Correcting Behavior in a Child Who Won’t Listen

An upset young girl not wanting to listen.

Parents need to be very careful when they are around their children. (Image: Zdravinjo via Dreamstime)

Children are often very explorative, but their curiosity can make it so they are hard to discipline. The process of teaching them to listen can be very frustrating for some parents and when not taught correctly, this could lead to some actions that could result in permanent behavioral changes.

Understanding the reason behind a child not paying attention is a great component of getting them to listen. Listening, like most things, is a skill that can be taught, reinforced, and improved.

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If you’re struggling at home and find it hard to get your child to listen, this article is perfect for you.

Before making assumptions or accidentally raising your voice to your children, let’s take a deep dive into the reasons why they aren’t listening and what actions you might be able to use in order to bring out their attentiveness.

Reasons children don’t listen

Trying to get their attention when they are reluctant can be very difficult. Listening is often associated with respect, but it’s important to understand that as a parent, failing to listen isn’t always a direct show of disrespect.

Since he or she is still learning, parents have to expect this type of behavior and learn the best ways to deal with it. Here are some reasons why they might not be paying attention.


Children can easily get distracted and once there is something more stimulating, they often fail to pay attention. There are many things that can distract them, ranging from aTV to their toys.

Children can easily get distracted by something, making them fail to pay attention.
Children can easily get distracted by something, making them fail to pay attention. (Image: Aleksandr Safonov via Dreamstime)


Sometimes the problem with children not listening is that what you are telling them is too complicated for them to understand. If they don’t understand, they can sometimes end up feeling frustrated.

Difficulty in focus

Some children generally have a hard time focusing and give in to distractions more easily. This could be a sign of ADHD, but it’s best not to assume since every child still has to learn how to focus and increase their attention span.

Helping your child listen

There are a few things that parents can do in order to get them to listen. Although not always immediately effective, these practices can be a healthy exercise to get them to pay more attention.

Proper timing

When they are doing something, it can be hard to catch their attention, especially when they are super engrossed in something. Pick the perfect time to talk to them or first join them in what they are doing before asking or telling them something.


Since children are still trying to improve their listening skills, it’s very common for them to miss something you said. Repetition is a good way to get the message across, although overdoing it might result in them getting annoyed.

Mother with her arms around her daughter as she sits at the kitchen counter with a solved wooden puzzle in front of her.
Children are still trying to improve their listening skills, so repetition is a good way to get the message across. (Image: Fizkes via Dreamstime)

Give choices

When asking them to do something, it’s important to give them a choice. This not only helps empower them, but it also helps them feel like they have a say in something important. “Do you want to clean the blue toy or the red toy?”

Reward them

The best way to help teach a child something new is by rewarding them every time they do it. Rewards don’t always have to be physical objects or candy, they can be words of affirmation or a simple “thank you for listening.”


Children often follow what they see. If there is a chance for you to listen to them, be a good model and show them the proper way to listen to someone.

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