The Science on Why Kids Don’t Listen, and What to Do

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We all know sometimes kids don’t seem to listen, but they aren’t usually going out of their way to make you crazy. Research shows that kids may be hardwired to resist.

It’s due to “counterwill,” says Dr. Deborah Macnamara, an instinct that causes children to “resist, counter, and oppose” whenever they feel “controlled or coerced.” It’s more for people kids aren’t attached to, but sometimes kids’ desire to do what they want is stronger than attachment to parents. Developmentally, that strength of will is important because it helps kids form their own opinions and identities. So how do you get your kids to cooperate without squashing their emerging sense of self?

First, remind yourself that what your kids are doing is normal, and not to take it personally.

Next, make sure your kids actually hear you. Dr. Erica Reischer suggests making eye contact and positive physical connection, like a pat on the back, while telling them what you need them to do.

If you’re sure they’ve heard you and they still don’t do it, explain to them why you need them to follow through. For further refusals, she recommends letting natural consequences take their course, such as getting wet feet from wearing flip-flops instead of rain boots.

If natural consequences are too dangerous, Reischer says to give kids fair warning about whatever consequences you’ll impose if they don’t listen, and stick to them. It’s essential to follow through to show your kids you mean what you say.

What do you think of these ideas to get kids to listen? Tell us in the comments below.