The child does not listen to me. What to do?

“Put your shoes on, it’s time to go out”. You repeat it once, twice, three times but nothing … the child does not listen. If it happens too often, maybe it depends on what you say. Or since when you say it. Let’s see why children don’t listen and what you can do to make yourself heard.

Does the child not listen … or does he not hear?

First, make sure it’s not a hearing problem. Mild hearing loss is quite common in children under 5, especially in winter, due to phlegm effusions. Realizing this is not easy, because it is a problem that is often asymptomatic and does not cause pain. How to tell if the baby is feeling well? Try to stand behind the baby and call him softly to see if he hears you. If in doubt, ask your pediatrician.

Set a good example: listen to him

If you ask him to put on his hat ten times and he doesn’t, maybe there is a reason. Maybe he’s hot, or the hat makes him itchy or falls over his eyes. If you call him to finish the snack at all costs but he is full by now, he will turn a deaf ear. Sometimes, if the child does not listen, there is a valid reason, that he may not be able to explain to you or that he knows that you will not listen. Be the first to set a good example and listen to his reasons.

Speak at the right time

Talking to a child who is focused on playing or watching TV is pointless: he is completely immersed in his world, where an important battle between good and bad is going on or there is a bunny to treat. Don’t get angry, he doesn’t do it on purpose, it’s like he’s in a soundproof room, where your voice can’t reach. To get him to listen you must first get his attention, as we explain below. 

Sometimes, however, your voice comes, but he doesn’t really want to leave the game or the adventures of his favorite character halfway to go to the table. (After all, how would you take it if in the middle of your favorite series they forced you to turn off the TV?) Instead of demanding that it instantly stop what it is doing, try to schedule a softer interruption: “What a beautiful farm. you built. Soon it’s time to put on the pajamas. Put your animals to sleep too and I’ll come and call you in five minutes ”.

How to be heard: look him in the eye

Requests launched from afar have little chance of being heard. Instead of talking from another room, try to get his attention first: touch him on the arm, call him by name, look him in the eye. Speak only when you are sure he is listening to you.

Say it with a word

Some children find it difficult to memorize multiple instructions at the same time. Instead of “take off your shoes, wash your hands, tidy up your backpack”, try asking for one or two things at a time. Most importantly, try saying what you want to say with one word and looking him in the eye.

No to impossible requests

“Play but don’t get dirty”, “Stay where I can see you”, “Play but don’t sweat”. Impossible requests for a child because the sweat cannot be controlled, staying still for a long time is difficult if you are small, and understanding where mom or the babysitter can see you is not easy (better ask him to stay where he can see you). If you make impossible requests, the child will not listen to them.

Give a few instructions

Maybe the child does not listen to defend himself? “Take off your shoes, don’t jump on the sofa, don’t crumb, wash your hands, don’t run, don’t scream, go put on your pajamas, turn off the tablet”. When a child is overwhelmed by too many requests and prohibitions, he defends himself as best he can. And ignoring requests, simply stopping listening, can be a form of defense. Decide what the three or four things are most important and let the rest pass.

Does the child not listen? Give it time!

Each child has his own times, which must be respected. Sometimes it seems that the child is not listening but in reality he has been listening and is preparing to do what you have asked him to do, it just takes longer than you would like. Wait a bit before repeating the request and you will see that sometimes you don’t need to repeat it.

Let the children hear you: try to write

If talking doesn’t work, why not find other ways to communicate? Try writing, drawing or “talking with your hands”. With some children, visual communication works much better. For example, try talking with your hands: is it time to eat? Mime a fork sticking in spaghetti. The same for brushing your teeth, washing your hands …

When you notice that the child listens more, show that you appreciate him and give a positive reinforcement: “Bravo! you went to wash your hands as soon as I asked you ”. Sometimes, not listening can be a provocative behavior: see our advice on what to do when the child is having a tantrum.