How to Get Kids to Listen: How One Parent Found Their Sweet Spot

How to Get Kids to Listen

Raising children isn’t easy and getting kids to listen, cooperate, and do things when they don’t feel like it, is more challenging than you think.  Parents, like children, get into routines, and when those routines don’t work, you end up with children that don’t listen.  What is the magic answer to how to get kids to listen?

It’s no secret that one of the biggest struggles parents have is getting their children to listen to them. Before you had children, you probably thought this would be an easy task. You believed that your kids weren’t going to be like other children who ignored their parents.

Your kids were going to be great kids that listened to you. When you said, “go brush your teeth” or “get your shoes on so we can go,” they would just listen and do what they were supposed to do. 

Of course, they would because you’re the mom!

Instead, you find yourself repeating yourself many times over and over, begging, bribing, or completely losing your cool to get them to listen to you, and asking yourself, “Why won’t my children just listen.

Create Routines

Routines are essential for children even if we are busy moms. Having daily habits like having a regular bedtime, telling a bedtime story before bed, or eating dinner at the table, give children a sense of safety and security. They also help kids to understand better what you expect from them.

According to a study by the National Center for Education Statistics, children who have daily routines are also better socially adjusted and perform better in school than children who don’t have habits. If you don’t have routines in your life, you can start by creating a straightforward morning routine and evening routine.

For example, in the morning, have your children make their bed, and in the evening, have them go to bed at a regular bedtime.  If your child has no expectations for what you expect from them, there will naturally be protests.

Use 1-2-3 Magic

1-2-3 Magic is a classic parenting method developed by author and psychologist Thomas W. Phelan, Ph.D.  His book emphasizes that children are not mini-adults and that parents often mistake talking too much to discipline their children.  

Teaching young children boundaries and good behavior doesn’t mean treating them like they are little adults. Their brains are not as developed as adults and cannot of rational, logical thinking. Children look to their parents to teach them appropriate behavior, boundaries and follow the rules. 1-2-3 Magic is an evidence-based parenting method that is easy to use. Many therapists and psychologists recommend using this method when children have behavioral issues. 

It’s effortless and effective. 

Parents use it to stop bad behaviors and start new right actions. If you are having issues with your child not listening, create a natural consequence for not listening.  For young children, five minutes of time-out is usually sufficient. Consider no more than a minute if they are a year old.

If you notice your child doing something they aren’t supposed to do, you say, “that’s a 1.” Wait five seconds. However, if they did not follow your instruction the first time and continue their behavior, you say “that’s a 2.” If they continue for five more seconds, you say, “that’s a 3,” and immediately give them a consequence.

The key to doing 1-2-3 Magic work is consistency!

When you first start using this method, primarily if you have never used consequences consistently, your children may protest and resist. However, once your children get accustomed to the technique, they will listen to you before getting to the 3.

Be Calm

When you talk to your children, avoid yelling or high emotions. Yelling is not only bad for children’s emotional health, but it also is not practical. According to the Society for Research in Child Development, yelling at children can cause the same emotional harm as physical abuse.  

Instead of helping your child learn to listen to you, it often causes behavioral issues and emotional problems in children. If you are in the habit of yelling to get your children to listen, keep in mind that your behavior affects your children’s behavior.

If you want your children to listen, speak to them in a calm but firm tone. This strategy will help you to avoid an emotional reaction from your child and set the tone that you are serious.

Use Baby Steps

Sometimes your child isn’t unwilling to listen, but what you want them to do may overwhelm them.  Big projects like cleaning their room can cause them to have anxiety.  

Instead of saying “stop playing and clean your room,” try giving them one instruction at a time. “Put your toys in the toy basket” is not nearly as overwhelming as “go get your room clean.”

Make step one simple, and soon these minor suggestions will grow into effective tips you’ll use every day.

Be Consistent

When children see that you are not consistent with discipline, boundaries, or expectations, they are less likely to listen.  If you use 1-2-3 magic and consequences consistently, you set expectations for them.

They will know that when mom says listen, she means it! 

This step is the number one most challenging parenting part on how to get kids to listen. And, particularly difficult if your parents didn’t have consistent parenting skills raising you.

Providing your children with routines, expectations, and consistent follow-through will help them grow into much better adults. Stop procrastinating and start today!

Be Connected

It’s easy for parents to stand tall to discipline a child and scold them. That overbearing presence may install fear rather than courage. Is there any other positive way?

Of the various positive parenting techniques, I like to come down to their level. I don’t mean to compromise and give up on your principles for the sake of happy kids. I’m referring to lowering your stance and having an equal level of eye contact with your child.

Kids listen better when you come down to their level. They will feel connected with you as a parent and not see you as a scary authority figure.

Remember, the goal is a positive discipline to get a child’s attention. Next time, ask your child to repeat back what you said to make sure they have active listening. If their response was not what you intended, that could be a sign for you to say something different. 

This tip can help improve communication between you and your little one. It’s a test to see if your children really listen.

Final Thoughts

Our goal as parents is to raise our children to grow up to be well-rounded and decent human beings. And, though it may be challenging to parent our children, we still don’t give up because we love them.

Children, especially at their young age, are trying to test their boundaries. But, they don’t do it to upset us. Instead, they are trying different things to understand the world around them.

It’s our duty as parents to set those boundaries and teach them to respect them for good reasons. Although we wish our children would simply follow directions, we have to accept that that is not reality. The truth is what worked last week may not work the following week. 

When trying to figure how to get kids to listen, be sure not to forget to give your child some love while you try to instill positive discipline. There will be a power struggle for sure. But, never forgot why we do what we do for our children. Use fewer words, like “I love you.

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Patty Malowney

Patty Malowney is the mother of 5 amazing kids, from college age to elementary school. She is the co-founder of She has written on every topic of motherhood, from trying to conceive, pregnancy, babies, and raising teens.

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