3 Simple Tricks So That Children Will Listen to You

· June 29, 2017

During childhood the frontal cortex is developing, which is why controlling impulses is a difficult task for a child. As is control of their attention, which is led more by external stimulation than by their own consciousness. Because of this, when we talk to them it is normal for them to be distracted and sometimes not listen to us.  

Well, we may not have a magical cure for the frontal cortex to develop before the end of adolescence, but what we do have within our reach are some simple tricks. With them we will get them to pay attention to us, ensure that they understand us and obtain a full commitment from them to do what we tell them.

Get Their Attention and Keep It

Being easily distracted will be our worst enemy when trying to communicate with small children. But, how can we conquer it? Well, first, take away any stimulants that could cause distraction. Logically, it will be very difficult for us to take them all away. We won’t take the pictures off the walls in our home, remove all the stuffed animals from the hallway, nor take the color off the furniture or walls when we want to talk to our child. So, what can we do?

If possible, it would be good to have a space in our home that is free of all these attractive stimulants. That way, we will force them to focus on us. This will be useful both when we want to correct them and when we want to praise them or give them a task. In any case, what we want is for the message to sink in.

What not to do: talk to them while they are watching TV, playing, drawing or reading. Don’t tell them something important while they are focused on something else.


Regarding attention, the most important sense is sight, therefore it is the one we need to make sure of the most. We have to make sure the child looks at us; children, as well as adults, normally will pay attention to what they are looking at. We can take their little face in our hands and make sure they are looking at us, “Please Juan, look at me.”

Speaking in Short Sentences Helps Children

If their attention span is not fully developed, neither is their memory. When we tell them to do something, it is best to make the order as short and precise as possible. Something like this:

  • What they have to do.
  • How and where they have to do it. This is recommended only if it is the first time they are doing it or there is another way to do it, that way the child won’t think we don’t trust them to do it right.
  • When they have to do it. For younger ages, it is recommended that tasks be those they need to do immediately. If you want them to do something when the movie finishes, wait until it’s over and then tell them. Don’t do it before because it is very likely they will forget, then you won’t know if it was forgetfulness or disobedience, either way you will have to repeat the order.

Another aspect is related to time. If you have told them to do something when they are finished playing, don’t repeat it every five minutes. Let them finish playing. One good thing that children are able to do is to fully concentrate on the present. Let them enjoy it to the fullest!

Another trick is to give them orders one at a time, correct one thing at a time and also give specific praise. “I like how you do this because…,” “I don’t like that you have done this because…” If they have stayed in the lines while coloring a picture and have chosen the colors well, praise them for one of those aspects and wait until they do it again to praise them again. It’s the same when giving correction. Children will improve in a lot of things, but this improvement must take place gradually based on small goals.

A trick to ensure that a child will pay attention when we want to praise them is to tell them we have a secret to share.

Choose the Right Time

If we are going to correct or punish a child, it is best to do it as soon as possible, so that there is the least amount of time possible between the action and the consequence. Think about it: to a child a day is very long, for them, what happened in the morning was a long time ago by nightfall.

Also, we recommend that when you are going to tell a child something important it is best to first evaluate their state of mind. A calm child is not the same as an excited child. Neither is a child who just woke up and is full of energy the same as a child who is tired at the end of the day.

A child with their arms relaxed is very different from a child with their arms crossed defensively. Because of that, before communicating with our child, sometimes it is a good idea to let them have a few seconds to relax and get into the right frame of mind to communicate. 

Finally, to ensure they have understood us it is good to ask them to confirm what we said, and in some cases it’s not a bad idea to listen to what they think about what we have just told them.

They may be small, but don’t forget that they have a reason for behaving the way they do, and if we don’t know what that reason is, we should find out so that our interventions will be more effective. If we keep the lines of communication open and ask questions, then it will be easier for them to tell us things, and easier for us to adapt our methods to match their needs.

One way or another, we need to communicate with our children. They are smart and make things difficult at times, but remember that raising a child is a beautiful responsibility and is worth our efforts.