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Why won't these kids listen? Top tips to help get their attention.

Leanne Page | Nov 9, 2023

Why won’t these kids listen?!


When you say something, your kids seems to have heard it, but yet nothing happens. They don’t follow the instructions you just gave. They don’t respond. It’s SO frustrating! 


Traditional parenting involves a knee jerk reaction to lay on the consequences or punishments in these situations. “If you don’t listen to me, you’re going to lose….”


This week I challenge you to try something a little different. Instead of waiting til AFTER something does or doesn’t happen, take your parenting action first. Let’s try doing something BEFORE to help your kids to actually listen, follow direcitons, or follow through. 


Any time you are giving your child an instruction or asking them to do something, what is happening right before that moment? What is your child doing? What are they thinking about? 


Chances are, you are interrupting something they choose to do with their time. That choice could include daydreaming or thinking about something that interests them. What you are interrupting to say- not usually something that interests them. How do we interrupt them in a way that doesn’t escalate to a power struggle but effectively gets their attention? 


Get their attention first before giving an instruction. 


What have you tried when it comes to getting their attention first? Do you normally call their name and get a less than enthusiastic “hmmm?” in response? Do you normally just tell them what needs to happen and the sound of your voice is the interruption?


What if you tried to be more intentional in getting their attention BEFORE giving an instruction?


Here are a few ideas:

Physical movement. Moving their bodies can wake them up to see that hey- there is a mom right here talking to them. And it just so happens to be their mom. And she’s talking to them. Directly. Who knew?


Physical movement can be FUN! It doesn’t need to look or sound like a drill sergeant demanding jumping jacks before you give an instruction like it’s time to put on your shoes.


Try having them copy your moves. Make silly poses and say “do this”. 


Ask them to strike a pose. You can even take their picture if that’s something that is fun for them. We want to make it fun and reinforcing since we are interrupting their daydreaming.


Dance! Turn on some music and do some dance moves! Ask your kids to join you.


Be a statue. Say it to them: “Be a statue” and encourage them to make silly statue poses and freeze. While they’re frozen, give that instruction. 


Tone of voice. Do you think your child just drowns out or ignores your voice? Maybe they are so used to hearing your voice that it kinda blends into the background for them. So change it!


Try using a silly voice like a cartoon character, going super low, or a super high pitched voice. 


Sing your instructions. Use a familiar tune or make up your own. The difference- from normal speaking voice to singing- will hopefully be a cue for your child to pay attention to you. Something is different, I should look and listen. 


Clapping patterns. Teachers have used this in schools for decades. Clap a pattern and teach your child to clap a response. You could also use snapping, stomping, or any other means of making a pattern with noise to get their attention before giving an instruction.


Ask your kids. If they are in school (even preschool), their teachers are likely using some tools to help get the entire class’s attention before giving instructions. My own kids say they like the call & response of “1, 2, 3, eyes on me--- 1, 2, eyes on you”. Why do they like it? It’s familiar. Why do I like it? I get to borrow a little of the teacher’s instructional control and hard work simply by using the same phrasing. (When my husband started using this phrase while coaching kindergarten girls’ soccer it was a game changer for him to get the tiny athletes to pay attention during practice!)


This week, try something new. Try getting your child’s attention before you start asking them to do something. Even before you just try to talk them about their day. They are busy in that moment, even if you can’t see that they are thinking about something they like.


What are you willing to try to get your child’s attention in a fun way this week? Physical movement, changing you voice, clapping patterns, or asking your kids for ideas? 




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