the more your child will respond to you. Better responses will lead to fewer arguments or challenges, and things can improve dramatically in a short period of time.

Let your child know what to expect. If you want easier transitions, set them up. If it’s going to be bedtime soon, remind your child that in ten minutes, she’ll need to put away her toys and books and get ready for bed. If you’re getting ready to leave somewhere, give your child a five minute warning. It may seem like micro-management, but what it really does is ease your child into a transition by letting him or her know what to expect. Sure, kids are resilient, but they’re also people. You probably don’t want a new job sprung on you without warning. Why would you ask that of your children?

Tell your kid you love him. This may seem ridiculous, but sometimes, just telling your son or daughter “I love you, and I’m very proud of how hard you work and what good choices you make” can be just the thing to get your kid to change his or her behavior. In fact, by repeatedly telling a child that you think he’s kind and smart and makes good decisions can actually lead to your child exhibiting kind, thoughtful behavior and good problem solving.

Things To Do For You

Count to five before you respond. Sometimes, kids are just slow to respond. You’ll ask your child to pick up a pair of shoes, and it seems like an eternity passes between when you ask and when it actually gets done. Nothing will raise your stress level faster than impatiently waiting for your child to “get with the program”, so instead, try this: mentally count to five. If your child hasn’t moved by “5”, gently take his or her hand, and walk them to the task you want completed.

Hug your kid. Then, hug him again. Sometimes, you both need a break and the fastest way to skip to the end of a disagreement is a short hug. It reminds you both of what matters most – each other. While you’re at it, take a moment every day to just smile at your child – then wait for him or her to smile back at you.

Watch what you do and say. Even when you think your child isn’t listening to you, she is, and she’s emulating the way you talk and interact, even when you’re not around to see it. You want a kid who doesn’t swear? Don’t swear. Do you want to make sure that your child is kind? Then show him what kindness is, whether that’s in the checkout line at the store, or in traffic.

Having kids is one of the most rewarding experiences of your life, but can also be one of the most frustrating. Take some time to change the way you interact with your young child, and then reap the benefits of lower stress in both your lives.