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Reasons Why Children Do Not Listen

L. Sarhan raised three children to become successful adults.



One of the biggest complaints parents have about children's behavior is their lack of listening skills. For many children, this is actually a learned behavior. In several cases, the parents have unknowingly set the stage for this undesirable behavior.

Parent behaviors and reactions are a big part of the reason why children don't listen. Many parents grew up knowing better than to defy a parent or an authority figure. In most cases, when parents today were children they knew that not listening and doing as they were told would more often than not involve a spanking and being grounded or having certain privileges revoked. This is due to the fact that society then was more on an authoritarian or dictatorship parenting style where children were often seen and not heard.

However, society has changed since then. In most cases, due to the rise in child abuse cases, spanking is just not acceptable today. Also, in today's society, both parents tend to work outside the home and are much busier than parents of the past. This shouldn't be an excuse but it is merely to point out how the family and social dynamics have changed from the past.

In a majority of cases, it is parenting style as the cause of children not wanting to listen and do as they are told. However, sometimes there may be underlying issues with the child. Therefore, let's look at just some of the main reasons why some kids exhibit poor listening skills.

What Type of Parent Are You?

The type of parent you are maybe the reason behind your child's failure to listen. Children tend to tune out parents who are long-winded and come off sounding judgmental and preachy. They are more likely to be defiant and resentful with parents who act more like dictators than actual parents.

Helicopter Parents

Helicopter parents are the type to swoop in and rescue the child at any given moment. The parents' world revolves around the child, by serving to the child's every desire. Most children catch on to this and will ultimately manipulate the parent. After all, why do something when you know your parents will cave in and do it for you?

Dictator Parents

Dictator, or drill sergeant, parents have a motto of "it's their way or the highway". They are still following the "children should be seen and not heard" and the "because I said so" mottoes. Oh, the child may do as they are told most of the time but it leaves them growing up resentful and trying to avoid parental contact as much as possible. Even still, many children grow up becoming defiant and rebellious to try to escape the dictatorship rule of their parents, thus possibly making poor decisions in life.

Counselor Parents

Parents who are counselor types, tend to lead by example and engage in critical thinking skills in the child. They are more consistent in the consequences as they want their children to make good decisions through those critical thinking skills when the parent may not be around. Children are not only more likely to listen and do as they are told, but they will also feel as though they can come to their parents for sound advice.


Parenting Behaviors That Contribute to Negative Behaviors


The most common reason why children do not listen is due to inconsistency in parenting skills. Not listening effectively and doing as they are told could also result in a parent being inconsistent or poor disciplining habits. Many parents try the "do this or else" tactic but rarely do they follow through with the "or else" part. Most parents find it easier to just give up and being consistent with what they are asking and administering the consequences.

Be realistic in your request and only mention a consequence that you are willing to follow through on. Also, make sure both the request and consequence is reasonable. Don't ever administer a consequence out of spite.

Ignoring You

Just allowing your child to ignore you has sent a message to the child that they really don't have to do as they are told because you will drop it if they ignore you. Many parents get frustrated when the child ignores their request and will fall into the trap of repeating the request over and over. Even worse, several parents will even raise their voices in frustration expecting to be heard. This is simply ineffective because you want your child to listen without the tension. You should want the child to listen because they respect you, not because they resent you.

Repeating Orders

Do not badger the child. Meaning, do not consistently repeat yourself expecting the child to behave any differently. As Einstein said, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result." So if the child didn't listen the first and second time, why are you repeating it for a third, fourth, and fifth time.

In most cases, the parent gives up and the child is banking on this. The child figures if he or she ignores your request long enough he or she won't have to do as he or she is told. Ultimately, this ends up in the parent yelling at the child, which can leave lasting effects psychologically. In the midst of all this going on, the parent typically throws out the "..or else" phrase, which more often than not leads to inconsistency as mentioned above.


Bribing the child is one of the last things a parent should do. However, during the display of repetitive commands and inconsistent threats, some parents result in bribery. You know the, "if you do this, I will get you this" phrase. Unfortunately, you are setting yourself up for future disasters.

If you tend to bribe your child you are sending the message that they should always get something out of it. Many times bribes are of a material nature that creates self-absorbed, materialistic kids.

Power Struggle

One common reason why children do not listen to parents is due to the power struggles between you and your child. Children tend to test their limits as they struggle for independence. As babies and toddlers begin to gain small independence from their "helpless" state, many will yearn for the achievement of doing things on their own and doing more things they want to do. For some children, especially preteens and teens, it can also be a sign of rebellion.

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With preteens, they are caught between being a "little kid" and adolescence. Hormones may start to kick in and this brings a variety of emotions, attitudes, and behaviors. Teenagers are also in an in-between stage. They are capable of doing most things adults can do, but are still under the rule of their parents until they become of legal age. Many teens are trying to discover who they are and with the increasing stress from peers and school, some teens tend to lash out.

