I think “My child never listens!” has to be at the top of the list of complaints I hear from clients struggling as parents. If you find yourself saying this as well, hopefully this article will provide some insight on why it’s happening and what to do.

  • “My child never cleans up his toys.”
  • “My daughter has no chores. I only ask her to clean her room, and she doesn’t even do that!”
  • “I feel like a broken record, but my daughter still leaves her plate by the television, even though every day I tell her to put it in the sink when she is done.”

man holding his head with child misbehaving in backgroundIf these sound familiar, let me ask you one question: What do you do when your child does not follow through with what you have asked?

Let’s look at the first situation about the child that never cleans up his toys. When I ask what happens if they don’t listen, I get answers like:

  • “Nothing.”
  • “It’s bedtime and I need him to get to sleep.”
  • “I don’t want to start an argument.”
  • “It’s easier for me to just clean it up.”

Now let’s look at this situation from the child’s perspective:

Child hears mom say, ”Time to clean up. It’s time for bed.” The child is not happy that he has to go to bed, nor is he happy that he has to stop playing. So, the child makes the choice to ignore mom and keep on playing.

He hears mom yell again to start cleaning up. He says “Okay,” and looks around. There are toys everywhere. He doesn’t know where to start, and knows mom usually cleans up, so he makes the choice to continue to play.

So what just happened? The child didn’t do what his mother asked (clean up toys) and there were no consequences for not cleaning up.

By you telling him to clean up his toys, providing no consequences for him if he doesn’t follow through, and then doing it for him shows your child that you don’t mean what you say and so, it is not important. Next time you ask him to do something that he doesn’t really want to do, he may choose not to listen again because he feels there’s a good chance of getting out of it.

If you ask your children to do something, it is crucial to make sure your child follows through with the task or suffers a consequence. This will show your child that you mean what you say, and that not listening to you is not going to benefit him/her in any way.

Some key points to help you out:

  • If you are asking a child to do something, do not yell it from the other room. Go over to your child, and when you know he is paying attention, tell him the task.
  • Have the child repeat the task back to you. Some kids are sneaky and may pretend they are paying attention but really didn’t hear a word that came out of your mouth!
  • Do not walk away until you see him/her starting the task. If at first you can stay to monitor the whole time, that would be best. If you can’t stay, come back frequently to check.

Consistency, consistency, consistency! If you want your child to do as you say, you need to consistently stick to your word. If you only occasionally make him clean up his toys after being asked, he will most likely only occasionally listen.