How To Get Kids To Listen: 40 Useful Tips For Parents

Image: Shutterstock


When your child doesn’t heed repeated instructions, it can be frustrating. Hence, many parents struggle with figuring out how to get kids to listen to them. But losing your cool won’t help. Instead, stay calm and follow our list of simple techniques to get kids to listen.

These ideas are simple yet effective in conveying your thoughts, feelings, and expectations to your child without repetitions and raised voices. While you use these tips, listen to your child too and try to understand the reason for their behavior.

But before we dive into the list, let’s discuss the possible reasons your children do not listen to you.

Reasons Your Child Doesn’t Listen

Here are a few reasons that could be stopping your child from listening to you.

1. They don’t hear you

This is the simplest explanation and, often, it is also the correct one. Sometimes, children are so engrossed in play or whatever else they are doing that they tune out all extraneous sights and sounds. They concentrate only on the work at hand. Try giving instruction in a regular voice without mentioning their name or in passing, and they will simply not hear it.

2. They don’t want to

In this case, the child hears your instruction, but something else catches their fancy that they simply choose to indulge in that thing over your instruction. They are not ignoring you willfully or trying to test your patience but are dealing with conflicting desires.

3. They don’t understand your instruction

Children’s minds are often busy absorbing things from their surroundings. They cannot understand complicated instructions. Too many instructions in a single sentence can confuse them and make it difficult for them to process them. In this case, they are not ignoring you deliberately. The truth is they do not understand your instruction.

4. They are busy

When you look at your child, you might think they are just playing or looking out the window. They might not look busy to you, but they are doing something that they believe is important. If you ask them to leave whatever they are doing immediately and do something you want them to do, they will not listen to you because, according to them, you are interrupting them.

5. They are tired

Children have loads of energy, but they also tire easier than adults. If your child does not nap in the afternoons, you will notice they are less attentive in the evenings. They cannot concentrate on your instructions and process them when tired. You are also bound to be tired in the evenings, which can lead you to yell at them. However, remember that they are children and might need extra help when they are tired.

6. They don’t know the rules

Most adults are so used to rules that they do not realize children do not know these rules. Simple rules such as keeping quiet in a library or not feeding the animals at a zoo are things they do not know yet. If you suddenly spring these rules on them, they will get confused. This will ultimately lead to them not listening to you.

7. They need a connection

If your child gives up an activity to do something you ask of them, it is to make you happy. Children love you unconditionally, but they need to feel connected to you. You have to work to establish a connection with your child. If you do not connect with your child, they will likely not listen to you.

8. They are asserting their will

This is one of the most frustrating things you will face as a parent. As children grow, they develop their personalities and have their opinions, and they will act in ways that assert their will sometimes.

40 Ideas To Make Children Listen

If you feel your child never listens to you, don’t worry. There are ways you can get your child to listen to you without resorting to yelling or threats.

Try these ideas, or rather positive parenting techniques, to communicate effectively with your child and get them to listen to you.

1. Talk only when they are paying attention

If you give out instructions while they are occupied with something else, they will likely not process your instruction. Call them by their name, make sure their attention is on you, make eye contact, and give them instruction slowly and clearly. This increases the chances of your child listening to you. As you stoop to their level to speak to them, they feel more connected with you.

2. Connect with them

Establishing a strong connection with a child is easy. Devote your time to them, and you become their favorite. Keep in mind, though, that making a connection is not a one-time thing. You need to work consistently to reestablish that connection.

It could be something as simple as asking them about their day after school or reading them a bedtime story. Your child will do anything to impress you if you have an intimate connection with them.

3. Give them a choice

Children like to be in control of things. Giving them a choice gives them a sense of power. Instead of forcing your choices on them, ask them to make a choice. They will be happier for it.

For example, if you want them to wear a particular dress for an event, take two dresses, and ask your child to select one from the two. There is a high chance they will choose the one you want them to wear, and they will feel in control. It is a win-win situation for all.

4. Cut down instructions

Most parents keep giving children a series of instructions. Children might find it annoying to constantly leave whatever they are doing and carry out your instructions. Consequently, they may start treating your instructions as background noise and ignore them.

If you are guilty of constantly asking them to do something or the other, you need to consciously cut it down and measure your words so that your children learn to value your instructions.

5. Follow up immediately

If your child has not listened to you the first time around, leave what you are doing, walk up to them, and repeat the instruction while making eye contact. This helps them understand that they have to do the job immediately. This can be achieved without shouting or losing your temper.

6. Give them time

Children take time to do things. They are still developing their motor skills, and their minds are distracted by many other things around them. To you, it might seem like the child is purposely wasting time. To avoid this, plan events so that you get your children to start doing their work beforehand.

