Blog home

Get Your Child to Listen: Part One

Get Your Child to Listen: Part One

posted by Karen Quinn, The Testing Mom - August 9th, 2016

Get Your Child to Listen without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling

Get Your Child to Listern

Is such a thing even possible?  Well I interviewed Amy McCready, author of If I Have to Tell You One More Time, who is sharing with us some valuable tools for our parental toolboxes.

Every classroom in the world requires children to listen to what the teacher says and then act appropriately. They learn to listen at home. If your children don’t listen to you at home, then you’re not going to have a very happy or calm home life. Then they also are probably not listening well in school and thus DOING well in school.  As parents, we all want to teach our kids to listen at home for our personal sanity, but also for our children’s success at school and in life.

My Own Toolbox


Now I remember trying to teach my own kids to listen when they were little and I can’t say that I was always successful. I’d give them timeouts when they wouldn’t listen and that just meant more work for me, because I’d have to make sure they stayed in the timeout chair.

Later, I learned about a method where I’d count to three if my kids weren’t listening and that just taught them that they didn’t have to listen to me the first time I asked.  Teaching my children to listen was just frustrating. I would have loved to have some more effective tools to pull out of my toolbox and use when my kids ignored me as they often did.

Now let’s hear from Amy McCready…

Why Kids Don’t Listen

One of the biggest reasons that parents have trouble getting their kids to listen is because of our approach, the way that we try to get kids to listen. We tend to default to a do it because I said so or you will or else approach, but that really doesn’t work anymore. It might have worked when we were growing up, but kids are growing up in a much different environment now.

If you think about it, no wife would ever put up with her spouse saying you will have dinner on the table by six o’clock or else. That is just not viewed as acceptable communication and when our kids are at school, teachers and their coaches, they treat them with respect. They invite their opinion.

Show Them Respect

They’re growing up in this world where there is much more respectful communication that is the norm. When we as parents try to use the do it because I said or else approach, they instinctively know that that’s out of sync and their response is to fight back. It invokes that fight or flight response and they can’t easily flee, so their tendency is to fight back either by ignoring us or talking back, giving attitude. It’s just the way they’re wired and it’s the way they respond.

As parents, we want it both ways. We like the fact that communication, in general, is more respectful now between spouses and in the work place. We like that, but we still want that 1950s style of authoritarian communication to work with our kids. Then we get angry and frustrated when it doesn’t. It really creates this rub where parents know what’s not working. As you said, the timeout, that’s not working. The counting one, two, three isn’t working. The because I said so isn’t working, but they’re at a loss for tools and strategies that really do work.

The Best Approach

First, we have to understand that all of us, adults and children, are hardwired with the need for positive attention and positive power. For parents, if they don’t give their kids enough attention, positive attention, every single day, their kids will demand their attention, but with negative behavior. We’ll see clinging and whining, and acting helpless, and all those things that drive parents crazy. The same thing with power and power can be defined as having freewill or a sense of autonomy, or some control over your life.


Positive Attention

Even our kids, little toddlers, they have to feel like they have some age appropriate control over their life. If parents don’t give them enough of that, kids will fight back with those negative power behaviors like not listening and attitude, and back talk. One of the things that we always start with is teaching parents how to give those two things. The strategies that they can use to fill up their kid’s attention basket every single day even though parents are busy and they’re working, and they have 92 things on their to-do list.

Positive Power

We teach them how to make that happen and also the tools to give their kids positive power because that is just non-negotiable. The kids have to have it. There’s no getting around it and if we don’t learn how to give kids positive power, we’re going to pay for it with those power struggles and the not listening, and all of that nonsense.

All of the tools that we teach are intended to do those two things, give kids the positive attention and positive power, but then we also teach parents those in the moment strategies when something comes up and you need that discipline or that corrective action tool in the moment. Parents learn that as well.

Ordering, Correcting and Directing

One of the things that we as parents tend to do a lot is what I call ordering, correcting, and directing. We do a lot of bossing around, don’t forget your lunch box, it’s time to eat, get dressed, brush your teeth, and on, and on, and on. The more of that we do, that naturally invites power struggles.

One of the ways that you can get away from that ordering, correcting, and directing is to give kids a lot of choices. One time I had a group of parents and the one parent raised her hand and so, “Choices, that’s it? Duh.” It’s really not a duh because what you want to do is think about those typical times throughout the day where you have power struggles. If you fight your kids every night to take a bath, well, then you’re going to give choices around that issue.

Giving Your Child More Control

Instead of, “Okay, time to take a bath. Get your clothes on. Jump in the tub.” We’re going to say, “Do you want to use the red towel tonight or the yellow towel? Do you want to put your bath toys on the side of the tub or in the tub?” For an older child, “Do you want to fold your laundry or put it away?” The more choices that you can give around those power struggle issues, they give the child more control.

We’re not debating whether or not we’re going to take a bath or you’re going to fold your laundry. We’re just discussing how that can be done in a way that gives the child more power. Then what typically happens is the child is thinking about the choice rather than battling you about the issue in the first place. Choices are one of the best ways to give kids power.

Think About It!

I always say that kids need a power hit throughout the day. In the morning, think about your morning routine. How can I give more choices, more opportunities for the child to make a decision after school, at dinner time, in the evening. They need those power hits through out the day. The more of them that you can give to your kids, the less likely they are to fight back with the negative power stuff.

Share this article

Tell us about your experiences

Need help? - Contact Support