Why Won’t My Child Listen?


Michelle, a reader from Florida, writes, mornings are always difficult at my house. I have two kids, ages 18 months and five years old. My five-year-old has difficulty listening when I tell him it’s time to get ready to go. I tell him to put on his shoes and coat, and ten minutes later, he is still playing. He has made no effort to get ready to go. I don’t like to yell at him or punish him, but what can I do so he will listen to me?


You are not alone; thank you for a question about something that every parent and caregiver struggles with—not listening.
My child won’t listen to me is something I often hear from parents of children of all ages. Here is what is interesting about that statement. Your child doesn’t have a listening problem.
Let me explain: my grandkids listen to me when I say, “who wants to go do some crafts with grandma?” That always results in a chorus of, “I do, Ido, and then a stampede downstairs to see who can get to the craft room first.
However, when I tell them it is time to start cleaning up the craft room and get ready to go home, they suddenly have all kinds of creative ways to convince grandma they need to continue crafting.

Here’s the thing, our kids don’t have a listening problem. It’s difficult to stop doing something they enjoy and do something that isn’t as fun. Think about it; parents often ask their kids to stop doing something they are having fun with and ask them to do something they don’t want to do. “It’s time to leave the park,” “put on your shoes and coat,” “put away your toys,” “get your pj’s on,” etc.
When we say, “my child won’t listen to me,” what we are really saying is that my child won’t do what I ask because I am asking them to stop doing something they enjoy and do something they don’t want to do.
How do we increase “listening,” aka cooperation? A child’s ability to listen and cooperate with what we ask them to do directly results from how much connection capital we’ve deposited in their emotional bank. At that moment, they are more likely to do what we ask if they feel connected to us – seen, accepted, and valued.
How do we make connection deposits in their emotional bank:
  • Say I love you frequently.
  • AVA acknowledges, validates, and accepts all feelings.
  • “Connection Time” see my blog on connection time at drjoanette.com.
  • Share a story of a favorite memory about your child.
  • Eat dinner together and connect with stories about the day.
Connect the Neurons:
Neurons that wire together fire together. Let your connection with your kids wire their listening neurons to fire when you ask them to do something.