How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, or Not

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen

Ah, children: our little bundles of joy, wrapped up in tantrums, random screams, and incomprehensible babble. Have you ever wondered how to communicate with these adorable, frustrating, enigmatic creatures in a way that doesn’t involve miming or interpretive dance? Well, buckle up, buttercup, because I’ve got some ground-breaking, Nobel Prize-worthy advice that may — or may not — turn you into the child whisperer you’ve always dreamt of being.

Rule 1: Use Big Words

Kids are like sponges; they soak up information like your aunt soaks up gin at family gatherings. So, naturally, the more complicated the vocabulary you use, the better. Why ask them to “come here” when you can encourage them to “transport their corporeal forms in a westerly direction toward your current coordinates”? Trust me; they’ll appreciate the mental gymnastics. Plus, if they don’t understand, it’s a golden opportunity for a vocabulary lesson. Or an exercise in futility, I mean, you choose.

Rule 2: Never, Ever Repeat Yourself

You said it once. They should have listened. If they didn’t, well, that’s on them. In the adult world, when someone asks, “Would you like some coffee?” we don’t usually need to hear it five times before we respond with, “Do I look like I need more caffeine, Karen?” Kids should be no different. Hold them to adult standards of communication, because nothing prepares a child for the real world like unrealistic expectations. And hey, if they miss out on ice cream because they didn’t hear you the first time, they’ll learn to regret it — another valuable life lesson.

Rule 3: Be as Literal as Possible

Kids are notorious for their love of imagination, but let’s get real: the world is a literal place. When they ask where babies come from, give them the most scientific explanation you can muster. Use terms like “fertilization,” “gestation period,” and “vaginal birth” or “C-section.” This will not only make you look smart, but it will also ensure that your child is the most popular kid at school during ‘Show and Tell.’

Rule 4: Forget Age-Appropriateness

I mean, if they’re old enough to operate a smartphone and beat you at Mario Kart, they’re old enough to discuss the socio-economic implications of inflation and climate change, right? So go ahead, get into the nitty-gritty of politics, love, and the meaning of life. Childhood is overrated anyway. Let’s make ’em grow up faster, shall we?

Rule 5: Always Maintain Eye Contact

You know how in the movies, the tough guy maintains eye contact to assert dominance? Do that. Stare into your child’s eyes as if you’re peering into their soul. Never break eye contact, not even to blink. This will instill a sense of importance and gravitas into whatever you’re saying, even if you’re just asking them to pass the salt. Warning: This may either result in them taking you super seriously or running away screaming. Either way, you’ve made an impression.

Rule 6: Bribery is Your Best Friend

Who says that bribery is bad? Oh, right, laws and ethics, but we’re in the parental underworld now, and all bets are off. You want your kid to listen? Offer rewards. If they put on their shoes in under five minutes, give them a cookie. If they make their bed, promise them an extra episode of their favorite TV show. Of course, you’ll have to follow through, or you’ll risk turning into the parent who cried wolf. And trust me, kids hold grudges. Long ones. Like, remember-that-thing-you-did-when-I-was-three-and-bring-it-up-when-I’m-thirty kind of long.

Rule 7: Keep it Short, Like a Tweet

Remember, the average attention span of a child is approximately 0.00001 seconds, which is roughly the same time it takes for them to decide they absolutely hate the dinner that they absolutely loved last week. So, get to the point. If you can’t fit what you’re trying to say into a tweet, then you’re just not trying hard enough. Why say, “Sweetheart, could you please pick up your toys?” when “Yo, clean up!” does the trick? This isn’t ‘War and Peace,’ it’s parenting.

Rule 8: Use Puzzles and Riddles

Kids love a good challenge. So, instead of telling them directly what you want them to do, make them solve a riddle first. For example, if it’s time for bed, say something like, “What loses its head in the morning but gains it back at night?” They’ll be so engrossed in solving the puzzle (it’s a pillow, by the way), they’ll forget to argue about bedtime. Just make sure your riddles are easier to solve than a Rubik’s Cube, or you might be waiting a while.

Rule 9: Become a Mime

Who says communication has to be verbal? If Marcel Marceau could tell a story without saying a word, so can you. Next time you want your child to put on their coat, don’t say a word. Just stand there miming the action of putting on a coat until the penny drops — or until they start filming you for a TikTok video titled “When Parents Lose It.”

Rule 10: Adopt a Parental “Voice”

You know that voice some parents use that can make even a hardened criminal quiver in fear? Time to make one your own. It doesn’t have to be loud; it just has to be saturated with enough stern authority to make your child stop in their tracks. Think Mufasa from “The Lion King” or Liam Neeson in… well, anything Liam Neeson has ever been in.

Rule 11: Never Admit You’re Wrong

Admitting you’re wrong is a slippery slope to anarchy. Never do it. If your child catches you in a mistake, pivot like a politician dodging a scandal. For example, if you say the sky is green and your kid corrects you, don’t concede. Instead, go on a poetic tangent about how the sky can look green under specific lighting conditions, thus opening their minds to the beauty and complexity of the natural world. See? You weren’t wrong; you were just more profoundly right than they could understand.

Rule 12: Say it With a Song

We’ve all experienced the horror of a children’s song that won’t vacate our brain space (“Baby Shark,” I’m looking at you). Use this insidious power to your advantage. Next time you need your kids to clean their room, sing your request to the tune of their most-hated earworm. They’ll rush to do your bidding just to make it stop.

So, there you have it. Twelve absolutely foolproof rules for talking so kids will listen — or, you know, ignore you but in a more educated and thoughtful manner. But if all else fails, revert to interpretive dance. It won’t make them listen, but it’ll make for a hilarious family video to embarrass them with later in life.

To be perfectly clear, because sarcasm doesn’t always translate well in writing: take some of this advice with a grain of salt, or perhaps an entire salt shaker. But hey, if you manage to talk so your kids will actually listen, patent that method and make millions. Then write a follow-up article and school us all.

And, you know, if you actually want to communicate with your kids, maybe try just sitting down and listening to them for a bit. Sometimes kids have more to say than we give them credit for. But hey, what do I know? I’m just an adult.