How to Get Kids to Listen without Yelling

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Whether you’re a new parent or a veteran, you know that yelling usually makes a situation worse – not better – yet somehow it still happens. Sometimes it happens a lot. You've probably had more than your share of moments wondering how to get kids to listen.

When we yell, our kids tune us out.

This escalates the situation.

If they don't tune you out, then the look in their eyes is heart-breaking. They are scared and unsure of what you're going to do.

Neither scenario is pleasant.

Yelling takes place once we’re extremely frustrated.

Usually, because no one is listening, right?

Right. So let’s talk about how we can get kids to listen so it doesn’t get to the point of yelling.

Leave your ideas in the comments!

Get Your Kids to Listen

How to Get Kids to Listen without Yelling

When it comes to getting children to listen, it’s mostly how you say things rather than what you’re actually saying. However, I’ve found that using positive words instead of negative ones will yield the best results. For example, instead of saying “no running”, say “walk, please”. Or, you can say “walking feet only, please”.

1. Focus on what you want them to do, rather than what you want them to stop doing.

This is especially true with younger children. When you say “no running”, the image in their head will be of running. If you say “walking feet”, the image in their head will be of walking.

2. Praise, praise, praise!

A little praise goes a long way. When I notice that the kids are getting off track, I will offer praise – even if it’s premature. If you see that your little one is getting a little loud, say something like “I’m so proud of you for using your indoor voice! Thank you for being such an amazing listener!” Go way over the top with it, because kids love praise! Using this technique will get your child on the right track to listening, much more than “stop yelling!” would. You'll be surprised at how far praise will go when learning how to get kids to listen!

3. Set limits ahead of time, and make sure they’re known.

If you allow 30 minutes on electronics, set a timer for 30 minutes and talk to the kids about it as soon as they start playing. If you have one that is a bit difficult to get off the electronics, it’s a good idea to set a timer for 5 minutes early. Having a “countdown” of sorts sometimes helps kids deal with limits better.

Get kids to Listen

On that same note, make sure consequences are laid out and known ahead of time as well. If you have little ones, you may need to make a chart. Reward charts are great ways to encourage kiddos to listen while using positive reinforcement instead of only focusing on consequences.

4. Put down your phone.

I know. I know. But seriously. On the days when no one will listen, take notice of how often you have been on your phone. That one glance on Facebook took 45 minutes. That email check took two hours. Our children want our attention. While they would much rather have positive attention, they will take negative if that's all we're going to give them. Be aware.

5. One last tip I have is to offer options rather than asking questions.

Instead of saying, “Will you please pick your toys up?”, try saying “Please pick your toys up”. Instead of saying “Would you like peas with dinner?”, say “Would you like peas or carrots?”. Giving options you’re okay with is a great way to compromise while still getting the response you desire.

At the end of the day, remember: don’t sweat the small stuff. It seems like life is crazy now, but kids grow up so fast! If you really want to know how to get kids to listen, just stop and think about how your words make them feel, the results will go a long way.

Enjoy every minute of it.

What are some ways you stay calm and encourage listening?

Don't miss this great post about how to parent without saying the words “no”, “don't” and “stop”. How amazing does that sound?! It is possible!!

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24 Comments

  1. I am NOT a parent. I AM a retired elementary teacher. One thing I learned in teaching is… the best way to get their attention is to lower my voice way down like a whisper. It’s amazing how much they will pay attention to you then. I also want to voice my opinion about something… that something is using a cell phone or tablet when you take your children out to eat. My husband and I go to a famous store to eat breakfast every Monday morning. If it is not a school day it is amazing to see the number of tables with children and parents sitting together. It is even more amazing to see how many of those parents don’t look at or communicate with their children the entire meal. They do communicate when it’s time to leave. (Sometimes they are on the phone and give decorations just by pointing.) Of course there are exceptions to this, some of the adults eating with the children are grandparents, others are paying attention to their children. I am so proud of the parents that I see paying attention to their children that I often stop and tell them that I’m glad they were enjoying their child’s company. If only parents not paying attention to their children could understand that their children want their parents attention so much. Enough of that, thanks for lending me your ear.

    1. In your comment Carolyn did mean directions when they leave instead of decorations when they leave?
      I just wanted to ask for some clarification
      On what you really meant to say.

  2. Saying silly or funny things when they’re not listening will also get them paying attention. So when you’re talking to them you can just change the subject say your funny or silly thing and continue on. It’s amazing to see how much they pay attention. I think many of us would be surprised to know how much they here. Of course they’re always listening when we tell them to leave us alone or go away or we just don’t want them to listen. I think you all know what I mean by that. Enjoy the kids when they’re kids because once they’re grown there’s no do overs. I need to stop thank you again.

  3. Iam like always yelling at my just 5 year old kid. I feel sorry about it but I can’t help he just takes my patience away ……iam tired …….

    1. Take time for yourself,

      Relax, so you have more patience 

      We need about twenty days to get used to the new things. Children too!

