Does it feel like you’re talking to a brick wall when trying to get your little one to put on their shoes or get ready for bed—asking over and over and over again until you completely lose it? It’s a common parenting frustration, especially if you’re dealing with an extra-sassy kid with a “my way or the highway” attitude (::raises hand::). Arguing with these mini versions of ourselves is not how we want to spend the precious little time we have together at the end of a busy day.

The good news is that you aren’t doomed to escalate every single request to explosion levels before your child will cooperate. Parenting expert Dr. Chelsey Hauge-Zavaleta shared three reasons why this behavior happens and what you can do to cut it off before you lose your mind.


♬ original sound – Dr. Chelsey Hauge-Zavaleta

Reasons why your kids aren’t listening to you:

  1. You give the direction too many times. You tell them at least two dozen times to put their shoes on when heading out the door, before ultimately resorting to screaming at them and forcing the shoes on their feet.
    Why this doesn’t work: Your child has learned that they can just ignore your request because you will inevitably say it again.
    What to do instead: You are only going to give the direction once and then you’ll move into support mode by helping them gather what they need to get the task done.
  2. You are giving directions from all the way across the house. 
    Why this doesn’t work: You are not the most important thing in your child’s world at that moment.
    What to do instead: “When you are giving a kid a direction you need to be within arm’s distance,” explains Dr. Hague-Zavaleta. “To listen, they need you to be salient.”
  3. You are using too many words. This can be anything from not breaking a transition down into small chunks to providing unclear instructions.
    Why this doesn’t work: It can look like rationalizing or negotiating with them, which puts you in a position of “asking for” instead of “requiring” the behavior.
    What to do instead: Give the direction one single time. If you need to give the direction again, you are moving into support mode.

An important thing to remember is that you’ll want to keep words like “no,” “not,” “don’t,” and “stop” out of the directions you’re giving. You want them to do something, after all, and pointing out their bad behavior won’t get them to do it any faster. Most of all, praise good behavior, as we all respond better when cheered for.

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