Regardless of your child’s age or capability, wanting your child to listen to you is often a top priority for most parents. Out of the many difficult behaviors, why is this topic such a struggle for so many families? I think it’s because of the frequency of the struggle, not the severity of the behavior.
No one enjoys asking or telling someone the same thing over and over and then coming back and finding their instructions still not followed. In some ways, it can make you feel like you have lost power in the parent/child relationship and is incredibly frustrating when a rule you have established is continually broken.
The good news is, getting your child to listen to you can be easily addressed with consistency in the following areas.
Follow through with consequences
The number one answer for getting your child to listen to you is by following through with consequences. Notice that I said, following through, not giving consequences. Giving consequences will not change behavior unless the reward or punishment is fulfilled in response to how the child behaves. Earning respect and being seen as an authority figure comes from following through with a given consequence.
For example, receiving a speeding ticket from a police officer would mean nothing if you were never required to pay the fine and it didn’t affect your driving record. The ticket becomes only a piece of paper, not a deterrent for driving over the speed limit, if there is no consequence for being pulled over.
Don’t be your child’s friend
In today’s culture, the community is not as involved in raising our children as in the past. Our children aren’t outside as often interacting with other parents in the neighborhood, and school teachers and coaches are limited in what consequences they can give.
Kids do not need more friends, they need boundaries. This isn’t to say that you should not focus on a building a positive, fun relationship with your child. Rather it’s through setting boundaries that the best parent/child relationships are built. Boundaries are what help our children learn self control, values, work ethic and ultimately learn how to succeed as an adult. Children also feel safe and in control when they know that an adult is there to check up on them when they make decisions.
Then they can learn to turn to you for help and advice, because they respect you as an authority figure. Focus most on being your child’s parent through consistently teaching and correcting and a strong relationship will follow.
Don’t give in and do things for them
It may seem easier to complete a task for your child to avoid an argument or to satisfy your impatience when he or she hasn’t followed through after repeatedly asking. However, children learn very quickly how to get what they want.
Defiance isn’t usually the reason they don’t listen, they just adapt their behavior to the most effective way to get what they want. And usually what they want to do is hangout with friends, or read, or play video games and what they don’t want to do is finish chores, follow rules or complete tasks.
If they see that a task is done for them, they learn to ignore for a short time and then mom or dad will do it so they don’t have to. If a consequence is given because they don’t follow through with tasks or rules immediately, this interrupts their time to do what they want. With consistency, they learn to listen to you to avoid losing time doing what they want.
Teach them how to do what you’re asking
Sometimes your child may not follow through with what you ask because there’s not clear expectations or they don’t know how to do it. For example, your child may turn to hitting and throwing objects whenever they become angry. Most children know this is not the appropriate response and it’s easy to become frustrated when you’ve told them this is not how they’re supposed to act. If they don’t know how to calm down appropriately, though, they will have nothing to replace the negative behavior with.
Instead of just telling your child to clean their room, explain that you want the toys and clothes picked up off the floor and the bed made by the time dinner is done. With clear expectations of how to clean their room and when it should be completed, they will be more likely to finish the task.
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Smart Parenting’s blog at SmarterParenting.com. It has been republished here with permission.