Get Your Kids to Listen!

Listen Up! What to Do When Your Child Won’t Listen

There is not a parent on the planet who has not felt like one of the adults in a Charlie Brown cartoon when trying to get their child’s attention “Wah, wah, wah, wah . . .” It’s easy to believe that that’s what your little person is hearing when you speak – what else could explain their lack of action? A natural response is to raise your voice and repeat the request at every increasing volume.  Before you know it you’re shouting.  “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” It was true for Einstein and it’s true for parents. There are other ways to get a child to listen to you the first time – no matter what their age. 


1. Be brief. Giving kids long explanations about why they cannot do something or why they must do something is a guarantee that you will sound like a Peanut parent. Keep it short and simple. Repeat often. Save longer explanations for when no one is upset or in a hurry. 

2. Give your child a quick run down of what you expect and what will happen if there is a tantrum or other issue. Let them know that you will leave the park if they refuse to come when you call. And, when they don’t come when you ask, remind them once. If they don’t come again, gather your things and go home. You may have to do this a couple of times before it sinks in. But once they know you’ll leave a restaurant, the park or a full cart of groceries you will likely not have to leave again. 

3. Talk to your child in the way you hope he will one day talk to others. Say please. Say thank you. Get down to his eye level – even gently hold his chin while you speak – and speak face-to-face. (With teens, shorter moms might want to have a step stool on hand.) 

4. Consider having a family meeting to set up a short, general list of rules. Let the kids contribute. Post the rules on the fridge as a reminder. Be clear on what happens when a rule is broken. 

5. Learn about logical consequences and use them. If your twelve year old does not clean his room as you asked, grounding him makes no sense. Instead go into his room and put everything not in its proper place in a large black trash bag. Let your tween/teen know he can earn these things back by performing extra chores on a list you have prepared. Give each task a number of points and determine the number of points your child must earn to get his stuff back.  

6. Give your child your full attention and demand that he do the same. If your child is talking to you, turn away from your computer or put your phone down and look him in the eye. If you are in the middle of something truly important, ask him to wait and give him a specific time to talk. Insist he do the same for you.

7. Through middle and high school you want to gradually increase your child’s freedoms. Kids will screw up – better to do it at home with you to help them than to send them out into the world without knowing how to handle difficult situations. You might find that you have some of your best conversations in the car driving from place to place. There is something about not sitting face-to-face that helps tweens/teens feel more comfortable sharing. Make your car a phone-free zone and use drive times to talk about whatever is concerning you or them.  

Being a parent is not an 18 year sentence to yelling and fighting. You’re in control if you choose to be. The rules will change as your child grows. The way you communicate will change as well. If you start with the basics of meaning what you say, using and expecting common courtesy and being hands on you will find the atmosphere in your house will change dramatically. Good luck and, remember, you don’t have to be that Peanut parent!

What are your best tricks for getting your kids to listen? Comment below.
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