How To Get Your Kids To Listen Without Yelling

For the past year and a half, we’ve been taking my 5 year old to different specialists trying to figure out how to deal with his sinus issues. Apparently he takes after me with eustachian tube issues, which causes fluid to build up in his ears.

When that happens he feels like he’s underwater and can have a hard time hearing people speak from far away. He’s a boy and he’s also only 5. So it’s hard to discern when he isn’t following directions because he can’t hear me or if he’s choosing not to.

Yesterday, I took him to the ENT because I thought maybe he couldn’t hear me again. BUT, that little stinker passed the hearing test with flying colors. The doctor said his ears looked better than they did the last time we were there a few months ago. The audiologist commented that it must be selective hearing and that she couldn’t help me with that. She said if she could figure out how to she would be a millionaire.

I walked away from the appointment feeling a little embarrassed. Especially when I had just finished having a conversation with the nurse practitioner about how I have a parenting blog. But I swallowed my pride and took it as an opportunity to step back and think about how to handle the fact that my children don’t listen to me.

I’ve actually been pretty frustrated recently with both of my kids, because when I ask them to do something they whine, complain, ask “WHY“?, and try to negotiate with me about what they should do instead. My mom even offered to give them $20 to use at their school’s upcoming holiday shop if they can go a week without arguing or trying to negotiate with me.

Getting Your Kids To Listen Using Positive Reinforcement

Behavior chart that helps with getting your kids to listen using positive reinforcement


It’s important to help your child see that you get them and that you aren’t totaling ignoring how they feel. Life is hard and if we teach our kids to learn how to express their feelings when they are young, we’ll help set them up for success later in life. It’s been my experience that if you ignore the fact that a 5 year old isn’t listening to you because they’re more interested in what they’re doing, it will only make things worse. He’ll just feel frustrated and will likely do one of two things:

1). He’ll stuff his feelings and end up resenting you.

2). He will have a meltdown trying to test if you’ll give in and let him do what he wants.

Instead, you can recognize the feeling and try to help your child deal with it. My 7 year old was getting really discouraged about having to restart the 7 day clock to earn the $20 my mom promised. He said that if he had to keep starting over, he’d rather just give up. So I reminded him that it’s hard to change a habit and that we could figure out a way for him to do it.

I saw that he was holding his breath and trying really hard not to argue with me when I reminded him about the deal. So I said, “That’s it! Do that, when you’re frustrated. You can put it in a bubble or hold it in your mouth instead of saying what you want to say out loud.” I also told him that he could count to 5 or count to 10 if he needed to.

When getting your kids to listen you should recognize which of these feelings they have


We also decided that I would give him a cue if I thought he might try to argue with me about something, but that I would only do this once a day. If I had to remind him more than once then he would have to start over.

So we decided that I would say, “poop” because….well he’s a boy and that’s what he wanted the cue to be. I had to bite my tongue and not interject that I thought that was the worst idea, because I knew it would also kind of make him laugh if he heard me say poop.

Getting your kids to listen makes moms feel happy


This morning when I was helping my 5 year old get dressed, I tried this strategy. I got a good night’s sleep last night so I think I was being a little more patient than normal. Plus, we weren’t in a huge rush to get out the door like we are on school mornings so that probably helped a bit.

When my son turned off his iPad when I asked without complaining I said, “I like the way you did that without complaining!” The more times I can catch him doing what I want and point it out to him, the more likely he is to continue doing it.

Using positive reinforcement, like praise can help you increase the behavior that you want (in this case listening to you). Your child’s brain will start to connect the action with the reward. Then they will hopefully start to do it more often on their own.

I hope this helps you get your kids to listen to you. If not then hopefully at least you can appreciate my parenting struggles and maybe get a laugh at my expense!

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23 thoughts on “How To Get Your Kids To Listen Without Yelling

  1. Why? Why? Why? Oh. That word used to drive me nuts! (And honestly still does at times). But, after MUCH training, we finally got our son to implement this simple concept…when he’s asked to do something by us, he does it immediately and THEN can ask why. If he does that, we will take the the time to explain why (if he didn’t figure it out on his own).

  2. The struggle is real! Mine are too little to reason with at this point, but I love the idea of giving a cue, especially a funny one. Filing these tips away for when they’re ready!

  3. Positive reinforcement works so much better in the long run than negative. Stay consistent and your kids will grow up and you will move on to the next stage of parenting. 🙂

    • Haha. My son did actually have fluid in his ears at one point so now I’m always second guessing and wondering if it’s just him not listening or hearing issues. Kids can be so hard to read!

  4. Noticing the good is definitely something that I have been trying to do a lot more of. So many of the things my three kids do ARE good! I think we often tend to focus too much on the negative when we are tired, frustrated, and have had a long day. I like your points on recognizing their feelings. My husband and I often joke that our 10 year old son will make a great lawyer someday. He is always negotiating something with us! We are trying to teach him how to do that respectfully without whining or getting upset. It is a work in progress, but we are seeing results! 😉

    • It’s so easy to get caught up in what our kids are doing wrong and focus on what we want them to do better! You’re right, it happens more often when I’m tired and stressed, which is unfortunately pretty often for moms!

  5. I know what you mean about the frustration. My kids are a little younger, 5 and 3, but I have to remember positive reinforcement is great for them too.

  6. A lot of selective hearing goes on with children. I have one and she’s 11 now. Dreading those teenage years that are coming up. She’s already in the mindset of that age and pushing the buttons. Good luck!

  7. I think most kids have selective hearing. I have one kid who did end up needing tubes in his ears because of the chronic fluid, and then the others well they just choose not to hear me. It’s very frustrating, but I guess very common. I clicked on this post because I struggle to communicate with my kids because I HATE being ignored and as I said before they choose to not hear me. These were very helpful tips and I appreciate that I am not alone in needing to know how to relte with my kids to speak with them and not yell at them!

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