What To Do When Kids Won't Listen

By Danielle Wirsansky on May 18, 2021

Everyone knows that children can be notoriously difficult and the biggest issue is often that they will not listen. There are many different reasons why kids may choose to listen or not, but the fact remains that you have to keep your cool and find ways to appropriately respond and handle the situation.

If you have been dealing with a child that will not listen, pause. Take a deep breath. Know that you are doing your best—in fact, you are even reading this article, which means you want to make the situation better And that means you are already on the right track! Read on to learn what to do when kids will not listen.

Photo by Lina Kivaka from Pexels

Stay Calm

The first thing you have to do when a child will not listen to you is to stay calm. If you lose your cool, it will go either one of two ways. One, the child will like that they provoked a reaction out of you (usually one of the main reasons a child does not listen) and this will encourage them to carry on instead of listening to you. The second way this could go is that by getting angry or yelling, you could scare or upset the child. And a scared child will be focused on protecting themselves or getting away from or thwarting the scary person, rather than listening to them.

You do not want to escalate an already heightened situation or to let the child feed off more chaotic energy and ramp up their behavior. You may not be able to solve a situation like this by staying calm, but it is an important way to avoid making the situation worse.

Build Trust

Another strategy you can try to help convince the children you are overseeing to listen to you from the get-go (or to talk them down once they stop listening to you) is to build trust between you and the child. As a babysitter, it can hard to build trust when you see the kids infrequently. This just means you must make the most of the time that you have together to help build trust.

When a child trusts you, they are a lot more likely to listen to you. They know you have their best intentions at heart, they know they are safe with you, and because you have that trust and rapport, they do not want to upset you either.

KidSit offers many great strategies for building up trust and a connection between babysitters and children, such as, “Start by listening. Give the child a chance to tell you about themselves. Ask them what they like and what they don’t like. Figure out what they’re good at and give them opportunities to excel.”

The babysitting experience is always easier if you like the child and the child likes you.

Create a Plan

Another way to head off conflict when a child will not listen to you is to create a plan in advance in case this situation arises. It is always better to think ahead and have a plan in place rather than have to decide and act on the spot. That will help you to stay calm and maintain the trust you have built so that you do not make a spur-of-the-moment decision that backtracks your progress with that child.

Decide in advance. If the child will not listen to me when I ask them to do something, how can I react? What will I do? What will the consequence be? How can we divert their attention and de-escalate the situation? How can I get us back on track?

Thinking about and creating a plan of how to deal with a recalcitrant child in advance will make the actual dealing with a child much more smooth and successful.

Give Options

If a child is not listening to you, a great way to handle the situation is to give them options of how they can accomplish what you have asked of them or what they need to do. For example, if you need to go somewhere and the child will not listen to you and refuses, you can give them some options. Ask them, would you like to walk and hold my hand? Or would you rather I carry you?

Allowing the child some choice gives them more agency and can make them more acquiescent and amenable to your requests. It does not always work, but it often does. Empower the child in your care with choices!

Photo by Alex Green from Pexels

Dealing with a child that will not listen is always difficult, but by arming yourself with these strategies, you can make yourself as prepared as possible, which means you will be as effective as possible too.

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