Brandi Davis of Child and Family Coaching gives us another great post jam packed with great parenting tips. After you have one of those days when you feel like you have donned Harry Potter’s Invisibility Cloak for all the attention your children pay you, this is welcome reading!

MY KIDS DON’T LISTEN!!! This is one of the biggest complaints that I hear from my clients. Some days it can feel as if you are talking and talking and no one is hearing you. You KNOW that there are words coming out of your mouth. You are forming them. You hear them, yet you get no response, or worse, a tantrum. Besides exploding, what is a grown up supposed to do? Here are 5 ideas to keep your cool and get your kids to listen.
1. Give A Heads Up
  • Not a warning, a heads up. There is no final doom about to befall your child here, just a request or reminder.
  • 5 minutes until we have to get your sister from school. Do what you need to do in order to feel finished and ready go go.”
  • “5 minutes until bath time. When it is bath time, it is bath time.”
  • If you say 5 minutes, it means 5 minutes. Do not get talked into giving more time. Kids are good negotiators. Stop negotiating and be clear! It is better for everyone in the end.
  • Ask how long your child needs to finish what they are doing. Perhaps it is not a matter of time, but puzzle pieces, or blocks, or lines in a drawing.
  • When you notice your child’s activities and respect their time, you will find that they respect your needs back as well and listen.
2. Think Outside Of The Box
  • If your child is in the middle of an activity and you want to leave or they need a nap or it is dinner, do they REALLY have to clean up? Just freeze the activity so that after nap, dinner, bath, whatever, they can come back to it.
  • Give your child a choice of something to take for the road if you are having trouble leaving the house. A book, car, doll, this way playtime can continue on a smaller scale.
  • Give your child choices, but limited ones:
    • “Do you want to wear the red shoes or green ones?” They want the blue ones? Go for it. It is not about adult power, it is about avoiding fights. Do you REALLY care if they wear blue?
    • You can put your coat on or I can put your coat on. Your choice. You have until 5.” If you get to 5, put the coat on. Do not be swayed by, “No, no, no I will do it.” Often  kids will NOT do it and you will have to count again and again. Your word and voice will become less reliable since you can be talk into or out of things. Be clear and stand by what you say.
    • Do you want a bath now or in 5 minutes?” Do you really care if it is in 5 minutes? 5 minutes is WAY less time then the 45 minute fight that will ensue if you make them take a bath NOW.
And if they STILL don’t listen? Consequences.
3. They Are Stuck
  • They cannot move on to the next activity until they do what you ask. Be clear about what that next activity is and that you are not taking anything away. They can move on once they follow your directions.
  • Say calmly, “We can go to the park as soon as you put your shoes on. We do not have to go, but you want to. Park time is over at 3:30, so if shoes are not on in 15 minutes we will run out of park time. It is up to you.” If you run out of time, do not create MORE time. Life lessons occur when our actions have reactions.
  • Say calmly, “You need to brush your teeth. We cannot move on to book time until you do. Lights out is at 8. If we run out of time for books, we run out of time for books.”
  • This is NOT the strategy to use when you are rushing out of the door. That being said you can leave things for later, say calmly,We have to get to school. The first thing that you will do when you get home is clean up your blocks. You will not play or move on until you clean up the blocks.” (If your child needs to go potty, PLEASE let them do so before they clean. It is not about punishment but talking responsibility for things and actions.)
4. They Practice Later
  • If your child will not put their coat on and you must leave, do it for them but have them practice later. Say calmly,“When we get home you will put your coat on 3 times. You seem to have forgotten how to do it, so you will take some time to practice before playing tonight.”
  • Say calmly, “That was quite an ordeal getting up the steps to bed tonight. When you wake up, you will go up and down the steps 2 times to practice. Then it won’t be so hard next time.”
  • You know that they can do these things. Your kid knows that they can do these things. YOU want to minimize the reward of fighting and the NOT doing of these things. If instead of fun, they have to “practice” doing things that they already know how to do, they will stop fighting you FAST. It just is not worth it anymore for them.
5. Not Everything Is Up For Discussion
  • I know that we want our kids to like us, or feel supported and heard and understood, but not EVERYTHING is up for discussion.
  • You are the captains of your team and some things are what they are. At your job, sometimes things are what they are. In your relationships, sometimes things are what they are.
  • You also want your kids to learn to respect what others say and need and want. Their wants are not the only important ones (though in their developmental stage it is normal for them to look at things that way). You know some grown ups who STILL have not learned that life lesson.
  • Express your idea, need, want, and end the discussion, say calmly, “It is raining so we are not going to the playground. I hear that you want to go, I am sorry that we can’t, but we just can’t. I will not say it again. I will talk about anything that you want, except going to the playground. I am finished with that conversation.”

One last thing, ask yourself, I do this too when I run into non listening kids, Why does this child think that they do not need to listen? I listen to them, why am I being unheard? The answer is simple, because they can. If the behaviors were clearly unacceptable, they would not occur. Having said that, how do you make the wanted behaviors clear? You do that by having consequences for actions, like being stuck and practicing, and most importantly responding fast (one heads up, then the follow through). Also, no arguments. Your child can express their opinion, but do not debate or negotiate. Even if your child is yelling and screaming, that does not mean that you must. The longer that you fight, the more your kid thinks that it will go their way. “I was clear. I said that if you did not brush your teeth by 8 you would run out of time for books. You did not brush your teeth, so you ran out of time. If you brush your teeth tomorrow by 8, we can read books. You can be upset, but that was what YOU chose.” Yes, emphasize that they chose their path. That is where the life lesson begins. Please listen and hear your children and their ideas, feeling, and opinions, but be sure to have them do the same for you.


Brandi Davis, ACC, is a certified Parenting Coach, Parent Educator, and Author of O.K. I’m A Parent Now What? She can also be found on Facebook and Twitter and be sure to catch her parenting podcasts on iTunes. The goal of Brandi’s practice is to bring respect, calm communication, teamwork, and FUN into the home or classroom. To discover all that Child and Family Coaching can bring to your family stop by www.childandfamilycoaching.com.
Featured Photo (kid dancing) by Gabby Orcutt