      So…

      Try whisper to him/her than yelling (Carolyn’s advice )

      Enjoy his/her company,

      Take your time…

      Give him/her time to use to it, and

      Read Carolyn’s comments too 

      (Ps: We only have one childhood, help him/her live it as wonderful as possible…  xxxx)

      1. Not all kids are same. If trying above things don’t work, take professional help if you need to. Don’t shy away from it.

  4. Limits and rewards only work when they are used consistently. Otherwise they won’t count on the rewards and will ignore the limits (or push the boundaries to expand the limits)

  5. The suggestions in the article are great. Please remember that parenting is a hard job! It can oftentimes be overwhelming so we need to take care not to add more. This is good to remember when trying new things. Pick one suggestion and try it for about a week. Adjust to fit you and your family or see if it even works for you. We create good habits this way and children can really benefit from the consistency.

  6. I’m not s mother, but i’m untie for two little niece 2 and 5 years old. . I have to take care ofthem when their parents go to work. . It is true that yelling to kids is worst any kind of situation. Even adults aslo dont like when someone is yelling. .. I try whishper to kids when i ask them to keep their toys back to the busket. .. And it is really sucessfull more than yelling. . After that im really enjoy to whisper at them. . Thay are aslo like me to whisper too

  7. Great ideas! Thank you for sharing! I have also found that focusing on proximity instead of volume is helpful. If I put an arm around their shoulders talk quietly, sometimes that helps.

  8. I’m a 2nd grade teacher and mother to 2 young boys and a step daughter. Thank you for the reminders…it’s all good stuff!! It’s hard not to get frustrated but nice to know everyone has these battles!!

  9. i am a mom to 6 kids I have 3 five year olds and a 3 year old and twins that r 2 and I cant get them to listen to me for nothing they think is funny to drive me to my breaking point expecaly at bed time and nap time. I don’t have the time to take time for myself no one wants to watch 6 kids under 5 I’m a my breaking point with them and need adivice on how to get them to listen I want to be able to enjoy my kids but right now I feel like all I do is yell at them then at night once they r all asleep after going back and forth telling them to go to bed I lay in my bed crying asking myself where did I go wrong on of my 5 year olds has adhd and we think my three year old has autism and he acts like he don’t understand what I am trying to tell him at all. please I really need adivice .

    1. Hi,

      After reading your story, I want to offer my help in just watching your kids for an afternoon, so that you can take some time for yourself!

      I’m a mom of two, and I find that to be tough much less how you must feel!

    2. I am a mother of a 6 year old autistic non verbal boy. I can remember when he was younger and not diagnosed yet that I wondered if he was deaf. I also had trouble understanding why asking him to shut the door was so confusing for him to understand. Why he couldn’t remember what my request was and the action he needed to take to do what I had just asked. Shutting the door was something I had walked him through doing the motions with him yet when he is asked to shut the door he is confused at the request. After diagnosis and getting him the help he needs there is a big difference. He works with behavior technicians 20 hours a week going over commands and what the words mean that he is asked to do. We have learned that using the same word or phrase to describe something has been beneficial – For example: If we want him to throw something in the garbage can the command words are “throw away” I have had a friend or family member try to get him to do the same task but they ask him to throw it in the trash or they say this goes in the garbage. Wording it in a different way brings the situation back to square one where he is very confused at what we are asking of him. I see that your post for help was about 2 years ago however, if your son is Autistic as you suspected then I know sharing my tip is still very relevant and helpful for you and your son. Finding the code words and using the same words for a request you verbalize to your son will help in the communication with him. It is not an overnight thing which is why you will need help from behavioral technicians. Behavioral technicians work on helping Autistic people learn by constant repetition of the request and walking them through what they are expected to do when they hear the command words. We are still working everyday with helping my son. I can now ask him to clean up, buckle up, throw away, come inside, lay down, cover up, close it, high five and my favorite is when i need him to stop doing something like jumping running hitting etc i can use a count down from 3 to 1. he has been taught that when i count down it means i want him to come over to me. The count down was taught first so that the actions he is doing that are not appropriate are stopped at once because of the time it takes to learn all of the individual commands individually. This count down will be effective for all of your children and will be your best friend. This will minimize the yelling you are feeling the need to do to get your children to comply. Right now my son doesn’t not let me finish the countdown. He is always already to me by the time I finish saying the number 2. =) I am happy to help you with a more detailed explanation of how to go about implementing the strategy if you are interested. My email address is teresa.allison.mail@gmail. =) Hope my sharing is helpful to you.

  10. Hi, Whitney
    I try to get my child to be calm. Most time he isn’t listen when he is in active play. So I call him and politely tell him to sit beside me. Before I begin talking for the 2year old I try to go down and establish eye contact.

    I also call his name first and establish his attention before talking.

  11. Hi, Whitney
    I try to get my child to be calm. Most time he isn’t listen when he is in active play. So I call him and politely tell him to sit beside me. Before I begin talking for the 2year old I try to go down and establish eye contact.

  12. Any tips on while in the car? my 6 year old twin boys frequently find something to disagree on and then result in punching and kicking each other.

    1. Cars seem to be the worst, don’t they?! I usually let my kids each take one toy to play with in the car. On trips, we have bags. When they start fighting, I’ve been having mine give me the toys and hold hands. It’s been working so far! But I know every family is different.

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