One of the most frustrating things about parenting is trying to get your kids to listen to what you’re saying. Then probably the second most frustrating thing is actually getting them to do what you’re asking them to. In my house it goes something like this:


Me: put your shoes on we have to go to school

Kids: Ignore/keep playing

Me: guys, come on lets put our shoes on so we won’t be late

Kids: Ignore/keep playing

Me: Ok, seriously guys! Let’s go!

Kids: Ignore/keep playing


Now I know this is not ideal and I also know that this exact same scenario is happening in many homes, so I sat down with Behavioral therapist Samantha Herberman to talk about this issue.  Samantha deals with this almost daily and she gave me some amazing tips on how to get your kids to listen and prevent you from getting to the yelling stage. I was really skeptical, but listened and learned that there is another way!

The first concept parents need to understand is that we must try to think ahead in order to set ourselves up for success. This means taking a few steps back before asking our kids to do anything and asking yourself, how can I set this situation up so the end result is satisfactory for both of us? Setting yourself up for success is an amazing concept that I never really thought about, but once I did, it changed the way I interact with my kids.

Here are the steps involved:


The fist thing you must do to get your kids to listen, is to stop yelling across the room. If you really want you kids to listen, you need to be close enough to them so you can make eye contact. For example, if you are in the kitchen and your kids are upstairs in their room and you are yelling up to them, they might not even hear you. If you want your kids to really listen, you need to go upstairs and be close enough so they can clearly hear what you are saying.


Second, you need to stop the activity that they are doing. Are they watching TV? Pause the show. Are they playing with a doll or a train? Take that toy for a minute while you get their undivided attention. This means that they will have no distractions and nothing is getting in the way of them really hearing what you are trying to tell them. There are times when I am watching TV and my husband is talking to me and I am nodding and saying “yup” but I have no idea what he said (don’t tell him I said that). It’s the same with our kids, if they are watching Paw Patrol, most likely you can burn the house down around them and they won’t notice. Scary but true.


Let them know what is about to happen and when it will happen. “We are going to put our shoes on in 5 minutes”. This sets very clear expectations and this way everyone involved knows what the plan is. Never say things you don’t intend to follow through with. When I tell my kids the TV will be off in 5 minutes, I set a timer on my phone and when the time is up, the TV goes off. Even if they cry, and scream I always try to follow through. This way the next time they know I mean business.


Have them indicate that they heard you and have them verbally acknowledge what you have said with a “yes I understand”. Sometimes I even push it one step further and I ask them to repeat what I just asked them to do EXACTLY. Me: “what are you going to do in 5 minutes?” Kids: “put my shoes on”.


Lastly, when they do what you have asked them to do, use positive reinforcement by congratulating them for listening so well! Make a big deal out of it because that’s how they know they are doing well, you are happy, and will want to do it again next time.

Try these simple steps next time you ask your child to do something. Start with something simple and when you are not in a rush to get anywhere, so you can see how it works and what needs to be tweaked for next time.

Good luck!