One of the most common concerns I hear from parents is this: “My kids don’t listen to me!”

Generally, what this means is that you ask your kids to do something and they don’t do it. Maybe you ask them several times. Perhaps you ask them several times with an increasing sense of urgency until you are finally screaming. Today, we are going to break down what it really means to “listen” and a two-step strategy to move forward.

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One of the most common things that I hear from parents is that their kids don't listen to them. Generally. What this means is you ask your kids to do something and they don't do it. Maybe you ask them several times to do something. Maybe you ask them several times with an increasing sense of urgency until you're finally screaming. And at that point, tbhey seem to hear you. They seem to listen. Today we're going to talk about how to get your kids to listen. But before we can do that, we're going to break down what it really means to listen. I know, I know it seems it's like this should be such a simple thing for kids,

But it's not. And then I'll give you some strategies to move forward. Hi, this is Denaye. I'm the Founder of Simple Families. Simple Families is an online community for parents who are seeking a simpler more intentional life. In this show, we focus on minimalism with kids, positive parenting, family wellness, and decreasing the mental load. My perspectives are based in my firsthand experience, raising kids, but also rooted in my PhD in child development. So you're going to hear conversations that are based in research, but more importantly, real life. Thanks for joining us today. We're talking all about getting our kids to listen, which can feel like a huge hurdle for many of us. I know it feels like this for me often, sometimes even the simplest things

Like brushing your teeth, feel impossible, before we get into today's episode. I wanted to tell you that we are opening up a brand new round of the Mental Unload enrollment is open now, and we get started on July 15th. The mental unload is my signature course that focuses on mental clutter. If you're looking to improve your individual wellbeing, along with your partnership, I'd love to have you. I only run this program three times a year. If you want to learn more, go to and again, we get started on July 15th. Enrollment is open. So grab your spot now, All right, getting our kids to listen. I hear this all the time. My kids don't listen to me. I want to break this down so we can better understand what it really means when we're asking our kids to listen.

And then after that, I'm going to give you some strategies to make things run a little bit smoother in your house. I want to start off with an adult example because I think sometimes it's easier for us as adults to understand speaking to other adults. So my husband doesn't always listen to me now. I do talk a lot. There are a lot of words coming out of my mouth on any given day. So it's not too surprising that he doesn't always listen to everything that I say last night. For example, we are standing by side in the kitchen and I said, Hey, I need you to take the kids to camp tomorrow. And he responded with nothing, no response at all. So I touched him on the shoulder and I said again, Hey, I need you to take the kids to camp tomorrow. And at that point he said, okay, well I need to check my schedule since it was pretty short notice.

So he got out his phone and checked his work schedule for the morning and said, I can take the kid that needs dropped off at eight, but I have a meeting at nine. So I'm not going to be able to drop the other one off at nine 30. And I said, okay, that works. You can drop him off at eight and I'll take her with me to the office for an hour and then I'll drop her off. So you'll see in that example that this is actually a two-step process. Step one, get the person to listen. Step two, get the person to cooperate and work with you on what needs to be done. Let's break down that exchange. So at first he wasn't listening to me. And when I say he wasn't listening, he wasn't hearing me. He wasn't attending to the words coming out of my mouth. He wasn't tuning in to what I was saying. As a result, he was unable to respond because the words that came out of my mouth didn't even enter his brain. They entered his ears, but they didn't enter his brain.

That's an important distinction to make, just because words enter the ears doesn't mean they enter the brain just because a child or an adult is standing right in front of you doesn't mean that they're listening or attending or tuning into what you're saying. And that's the first step to make sure that you have their attention, that you have them tuned in when you're talking and remind yourself, just because the words are entering their ears, doesn't mean that the words are entering their brain. I have found that different people tune in easier than others. I'm the kind of person that's always tuned in. I'm walking around my house and when my kids speak, I hear them, my ears and my brain are always turned on, which may sound like an advantage, but it actually can be pretty exhausting and I can get overwhelmed really easily. As a result, my partner is the kind of person that's in his head, sometimes thinking about other things.

So if I, or one of the kids just start spontaneously speaking, sometimes the words are entering his ears, but they're not entering his brain. He's not tuned into what we're saying. So it's important that we get as attention first. And we know he's listening before we start spouting off and giving some long explanation of our day or asking him to do something. Kids and adults differ in the way that we tune into words and tune into language. Some of us are always on like me and just taking in everything. And some only tune in to what they really need to, to what's important. One is not better than the other. They're just different. And it's important to know the communication and the listening styles of the people who are around you. If you're a person like me, who is always on, it might be hard for you to understand that not everybody else's brain and ears work like yours.

