5 Reasons Your Child Doesn't Listen the First Time You Speak

The way you give instructions determines how likely it is your child will listen the first time you speak.
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Most parents only dream about their child following directions the first time they’re told. But for other parents, compliance is a reality. These fortunate few say, “Pick up your shoes,” and their child listens - at least most of the time.

While it’s normal - and healthy - for kids to assert their independence once in a while, it’s not healthy when kids don’t follow directions at all. If your child isn’t in the habit of listening the first time you speak, here are some potential reasons why:

1.  You Give Too Many Warnings

Counting to three over and over again, asking, “How many times do I have to tell you?” or saying, “This is really your last warning,” won’t be effective. If you give too many warnings, your child will learn to call your bluff.

In fact, giving repeat warnings trains your child not to listen the first. Why jump right up and do what you say if you’re going to repeat it at least five more times?

Your child will learn to recognize when you really mean what you say. Perhaps when you raise your voice to a certain level he’ll know you mean business. Or, he might know when you put your hands on your hips, you truly plan to follow through. But until he sees those signs, he’ll know he doesn’t have to listen yet.

2. You Make Meaningless Threats

Threats like, “You’ll never be allowed to go outside again if you don’t clean your room right now!” or, “I’m throwing away all your toys if you don’t pick them up!” aren’t likely to work.

Although you may think you mean those types of threats when you say them out of sheer frustration, your child is likely to recognize you aren’t going to be able to follow through.

Exaggerated threats aren’t the only problem. Sometimes, parents make threats that sound inviting. Saying, “I’ll turn this car around right now if you don’t stop arguing!” may sound more like a reward, rather than a threat.

3. You Engage in Power Struggles

It can be easy to get sucked into an argument with your child without really noticing it’s happening. But the longer you engage in the, “Yes you are!” and “No I’m not!” battle, the longer your child can avoid following through with your instructions.

If you tell your child to clean his room, and he argues about it for 20 minutes, that’s 20 minutes he just delayed doing what you asked. Don’t get distracted a power struggle. Instead, be prepared to follow through with a consequence if your child chooses not to comply.

4. You Don’t Follow Through with Consequences

Negative consequences teach your child to make better choices in the future. But if you struggle to follow through with consequences consistently, your child won’t learn.

Threatening to take away privileges without actually doing it, giving in when your child begs for privileges back, or giving consequences that don’t really bother your child won’t be effective. Follow through with logical consequences that will serve as a life lesson.

5. You Raise Your Voice

When a child doesn’t listen, many parents are tempted to raise their voices. But yelling isn’t likely to lead to positive results. Your child will learn to tune you out.

Additionally, research shows yelling can be just as harmful as spanking. It will damage your relationship with your child, which will decrease the chances your child will listen to you in the future.