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How to Get Kids to Listen the First Time

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How To Get Kids to Listen the First Time

If there was one thing you could change about your days with your kids what would it be?? Would it be a cleaner house?  Do you want your kids to be friends with one another?  How to keep them from being picky eaters?  For me, recently my answer would have been to have my girls be obedient.  It was taking me five, six, or seven times of asking repeatedly to get my girls to listen and to respond or do what I had asked.  Most of the time I was asking because I wanted them to stop a negative behaviour not just because I wanted to actually say no.   So I finally figured out how to get your kids to listen the first time they are asked!!

To be truthful, I was starting to get tired of listening to my own voice

And saying NO all the time!!  Stop spitting!!  Stop throwing toys!!  Stop pulling your sister’s hair!!  Stop licking your sister!!  No, don’t lick the table either!!  I wish I was joking but these are actual things I have said to my girls. And sometimes I have to laugh because I never thought I would say the things that I have had to say.  But to be honest,  I was starting to feel discouraged.  I kept questioning myself on how I had spent eight years in post secondary to have a constant fight with my girls for their lack of talent in the listening department. Didn’t I go to school to be more successful in helping teach and rear children?!  Where was I failing?  Where was I going wrong? Why wouldn’t they listen to me?! I kept questioning myself over and over because I just couldn’t figure out the why.  Have you ever felt this way as a mom??


Being a mom is hard work.   I am going to venture and say it is even harder than being a teacher or working with children in the community.  The reason why is because we are so emotionally invested in our children.  We are with them all the time and so we see the not so best of them and they also see the not so best of us.  I also think the complete lack of sleep for years and years may play a slight part in why parenting is so hard but that my friends is a post for another day.

That Was It?!

However, I finally came to an aha! moment around getting my girls to listen when my bosom buddy was over visiting for the morning.  Babykins had recently discovered the joys of spitting and had been doing it for days on end.  I had tried everything to get her to stop.  You can imagine my horror when babykins decides to show off her new talent to bosom buddy.  Spit.  A puddle of saliva fell to the floor.  Babykins looked up and grinned.  “Stop spitting!!” I said with a sigh.  And again.  Spit. This time with a big raspberry sound and another puddle fell to the floor along with the saliva droplets that landed not so nicely all over everyone in close proximity.  Bosom Buddy looked over at babykins, “look, smile instead.  You have such a pretty smile.”  And shockingly, she stopped.

I was impressed on the one hand and a little annoyed on the other for how simple that was.  That was all it took to get her to stop spitting?!  Tell her to smile instead?!  And then I felt kind of silly because I already knew the answer.  When children are showing less than desirable traits we don’t tell them to merely stop we tell them what to do instead.  “Stop running” becomes “walking feet”  “Stop Yelling” changes to “inside or quiet voices” “stop biting” is replaced with “mouths are for giving kisses” and “don’t fight over that toy” becomes “let’s take turns instead!!  You have it for two minutes and then you can have it for two minutes!!”  It all comes back to the modelling behaviour thing.  We need to show and tell children how to behave so that they can practice it enough times that they will be intrinsically motivated to do it on their own.

Catch them being good!!

But wait, I really don’t think that’s all it takes is to continually tell them over and over again how to act.  I think with that then comes the trick of catching your child in the act of being good.  When your little has made a good choice and shown behaviour where they have done something on their own praise them for it!!  I have seen such a change in my girls as I catch them throughout the day doing things that show just how kind their hearts truly are for one another.  I love telling my girls that I am proud of them for not pitching a fight when I say no to something they can’t do, or when they decide to give their sister that toy they were playing with because she wanted it more.  I love it because I love seeing the smiles that come when they realize how much worth they have from choosing to be like Jesus and follow His ways.

Just Wait Ten Years

Now, I know there is a huge debate around over praising your child and I have thought a lot about this and here is my response.  When I was in university one of my professors said to our class.  If you don’t like the advice on how to raise a child, just wait ten years and the style will change.  And she went on to explain that when she first started teaching,  all the big gurus on children were promoting time outs and how time outs were so good for a child, and why they should be used.  Only to fast forward ten years to hear the same argument but going the opposite way how times outs were bad and should not be used; and really to avoid them at all costs.  So I say do what works for your kid.  Every child and parenting relationship is different and you have to do what works best for the good of all involved.  And needless to say, when I tried to parent with the in style right now I came out with girls who were acting like entitled spoiled ungrateful munchkins who expected the world to cater to them.  It was a scary place to be in as a mother realizing that you had helped shape your child to act that way.  So I am happy to announce that a swift kick in the pants for me and my parenting style has led to little girls who are happier, kinder, and quicker to obey and listen.  Or if you want to know the reason from a professional guru, you can read what they say about positive reinforcement!!

Just Tell Your Kid What to Do!!

So another tool to add into that parenting toolbox for getting them to listen the first time they are asked is by telling them the behaviour that you expect.  Instead of telling them to stop doing a certain behaviour tell them what is expected instead.  And then when they are making a good choice tell your little how proud you are of them and praise the positive qualities and attributes they display.  I truly promise that even the toughest kid can have a softened heart when you find them making good choices and they in turn will be eager to please you because they feel good inside for doing so!!

Because oh puh-lease!!  You’ve got this momma!!


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