You may have people in your house that are not always on. You might have some people in your house that get lost in their play, get lost in their work or their thoughts. And don't always tune in automatically and they may need some prompting. So first and foremost, the person that you're speaking to your person, that you're making a request of needs to be listening, attending, and tuning in and understand that there are natural variations in the way that people do that. It's not necessarily the way that you do that. And that took me a really long time to understand, especially with my partner to understand that he wasn't always listening when I was speaking. And then if I had to tell him something important, I really needed to touch him on the arm to get his attention and to get him to tune in.

Before I started filling the room with excessive amounts of words, which I have the tendency to do. So touch them on the arm, look them in the eye, get down on their level, whatever you need to do to respectfully make sure that the words are entering their ears and their brain. Now, when parents tell me that their kids don't listen often, it's not about hearing or attending. It's about not complying and not obeying. When someone says my kids never listened to me. What they're really saying is my kids never comply. Never obey, never cooperate with what I want them to do. So let's break down, listening versus complying versus obeying versus cooperating. Step one, get them to tune in, attend and listen. After that, they make a choice. Will they comply with what you've asked them to do? Will they act in accordance with your wishes or demands, whether or not they comply with what you've asked them to do?

Depends a lot on your approach. Are you looking for cooperation or are you looking for obedience? How are those words different? I did a quick Google search to look at the definitions of these two words to really break them apart. Cooperate means to work or act together, especially for a common purpose or benefit obey means to do as ordered generally, the requests that we're making of our kids are for a common purpose or benefit. We're asking them to do things that benefit both them and us, which means we're looking for cooperation, but it feels especially frustrating when we're doing something for our common purpose and they're not complying. They're not doing what we asked them to do. Sometimes our approach is step one. We get them to listen and then step two, we seek cooperation. We want to get them to work together with us, for our common goal.

And sometimes our approach is step one. We get them to listen. And step two, we order them to obey, to do, as they are told the boss them around or to them around make a lot of demands. I will tell you, it's far easier to get kids to cooperate than It is to get them to obey. And if you're struggling to get your kids to quote unquote, listen to you, you need to first step one, make sure that they're attending tuning in. And then step two, do less ordering around, less looking for obedience and more acting together. Looking for cooperation. We're going to take a quick 60s word from today's sponsor. And then I'm going to give you some of my best tips to get your kids to cooperate. The sponsor for today is Native. Sometimes it rains on your birthday. Sometimes the line for coffee wraps around the building.

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When you're starting to get a little bit flustered, feeling hurried, and you're like, oh, I know Denaye told me what I need to do in that podcast episode last week. But I can't remember what it was so less is more, especially when it comes to parenting tips. That's for sure. Now step one, getting your kids to listen. The actual hearing part is pretty straightforward. Get down on their level, look them in the eye, touch them on the arm. That part isn't complicated, but sometimes we can forget to do it. If you notice yourself asking once and then asking again, louder and louder, it might be because you haven't actually gotten your kids to tune in and attend to what you're saying. Maybe you forgot step one. So even though it is simple and it's easy to execute, it can be hard to remember. So give yourself grace, you're going to need practice.

Gonna need to do a little bit of self-talk and some reminders step to getting your kids to cooperate is a little bit more strategic. That's why I want to keep it simple and just give you three tips. We need to keep in mind that our kids are humans with their own agendas. We're the adults. We automatically think that our agendas are more important than theirs. Maybe you've got to get to work in the morning, which means that your kids need to jump into action and eat breakfast, get dressed, brush their teeth, get to daycare, get to camp, whatever it is because you have to get to work. That's your agenda. If we get over-focused on our own agenda, we start looking for obedience. We start spouting off demands, and it's a lot harder to get our kids on board. It's a lot harder to get the job done.

Sometimes the things that our kids are doing, like jumping on their bed, stacking blocks, these things seem less important to us than the things that we need to get done. And it's easy to rush our kids through it or undermine the importance of them. So remember, we have to respect our kids as humans with our own agendas, getting them to cooperate means being mindful and respectful of the fact that they have stuff going on, that they want to do too. That doesn't always match up with the things that you want them to do. Doesn't mean things are always going to go their way, but it means you may need to acknowledge it. Hey, I see that you're stacking those blocks and you're really busy. Why don't you stack five more and then we're going to go get your shoes on. That's an example of acknowledging and respecting that your kid has a different agenda than you.

