What To Do When Your Child Doesn’t Listen

One of the most frustrating parts of parenting is trying to get your child to listen when they really don’t want to. How can you educate them, correct their behavior, or teach them, if they’re not paying attention to you?

It can also be extremely difficult to remain patient and calm during these sorts of situations. How many times can you call their name out before you start yelling? 

You start by asking them nicely, quietly, calmly. But you get nothing. You try again, still nothing. You check whether they can actually hear you. They can. They’re simply ignoring you.

So what on earth are you supposed to do? A child not listening is the number one reason for parents losing their cool, getting angry, and shouting. 

But here’s the thing. Your child not listening isn’t the actual problem. It’s a symptom of a problem, and you have to figure out what that root problem is so that you can solve them, and get them to listen.

Because sure, shouting at them will eventually get them to listen, but the problem will remain, and their behavior will get worse. 

We will delve a little into why your child might not be listening to you, and then we’ll cover a few steps you can take in order to make them listen. Let’s get right into it!

Why Do Children Not Listen?

Okay, so you’re trying to ask your child to do something, and they’re simply not listening. Nothing. No reaction. Full-on ignoring you. Why are they doing this? 

Well, first of all, we’re going to assume that you’ve ruled out any medical conditions. Because if they medically cannot hear you, then they can’t be expected to literally listen. 

The truth is, children (from toddler ages to teens) have a need for power. They need to feel somewhat in control of their life, which makes a lot of sense.

Usually, this can be managed by allowing them to use power in positive ways, such as getting to choose what clothes to wear, picking what games to play or what movies to watch, or even having an input for the food they eat at home. But if they don’t get to do this, then they will start to use power in negative ways. 

And the easiest way for a child to use power in a negative way? Choosing not to listen. By doing this, they are taking power away from you, and gaining it for themselves. They are forcibly giving themselves control over the situation, by simply refusing to give anybody else that power over them. 

This is why a child not listening is usually a big sign of a power struggle. It’s a defiance, and essentially an indication that they want to have more control over their own life. 

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should let them have control over everything, or call the shots. They’re children, and they don’t know most things. They don’t know what’s best for them, and most of their decisions will usually be wrong. 

But what you should do is grant them power in controlled and positive situations. As easy as “you can choose what you wear”, or “where do you want to go today?”. Make sure they feel as though they have a say!

How To Make Your Child Listen To You?

If you’re in a situation in which your child is refusing to listen, which can be extremely frustrating and challenging, here are a few steps you can take to resolve the issue: 

Get Down To Their Level

IN order to get your child’s attention, and talk to them, you need to get down to their level. This gets rid of the power dynamic of you towering over them, and it also allows you to make eye contact, which strengthens communication. 

Never ever give a child commands from another room, or from a distance. Go to them, up close, get down, and ask them. The child needs to see that you’re speaking with them, and not at them. Trust us, this makes all the difference!

Avoid Negative Commands

Most of the time, parents tend to give their children negative commands, such as “don’t do this” and “don’t do that”.

Essentially, commands to get them to stop what they are doing at that moment, and change the behavior to something else. But this causes a problem: kids have to double process. 

Your child has to think about what you don’t want them to do, and then they have to think about what they are expected to do as an alternative. This complicates their thinking process, confusing and frustrating them, and makes them more likely to refuse and simply not listen.

Instead, try using positive commands, by telling them what to do. So, for example, instead of saying “don’t leave your toys on the floor”, say something like “please put your toys in the basket”. Give them a direct thing to do, so that there is no thinking involved, they simply have to follow the instruction.

Plus, positive language makes them more likely to cooperate, because negative commands can very easily make them defensive. 

Say Yes More Often Than No

In the day to day, parents will say “no” to their children a lot more often than they might think. And it’s easy to do so.

Your child might be constantly asking for different things, or inquiring about being able to do different things, or asking permission for certain activities. And if it’s not the right time, or you can’t think about it at that moment, the instinctive reaction is to just answer “no”. 

However, this can cause a problem. If you never listen to your child’s requests or questions, because the answer is instantly always no, then your child is going to retaliate by also not responding or listening to your requests.

So when you ask them to do something, they simply won’t listen, or will outright refuse. 

To avoid this, try to say yes more often than you say no. And if something isn’t possible, then say “not right now, but we can do it at this other time”, or “you can’t do this but how about if you do this other thing instead”. Compensate the “no” with a positive “yes”, so that their request is being listened to. 

Shorten Your Talking

Parents have a habit of turning a simple “no” or any other response or lesson, into a full-on lecture. What they could say in a few minutes, ends up being half an hour of them talking to their child. And the child, of course, tunes them out and stops listening. 

In order to avoid this, try to keep your sentences short and concise. Don’t give them the chance to stop listening! 

Thank Your Child In Advance

Children respond really well to positive expectations, so thanking them for something beforehand will make them more likely to do the thing, because they will feel encouraged, appreciated, and trusted.

So instead of saying something like “don’t forget to take your coat with you!”, try saying something like “thank you for taking your coat with you later on”.