If you are a parent or you work with kids in some capacity then you know what it feels like to have that little vein pop out of your neck because you have repeated the same instruction, given the same advice, or answered the same question for what feels like the millionth time.  Here are some tips that will help you the next time that you feel like a broken record.

The Power of Consistency

Sounding like a broken record isn’t all bad.  Remember that consistency causes behavioral change.  The more times you say something, the more likely your kids are to hear it and, better yet, retain it.  Repeat key messages often.

They May Not Be Hearing You

Say it another way…

There is a chance that your child may not be hearing you.  Yes, they may hear your actual words but they may not be getting the message or meaning that you are trying to convey.  Ask yourself “Is there another way that I can say this?  Might another angle or phrase work? ”  Sometimes changing or simplifying your verbiage can help immensely.  Be sure to sum up/conclude your thoughts with no more than three bullet points after a long discussion.  It helps remind your child of the main points/take-aways that you want them to have.

Say it through another person…

Believe it or not, the teenage brain starts to wire itself for independence.  Scientific studies have shown that signals in the brain of a teenager fires rapidly when they hear a peer speak however the signals slow down or skip when a parent speaks.  If you’ve ever uttered the phrase “Are you listening to me?” to your teenage son or daughter there’s a good chance that they weren’t.  While studies show that they may struggle to “hear” you, they also show how important it is that they hear you.  Regardless of peer pressure, media, and technology, studies show that parents are still the number one influencer of teen behavior.

Having another adult that you trust and your teen thinks is cool pass your “broken record message” on can be a way to bypass the parental brain block and make it more likely that your teen will “hear you”.  Alternatively you can have a peer or sibling repeat the message (when appropriate).  This can be helpful in the classroom.  Teachers can have a student make or repeat important announcements.  Students’ listening will automatically increase.

Grumbles Mean You Were Heard

My friend Anne King always talked about how fed up parents get when teens grumble after their parents have told them something that they didn’t want to hear.  We can often get caught up and fixated on what we deem a rude response.  Anne’s advice is “Don’t scold a teen when they grumble at you.  That simply means that they heard you.  Often when you tell a teen to clean their room and they start grumbling, they do it on their way to clean their room”.

Anne’s advice is so good.  Grumbling means that you were heard and the child is processing your words and deciding their response.  They may be letting off some steam by muttering during this thinking process but don’t let this effect you.  Since you’ve been heard, move on.

Love is patient


These tips are inspired by Anne King, a beloved educator who has used humor and strong relationships to excel in the education field and touch hundreds, perhaps thousands of students, parents, educators, and mental health professionals in the process.  I appreciate her wisdom and years of service to schools in my hometown of Grand Rapids, MI and beyond.

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