Frustrated and Want to Know How to Get Your Child to Listen?

Here are the 10 Best Tips to Get Your Child to Listen from Child Psychologist Don MacMannis, Ph.D.

OK – time out! Today it happened again!

You know how it goes. Your child won’t listen the first time or even the 10th.

Seems like everything downgrades into a battle and you long for some peace in your family.

If you’re feeling stressed, exhausted from all the yelling, drama, tantrums and meltdowns, there really is hope and these tips can restore the peace in as soon as a few minutes.

Child Psychologist, Dr. Don MacMannis, shares each of these and more in best-selling course: Parenting Your Strong-Willed Child.

  1. You need to be clear about the rules if you want to get your child to listen

While a few rules are pretty obvious like no hitting or kicking, a few more, such as what you expect at dinner, chore time or bed time need to be negotiated at family meetings.

That way, this is a neutral time when everyone gets a say and you can post the rules you agreed on use the chart he gives you during the course.  

2. Use your child’s strong-willed energy as an asset

Kids need to know that they are loved for who they are.

One of the best ways to do that is to respect that your child is strong-willed. 

Chances are their strong will is really a gift as they grow up and pursue their dream doggedly!

The more time you devote to acknowledge their positive actions, the more you decrease the level of conflict and raise your child’s self-esteem. 

Doing this actually increases the effectiveness of any occasional punishment or consequences because you’ve strengthened your bond with your child.

Think of it like adding to your emotional bank account with your child. 

how to get your child to listen

3. You’ll want to use a tool box of reinforcements with your strong-willed child 

One of the best ways to reinforce desired behaviors is via adult attention – your child craves it.

Of course, material goodies are great too but you don’t want your child to rely on these. 

The more “you” time you can provide the better.

While it’s tough when everything and everyone demands your attention at the same time, find a few precious moments each day to devote just to your child in a positive, loving way -even doing an activity together is perfect!

You want to make sure you specifically request what you want and what you don’t want.

For example, household tasks. “You are such a great helper, and as soon as we both finish the dishes, we can play the game you like.”

Another great strategy to weaken misbehavior is to praise a child who is behaving in front of one who is not.

So, you don’t scold the misbehavior of one child – you simply turn to the other one and praise their good behavior very specifically. 

4. Make sure your child gets enough sleep 

For some reason, strong willed (or even defiant kids) seem to be sensitive to not getting enough sleep. 

So, even if you’re tempted to nix the sleep time rules during the weekend or during a sleep over, try your best to enforce them because if you don’t, your child may be prone to be especially stubborn and grumpy the next day.


how to get your child to listen

5. Make sure the consequences you use are appropriate to your child’s age 

Only after you continuously use positive win-win ways that Dr. Mac discusses in his Parenting Strong Willed Kids course, should you use a negative one. 

Negativity tends to go “viral” and breed more of it, so if you can simply ignore a minor misbehavior, you won’t be reinforcing it.

Plus, remember not to threaten anything you can’t follow through on.

Kids learn instantly when their parents say what they mean and mean what they say.

6. When you are speaking with your child, make sure you are at eye level with them 

Be sure to meet your child where they are – and try to always to have eye level contact when you are speaking with them.

That way, you and they are sure the message is heard and received.

When you’re heading into a store, get on eye level with your child and say something like you’re doing inside for groceries for dinner and nothing else. Make sure they know that no fussing is permitted.

If they do act out, simply look away and ignore their begging and whining.

7. Use consequences and incentives to reduce negative emotions 

Instead of falling into the trap of yelling at your child, you’ll want to take a few deep breaths (this calms your autonomic nervous system too).

This way you are modeling self-regulation for your child.

Neuroscientists say that emotions are contagious so you want to model the most positive emotions possible in a tense situation.

Remember to use consequences you discussed in family meetings and incentives like the star chart to help dissapate an angry child.

8. Detach from the outcome 

When your child enters the angry or melt down zone, what works best to to act calmly and stick to consequences.

Use time-outs when discussing the consequences or remove time from an activity your child enjoys if the action you want is not followed. 

In this way, the situation is neutralized – there is no drama, no shouting and no standing over your child.

The more you don’t seem to care about the situation dissolving into an angry unhappy parent, the more your child becomes motivated to care about their own actions. 

Think of it like this. If you ever get pulled over for a speeding ticket, the officer is neutral – they are not angry and they don’t continually repeat themselves. You need to act the same. 

When you use consequences your child already knows about, you are preparing them for the real world.

9. Don’t repeat yourself. 

You can provide a brief explanation the second time when a negative behavior occurs, but your child will simply tune out if you keep repeating yourself. 

In the course, Dr. Mac says to simply reinforce the agreed upon rules and consequences calmly and without discussion.

10. Make sure to have regular family meetings 

Once you make the decision to revise your parenting techniques, make sure you give your child fair warning and some informed consent.

Discuss everything in the family meeting and ask them what they would like to change also.

Get them to be reponsive and responsible as well. Include your child as you all create new rules, reinforcements and consequences. 

Conclusion: If you set clear and loving boundaries, every child can learn to have respect for others and practice greater self-control.

That way you avoid the conflicts and power struggles and nagging. 

Finally, you newfound parental authority is returned after you’ve lost it and your child can be a kid again, and let you do the job of parenting. This helps your child live in a much more “certain” world, which in and outside your home, is something they crave!

Don MacMannis, Ph.D. (Dr. Mac) is a child and family psychologist and Clinical Director of the Family Therapy Institute of Santa Barbara. He has specialized in the treatment of children and families for over forty years.

He teaches parents how to easily and peacefully raise spirited, strong willed kids in his online course Find out more about Parenting Your Strong Willed Kids here.