The Secret to Getting Your Kids to Listen

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If you read my posts regularly, you know I don’t believe in trick, hacks, or shortcuts. Parenting is hard work. So why do I now offer you such a clickbaity thing as a secret? I guess it is not so much a secret that I can tell you as a realization that you can have. But I can try to help you with that realization.

Getting your kids to listen isn’t about some nuance with the words you choose, or with the way you say them. In fact, getting them to listen doesn’t even happen when you are telling them the thing you want them to listen to. It happens in all the interactions you have had with your kids up until that point.

When you tell your kids it’s time to leave the store without buying that cool thing they saw, they don’t listen because of the way you say it. They listen because you are the one who let your dinner get cold yesterday so you could help them clean up a kitchen mishap. They don’t listen because of the urgency you convey, but because you were attentive last week when they told you all about that cool new Fortnite skin, even if you didn’t fully understand. They listen not because of the firmness in your voice, but because you are the one who went downstairs a month ago to help them find a toy, so they wouldn’t have to be in the scary basement alone. It is not your comments about the item’s high price that gets them to leave the store emptyhanded, but the fact that you changed the recipe of your signature dish because you learned that they don’t like paprika. It is because you are the one who showed them how to slice an apple, laughed with them about goofy inside jokes, and played Monopoly with them when their friend wouldn’t come over.

That is the secret to getting your kids to listen. They listen because you are a vital and benevolent figure in their lives. They listen to you because you are the kind of person they want to please. They listen because disappointing you would make them feel rueful. They listen to you because they feel loved by you, and because they love you back.

Of course, they won’t always listen. After all, they are human, not automatons. See my article on why I have to say the same thing one hundred times.

And just as certainly, they shouldn’t have to just listen to all of the time. We parents need to allow choices, encourage self-advocacy, and respect our child’s perspectives. Yet there are still times when we do need them to listen. And when there is a strong bond between you, they will be better listeners by an order of magnitude.

It almost doesn’t matter what message you are conveying. Kids aren’t responding simply to what you are saying; they are also responding to who you are. The full realization, if you haven’t come to it already, is that kids will listen to you for one simple reason: because they want to.

How to Cite this Article: Brian Vondruska, “The Secret to Getting Your Kids to Listen”, The Kind of Parent You Are, accessed [date],