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Getting Kids to Listen and Obey

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

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.

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.


About the author

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura Kuehn, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker specializing in children and families. CfP is the place she combines some of her very favorite things: writing, parenting and God's word. She loves encouraging parents to build their families upon Jesus, the one true Cornerstone. She is happily married to a wonderfully supportive husband and is the mother of two delightfully inspiring children.


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