My child doesn't listen to anything I say. Help.


Q: Dear Principal Lisa, The Nanny Queen,
“I am exhausted by telling my child to listen to me. He is 4 years old and he keeps running off or jumping on the sofa when I tell him not. I really try to be a calm parent, but after a day of him not listening sometimes I shout and get frustrated. I feel really bad after as he is a good kid really. He is really lively and he wants to climb on everything and not hold my hand my hand when we are in the mall. He just runs off and its hard with the baby. Please can you tell me how to get him to listen to me.”
Sarah Mum of 2 children, one aged 4 and one 6 months

I hear you! Excuse the pun Sarah.

Its not easy having two children under the age of 5. I understand. When you are 4 years old you have so much energy… you are all legs and limbs that want to move as fast you can. Sometimes taking a moment as parents to see things from a child’s perspective can be really helpful. Some situations are very tricky for young children and we need to assess our expectations. For example malls are busy and full of fascinating things for young children. However keeping them safe is our priority. It can be a good idea to plan the trip with your son and establish some boundaries before you go which keep him safe. If he then doesn’t follow them, then its best to go home as a natural consequence and explain that you will try again another day.

Listening: I have always found that a quieter voice, sometimes even whispering has had the biggest impact on whether children will listen. In fact the less you say the more they respond. When I am working with children under 5 I use three-five word simple sentences to make it clear and easy to understand an instruction. This has a greater impact.


For example: "Shoes on please."

"Red or yellow, you choose?"


Rather than " it’s time to go, I need you to put your shoes on now before we go as we can't be late. Which shoes would you like, no you can’t wear those ones, now hurry up please or we will be late etc"


Sometimes we need to be more about the action needed and less about the talk. Simple terms and then leading the toddler to where they need to go rather than just directing with our voice.


I think sometimes we are talking a bit too much as parents and educators, Maybe we could listen more? Maybe you could explore some of the tricky situations with your son and hear his thoughts.

We all know how it feels to be stressed as a parent and you find your own voice raising higher and higher. I have been there with my own children and large classes of children.


Sometimes children are more open to listening than others. A conversation to problem solve about behaviour is always best done when things are calm for both of you, otherwise the words and the teaching doesn't quite hit the mark.


Consistency is vital with children so make sure the rules are clear and you follow through calmly. Its when we feel our boundaries are not being listened to, that we often get angry as parents. So check your your rules and expectations and make sure you are communicating them simply and calmly.