For instance, if your cab is scheduled for 12:00 PM, make sure your child starts wearing their shoes at 11:55 AM. Asking them to hurry up usually doesn’t work.

7. Give them simple and precise instructions

Young children cannot understand long and complicated instructions. They have a short attention span and cannot concentrate on what you say if you give them long-winded instructions. It is best if you break down your instructions into short, direct statements so that your child understands what you are saying.

For example, instead of saying, “The cab is here. Put on your shoes quickly, and let’s leave for school,” you can say, “Put on your shoes.”

8. Give them workable deadlines

If you ask them to do something while they are enjoying another activity, there is very little chance they will listen to you. Instead, you can give them a deadline. Tell them that you need something done after some time instead of immediately. For example, if they are playing in a park, tell them, “We need to leave in 15 minutes,” instead of “Come on, let’s leave now.”

If your child is young, give them a visible or aural deadline, such as, “We will leave when the sun goes down,” or “We will leave when the alarm goes off.”

9. Acknowledge their feelings

Children have strong feelings even if they do not know how to express them well. If you instruct them to do a task immediately, they can have a meltdown because they don’t want to leave what they are doing.

Do not dismiss their tears or ask them to stop crying. Instead, assure them that you know they are having a hard time letting go of whatever they are doing. When you acknowledge whatever they are doing as important, they are more likely to cooperate with you.

10. Help them when necessary

If your child is tired after a long day at school or after a boisterous session at the playground, they will not be very willing to work quickly as per your orders. Children tend to tire out more as the day progresses. Make sure you notice the signs of tiredness and ask them if they need help in doing things.

You could help with setting up the bath or changing for sleep. These may seem trivial to you, but they could find it difficult to do them after spending lots of energy elsewhere. Besides, this can also help establish a great connection between you and your children.

11. Explain the rules beforehand

Children like to explore. When they visit a place, they try to make sense of that place in their own ways. As they are not aware of what is acceptable and what is not, they can behave in a way they shouldn’t. At such times, parents try to get their children to behave but, failing that, they end up yelling and creating a scene.

Instead, you can talk about the place you are visiting right before you leave home and tell your child how they should behave there. For example, if you are visiting a library, tell them they need to be quiet there.

12. Whisper

When your child is busy playing or doing something else, they might dismiss your instructions as background noise. They may not listen to you if you speak in a normal voice.

However, if you suddenly whisper to them, they will instinctively drop what they are doing and listen to what you say.

13. Say please

Children mirror your behavior. So, if you want to teach them good manners, you must adopt those practices in your daily life. Instead of just telling them, “Put it there,” or “Don’t do that,” you can say, “Could you please put it there?” or “Please don’t do that.”

Using please in a sentence improves the chances of your child listening to you.

14. Say positive things

When your child is about to do something dangerous or unsuitable, it is natural for you to say, “Stop doing that.” However, children do not understand what they can do otherwise. They might stop what they are doing and engage in some other unsuitable activity.

Instead of saying “Stop doing that,” try saying, “I’d be happy if you did that instead.” This not only gives your child a means to learn what is acceptable but also creates a positive, happy atmosphere for you and your child.

15. Don’t ask, but state

There are some ground rules every child has to follow. These rules commonly involve personal hygiene and cannot be compromised. Often, children become lazy and try to wriggle out of these.

If you want your child to follow a ground-rule, do not ask them if they could do it. Tell them they have to do it within a time limit. Sometimes, children need someone to look up to — someone who gives them direct instructions.

16. Be empathetic

In this day and age, children have to cope with many things. They attend different classes and are expected to perform well at school as well as in co-curricular activities. All these not only take up their time, but also make them feel rushed and unheard.

It is time for you to show empathy. Put yourself in their shoes to understand what they are going through at such a young age. This will make you kinder to them and, in turn, they will feel loved and heard. They will be more than happy to respond to your requests.

17. Make it fun

Children love playing. You can make them do anything, including chores, if you make it a game for them. If you want them to get something done faster, the best way is to make it interesting for them. They will be eager to do it in no time.

For example, if you want them to leave the park and go home, don’t say, “Let’s leave.” Instead, say, “The first one to the car is the winner!” Watch them as they sprint ahead of you to get to the car.

18. Lend a helping hand

Children get overwhelmed with the amount of work they have to do. It might seem minor to an adult, but to the little minds, it is a great deal of work. As a result, they might not listen to what you say.

To overcome such a situation, you can offer to solve the issue together. Just like with homework, you can offer to help with cleaning up their room or picking up their toys at the end of the day. They will appreciate the help, and the work will get done quicker.

