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Do you feel like your kids are not listening?  Are your kids zoning out when you talk?

When they just don’t listen or they start to ignore you, try these tips.  They will help to get past that problem.

kids zoning out when you talk and not listening? try this
What do you do when you feel like your kids are not listening to you.  Are they acting spoiled?    Today’s tips are ones that we have tried and have had success within our own family.  As a mom of four, a teacher and a therapist, I have had the opportunity to work with many children and learn what works and what does not work.  Today, I’m sharing that advice with you.

1. State only what needs to be done & do it in a positive tone.
Your words become their inner voice.  Instead of: “You are being so messy!  Your shoes are all over the floor! Who do you think is going to come over and clean them up?”
Try:  “Shoes belong in the basket.  Put them away, please.”

2.  Let the lesson do the talking.
Instead of several reminders: “Don’t forget your homework.  Did you put it into your bag?  I think you should do it now or you might forget.”
Try One reminder.  Then let the rest takes its course… Letting them forget their homework.  Don’t take it into them at school.  Don’t save the day.  It will be hard, but let this be a lesson for them. ♥

A group of boys sitting together.

3. Start with “if-then”
Try: “If you clean up your room, then we will bake cookies.”
This lets your child know that you are expecting him/her to clean up their room and they are going to rise to meet that expectation.

If they never clean up their room, you never bake cookies.  Don’t remind them on the spot, but when they ask an hour later why you didn’t bake them, you can remind them of their choice earlier to not clean their room.

Next time… I bet they will clean their room! 

A women sitting at a table with a cup of coffee helping a little girl make cookies.

4. Try YES in place of NO without changing your rules.
Instead of:  “No!  You can’t go to his house to play.  You only did one question from your homework, even after I told you to do the whole page.”
Try:  “Yes!  Just show me your whole page of homework so I can check it before you go.”  (Even if you know that he only did one page… this is showing your child that you trust them, but they just need to show you.  By believing in them, they begin to believe in themselves and they will want to PROVE YOU RIGHT by having the work done.)

5. Compliment them.
When they listen to you, give a simple compliment.   Yesterday I told all four of the kids to go upstairs to get showered & ready for bed, and only one of our kids went upstairs & got a shower the first time that I asked.    When he came out of the shower, he found a deck of cards on his bed, with a note that said “Play a game of solitaire! You get 15 extra minutes to stay up for listening.”

His brothers heard him say “AWESOME!” and came to see the reason.  When they saw, they said “Oh man!  We should have come up faster.  Next time I am going to do it.” (& on & on)

A little girl sitting at a table playing Candyland.
Ps- I would happily give out 15 minutes of extra bedtime for good behavior during bath/bedtime because that is certainly our most hectic time of the day.   Plus, having each of them in their own beds playing a card game, or reading a book for a few minutes allows me to put the other kids to bed quietly, knowing that the children reading/playing cards are safe & quiet, while they are waiting for me.

A boy lying in bed reading a book.

6- Change their behavior without yelling.
Yelling is not the answer.  You can change their behavior through so many other avenues of parenting.   Maybe a tight hug from behind will be enough of a distraction and provide enough sensory stimulation to have them change their attitude.

Maybe a quick walk outside with the kids is all that they need to stop the negative behavior.

Try sitting down with them to read a book, when you feel so angry that you want to yell.   Oftentimes, their negative behavior comes from lack of time with you, so try to do something (other than yelling) to combat that.

becky jack & beau

7- Give consequences that happen now.
Think about a dog for a minute- when they have an accident in the house, we don’t clean it up and then an hour later tell them “No peeing in the house!”   We do it then & there.    A child (people, in general) are really not much different in that aspect.

If they are misbehaving, a consequence of “tomorrow you will not go to your friend’s house” will not be understood as much as you saying “Give me that toy, right now.  You have lost it because you were talking mean.  I’m sad that you decided to do talk that way and lose your turn with the toy.”  (note: now you are telling them that THEY picked to lose the toy with their actions).