Now. It would be really beautiful and simple. If you just said that and your kids stacked five more blocks and then jumped up and got their shoes on and get ready to go. If you have kids, you know that things generally do not work like this, which is why this step getting kids to cooperate is a little bit more strategic. Having that underlying respect and acknowledgement for your kids' agenda is really helpful because it transforms your attitude. It takes you from looking for obedience, shouting off orders to looking for cooperation working together. So any of these three strategies that I'm about to get, you make sure that you approach them with respect, acknowledge that your kid has their own agenda, and that's going to help you moving forward. Strategy. Number one is the job description. I used to use this all the time. When I had a kid that didn't want to get buckled into the car seat, she would try to climb all over, go stiff as a board.

It was just hard. I dreaded getting into the car because I knew that this battle would ensue. So here's how I used my job description to gain cooperation. First, I made sure that I had her attention and she was listening. And I acknowledged, I know you don't want to be buckled into the car and you just want to wiggle and play. And then I explained in very simple terms, as your mom, it's my job to keep you safe. And to do that, I need to buckle you into the car. I said it calmly and firmly. You can use other variations of this as your parent. It's my job to keep you safe and to keep you healthy and to do my job. I need to.... that this very simple explanation reduces the power struggle because it explains that you are not telling your kid to do this thing that they don't want to do, just because you're being bossy.

Just because you're trying to push your own agenda. The fact of the matter is you're just doing your job. It's not really you making a choice. It's just you doing what you have to do. It makes that request almost seem like it's coming from a higher power because it kind of is the job description is really only effective when you're saying it calmly and firmly. If you're screaming it, your kids are probably not going to hear it. Strategy. Number two is play. I used to have a kid who despised brushing his teeth and it was Hayke. A lot of effort to make it happen. Playfulness was the thing that saved us. When he refused to brush his teeth, I would say, okay, fine. Then I'll just brush your belly button or I'll just turn you upside down and brush your toes. Usually this gets young kids giggling, but why does play work?

Play works because it softens you. I know in these situations, when I was about to brush my kids' teeth, I would start to get tense. And my shoulders would rise because I felt the battle that was coming. But when we use play, it softens our demeanor. It softens our approach. It becomes more of a playful interaction than us making demands. It removes some of that power struggle. So I encourage you to try playfulness even when you're not feeling especially playful, even when it's hard, because if you can use playfulness to soften your shoulders, to soften your voice, to take the tension out, your kids are going to hear you better, and they're going to cooperate with you better. And the third strategy is the first then principle. If you are someone that finds yourself, leaning on threats a lot, the first then principle is going to save you. I discourage you from using threats because they're really easy to flip flop around. Here's an example.

If you don't finish your homework, you're not going outside. You could take that same request and you can flip it around, acknowledge and respect their wishes, but also set a boundary. Yeah. Expectation for cooperation. Listen to the difference here. The first is demanding obedience. If you don't finish your homework, you're not going outside. The second is acknowledging and respecting your child and then asking for cooperation. I know you're really excited about going outside first, get your homework done. And then you can go outside. I literally said the exact same thing, but I switched my words and it completely transformed my tone of voice and my demeanor. And I'll tell you, the second one felt way better as a parent. And you can be sure that it's going to feel way better as a child too. So how do you get your kids to listen first, step one, make sure that they're hearing you and attending to you in tuning in then step two, aim for cooperation.

Try using the job description, try using play to soften your demeanor and lean on the first. Then principle to turn threats into positive motivation. If it feels hard, that's because it is give yourself grace. You're not going to get it right every time you're going to lose your cool. And you're going to get to try again. We are a work in progress. Thanks so much for tuning in. I would love to have you join me in the mental unload. If you've been feeling overwhelmed and you're interested in reducing mental clutter and you want to learn more, go to as always thanks for tuning in and have a good one.

Denaye Barahona

Denaye Barahona is a loving wife and mama of two. She's a therapist for moms, an author, and the host of the top-ranked Simple Families Podcast. Denaye holds a Ph.D. in Child Development and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has been featured on the likes of The Today Show, Netflix, The Wall Street Journal, Real Simple, Forbes, and numerous other media outlets.