For one reason or another, we’re largely horrible at communication. In either direction. We either don’t adequately relay our thoughts or intentions, or we just don’t listen. Obviously, this is a two-way street, but I’d put about 90% of the responsibility of communicating with kids on the feeder. The receiver just has to…receive.
If the first thing you’re not doing as a feeder is getting a read on the environment and conditions you’re trying to communicate in, you’re already setting yourself up for frustration. Kids’ brains move 100mph in 100 different directions in nanoseconds. Take a kid who’s jumping on a trampoline and singing Baby Shark while watching the Goldfish he just spilled on said trampoline dance along with him and try to say “go brush your teeth” in the same manner that you would an adult in normal conversation at normal conversational distance. Low chances of success getting the kid to register the words you just used, let alone go along with your request.
This is where your responsibility as a rational adult comes in. You have to set the stage for the kid to be ready to listen. In our trampoline scenario, you’d get a whole lot further if you walked up to the trampoline, got the kid’s attention, called them over to you, made some form of physical connection (holding a hand works), and then started with the talking. Yelling from a distance is laziness on several levels. Be better than that.
We, as parents, have to be the superior communicator by a large margin in the parent/kid interaction pie.
You have to think about what you want to say, and whether or not it’s going to register to the kid relative to their level of understanding. I’m not suggesting that we do baby talk until they’re a teen, but you do have to remember that you may have to provide more context and examples than you would have to with an adult. You have to get super specific to get your message across, at least for the first several years. Instead of “clean your stuff up”, try “Take your toys to your room and put them into the red box.” It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but it doesn’t leave them with any questions about what they should be doing. Questions that they may not know how to ask, or that they should even be asking. What may look like them being dismissive could be that they’re just not sure exactly what it is that you’re asking them to do, or if you’re even talking to them. Did you break their focus on what they were doing, or did you just start talking as you were passing through the room?
Making sure your kids are looking at you when you speak (and you them), also seems to be pretty important. Particularly with boys. Us males are very poor multi-taskers, so if you’re talking to us while we’re playing with something, you’re really just practicing to say it twice. “Huh?” is coming down the pipe. Take the extra second to get them to stop looking at whatever is in front of them, and to look at you. You’ll find yourself saying the same thing twice far less often.
Adding in some mental agility in the form of having more than one way to explain things is going to make a big difference, also. Confidence in your ability to relay the same information in more than one way, even more so. You have have to break down what you’re trying to get across on a lower level, or get more descriptive. “The red box in your room.” vs “Your toy box.” This is another step in alleviating anxiety – for the both of you. If you’re ready to say the same thing three different ways, you tend to be a bit more patient if the first sentence didn’t get through.
Also, we have to take into account their perspective. They don’t see the world through our eyes. Honestly, no one does, so why would a small child be any different? “Why do you leave your things laying around?” Why wouldn’t they? If no one had ever explained organization and why it’s important to you (some of y’all still didn’t listen), would you have naturally started folding your clothes and putting them into the appropriate drawers? What may make perfect sense to you, because it’s been drilled into your brain for how ever many years you’ve been alive, is Greek to your kids. Assume that nothing is obvious. Why do kids take their shoes off in random places when they get home? The same reason a bird poops indiscriminately. The notion struck. They acted. That simple. One of your million jobs is to guide the do’s and don’ts of habit through explanation, and reinforcing habit through consistency.
Be aware also of nonverbal communication from your kids. As mentioned earlier, they may not know how to get what they’re feeling across. If they’re acting irrationally, it’s not likely that they’re having a psychotic episode, so much as they need something and don’t know how to ask for it. Whether that be attention, or a break. Sometimes we get overwhelmed or over-stimulated, and I don’t think most 5 year olds know how to relay that. Don’t be afraid to revisit trying to communicate after a few minutes’ break if they make themselves non-receptive. Your kid is probably not being a jerk. Maybe they need some cuddle time, and maybe they need to take a break from us. Maybe what you’re asking them to do makes absolutely zero sense to them and they need further explanation. It’s mostly up to you to figure out which one that is.
“Because I said so.” is weak-ass parenting and leadership skills. Don’t be that person.