How To Get Kids To Listen The First Time by Dr. Paul Jenkins

POSTED BY on February 28, 2020

Original Article for Uplift Families by Dr. Paul Jenkins

Why should your kids listen to you? Think about this question from the kid’s perspective. It could be a game changer. Answer that question in a way that makes sense to them. Different kids have different answers, depending on their stage of moral development. For this article, we are going to focus on the kids who are more self-centered, at a lower stage of moral development. They are not really thinking about what’s the right thing to do, they are thinking of what they can get away with and what will get them clobbered if they do it.

We need to understand where our kids are at so we can get on their level. I also mean this literally. When you tower over a child, they aren’t as likely to listen. Get on their level, crouch down if it is a toddler you are talking to. Use clear language that makes sense to them based on their development. Get rid of the need for them to listen to you, shift the responsibility from your shoulders over to theirs. Now it becomes more important for them to listen and there are ways you can do this effectively as a parent. The most effective way is to have consequences.

Most parents have trained their children not to listen to them because they don’t have the child’s attention and they aren’t on their level. They do nothing when the child does not respond except maybe repeat what they said. Then they go up a few decibels the third time they speak to the child and it escalates from there until mom or dad is yelling and spouting steam, and then the child says, “OK, time to act now, mom is ready to blow her top.” Why are they listening now? There are consequences attached to what you are saying. Don’t wait until the sixth or seventh time to attach a consequence. Do it up front. Train them to listen the first time by following through with the consequence. And, do it again, and again, and again.

The consequence is not a threat. You deliver the instruction to the child on their level, with a few clear words, a calm voice, calm face and body. Then the child does the task and you reward them profusely with lots of praise and loves, or they choose not to do what you asked and you administer the consequence with a calm face, calm body, and calm voice. Buddy, because you didn’t get your shoes on, I will carry you to the car. Don’t argue, pick him up and take him to the car. Because you didn’t take out the garbage, there will be no electronics tonight. You get the idea. Follow through quickly and with no drama.

We can get our kids to listen the first time by turning our words from garbage into gold. As your child matures, you can begin to have conversations and communication with them. You can reason with them and a child at this level wants something in return, you can make a deal with them and they will follow through. At the third, more mature level, the child does what should be done because it is the right thing to do, most times without even being asked. This is where we want our kids to get to, but when they are at the beginning of their moral development, and this may be a 2-year old or a 15-year old, the only way for them to listen is to deliver a consequence.


About Paul Jenkins Ph.D.

Dr._Paul_Jenkins_Photo.jpgDr. Paul is an author, speaker, personal coach and positivity expert with 20+ years of experience as a Professional Psychologist. His book Pathological Positivity and its pocket-sized companion, Portable Positivity, illuminate powerful principles, that when applied can make an immediate difference in your life.

Dr. Paul's channel, Live On Purpose TV is available on YouTube and has a parenting playlist with a wide variety of subjects to help parents create positivity in their parenting. You can contact Dr. Paul at




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