How to Make Children Listen

As with the vast majority of my “advice” posts, I’m writing this as a reminder to self.

When things get out of control in the house – fighting children, someone disobeying or not listening, chaos ensuing – my knee-jerk reaction is sometimes to get big and loud.  Get their attention from across the room.  Raise my own voice.  Show them what they sound like, as I stomp over to let them know who’s boss.  (Yes.  Very mature, mom.)

That works if high blood pressure and tears are the goal.  Me?  I’d rather not spend the rest of the day as Queen of the Loser Moms, though.

What’s most effective for me when I need a child’s attention or need someone to knock it off right now? I lower my voice.  Get small, kneeling at their level.  Whisper, even. An amazing thing happens when I react quietly.

They get quiet, too.

They listen, because they have to.  I’m whispering, remember? We all calm down and can assess the situation without a loud, ugly fight.  Even if the entire problem can’t be solved right at that moment, we can be close.  And quiet.  And civil.  Peaceful, even.

A peaceful home really works for me!

What is your knee-jerk reaction when something is amiss with your children?


  1. I love to use the whisper tactic when teaching 4 year old Sunday school. As I’m telling the Bible story, I get to the key message and lower my voice to a whisper. It is awesome (and a little comical) how all 14 of those preschoolers immediately fix their eyes on me and lean in close to listen!

  2. that’s a great idea!!

    Any tips on how to keep him from “playing with my computer?!” ahhhh!

  3. This is a great reminder. I SO want my house to be peaceful and realize so much of that is dictated by me.

  4. I’m going to try that. I always thought I’d never yell at my kids. Turns out I’m a yeller, and you’re right, it never accomplishes anything. I’m going to try to remember to do this tomorrow morning, which is my big yelling time for my slowpoke daughter.

  5. The greatest lesson I learned from my MIL was the value of “distraction”. It’s miraculous how well it works! Rather than butt heads with your child, you introduce them to something that distracts them from their fussiness. Instead of demanding they “stop that” (fuss, cry, whine, etc.) you say “Oh wow! Look at THAT!” and talk about something totally disconnected from the negativity. Try it. It’s amazingly effective!

  6. I should really try this… lol. I have noticed that my house is getting WAY too loud lately – mostly because my 3yo yells at her little brother when he’s “disobeying” her. Oops… wonder where she got that from? I’ve been working on quieter methods of correction and attention getting…

    • My house gets loud, too, even when there are no “issues.” We’ve got 10 foot ceilings and lots of wood floors. I think everything echos. 🙂

    • @Ashley, Ashley, sounds like we are at similar stages in parenting: I have a highly motivated, “control freak” 3-year-old girl and a fun-loving, into-everything 19-month-old boy. :-)Interesting family dynamics for sure! I am constantly asking God for patience (and consistency) in correcting them in love.

  7. Hi Amy, it’s been awhile since I’ve been by… good to see you again! Thank you for writing this because I needed that reminder right now. I have been stressed this week and when I am stressed my patience is thin and my voice gets loud. I do normally use the quieter voice and you are absolutely right on how wonderfully that works! 🙂

  8. Just the reminder I needed this morning. I bet I’ll be able to give this a try today!

  9. A great reminder. I find myself being “assertive” when all I really need to do is to defuse the situation. Thanks.

  10. This is great advice! I don’t have kids, but it astounds me when I see parents yelling at their kids, or shaking them by the shoulders when they are trying to get them to behave. This is definitely a much better approach.

  11. Olathe mom says:

    I was once a Parent Educator with the Parents as Teachers program, and this was our exact advice. It works beautifully. I also think it reminds us mamas about the sweet beauty of our children. When you get down, hold a hand, look into eyes (and little messy mouths and hair) you are reminded that it is hard to be a kid, too. It is hard to be learning and trying to do your best, and wanting to please.

    Another thing we frequently reminded parents was that they needed to “physically help” their children to behave…not with spanking!…but by staying nearby and helping the child perform the action. Instead of “stop that!” or “no!” from the couch, come nearby and hold little hands when you say “no.” Stop arms when you say “stop.” Gentle, yet firm. Reminders that words must be followed with action.

    Great post, ma’am!

  12. I don’t have children yet, but will definitely keep this advice in mind next week, when Husband and I are in charge of a mini VBS at our church. Dealing with children doesn’t come as naturally to me, so any help I can get is appreciated. Thanks for the words of advice.

  13. Thanks for the reminder. This is something I have not tried, but I am always striving for a quieter and calmer house, so definitely will be trying it soon.

  14. Thank you for this wonderful reminder. Will be trying more of this in our house, especially in the mornings as we are hurrying to rush out the door for school.

  15. So true! I had made an effort for a while to do this but have neglected taking care with tone.

  16. Thank you so much for the reminder! I really struggle with this and it is something that I try to improve upon every day even though most days I blow it. And then I too feel like the Queen of the Loser Moms.

  17. Wonderful reminder – especially today. I’ve had the worst headache for over a week now and my kiddos are driving me up a wall. I never thought I’d be a “yeller” and somehow it happened. I try to apologize and let them know it was not okay for me to speak like that to them. Letting them know that grown-ups make mistakes and we aren’t perfect – somehow I feel like that might help the situation later on. I’ll try the whispering thing. Can’t hurt trying everything until you find something that works. Thanks!

  18. What a great tool!!! You know…my daughter’s kindergarten teacher does that and she is like the Piped Pipper:-) I am going to try that!!

  19. That’s a good reminder for me too. I often forget how much better a quiet voice works.

  20. Last night at church one of our pastor’s had a child who was acting up. I was just amazed at how he and his wife calmly, quietly and gently talked to their child! Their tone was soothing and loving without a hint of anger in it! I, too, hope that I will always be able to remain calm to keep a peaceful home operating!!

  21. I think that’s great and I can agree 😀 Might have to apply this myself because I know my son NEVER listens to me unless I threaten to throw away his monster trucks.

  22. I’m going to give this a try tomorrow. My daughter goes through a few whining spells every day and it gets so annoying!


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