I regularly hear people complain about their children not listening to them. First of all lets clarify what this means, because it never actually means my children aren’t listening to me, it actually means my children aren’t doing what I tell them to do immediately after I tell them to do it. So now that’s clear lets looks at why this happens.

  1. You don’t listen to them

We are quick to notice it in our children but often blind to when we do it ourselves, often our kids have to ask for our attention a number of times before we actually give it to them – whether we are distracted by the tv/phone/ipad/computer, or whether we are just deep in thought, or busy doing chores. Our kids often feel we aren’t listening to them either. If we want our kids to behave respectfully then we need to model that behaviour back to them.


Try to limit screen time until children aren’t around. Remember that although we might feel what we are doing is more important than what the child wants to show you or ask you, that thing is important for your child, and if you don’t model stopping and listening when they want your attention, why would they do the same for you.


  1. You don’t follow through with directions

You ask you child to stop playing ball in the house, but they continue, so you give up, or your say it again louder, then again yelling at them, maybe even starting on a long rant about how many times you need to ask them. This kind of behaviour is encouraging them not to listen – well not to follow your directions (mum doesn’t really mean it, or dad isn’t serious about something until his yelling so I can ignore that for now). Instead once you have asked once, follow through physically (but gently) – what I mean is walk over to them and gentle move them in the direction of the door, or grab the ball and say “I’ll help you take the ball outside where you can play with it”


  1. They are busy with important work

What important work do kids have to do you ask. They are busy learning all about the world, and emotions, and social relationships and norms and expectations. There is so much going on that they are constantly learning and the main way they do this is through play. So play is important work for kids. We need to acknowledge that, so where possible we can allow our kids to continue with their important work, and where we can’t, we can be understanding that it is hard to stop important work for trivial tasks (e.g. putting the dishes away or having a shower – I realise these aren’t trivial to you but they may seem that way to your child).


You can help kids by giving them a warning time -“in 5 minutes it will be time to pack up the playdo and go in for a bath”. Allowing them to finish where possible – “once you finish building that block tower, I need you to bring your dishes into the sink”. And acknowledging their emotions when it is difficult for them – “I know you really want to keep jumping on the trampoline and I need you to get in the car so we can get the groceries, stopping jumping is tough for you right now. Can I help in any way?”


By making these changes in your behaviour it will foster co-operation in your children.

Do you notice yourself falling into any of these unhelpful habits?