19. Ask them to repeat the instruction

The best way to ensure that your child has heard your instruction is to ask them to repeat it. It need not be word for word as long as your child has gotten the essence of what you said. Repeating the instruction helps them imprint it in their brain so that they remember it better. If they get it wrong, correct them gently.

20. Do not repeat yourself

While it is okay for your child to repeat what you say, you should not make it a habit to repeat what you say. It only sends a signal to your child that they can afford to let the first time you say anything pass.

If you say something, make sure your child takes note of it the first time itself. Walk across the room to your child, make eye contact, and say what you want to say.

21. Praise them often

If your child does anything well, praise the way they handled the situation. Positive words create a positive mindset, and your child will be motivated to perform better.

Always praise their actions. With positive feedback, you will see a remarkable improvement in your child’s behavior and their ability to listen to you.

22. Assign only those tasks that your child can manage

Asking your child to do complex tasks can not only confuse them, but also affect their self-esteem when they are not able to complete them. As a parent, you know what and how much work your child is capable of doing. Give them only what they can manage.

Most parents usually underestimate or overestimate their children’s skills. Some children are not allowed to do anything, while others are expected to do more than they could manage. In either case, the child faces issues. Make a realistic list of what your child can do and let them do it at their own pace. Once they notice that you trust them and do not judge or criticize them, they will be more than willing to take up their share of work.

23. Stay calm

When your child does not consistently listen to you even after repeated reminders, it is natural for you to lose your cool and start yelling. However, when you get upset, your children get more upset. Their first instinct is to flee from the situation, and they may argue with you to prove their point.

It is up to you to keep calm and get the work done rather than lecturing or nagging them. Once you have achieved the result and everyone is a bit calmer, you can discuss what went wrong.

24. Set a routine

Children love routines. They feel happier if they know when to do what. This can work in your favor, especially on days when everything is hectic. Routines automatically replace endless instructions, freeing everyone of tension.

Set a routine for the mornings. You can even make a chart so that your children do not forget what to do. Make as many charts as you want for different situations. It will help free up your child’s mind and make them listen to you more readily.

25. Listen

If you want your child to listen to you, you must start listening to them. If you have the habit of looking at your phone or doing something else while your child is talking to you, there are high chances of your child mirroring your actions.

Remember, you are your child’s role model. Your behavior reflects in theirs. It is, therefore, imperative that you stop whatever you are doing and listen to your child. This habit can go a long way in improving communication with your child.

26. Use single words

While short instructions work most of the time, there are times when your child might tune out those too. Children usually know what they are supposed to do; they try to avoid doing it because they are engaged in something else.

When you use just one word, your children learn to associate it with urgency or the need to get the work done. For example, instead of saying, “Wear your shoes,” you can say, “Shoes!”

27. Provide information

You may not realize it, but most of your communication with your children could be in the form of commands. You order them to do something and expect them to do it. However, children have their own wills. While they are younger, they might listen to you, but as they grow older, they start asserting their will.

Instead of issuing orders, you can give them information about the pros and cons of performing a particular activity. For example, if they are doing some dangerous stunts at the park, you can list how they or others might get hurt.

28. Name their feelings

Children experience deep feelings too. Often, they cannot contain their emotions, resulting in tantrums. As a parent, you can help them name their emotions so that they feel loved.

For example, if your child is angry or frustrated, do not dismiss their feelings. Instead, say, “You seem angry. What could be the reason?” When they describe the issue, ask them what they think the solution might be. This technique not only helps your child identify their feelings and feel important, but also helps improve their problem-solving and lateral thinking skills.

29. Respect your child

Although your child is much younger than you, you need to remember that they are individuals in their own right, with their own preferences and will. You simply cannot expect your child to act as per your instructions all the time. Of course, there are times when your child must listen to you unequivocally, but keep those times few and explain the need for those rules every time you want your child to follow them.

When you give your child the freedom to choose, they start valuing your advice.

30. Accept mistakes

Even adults tend to make bad choices, so there is no point in blaming your child for bad judgments. You need to remember that they are, after all, only children.

When they make mistakes, do not punish them. Sit with them and hash out what went wrong and what could have been done instead. You could also offer to help them the next time they need to make a choice. This way, they will communicate their needs with you easily and listen to your advice readily.

31. Say yes

It is impossible to say “yes” every time they ask you something, but constantly saying “no” creates a negative atmosphere at home. After a while, your children may simply stop listening to you because they know you will say “no,” in any case.

