You have asked Zoe to clean her room three times now… but she just doesn’t seem to hear you!

What can you do to get your Zoe to listen?

  1. When you prepare to tell your child something important, put your hands on his/her face (your open palms to his/her cheeks), look him/her in their eyes, and calmly impart your information. “Zoe, this is important. I need to make sure that you hear me when I say this. You need to stop what you’re doing right now and go clean your room. This needs to be done before dinner.”
  2. If your child does not respond appropriately to the step above, then try to determine what your child is thinking/feeling. Is s/he trying to tell you (non-verbally) that s/he is upset about something? Is there a reason that s/he is behaving as s/he is? If your child is old enough, you can directly ask your child why s/he has chosen not to obey you.
  3. If a legitimate reason is determined or offered, you can respond to that. If no reason (or no acceptable reason) is determined or offered, then you need to proceed with motivation and/or redirection. Motivation can be something as simple as, “Zoe, big girls clean their own rooms. When you were a little girl, I cleaned your room for you. You are older now. Don’t you want to be a big girl?” Redirection can include the following: “Zoe, if you want to act like a little girl, well, I guess that’s your choice to make. However, you will lose a lot of the privileges that you have gained as a result of your being bigger than that. Little girls don’t have slumber parties with their friends. You didn’t have slumber parties ’til last year, when we thought you were grown-up enough to have them. Also, you seem to have liked the privilege of walking to school on your own, but that too was something you started doing only because we thought you were old enough to handle that responsibility well. However, if you want to go back to being a little girl, then you will lose these privileges. I’ll give you about five minutes to think about what you’d like to do. If you really want to go back to being a little girl, then I can clean your room for you . . . but you will give up the privileges we’ve spoken about. On the other hand, if you want to keep the privileges that come from being and acting your age, then you will need to clean your room.”
  4. If your child listens and complies at this point, praise your child briefly for her wise decision to listen and comply, and then put the incident behind you. If your child does not listen and comply at this point, hold your child accountable. “Ok, Zoe, I will clean your room today. I will take over all the other responsibilities that you have assumed since we thought you were a bigger girl. For example, I will drive you to school each day. Also, you will need to call Joanie and Jennie to cancel your slumber party tomorrow night since you won’t be able to have any more slumber parties until you’re once again acting grown up enough to handle these privileges well again. When you are ready to be a big girl again, please let me know. We will talk more about this then.”

By following these steps, you can take the steps necessary to get kids to listen.