Power struggles can also be set up from an early age by the parenting methods used. As an example, has your child ever wanted a toy at the store, and once you said no, he or she began to make a scene? The child is testing your limit and your consistency. If you are the type of parent that gives into the child's demands, then do not expect the power struggles to end anytime soon.

Limiting Power Struggles

External and Internal Influences


When your child exhibits a lack of listening skills, could it be because they are busy doing something else? This could be watching television, talking on the telephone, or playing video games. How well do you listen to others when you are absorbed in a project or other activities? Your child may not be ignoring you on purpose, they might just be distracted.

It is best to gently try to get the child's or teen's attention before speaking. Let's say the child is watching television, come up to the child, and mention their name. If they do not answer or appear more interested in the television, consider tapping them on the shoulder and let the child know that you have something to ask or say. Once you have the child's attention you have let the child know what it is you are going to say.

Some teens may not hear you do to listening to music via headphones. Again, make sure they know you are trying to talk with them. Have them remove the headphones before talking with them. You can then simply, and politely tell them your request. For instance, let's say you notice that the trash hasn't been taken out. Once you have their attention, simply say that they may go back to listening to music when their chores are done or that they may listen to music as they uphold their responsibility.

For some kids and teens, they may be using the distraction to purposely ignore you. You may have to remove the distraction to expect any kind of results. Again, don't make empty threats. If you say you will turn off the video game or unplug the television, then do so. Show the child or teen that although you are trying to be respectful yourself; you are still the one technically in charge and mean what you say. This doesn't mean you have to lose your temper or yell, but following through with the consequence may yield better results not only in the present but in the future as well.



Stress is another leading factor in not listening or displaying selective hearing in some children. In some cases, stress from school or extracurricular activities can weigh heavily on a child. One common problem is when parents over schedule the child with school, school activities, sports, etc. This causes the child stress from trying to do what is expected of them and lack of rest. Even as adults, stress can cause us to overlook details and requests from people. It is the same or sometimes magnified with a child.

School these days can be stressful from not only trying to make good grades and pass countless exams but from their peers as well. Some of their peers can be cruel and find any reason to give them grief. Sometimes the stress comes from their closest friends through a variety of outlets. Be sure to take an active role, not as a helicopter parent but as a counselor, by taking the time to show interest in your child or teen's life. Encourage them to tell you about their day and to talk about things that may be going on; good and bad. By listening to them, you are modeling the same behavior you expect from them when you speak.

However, the leading cause of stress can come from within the home. If there is frequent yelling, abuse of any kind, or some sort of family trauma, your child may be too distracted to pay attention. Make a rule to not raise your voice in anger, frustration, or any other negative manner. If the stress comes from trauma within the family, such as a death, don't avoid the matter. Sit down and try to get the child to open up and talk with you about what he or she is feeling. Sometimes talking helps. It will also show that you are there for the child to listen, thus giving the child a sense of security that may inspire the child to be more attentive when you speak.

Self-esteem and Depression

Self-esteem could play a role in your child's unwillingness to listen to you. Perhaps they feel as though they won't meet your expectations or will disappoint you in some way so why try. Parents don't encourage and praise kids enough. This could cause your child to doubt their own abilities or feel unappreciated. Depression and low self-esteem can lead to laziness and the unwillingness to try to affect them on into their adult life.

Self-esteem and depression issues could also come from stress from school and activities. Again, talk with your child to try to find out what exactly has happened and/or is going on. In some cases, taking the child to a therapist may also help the child get through this difficult time and ways to raise the child's self-esteem. Besides, some kids don't want to talk to the parent about certain issues due to embarrassment or a feeling of disappointing them. Therefore, sometimes an outside counselor may do some good and also help open lines of communication with you and your child.

Medical Reasons

Sometimes failure to listen to you may be caused by a medical reason. This could be simply that they don't feel good. It could also mean that your child could have a legitimate hearing loss. Taking your child to a physician to test their hearing is probably a good idea. Even still, there are countless medical conditions that may affect hearing, attention span, and so on. If your child is still not listening to you or seems more distracted than normally expected, consider consulting their physician. Once medical reasons are ruled out, you can look at the other reason why your child isn't listening to you. Or if there is a legitimate medical reason causing it, you can take steps forward to dealing with it and perhaps help prepare the child better for adulthood as well, depending on the diagnosis.

Identifying what is the cause of your child's inability to listen and follow directions is the first step to fixing the problem. It is hard to come to a solution if you don't know the cause of the problem. Once you have identified the reason, you are on the way to fixing it.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Linda Sarhan


Katina Davenport from Michigan on July 29, 2014:

I noticed early on that my 6 year old daughter had stopped listening to my requests. It wasn't until I really started taking away privileges and anything she loves. That is when she started listening to me. She knows I mean business. Great hub!

Saswati Chakraborty Misra from Bangalore on July 29, 2014:

Hello dear!

Nice Article. I was thinking to write on this topic but found your one

so interesting. I specially liked 'the self esteem and depression' paragraph quite intriguing!

Thanks for sharing such informative piece. I have joined newly in HubPages and written one article in anger management. If you can drop in by my will be wonderful!

Regards! Saswati

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