Do you ever find yourself asking your kids to do something and then yelling, nagging, threatening, lecturing,
or using repeated reminders or warnings because they didn’t comply? What you probably don’t know is
that when you use any of those tactics, you are actually training your kids to learn that they really don’t
have to do what you asked until you become upset, raise your voice, threaten, lecture, etc. So, if you are
stuck in the pattern of screaming, “How come every day I have to ask you three times to brush your teeth?
If you did it the first time, I wouldn’t be screaming at you right now!” the good news is that by implementing
a few new tips and strategies you will be able to get your child to listen the first time.
Tips to getting a child to listen:
1. Get the child’s attention – Go to your child, touch him lovingly. Get down to his level and
make eye contact. Wait to speak until your child acknowledges you, looks at you or turns toward
you. Then make the request. This creates connection and insures that your child heard you.
2. Use a calm tone – If our tone is not calm, it may be perceived as controlling, angry, or critical and
this can quickly ignite a power struggle or hurt feelings.
3. Keep it brief – Too many words dilute and confuse the message. “It is time to start your
homework” “You need to get dressed”. If it is a common request, use one word, for example,
“clothes” or “homework.” Signals like ringing a bell to come to dinner, turning lights on and off to
signal clean up time, or pointing to the clock at 4pm to send the message it is time to start
homework can be very effective.
4. Be Respectful -Talk to kids in a way they want to listen. No one wants to hear nagging, complaints
or criticism. Kids will tune out or become defensive. Children learn to treat others (and
themselves) the way they are treated so treating them respectfully is key.
5. Expect compliance – Have confidence your child will cooperate and imagine them doing what you
asked. After giving the direction, give your child space. Resist the urge to repeat, hover or correct.
Avoid bribes or threats.
6. If resistance occurs, empathize and use “ABCD Limit Setting Plan”
A – Acknowledge feelings -“I know you don’t want to get dressed, you really want to keep
B- Briefly state the limit –"But it is time to get dressed for school.”
C– Provide Choice – “Would you like to start now or in 3 minutes?"
D- Done – The request has been made. You are done requesting. Most of the time, children will
cooperate when you have executed effectively. However, if your child still does not cooperate,
What to do when your child still does not cooperate:
You must take action and you have many choices. Using the above scenario you can:
Decide to start helping the child get dressed
Simply head towards the car signaling you are planning to drive to school on time
Decide to let the child go to school half-dressed and face the consequences of his action.
All of these choices send the message “I love you too much to fight, nag, hassle, negotiate and
spend a lot of energy on this.” He may yell, whine or beg when you take action in any of the
above ways, your job is to stay calm and move things forward. Lots of deep breaths will be
Remember: “Nagging makes it our problem, silence makes it theirs.”