Instead of saying “no” right away, say something positive about their request and ask them if they would be willing to do something else or do it sometime later. For example, if your child wants to go to the park, tell them, “The park is an awesome place! Let’s go there on Saturday?” When you start saying “yes” more often, your child will look forward to listening to you.

32. Say “thank you” in advance

When you say “thank you” in advance to your child, it gives your child the impression that you trust their abilities. It is guaranteed to make your child behave better and listen to you more. Children usually want to impress their parents and close ones as much as they can.

If you manage to make them feel special, they will be happy to do your bidding. For example, instead of saying, “Put on your shoes immediately!” saying “Thank you for putting on your shoes so quickly” will make your child do things better.

33. State the fact

Many parents make the mistake of lecturing their children the moment they see something wrong. However, what you need to remember is that children take their time to do things their way.

Instead of yelling at them, state a fact and then ask what they plan to do about it. For example, if there are toys lying on the floor, say, “I see there are toys on the floor. What is your plan for clearing them?” This gives your child a chance to take control of the situation.

34. Let them take responsibility

Although you may think your children are too young to take any responsibility, they are more than ready for it. The sooner you teach them responsibility, the better it is for them in their future life.

If you have asked them to do something, and they have chosen to ignore it, leave them to it. When they face the consequences for their actions, they will automatically learn how they need to behave the next time it happens. This technique can be quite effective while dealing with older children.

35. Love them unconditionally

Whether they act out your instructions or not, make sure your love for them doesn’t change. Children, especially when younger, are hungry for your love.

Shower them with unconditional love and watch them try to bend backward, to impress you. Children who are loved and cared for tend to listen more to their parents.

36. Teach them teamwork

Sometimes, you might notice your child trying to dominate other children while playing together. It creates an unpleasant environment for all the children, and the playtime often ends in tears. If your child does this, do not berate them for being bossy. Instead, you can teach them teamwork so that they work together with others.

For example, instead of saying, “Don’t be bossy. No one will play with you if you do that,” say, “You are a leader. Be an example to your friends, and take turns while playing.” This approach teaches teamwork like no other.

37. Ask them to respect themselves and others

While most parents ask their children to respect others, only a few ask their children to respect themselves. Asking children to respect themselves is crucial because it helps build self-esteem and confidence. They also learn to decide on what to let go of and what to hold on to, and how.

If someone insults them, teach them how to deal with the situation calmly, without resorting to insulting the person. The best option is to walk away and talk to you or an adult they know.

38. Ask them to help you

If you have the habit of issuing commands, there will be a point where your child will not listen to you. However, children love to help others and take control of situations. Instead of telling them to do something directly, ask them to help you do it.

For example, instead of saying, “Stop running on the road!” say, “Please help me walk slowly so that no vehicle hits me.” They will immediately do your bidding and be happy with it.

39. Let them cry

Many parents often think that their children crying is a sign of weakness. They try to dissuade their children from crying and even try to shame them into keeping quiet. Moreover, other people also judge parents if their children cry.

However, crying is a completely normal outlet for your child’s emotions. If you make your child feel guilty for crying when they are young, they will struggle to control their emotions when they are adults. Instead of saying, “Don’t cry!” tell them to come to you when they feel sad so that both of you can work around their feelings.

40. Teach them to take care of themselves

Often, you may end up micromanaging your children’s lives. You give multiple instructions, keeping your children’s safety in mind. You are not wrong in wanting your children to be safe. However, if you do not let your children experiment, they will never learn.

So, instead of saying, “Do this and you will be okay,” ask them, “How are you planning to take care of yourself?” Listen to what they have to say and correct them gently when they say something wrong. This way, your child knows to plan appropriately before doing anything.

Children are like flowers – soft and sensitive. They do not deliberately avoid listening to you, but they, sometimes, aren’t able to help themselves. Showing love and respect can bring on a significant change in your children’s behavior and make them listen to you more readily. Make sure you help them learn the essential things in life early on so that they can make their own decisions when they are older.

Recommended Articles

The following two tabs change content below.

Dr. Richard Mario Lurshay

Dr. Richard Mario Lurshay is a young and talented pediatrician, well known for his work with children. After completing his post-graduation in Pediatrics, he completed his training in Pediatric Nutrition from Boston University School of Medicine (USA). He is an esteemed Life Member of National Academy of Medical Sciences (NAMS), National Neonatology Forum (NNF) and Indian Academy of Paediatrics (IAP).... more

Bhavana Navuluri

Bhavana has nearly 20 years of experience in content writing and editing. She was a print media journalist before moving to online. Having covered various forms of writing and editing, she earned proficiency in developing content right from news and business to features and lifestyle. As the Chief Editor of MomJunction, Bhavana guides her team in writing the most authentic... more