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The Secret to Getting Your Kids to Listen

January 27, 2019, Author: Tamra Cater

My daughter went through this stage where she would purposefully not listen. For instance, I could tell when she was about to go do something she knew she wasn’t supposed to do such as climb the bookshelf. She’d slowly walk over to it and glance back to see if I was looking. I would tell her at that point, “Please don’t climb the bookshelf.” She’d still slowly glide over towards the bookshelf with a sly smile on her face.

So, you are not alone…

There are times when kids just won’t listen.

Why are there times when kids don’t listen?

  • Distraction: They may be playing and completely engrossed in what they are doing. For my daughter, this was especially the case if she was watching a movie such as Trolls and they start dancing. Even if I’m in the middle of changing her diaper, she will want to get up, start dancing, and not want to listen to me when I tell her we need to finish.
  • Thinking: They may be thinking about something, and it may not be easy for them to switch gears to what you are saying.
  • Today, kids are also restricted in a lot of ways, which doesn’t help their listening skill in the long run. For example, kids are not getting enough play and opportunities to get the stimulation that they need. There’s a lot of time being spent in front of screens, which doesn’t allow for propioceptive or vestibular input.
    • In order to get children to listen and sit still, they need this input.
    • Propioceptive input: Tells you where your body parts are without having to look at them. For example, you can dance without looking at your feet the whole time. Propioception allows us to walk upstairs or sit in our chair without falling.
    • Vestibular input: Gives us information about where our body is in relation to our surroundings. This sense helps us understand balance in connection with our other senses. If this is not properly developed, kids will fidget more, struggle to listen, and may experience more falls and aggression.

What is the secret to helping our kids listen?

  1. Physical Activity: As mentioned, developing propioceptive and vestibular senses are important to our ability to listen. Thus, in order to develop these skills, children need play and physical challenges. If kids do not get this, they will become too distracted by their own bodies. So, it may be hard for them to put on their own clothes or to finish their homework.  Generally, there are many studies that show that kids need more physical activity, which will help them with their attention and listening skills.
  2. Look them in the eye: Get down on their level and make sure they are looking at you. Then, ask them to do what you need done.
  3. Repeat: Have them repeat what you just said.
  4. Keep Instructions simple: At around the age of 3, children should be able to understand two simple commands. For example, you could ask your child at that age to get their shoes and put them by the door. Thus, think about the child’s age and keep directions simple.
  5. Make it fun: Kids love play. For example, when my child didn’t want to brush her teeth one night, my husband made it a game. My daughter loves to play chase, so my husband said in a humorous tone, “If you don’t go brush your teeth,  I’m going to get you!” And sure enough, she went to go brush her teeth.
  6. Turn off all distractions: Turn the tv off or the game or toy off, so they can better pay attention.
  7. Say “Please” and “Thank you”: We are more likely to do things when people say this, so children likely will too.
  8. Finish: Let your child finish what they are doing.
  9. Develop Habits: If you’d like for your children to always put their plate on the kitchen counter when they are done eating, be consistent with it. Always ensure that they do that. If not, it can get confusing for your child.
  10. Make a Physical Connection: When you want your kids to listen, touch them on the shoulder or put your hands on their arms.

It can be frustrating when children don’t listen. If need be, if you feel yourself becoming angry, take a breath and remove yourself from the situation for a few minutes and then come back to it. Children are less receptive if they can pick up on frustration and anger.

You got this!! Consistency is key!


Lowrey, N. (2017). The how to get your child to do anything handbook: Tips to survive parenthood for the overwhelmed and exhausted.

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