How To Get Kids To Listen: The Secret Sauce

How to Get Kids To Listen

“How Do I Get My Kids To Listen?” is a prevalent question among parents!

Little people can be super stubborn, and it’s not because they don’t want to listen, they just don’t understand why they have to.

They also want to do their own thing and make their own decisions, because let’s face it, they are individuals with rights of their own.

Being “commanded” to do tasks all day long is not fun for anyone, let alone a child or teenager.

Commanding kids is the disciplinarian way, and this way of parenting is the “old way.” It caused a lot of emotional damage to children.

If getting your child to listen seems like an uphill battle for you, then you should keep reading because I’ve got great tips on how to get kids to listen and follow directions.

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*This information is for educational purposes only, if you need medical attention, please consult a physician.

If you’re new to positive parenting, you should take this free class – highly recommended!

My Kids Don’t Always Listen And That’s Ok

I am a mom of 2, and my kids don’t always listen to me.

And guess what?

That’s totally ok!

The thing is, my kids are individuals who have their own opinions, and it is not my job as a parent to dictate them to listen to me all the time.

I do not parent the authoritarian way.

Instead. I use positive discipline strategies, and that means I respect my children, I listen to my children, and I value their opinions.

By not being “too hard” on my kids when it doesn’t really matter if they listen or not, they are more likely to listen to me when it’s essential.

Of course, there are times when the kids must listen, and that is when I use the following techniques to make sure that happens.

How To Get Kids To Listen (The Positive Parenting Way)

These are tips for parents of children who are in preschool or older.

Younger children need to focus on self-regulation skills because following instructions is too difficult a task for them at this time.

1. We Cannot Control Others

The reality is, we cannot control other human beings.

We must learn to control ourselves.

We can guide others.

We can teach others.

But we cannot control others.

When children are younger, we must control children because they have no control over themselves.

We control them for survival. 

But that ends when they learn to think for themselves.

How many adults do you know that they won’t speak to their parents when they move out because their parents were too controlling?

It’s sad.

If you’re wanting a close and engaged relationship with your child, you have to learn to let go of the theory of controlling your children.

When you control your little ones, they resist, and this creates power struggles.

Power struggles are my least favorite thing to deal with, especially when I know they can be prevented.

Accept that you cannot control your children, and you’ll create a peaceful family environment and have children who listen.

2. Let It Go If It’s Not Urgent

Sometimes it may seem like your children just don’t listen, no matter how many times you ask.

When this happens, have you taken a step back and listened to what you are asking them to do?

If you are asking your child to do something important, then maybe there is a different way to talk to your child, so they will comply with the request.

If you are asking your child to do something and your reason is “Because I said so,” then you should re-evaluate your request.

If there is harm to your child or someone around your child that will come, then this is an excellent reason to push the listening.

If there is no direct harm and your child is having a nice time, then maybe it’s a good idea to let go of the request.

3. Punishment Is Not the Answer

If your children are not following directions, punishment is not the answer.

We must let our children learn to make their own decisions and learn from their mistakes when they make the wrong decisions.

Making bad choices is how children learn to make the right choices.

When your little one makes the “wrong” decision, guide them through their mistake with love and understanding.

Punishment can make your child develop low self-esteem, and they will not be learning any lessons this way.

4. Let Them Make Decisions

We have discussed this a little bit, but let’s expand on the topic.

Children should not be bossed around, that is not the positive parenting way.

Do you enjoy being bossed around?

I don’t!

Neither do kids.

So let your children make decisions, even if you don’t agree with them.

If you truly believe that your child is making the wrong decision, ask them questions to help them analyze the situation further.

You can ask them what they believe the outcome of the situation will be if they do things this way, or how they would like the situation to turn out in general.

Teach them critical thinking skills and guide them in their decision-making journey.

In time, your child will learn to trust what you say and be willing to listen to your suggestions.

5. Keep Calm

When our kids don’t listen, it’s easy to get heated and “make” the kids listen by resorting to screaming and shouting.

When we get angry, we cannot make logical decisions!

An essential ingredient in getting kids to listen is to control our own emotions and keep calm and collected, even when it’s hard.

How To Get Kids To Listen The First Time (When It’s Important)

Today’s world has so many distractions, we have cell phones, televisions, video games, and so many other digital objects.

Pair these distractions with children’s selective hearing, and you’ve got a “child who doesn’t listen.”

I hate the phrase ” child who doesn’t listen” because most children would listen if they were approached the correct way.
That phrase is very harmful and does make me cringe because it implies that the child is “bad.”

I tend to believe that no child is “bad” but merely misguided and needs a new direction in life.

The good news is, there are a few simple ways you can help your child listen to you when you speak, so you don’t get into a mad screaming phase after asking 6 000 times to do something.

