What to do When Kids Won❜t Listen

  • Parents Only

By: Zoe Crane, ellaslist

Domestic deafness can affect all of us. Attacks often occur amongst married couples, but kids are the hardest hit, with some children not listening to a single thing they are told! Sometimes, no matter how reasonable you are being, no matter how patient, kids just don’t listen, and this is one of the most common frustrations of parents. We’ve done some research to find the top tips to get kids to listen.

Respecting Realities

Author, Erica Reischer, PhD wrote an article for TIME where she explained that what seems reasonable to an adult may not be to a child. She says “Respecting our children’s reality means letting them feel, think, and experience things in a different way than we do.” By practising empathy with your kids, you can show them that you are listening and understand their point of view. Parents sometimes unintentionally disregard or question children’s feelings and perspective, which can lead to kids becoming more stubborn or contrary.


Try a Little Tenderness

Rather than resorting to threats, force or orders, Dr Reischer recommends trying to respect their reality. She gives an example of asking a child to leave the park. Instead of saying “you’ve been here all day, you’ve had enough”, try “Sweetie, I can see you’re having a lot of fun and you really don’t want to go yet (empathy). I’m sorry about that. At the same time, we are meeting Mom for dinner and it wouldn’t be nice manners to be late (reason). Please say good-bye to your friends and go get your things (request).”



Another example she gives is a child that is struggling with a task saying “I can’t do this”. While it seems like encouragement, telling them that they can do it is actually saying they are wrong about their own experience. It helps to acknowledge the feeling, and in a supportive way help them through the difficulty.

Sometimes it feels that your words are hitting deaf ears. Try empathy and understanding instead of yelling

Hear to be Heard

Sociologist and parenting counsellor Chaley-Ann Scott agrees that listening to kids is key in getting them to listen to you. In an article she wrote for Psych Central she says parents need to really listen to both verbal and non-verbal cues to see if kids were overwhelmed, unhappy or out of sorts.

She says parents also need to be honest and reliable. Even white lies like “the shop ran out” or inadvertently broken promises like “we’ll do it tomorrow” can shake children’s trust. She also recommends trying to “find the yes”, so rather than an outright no, try to find an acceptable alternative. While there are instances when you won’t have an option but to say no, it should also be acceptable for a child to say no some of the time. She stresses that providing children with information, feedback and advice – rather than demands and orders – will result in them listening to you more.

Communication is Key

Though she takes a little tougher approach, Supernanny also agrees that listening to kids is key. On the Supernanny website, she suggests you need to “Stop what you are doing, turn to your child, make eye contact and listen to what they are saying. Don’t deny children’s feelings with phrases like “there is no need to be upset”. Once you’ve listened to your child, communicate in an upbeat and encouraging way and avoid nagging. She suggests using clear commands and few words like “8 o’clock. Bedtime.” And don’t accuse or use questions like “shall we?” She says to encourage co-operation, state the problem as fact rather than a criticism, for example, “there is paint on the floor”, or explain how you feel “I don’t like hearing whinging.” You can also reduce resistance by offering a choice of how a task is done.


Whichever tactic you choose, it seems that listening to kids and acknowledging their feelings is key to getting them to listen to you.

ellaslist wants to hear from you, what do you do when your kids won’t listen?