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

Tip #4:  Choose Your Words Carefully

Most of us weaken our message and lose our child's attention by using too many words. Use as few words as possible when you give instructions. Use clear commands, and keep requests brief and to the point.

For example, say you’re trying to get your child to brush his teeth before he gets ready for bed. Instead of going into a full-blown paragraph about why he needs to brush his teeth before bed, keep it simple: “Max, you need to brush your teeth now, because bedtime is in 10 minutes.”

And don’t criticize when giving your request –no, “Max, you are always so lazy—I better not have to repeat myself 10 times before you finally listen and brush your teeth!" And, just as key, don’t threaten your child. “Max, if don’t brush your teeth before bed they are all going to rot and fall out,” may not be the most effective tactic.

Tip #5:  Engage Cooperation  

No one wants to listen to someone who's giving orders; in fact, it always backfires and causes opposition. Instead, keep your tone as loving as possible and, when possible, give choices.  "It's bath time, honey. Do you want to go now or in five minutes? Ok, so in five minutes you’re going to come to the tub without any fussing?  Let's do a high-five on it." 

If you really need it done now, phrase it as a command, but keep the warmth and empathy there: "We agreed to stop playing blocks and start bath time in five minutes, and it has been five minutes. I know you wish you could stay up and play all night. When you grow up, I bet you'll do that! Now, it's time to go get ready for your bath. Let's go."   See Also:  10 Healthy Habits to Strengthen Your Family

Tip #6:   Role Model Good Listening

This one's for you: learn to be a good listener yourself!  If you check your cell phone messages while your child tells you about his day, you're role modeling that communication is not a priority in your house. If you really want your child to listen to you, listen to him.

Just stop what you're doing and listen. It only takes a few minutes. Do this when he's a preschooler and he'll still be willing to talk to you when he's a teenager. See AlsoBecome a Better Listener with Your Children

Tip #7:  Reinforce Positive Behaviors

It’s important that you provide positive consequences to kids when they follow instructions correctly. Praise can be a great way to reinforce their good behaviors. Saying something such as, “Great job putting your clean laundry away the first time I asked you,” can encourage your child to do so again the next time you ask.

Rewards are another way to reinforce good behaviors. If your child has done a great job listening, sometimes a surprise reward can offer an extra incentive. For example, last week my 10-year old and 13-year old sons cleaned up their rooms like I had asked them to do when I left for work that morning. I came home to clean bedrooms--and as an extra bonus, they had put all their laundry away, too!  Not only did I enthusiastically praise both of them about what a wonderful job they did, I surprised them the following afternoon by taking them out for ice cream as a reward for being such good listeners.

These techniques will not necessarily produce a compliant child, but they will help to produce a reasoning, thoughtful, free-thinking child that has a strong connection with his/her parents--which is something great to strive for.   See Also: 6 Ways to Handle a Defiant Teen (Without Yelling)

What works for you in your family when trying to get your kids to listen to you?  Share your thoughts in the comments section at quickanddirtytips.com/mighty-mommy, or post your ideas on the Mighty Mommy Facebook page. You can also connect with me on Twitter @MightyMommy or email me at mommy@quickanddirtytips.com.  Visit my family-friendly boards at Pinterest.com/MightyMommyQDT.

Images courtesy of Shutterstock


About the Author

Cheryl Butler

Cheryl L. Butler 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. Call the Mighty Mommy listener line at 401-284-7575 to ask a parenting question. Your call could be featured on the show!