Related: How To Keep From Lashing Out When your Child Is Pushing Your Buttons

Get Within Close Range

This tip may or may not be a given. I mean, shouting “dinner is ready!” from the kitchen when your kids are across the house, is not an effective way to get kids to come to join you at the dinner table.

If you are asking your child to do something, be in the same room as them.

If your children are younger, you can kneel down to their level and make eye contact while asking them to join you at the dinner table or clean up their toys.

If you can’t kneel down, a touch on the arm or some other loving gesture goes a long way.

If your children are older, then ensure that eye contact is made so that you know they are paying attention to your words.

Sometimes your kids may “test” you and ignore you on purpose.

Realize that this is just their way of seeing what will happen if they continue to ignore you.

It is a very normal part of development.

The way to combat this behavior is to simply ensure that eye contact is made, and your message is loud and clear.

Related: How To Get Your Kids To Talk and Open Up About important Things

Tell, Don’t Ask (But In A Positive Way)

The second tip I have for you is to ensure you are telling your child what you would like them to do and not asking them. When you phrase it as a question, you are allowing them to say no.

The balance in this tip is to ensure you are not commanding your kids around, but are nicely talking to your child and directing them into the desired action.

For example, you would like your child to clean their room.

If you say this: “Go clean your room” in a commanding/assertive voice, your child will likely not comply and just ignore you altogether.

If you say,” Can you please go clean your room?” Your child can respond with a “no thank you!” and move along.

In both situations, you lose.

So how would you tell your child to clean their room without losing the battle?

“Son, the house is all clean except for your room. I need you to go clean it up now. You can get back to your video games after it is all clean.”

If they continue to protest, you can go ahead and give the warning to turn off their activity and follow through if need be.

This doesn’t need to be a negative experience, it can all be done positively.

Your attitude matters a lot in how your kids respond to you.

Limit The Number Of Instructions They Have To Follow

If you really want your child to respond to your instructions, make it super easy for them to follow your direction.

If you provide too many things to complete, your child could get overwhelmed and, in turn, just tune you out altogether.

Take the instructions one step at a time for your younger children.

For older children, you can provide a few more steps, but not too many.
For example, for a 4-year-old, you can direct your child to pick up garbage around the house and put it in the bin.

This is enough activity for him to start with, and any more instruction could send him over the edge into overwhelm.

If you have a 14-year-old daughter, you may ask her to pick up all the dishes around the house and put them into the dishwasher and remind her to be sure to wipe down the countertops!

This is enough instruction for a teenage girl.

If you ask her to also sweep and wash the kitchen floor and then take out the garbage too, she will likely give you the eye roll and the attitude, because you are asking too much, all at once from this child.

You’re going to end up with no clean dishes, and a teen who is sitting on the couch glued to her phone completely ignoring you.

See If your Child Can Repeat Your Instructions

If your children are younger, it’s a good idea to ask them to repeat to you what you have just asked.

This ensures that the child did, in fact, hear what you had to say.

This simple act can take the conversation from “Hey, did you hear me? Hello!!! I asked you to clean up the living room!!” to “Thank you so much for helping out around the house! I really appreciate it.”

Reward Positive Behaviour

If your children do ask you instructed, it is always a good idea to give some praise for the act.

Whether it is a new book at bedtime or an after-dinner treat/activity, no good deed should go unnoticed.

Children feel good when they get a reward. 

When they feel good, they want to recreate this feeling. 

They can also sense that you are happy with them, and they will want to recreate this happiness.

The more positive reinforcement you provide for good deeds, the more good deeds they will want to do. 

And before you know it, good deeds will be done without your asking.

What a fantastic situation!

Your kids will listen much better next time they are instructed to do something.

Related: 6 Simple Positive Parenting Techniques (That Will Make You A Better Parent)

Avoid Providing A Negative Consequence, Let Natural Consequences Take Place

If your child is still not listening and following directions, then you’ll want to advise them that there are consequences for this kind of behavior.

It’s a good idea to avoid negative consequences when disciplining children.

Instead, a discussion of what will happen if instructions are not followed is the better option.

For Example:
You asked your child to clean up after dinner, and your child refused to do so.
Your next step would be to remind your child that dishes will pile up twice as much if they are left until the morning time, and it will be even harder to complete the task at that time.

You can also let your child know that they could choose to complete dishes the following evening after dinner, but they will have to battle stuck-on food, which will be more complicated than getting the task completed right away.

These are natural consequences because you are teaching them that if they are in their own home and they do not finish the dishes, the house will start to smell, and their workload will double every time they ignore the kitchen.

These are life skills that need to be taught…I believe they call it ” Adulting”.

More Resources for You

Elizabeth is a mom of 2 and has a passion for helping children reach their human potential. She enjoys helping parents raise confident and healthy kids by explaining how to handle situations using positive parenting.

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