How to Make Your Child Listen

By | 02/10/2017

Communication between parent and child is the very foundation of their relationship.  To establish and maintain the communication you need to understand how to make your child listen.  How often do you yell at your child to do something only to be given the “I didn’t hear you”, excuse when they don’t do what you tell them.  It is frustrating and enough to make you pull your hair out or yell even louder isn’t it?

How to Make Your Child Listen


Parent-Child Communication

Communication has its own rules and they apply to adults and children.  There is no point trying to communicate with someone who is not focused on what you are trying to tell them.  As adults, we can’t take in what someone is saying if we are focusing on something else and yet we often expect kids to do just that.

There are some basics that you need to follow if you ever want your child to hear you and raising your voice and yelling is not one of those basics.

  • Make sure you have the child’s full attention.
  • Use fewer words.  Keep it short and simple.
  • Do not keep repeating yourself
  • Try to see things from the child’s perspective
  • Stay calm.
  • Seek the child’s cooperation
  • Establish routines
  • Most important of all listen to the child

Give Your Full Attention.

I know you are busy and without thinking you throw orders out at the kids like a machine gun.  ‘Pick’ up those toys’, ‘clean your teeth’, ‘wipe your feet. ‘comb your hair’ and so on.  We’ve all done it.  Things get pretty hectic when you’re trying to get the kids off to school and yourself ready for work.  When you take the time to  get your childs full attention before giving him instructions you will actually save time and things will run more smoothly.

Make eye contact with your child and then tell them quietly what you expect them to do.  Reinforce your instructions by asking them to repeat what you want them to do.  Remember, communication is a two-way dialogue.  It is not always you speaking them listening.

How to Make Your Child Listen

Keep it Short and Simple

Use words the child can understand.  Young children have a limited vocabulary and you need to use words they understand.  Don’t go into long elaborate instructions they may find confusing but be specific.  ‘Put your toys in the toy box’ is more likely to get a positive outcome than ‘get in your room right now and put every one of those into your toy box’.

Kids have a short attention span and too many words will make their attention wander.  If there are a couple of words in there that they don’t really understand they will shut down and stop listening.

Don’t Keep Repeating Instructions

If you don’t get the response you want the first time what makes you think it will happen on the second or fifth time you say it?  something has gone awry with the communication.  Make sure you have their full attention, make your instructions as simple as you can and make sure they understand you by telling you what you want them to do.

Don’t give orders, ask for their help. Make them a partner in getting the job done.  Kids love praise so when they get the job done give them some praise, ‘thank you so much for helping me this morning’, ‘your room is lovely and tidy now’.

Your Child Doesn’t Listen When You Yell.

Most kids equate mum yelling with being in trouble and switching off is their way of avoiding trouble.  It is a bit like when a little one covers their eyes and says “You can’t see me”.   For good communication, you need to stay calm.  If you are angry then wait until you calm down before speaking.  A child will listen when mum talks in a normal voice but they will switch off the minute you yell at them.

Understanding The Child’s Perspective.

Children don’t see things the way adults do.  They may love surrounding themselves with their toys so you may have to give them a reason for picking them up.  You could point out, ‘toys on the floor do get broken,’  or perhaps, ‘if you walk on one of those cars you could get hurt’.  Always have a reason for what you want them to do because they will argue.

You can deal with this by validating their feelings with comments like ‘when you finish eating your dinner we will have some ice cream’ or ‘when you are in your pajamas I will read to you’, ‘after you pick up your toys we will go to the park’.

Don’t Raise Your Voice

When you yell kids stop listening.  If you stay calm, speak in a normal voice, tell the child what you expect them to do and what will happen when they have done it they will hear you and be more likely to comply.

Engage them with ‘I know you are having fun but we really have to do this job now’.   Being able to see it from the child’s point of view and empathize with them but still be firm will get their cooperation.

Yelling at them will only make things work as they ignore and you get angrier.

Establish Routines

We all work better when we have a routine to follow and kids are no different.  Routines give them security of knowing what will happen when.  If you establish weekday morning routines the kids will follow them automatically.  A solid routine that you established when they were babies will just be what they expect every morning.

Meals at regular times, a set time for them to go to bed, have a bath, clean their teeth is something kids understand.


It is important to set an example for your child and to do this you need to listen to what he has to say.  Let him express his feeling, show him you understand and try negotiating a win-win solution for you both.  If you don’t listen to him why should he listen to you?  Kids learn by example but sometimes it also takes consequences.

Your child is not your friend he is your responsibility and you owe it to him to turn him into the best adult he can be.   Show him respect.  Sometimes you will have to teach him that his behavior has consequences.  Good behavior can bring reward.  Disobedience and rudeness will bring consequences he will not want.

How to Make Your Child Listen


If your child won’t pick up the toys then remove them.  Put them away until he understands the consequences not caring for his toys by putting them away when he is asked means he does not get to play with them at all.

Kids are like us, they have things they look forward to and when it is time to discipline them for bad behavior remove something they value.  Never ever hit your child.  This is the ultimate form of bullying.  There are other ways of getting the message across without resorting to hitting.

Every child has a favorite toy, tv show or story you read to them.  Removing something they look forward to is a good way to make them realize disobedience has unattractive consequences.

How Do You Make Your Child Listen

Give them the same respect you expect from them.  Never shout at them.  It does not work.  Whenever possible let them choose for themselves.  They are perfectly capable of choosing between a red or a blue shirt or the undies with ants or elephants so let them make choices wherever it is possible.

Reward their good behavior with praise and a thank you.  Discipline them but don’t ever withdraw your love because of they disobeyed you.  Be firm but not angry.  Speak calmly and use words they understand.

The children of today will shape the world of the future and we are responsible for giving them as many tools as we can to help them do that.  Helping them learn good communication is one of those tools.  Happy, loving supportive families are built on good communication and it is what every parent should strive to achieve.


4 thoughts on “How to Make Your Child Listen

  1. Jackie

    What a wonderful article and great advice. My grandson is two years old and my daughter is just starting to deal with things like this. I’m happy to share this post and your website. I think you give really solid advice and I can tell it comes from experience. Thanks for sharing your wisdom!

    1. Margaret Kennedy Post author

      Hi Jackie,

      Thank you for sharing my website, post and your kind comments.

      Being a mum is hard for most of us so if I like to hear that my posts have helped someone.

      Getting a toddler through those terrible twos can be hair raising.  I remember looking at my son when he was asleep and thinking ‘how could he do those things and still look so innocent?’.


  2. Song

    Hi Margaret, I enjoyed your insightful article on how to make your child listen. I like the points ‘Try to see things from the child’s perspective’ and ‘stay calm.’ My wife and I have raised 2 kids, and I can appreciate the wisdom behind those words.

    Staying calm and not shouting really makes for a more interesting conversations because the moment we shout, the child becomes defensive no matter how logical is our request or reasoning.

    And yes, listening calming to the child will encourage them to open up to us. Well said!


    1. Margaret Kennedy Post author


      Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment.  I appreciate your comments very much



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