8- When you give a consequence, make it fit the crime.
We tell our kids things for a reason “Don’t play with the Christmas tree or you could break the ornaments.”   So then if they play with the tree and an ornament falls off and breaks, we saw it coming.

Instead of yelling, like you may want to do, you could tend to the mess (with the child’s help) and then talk to the older child:  “Do you remember when I told you not to play with the tree?  Why would I tell you that?   So then you can see how you broke something by not listening?    Now I am going to need you to do more chores, to earn $5 to pay me back for the ornament.”    Explaining things to your child will go a long way, too.


Child doing chores with dad  standing in a kitchen

9.  Read between the lines.
When our kids misbehave, it usually boils down to one of three reasons:
1. Screentime is a big culprit of misbehavior (too much screen time usually causes misbehavior.

We have one of our “No technology weeks” (sometimes two weeks in a row… like right now in our house) and it changes their attitudes.  I love it!  By day three, they have stopped asking if they can play on their iPods or watch their favorite YouTube shows (which is normally one about Minecraft).

2. Not keeping busy or helping out.   Kids need some responsibilities to feel like they have contributed to the family. Try out our swap chores for screentime cards.  It’s the best thing we’ve done!

chores for screentime cards
3- Not enough one on one time.  When one of our kids needs attention, they show us in many ways.   Acting up is just one of them.   A 20-minute game of catch outside (or coloring together inside) is usually the perfect solution.

→ You can download & print this for free:
A close up 30-day printable calendar to spend one on one time with child10. Talk about it… again.
When we tuck our kids in at night, we always go over what we did during the day, and sometimes that is the negative things, too.  “Today, you said “No” when I told you to pick up your toys.  I know that you did it when I asked a second time, but I don’t want to have to do that again.  I don’t appreciate it when you say No to me.  It makes me upset and it is disrespectful.  Do you understand?”  etc…

Sometimes, kids just need us to LISTEN to them and get down to their level.  We are their parents, their first teachers, their first friends, their best examples.

We need to teach them how to behave so they can go out & make their mark on the world.♥ ♥ ♥


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Hi there!

I’m Becky, a former elementary school teacher turned certified child development therapist and blogger. I work at home with my husband and together we are raising (and partially homeschooling) our four children in the Carolinas. I love diet coke, ice cream, and spending time with my family.

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  1. Great advice, I also always make sure I maintain eye contact with them when asking them to do something. If they are looking away, they’ve zoned out!

  2. I couldn’t agree more Becky! I especially agree with following through with logical consequences. And yes, don’t talk so much—aim for brevity and making your point. I also love the idea of saying yes instead of no and phrasing what needs to be done in a positive way.

    1. Thanks, Nina!! Yes- making your point & not arguing back is so important.

  3. I am so glad to see the screen time point. I often try to point this out to parents (I am a teacher), but bottom line is it is easier to let them than it is to take it away, but it really does have such a bid impact. My son transformed when we realized the problem.

  4. Great tips and strategies! In particular the keeping instructions simple. It’s so easy to think out loud lol. I do love each point, though I’d probably want to revise the last one, I don’t want to communicate the message that when they say no it is disrespectful (for safety and boundary setting reasons). I’d like to say something like: “When I asked you to pick up the toy, I felt frustrated and disrespected that I needed to ask you a second time. Please listen to me the first time, that way we will have more time for fun because I’m not repeating myself to get our chores done”. I have found my daughter responds well to this, and lately it has only taken one request for things to happen! Oh happy days 😀
    Thanks for sharing your insights!

  5. I needed this post today! I do a lot of these with my girls already but there were a few that I will try in the future. Parenting is hard and my two girls are not the best listeners. While it has always been a challenge with us at home I am not hyper-aware of the problem because they are in PreK and dance classes which require GOOD LISTENING. I figure the better they do at home the more it will translate outside the home right?!? I can only hope!

  6. Thank you so much for this well written article. Excited to implement these tips.