Getting Your Kids to Listen to You. Could There Be Anything Better?

When your kids don’t listen, how long does your patience last?

You think you’ve tried everything. You ask nicely, you keep asking nicely until you explode, you lecture about all you do for them, you give them consequences for not listening, you give them extra privileges if they do — but your kids still won’t listen.

You can’t seem to get them do what they should: brush their teeth, go to bed, get off the computer, quiet down in the car, eat a healthy meal, pick up their dirty clothes, etc. What’s wrong with them? What’s wrong with you?

What if: They do listen, but they don’t like what they hear? (That’s not okay, is it?)

Now ask yourself: Are you asking them for cooperation or obedience?

You must be clear about what you’re expecting. If you expect obedience (I know, you don’t think you are), your kids hear it in your tone. There’s a “if you don’t do what I say, you’re in trouble” attitude that determines your tone and expectation.

The key to understanding why your children won’t do what you ask lies in understanding if and why you expect them to. Simply put, they are just being kids, doing what kids are supposed to do — get what they want when they want it. They’re probably not being disrespectful or rude. But you expect more. You expect them to do what you say because you’re the parent and kids should do what they’re told, right? After all isn’t that the way you were brought up? That’s expecting obedience. Nothing wrong with that as long as you take responsibility for it and understand that you are likely to get push-back, especially from strong-willed children.

When you expect obedience and you don’t get it, the natural and logical progression is for you to feel angry, resentful, frustrated, and/or incompetent. Then you naturally react by nagging, blaming, threatening or worse — because you’re taking it personally and not recognizing that it is normal for your child to resist doing what he doesn’t want to do.

If you consider yourself to be a “progressive” parent, that means you are not willing to hit your children, threaten the switch or belt, lock them in their rooms with no dinner, or ground them for days on end. No, you don’t want to do what was done to you. But that is what is needed if you expect obedience. You can get it if you are willing to use fear as the motivator to do as you say.

You’re not willing to do that, but you want the same results. When you expect obedience without the same coercive tactics, you will likely start out patient and calm and end up playing one of your parents. You think because you are being “nicer” than your parents, your children should respond accordingly. But you have to adjust your expectations as well as your motivators.

The answer is simple. Instead, expect them not to want to do what you say.

Use the Of Course mantra. Of course my child doesn’t want to brush teeth, go to bed, get out the door on time (your time), pick up toys, do homework, go to the dentist, do the dishes, clean the bathroom and feed the dog.

Understanding that they don’t want to do this doesn’t mean they don’t have to.

You will get far more cooperation when you adjust the expectation from they should do what they are told when they are told, to kids just want to be kids and that’s ok.

When you expect this, you know they need motivation to do what you ask, not threatening coercion. When you expect this, your kids feel your consideration. When you expect this, you are asking your kids to help you with your problem.

When expectations are realistic, emotional reactions are far calmer, problem solving is much easier to come by, and children do not feel powerless, misunderstood and put upon. When your expectations of your children are set for an adult, your children will feel unfairly treated — and much less likely to cooperate. You’re the same way. No reason your children should feel differently.

When kids don’t listen it’s because you’re telling them to do something that is not their problem. Picking up toys, getting to bed, brushing their teeth, etc. is your problem—they don’t care. You have to make sure those things get done. You have to get them to do a lot of things they don’t want to do. That’s why kids have to spend approximately eighteen years with parents.

Your authority as a parent is insuring your kids do what they shouldn’t have to want to do. Because they’re kids. That’s why they need you. But things get much messier than they have to be when you expect that should want to, that it is their job, and they shouldn’t make life hard for you. They should just do what you say.

Here’s an example of using your authority:

“It’s time to get your room cleaned up. Of course, that’s the last thing you want to do, right? You’d probably be fine with the strange filing system you have mapped out on your floor! I need to make sure that little critters don’t decide to keep house with you. So how do we make it happen? What would be a good time for you in the next week? How long do think you’d need and let’s get it on the calendar. Do you want my help or do you want to handle it yourself?”

Then when the time comes, stick to the agreement. At this point, it’s the agreement you are holding your child to. You never have to expect her to want to do it. But you do want to teach her that agreements are important, and her word is trusted.

“I’ll be happy to take you to your friend’s/to practice as soon as your room is cleaned up. Let me know when you’re ready.”

Rules and limits can be firm without ever needing to yell, blame, threaten, bribe or punish. It all depends on what you expect.


The When Your Kids Push Your Buttons Audio Course
Have you ever asked yourself, “Why did I DO that??”
Wish you knew what else to do?

Learn to:

    • Understand your reactions and gain control of them
    • Interpret your child’s behavior
    • Set appropriate expectations
    • Defuse your buttons


Realistic Expectations De-Stress Your Parenting

Lesson: How to Give Up Punishment and Blame—Part 3

“Wait, aren’t I the parent here?” Using Your Parent Authority