7 Simple Ways to Get Your Kids to Listen

When kids consistently don’t listen, it can make any parent lose their mind. Mighty Mommy knows all too well how frustrating it can be to communicate clearly with children - only to have them ignore you in the process! Here are her 7  simple ways to get a kid's attention, once and for all.

Cheryl Butler
6-minute read
Episode #287

As a parent, one of my biggest frustrations is realizing my child isn’t listening to me when I’m talking. It can be something as simple as my asking how her day at school was and, if I’m lucky, just hearing her breathe heavily in return. Even more annoying is when I ask in simple terms to have a particular chore done, or leave a gentle reminder to get homework done right after dinner, only to find out that not only was my request was not carried out, but that the reason was, “Sorry Mom, I didn’t hear you!”

When kids consistently don’t listen, it can’t make any parent want to lose their mind. Of course, it’s normal for kids to be non-compliant and argumentative sometimes. However, if not addressed, this can lead to bad habits and disrespectful behavior in the long run. Having been through this with my own 8 kids, I know all too well how frustrating it can be to communicate clearly with children, only to have them ignore me in the process. So today, I'm sharing my 7  simple ways to get their attention, once and for all!.

Tip # 1:  Connect Before You Speak

Don't start talking until you have your child's attention. Connect before you start speaking.

That means you can't yell orders from another room and expect your child to listen, never mind respond. Instead, move in close, get down on your child's level, and even touch him lightly to get his attention.  Observe what he's doing and connect with him by making a comment about it: "Hey, I love that Minecraft world you’re building!"  This acknowledges respect for his activities, too.

Next, wait until he looks up.  Look him in the eye, then start talking. If he doesn't look up, make sure you have his attention by asking, "Can I tell you something?"  When he looks up, then start talking.  

A simple change in the way you word something can also greatly improve your chances of getting a kid to comply. One of the best strategies is to tell a kid to do something--don’t ask. Only phrase it as a question if they really do have a choice.

For example, if you want your tween to take out the garbage before dinner, don’t say, “Can you please take out the trash?” Even a mildly oppositional child is going to say, “No!” Instead, say, “Please take  the trash out before we eat dinner.”   See Also: 6 Ways to be a Calmer Parent

Tip # 2:  Ask Kids to Repeat Back What They’ve Heard

This is a tip my parents always reinforced when I was growing up.  After you give an instruction to your child, ask him to repeat back what he heard. This can ensure that he understands what is expected of him. Plus, this provides an opportunity to provide clarification if there’s any misunderstanding.

Tip #3:  Watch Your Tone

How you say something is as important as what you say--if not more so. Even if you’re tired and frustrated, refrain from screeching or barking out a request. Instead, use an up-beat, positive tone as much as possible.

When indicating limits, be sure to sound definite and confident. Any hint of uncertainty and you’re more likely to be ignored or debated (think “But please, can't I just...")

To indicate disapproval, use a firmer, lower, authoritative tone, but don’t shout.   See Also:  5 Ways to Speak Positively to Your Children

Above all, try your best to avoid nagging. Ask once nicely, once firmly, and then take action. If you typically repeat yourself several times before you take action, your child will learn to ignore your initial requests--and this pattern will last well into their teen years, so lay a consistent foundation as early as possible.


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.