02/19/2013 01:27 pm ET Updated Apr 21, 2013

'How Can I Get My Kids to Listen?'

I can't get my children to listen. No matter how many times I repeat something, they tune me out. Is there some secret to getting my kids to do what I ask without nagging?

In one of her HuffPost blogs, Devon Corneal wrote, "I speak Parent, my kids only speak Child... Now, does anyone have a good Parent/Child dictionary I can borrow?" Indeed, it does seem like our children speak a foreign language -- one we can't seem to learn, no matter how hard we try.

Here are some tips for communicating in ways your kids are more likely to understand:

Surprise them. If you sum up the kinds of things you routinely say to your kids, you may discover that most of your communications require them to do things they'd rather not do. Naturally, they will try to prolong the unpleasantness by tuning you out. Surprise your kids now and then with words they don't expect to hear, such as:

"Honey, I have something important to tell you. Please listen carefully. (Dramatic pause.) I love you!"

• Make an effort to connect with them. Rather than shouting commands like, "Do your homework," or "Time for piano practice," from the other end of the house, join your child where he is and spend a moment or two showing interest in what he is doing. It will be time well spent. By connecting with your child before asking him to do something, he'll be far more likely to respond favorably.

"Are the other dinosaurs afraid of this big guy or is he their friend?"
"How did you draw such realistic-looking eyes on those horses?"

"Eyes on me." Before delivering a request, ask your child to look up from whatever she is doing to shift her attention onto you. This is a simple but efffective way of getting her to hear what you have to say.

Make physical contact. Touch his arm before you ask him to do something to help him disconnect from whatever he's engaged in and focus on you. Get down to eye level. Make sure to smile; humans of all ages are much more predisposed to cooperate when a request is delivered in a friendly tone.

• "What did I say?" Ask your child to repeat your insruction to be sure she heard you accurately. Once you know she understood your request, it will be harder for her to ignore acting on it. If she balks, acknowledge her reluctance.

"I know you wish you could finish watching this show. It's one of your favorites. I'm guesing you wish that homework had never been invented..."

Lighten up. Make your request in a foreign accent or a goofy voice. Humans are innately attracted to novelty. Your kids won't be able to keep themselves from perking up and giving you their undivided attention!

Be brief. Given our tendency to ramble on with long-winded explanations, my guess is that most children tune their parents out after about seven words! When it comes to talking, less is often more.

"Seven-thirty. Bedtime."
"Time to tidy up. Dinner."

Be clear and decisive. When you begin a request with, "Could you..." or end it with "...OK?" it gives your child the impression that you're not altogether confident about what you're asking, or that their cooperation is optional. Be clear and decisive while speaking in a kind and loving tone.

Try, "Time to get into your snuggly PJ's," rather than "It's might be a good idea to get your PJ's on... OK?"

From the time they wake up until they're tucked back into bed at night, most children feel bombarded with demands and requests to do things they don't particularly want to do. By using these tips to come alongside rather than at your kids, they will hear you "loud and clear."

Do you have a question for the Parent Coach? Send it to and you could be featured in an upcoming column.