How do I get my child to listen? I myself can relate to this issue with my own children. My kids don’t listen unless I’ve asked them almost five times! So how do I get my child to listen the first time?

Family expert Sara Dimerman is here to answer any questions you may have. If you need to submit a question, please email  

Q: How do I get my child to listen?

A: This is one of the most common questions I get asked. I always begin by responding that when a child does not respond, it’s not that he’s not listening, but rather that he is choosing not to respond.

Unless you’re living in the Duggar’s home (and even then we now know that things aren’t as perfect as they would have liked us to believe), most “normal” children are not wired to jump when being called. Rather, they’d prefer to continue with what they are doing, ignore you or procrastinate about changing direction. And especially if what you are asking them to do is not what they want to do (such as brushing their teeth or taking a shower) they may very well feign deafness. In actual fact, what they are is parent deaf.

So, if you’re asking how you can get your child to jump to attention every time you make a request or give a command, I’m sorry but I can’t help you with this. Children are not robots. They have will and so called minds of their own. What I can help you with is encouraging them to be responsive to you and to acknowledge what you are saying so that you know that they are in fact hearing you:

Make your request in close proximity to them.

In other words, don’t scream for him to turn off the television from another level in the house. Move into his space, sit beside him, put your hand on his back and ask for his full attention. If he’s in the middle of something, acknowledge that and wait a bit for him to redirect his thoughts and presence. Then, look at your child in his eyes and let your request be known.

Don’t expect immediate results.

Be mindful that switching gears can take some effort and just because you’ve told her to pick up her toys, doesn’t mean that she will – especially right away. Negotiate a fair amount of time within which to see the request through and let her know what the consequences will be if the request is not followed through with.

How to get my kids to listen?

Model listening.

If your child is talking to you, don’t divert your attention from your computer or your phone for seconds at a time. Engage non verbally as much as verbally and give him your full attention. If you can’t do so at the very moment he wants, let him know that you are busy and give him a time within which you will give him your undivided attention.

Ask a different question.

Instead of asking “Why don’t you listen?” rather ask “What made it difficult for you to co-operate with me when I asked you to?”

Adjust expectations.

Just because you ask your child to do something does not mean that he will co operate and comply every time. Expect some resistance. Remember that a strong willed child, even though more difficult to parent, may be better equipped to handle what life has in store.


Sara DimermanSara Dimerman is a psychologist in the Toronto area who has provided counselling to individuals, couples and families for more than twenty-five years. She is the author of four books – two for parents and two for couples – the most recent of which is “Why Married Couples Don’t have Sex….at least not with each other!” and is a columnist and podcast producer/host for sites and print media across North America and internationally. She is a regular guest on radio and television and is interviewed frequently for articles online, in newspapers and magazines. Sara is married and has two daughters. Visit Sara‘s website: or follow her on Twitter @helpmesara.



Maria Lianos-Carbone is the author of “Oh Baby! A Mom’s Self-Care Survival Guide for the First Year”, and publisher of, a leading lifestyle blog for women.

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