Getting The Kids To Listen

Is there anything in the world that's harder than this? Yeah, there probably is... but nothing I can think of right now!

It's 7 pm. You've been up since 6 am. You've had to wake the kids and get them to school, you've had to take care of the baby all day. You've changed nappies. You've done the dishes. You've cooked the food. You've cajoled the kids into eating. You've done 100 things already, and you've still got 200 to do.

Now though, it's bedtime. You're tired and the kids aren't listening. One won't brush his teeth, the other won't put on her pyjamas. You don't want to go nuclear on them, but you feel it's coming... if only you had a trick to get them to do what you wanted.

Well, that's what this post is all about. I've got kids myself (obviously) and I also asked a whole bunch of folks on twitter! Here are our very best tricks. 

The Carrots

1. The main carrots in my house, are actually candies. This is so obvious that every reader will know this. Still though, I thought I can't write this post without mentioning this. Now, you can't use this trick very often, otherwise all their teeth will fall out! However, I do occasionally say “play ball, and you'll get a little candy/choccy/gum”. It works. Especially for something like getting dressed. Though admittedly, giving them a candy after they brush their teeth seems a little pointless.

2. What is probably a better strategy, if you're organised, is to play a long game. It goes something like this “OK kids, it's Saturday in two days. We might go to that giant park you love so much on Saturday... but ONLY if you behave yourselves till then”. With every incident you then say, “Remember the park? Do you still want to go...?”. They'll almost certainly put on their pyjamas with less of a fight. 

The Sticks

3. We have a calendar. It's a Sandra Boynton calendar ( We've been using it for 5 years now. For each day, you write the main thing in someone's schedule. So we write the doctor's appointments and playdates etc. If the kids misbehave, we threaten to write an X in the calendar. Get two Xs in one day, and no dessert for you on that day (or the next if you've already had dessert).

I know it doesn't make that much sense, but it works a treat (pun intended!). Now, nothing works absolutely every time, but this produces some kind of positive result, at least 70% of the time.

4. My final trick makes even less sense than the calendar trick, but here goes. I threaten to call their teachers at school. This one is more effective than the one above. I try to use it scarcely, because well, I don't want to mess up their school (in their head obviously, because I'd never actually call the school!). Also, because I want to have something to use in an emergency. I think I use it about once a week! Lots of “emergencies” at my house...

In truth, the more you use anything, the less effective it becomes. So I try to use the “sticks” as little as possible. 

General Approach

I want to mention here, that there must be general dialogue with the kids. I know it can sound funny, to talk about “dialogue” with 5-year-olds, but I believe that there must be a habit of explaining from the parents' side, so that, over time, the child understands, at the very least, that you, the parent are trying to communicate with him or her. Many of my twitter tribe agree with me on this too, notably @MotherHaggard, @Sasparks47, @npklip and @FamilyTeamCoach

The other thing I wanted to mention is that they must get rewarded for their own good behaviour too (i.e. something you didn't ask for). My mates @janicebrown39, @RobinsoMartina, @FamilyTeamCoach and @AbsentAznMom agree with this.

And thirdly, if you make a threat, and don't follow through with it, its effectiveness diminishes (@FamilyTeamCoach and @One_Dads_View). That's the reason I don't make the “gonna call your teacher” threat very often. However, we have had to stop their dessert, and not take them to the park too, despite it being greatly inconvenient to us too.

What can you do? Few things come easy... 

My Twitter Tribe Carrots and Sticks

Here's are some comments from me mates. Sometimes they don't fall into just one category, but I've tried my best to order them somehow.

Always reward them when they make the right choice and offer a reward for doing it. Eg, if you...we can have an extra story at bedtime, or we can play a game. Rewarding good behaviour is much more effective than punishing bad.

I also praise them all the time when they're doing good things. "Gosh! I'm so pleased with how well you helped out your sister/with how you for everything ready for school before I even asked you". I also sometimes award stickers. Imaginary ones. I really big them up too “a big shiny gold imaginary sticker goes to...”

Promise a reward or threaten that you won't cook for them. Tell them you're expected to do things for them and it should go both ways.

I use the timer on my phone a lot. Then it’s the phone telling them it’s time to stop. I also have a transition ready. Sometimes I’ll say super excitedly “who wants a vitamin?!?!”. Followed by “okay! First do x and then you get y”. Bribery I think it’s called 😆

We've only got stuff for 2-year-olds. If that's the age group you're looking for - "the police will come and get you" tends to work! 

Some Additional Wisdom And Tricks Too

My son gets in trouble for tantrums or knowing he’s doing bad things. He’s at an age where he’s aware of what’s right and wrong so that is the only time we discipline. Other than that as long as he tries, that’s all we ask for.

Explaining things as we do them. Sometimes threats work, but make sure you explain and allow them to talk with you, especially if you take away a privilege. Try to help them become more responsible.

@MotherHaggard Follows you
Oh boy, I'm trying to figure this one out myself. So far, it's mostly been me being constantly surprised when my 2 yr old won't listen to logic ("Well, we don't eat crayons bc they're toys and not food. No. Don't eat that. Stop. Stop eating the crayon. Ok WELL IT'S GONE NOW.").

Following through on threats has got me through a few tough times in the past, although it’s not foolproof. 

The Expert View

This section is reserved for @FamilyTeamCoach, because she's a bit on an expert on the topic. Here's what she had to say. It's a bit longer that 288 characters, but then again... you can't rush an expert!

“First I would say it’s all about #expectation. I expect children to listen to what I’m saying and co-operate, therefore, on the whole they do! - If I’m honest I have observed lots of parents asking there child to do something and you can hear a “please listen & co-operate with me” expressed in there tone of voice. Your #BodyLanguage, #tone & #words all Have to be #congruent! - You don’t need to be “shouty” to do this; just have a positively firm “I say what I mean & I mean what I say” tone.

Also crediting #children as being bright and sensible enough to understand I find goes down well and is far more likely to gain co-operation. You do this by telling them why they can’t have it/ do it now and when they can have it/ do it - why that is a better time e.g. they can have a treat after their meal when they’ve eaten the healthy food! Also, it’s worth baring in mind that #children do as you do, not as you say - unless the two are congruent!! So lead by example & show through your actions the type of behaviour you wish to see in them.

Finally, praise #effort & #strategy - smart thinking - because it encourages #children 2 try new things. Children who’ve only been praised 4 achievement are far more reluctant 2 try new things & this discourages #progression. - Doing what you’ve always known won’t teach anything new!”

And with that, this post ends. Hope it was useful to you! 

Comments? I'm sure you have some... go on then. ;-)

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  • Parent Bear on

    Thank you Paula-Elizabeth for all your support and input! :-)

  • Paula-Elizabeth on

    That is sooo sweet Parent Bear!! – Thank-you sooo much.

    Paula-Elizabeth, Your Family Team Coach 👫💫😃🌟

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