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Getting Kids to Listen and Obey

Kids who listen and obey are like the holy grail of parenting. If your children are struggling in this area, try this one simple change to your parenting style that will help increase their compliance and obedience.

Anxiety workbook for kids

Do you get tired of the sound of your own voice? Do you feel like you repeat yourself over and over again? Do your children struggle to listen the first time? Ugh. I feel your pain. Sometimes there is a heart issue beneath this kind of disobedience.

But . . . sometimes we are to blame. Often because we fail to be direct.

Tell me if these sound familiar:

  • Why don’t you get your coat on.
  • We have to go.
  • You are going to miss the bus.
  • Your room is still not cleaned up.
  • Your alarm went off 15 minutes ago.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with these statements. But therein lies the problem – they are just statements. If we want our children to obey us, we need to stop making statements and start addressing them with clear commands and instructions.

For some of us, this may go against our grain – we are not comfortable telling people what to do. If you have a more mild personality, being very direct can feel harsh. So what can you do?

The first thing you need to do is to make eye contact. Fly-by parenting is the byproduct of our hurry-up society. We may shout instructions to no one in particular on our rush to the kitchen in the morning, only having to shout them over and over again because they never hit the intended mark. We can rectify this by simply making eye contact a priority. Slow down. Look your kids in the eyes. That way everyone knows what is expected of them. *

The next thing you can do is to turn those statements into commands. Here are some suggestions:                          



Why don’t you get your coat on.                           Please put the toys down and get your coat on now.
We have to go.   You need to be by the back door when the clock says 3:30.
You are going to miss the bus.Get your back pack and shoes on now, please.
Your room is still not cleaned up.Put your clothes in the hamper and your toys in the toy box please.
Your alarm went off 15 minutes ago.Good morning. Get out of bed and get dressed please.

Do you see the difference? Commands have more detail. Commands leave no room for interpretation. Commands place the responsibility of action solely in the lap of the child. If a command is not followed, there is a consequence. It takes a grey situation and makes it black and white.

If you are one of the lucky ones, you may have a child who willingly responds to the “statement” type of instructions. But if you have a child who struggles with power and control or who tends to become a little lawyer when faced with an ambiguity, commands will help you establish clear lines in the sand.

So . . . go try a command with your child now please.

(See how easy that was? 😉  )

*For a step-by-step explanation on how you can deliver your command most effectively, read Get Your Kids to Listen the First Time.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for treatment from a qualified mental health professional. Cornerstones for Parents is not liable for any advice, tips, techniques, and recommendations the reader chooses to implement.

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About Laura

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura is a licensed clinical social worker who offers individual therapy to women and moms in Connecticut. She is the author of More Than a Conqueror, A Christian Kid's Guide to Winning the War on Worry. Cornerstones for Parents is the place she combines some of the things she is most passionate about: God's word, parenting and mental health.


  • Any references you could direct me to, to help parenting/ and disciplining an 11 yr old with DMDD and two younger children ages 5 1/2 and 4 yr. old.

    • Hi Annmarie,

      Parenting a child with a mental illness is challenging – more so with two younger siblings. I assume that your child is receiving treatment and it may be helpful to have your younger children in therapy as well so they can process what it is like to live with a sibling with mental illness. It’s easy for the child with the struggles to dominate the family at time- having a safe place where they can explore their feelings about it would be helpful.

      This book might be helpful as far as parenting strategies are concerned. And this book may provide you with support if you are looking for faith-based resources. This website has a number of posts written by parents who are in the same situation as you, where they share their successes and struggles.

      I hope that helps. God bless you,

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