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How Can I Make Her Listen?

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Make Your Child Listen

"My 3  year-old daughter will not listen to me. She won’t even respond  to a simple request like "would you like orange or apple juice?" It’s  so annoying. I have to repeat myself and stop what I am doing and  go right over to her and stand in front of her. Sometimes I even  grab her face to make sure she is looking at me as I speak. If  she is like this at three what will sixteen look like?"

Purposefulness of the Behaviour
I sense that your daughter enjoys the extra attention she receives from you through your constant reminding and repeating. She likes that you are "staying busy" with her over the "listening issue".

It also appears the situation may be moving into a bit of a power struggle as you go from being a bit annoyed to actually feeling angered by her silence. This power struggle is seen in your going to her and taking her by the face to make her listen.

Eliminating Payoff
We don’t want children to learn that "the squeaky wheel gets the grease" lest they also learn to be squeaky! In other words, don’t give any attention to the misbehaviour. If you do you’ll be training your child to misbehave in order to get your time and attention.

We want the exact opposite of this. We want to stay engaged and give our attention when children are acting in ways that we’d like to see more.

How do you eliminate payoff? First, stop repeating your requests. It is the child’s job to listen and they will if they know there is no additional time and attention forthcoming. And remember that "no" is also a decision. If they don’t answer you can assume they don’t want anything you are offering.

Here’s how this might play out:

Mom: Would you like apple juice or orange juice?

Daughter: (no response)

Mom: Would you like to pick your drink or should I?

Daughter: (no response)

Mom: I see you’d like me to pick (serves the daughter whatever juice she picks)

Daughter: YUCK! I didn’t want orange juice, I wanted apple juice.

Mom: Sorry you don’t like my decision. You can decide for yourself next time.

Daughter: NO, NO, NO. I want to pick.

Mom: I am glad you want to pick for yourself, but the time for choosing has come and gone. You can decide for yourself next time.

Daughter: (sobs)

Mom: I see you’re disappointed, but I know you can handle it. Let’s see if we can find something fun to do together shall we?

Be Both Firm and Friendly
Listen to yourself when you are making requests of your child and notice your words, tone, and body language. Are you being friendly when you are following through with firmness? If you are having trouble with this type technique it may be that your child perceives your requests as being dominating and controlling. Keep it firm and friendly.

About Alyson

Alyson has been blogging parenting advice for over 15 years. She has been a panelist at BlogWest, Blissdom, #140NYC and more. Her content appears on sites across Canada and the US, but you can read all her own blog posts right here.

More about Alyson

2 Responses to “How Can I Make Her Listen?”

  1. Tara

    Hi Alyson, my 3yr old refuses to listen when she’s asked to do something – anything! Now the problem is at Montessori where she consistently bugs other kids while they are doing writing exercises. She won’t listen to the teachers when told to stop. They’ve put her on timeouts , but its not working and have asked us to “have a chat with her” about it! Why won’t she listen?
    PS.I’ve read “Wrecked” and actually keep it in my purse with me all the time. SO good!

  2. Mira



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