Parent chastising a child for not listening
Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
January 15, 2024 ·  7 min read

12 Reasons Children Don’t Listen to Their Parents (And How to Help)

If you’re a parent, you know the situation: You’ve asked your child or teenager to clean their room several times. You enter their room, only to find them doing something else while their room is still a complete mess. Before you know it, you find yourself raising your voice, coming down with punishments, and arguing with your child. You think to yourself: If they had just listened to me the first time, we wouldn’t have had this fight. The thing is, there are many reasons why your child might not listen to you, and this can change as they grow. Knowing these reasons – and how to help your child listen – can help you avoid these confrontations in the future.

12 Reasons Children Don’t Listen to Their Parents, According to Experts

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As parents, it can be frustrating when our children don’t listen to us. We may wonder why they seem unresponsive to our instructions or advice. However, there are various reasons why children don’t listen, and understanding them can offer insights into how parents can effectively address this issue. Here are 12 reasons children don’t listen to their parents, according to experts, along with ways parents can help their child listen (1, 2):

1. Lack of Attention

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Humans are not great at doing multiple things at once. Young, still-developing humans are even worse. Children may not listen because they are easily distracted or have trouble paying attention. Parents can help by:

  • Minimizing distractions in the environment: Creating a quiet and calm atmosphere can improve a child’s ability to focus on what their parents say.
  • Using eye contact and gestures: Getting a child’s visual attention can make them more likely to listen and respond.

Read: The Love of a Grandparent is One of the Greatest Blessings a Kid can Have

2. Overstimulation

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This goes along with #1. We are terrible at focusing on more than one thing at a time. In today’s fast-paced world, children are often exposed to excessive stimuli, making it difficult for them to process information. Parents can help by:

  • Limiting screen time: Encouraging less screen time can reduce overstimulation and help children become more receptive to their parents’ words.
  • Providing quiet spaces: Creating peaceful areas at home allows children to decompress and improves their receptiveness to communication.
  • Ensure they are listening to you: Don’t talk to them from another room. Go to them, ensure their game, show, book, or activity is paused and that they are facing and looking at you. Get them to repeat what you asked of them if necessary.

3. Lack of Understanding

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We often think our children understand things more than they do. What you think is obvious, straightforward, or common sense is not always so for a child or teenager. Sometimes, children simply do not comprehend what parents are asking of them. Parents can help by:

  • Using age-appropriate language: Adjusting the complexity of instructions to a child’s level of understanding ensures clear communication.
  • Offering explanations: Providing context and rationale helps children understand the importance of listening and following instructions.

4. Inconsistent Discipline

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When parents have inconsistent disciplinary practices, children may become confused about expectations. Parents can help by:

  • Establishing clear rules and routines: Consistency in setting expectations helps children understand what is expected of them and encourages them to listen.
  • Following through with consequences: Enforcing consistent consequences helps children understand the importance of listening and following instructions.

Read: Study Finds That Spanking Kids Actually Worsens Their Behavior

5. Lack of Empathy

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Do you want to listen to someone who doesn’t seem to care what your opinion is or how you feel about the situation? Probably not – and neither do your kids. Children may resist listening when they perceive a lack of empathy from their parents. Parents can help by:

  • Displaying understanding and empathy: Acknowledging a child’s feelings and perspective can foster trust and encourage active listening.
  • Validating their emotions: Recognizing and accepting a child’s emotions without judgment helps build a strong emotional connection.

6. Disconnection and Distraction

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We are more distracted than ever before, and it is preventing us from connecting properly with our kids. Busy schedules and distractions can lead to a lack of connection between parents and children. To address this issue, parents can:

  • Spend quality time together: Opportunities for bonding, such as family game nights or shared activities, can strengthen the parent-child relationship.
  • Practice active listening: Showing genuine interest in a child’s thoughts and opinions promotes a deeper connection and encourages reciprocal listening.
  • Put down the phone: When you are talking with your child or spending time with them, put the phone away. In your bag, in another room, or wherever you need to put it so that it won’t distract you. Give them your full attention – they deserve as much. 

7. Power Struggles

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Children and teens often don’t have much control over their own lives. Their parents tell them what to do, then their teachers, coaches, etc. For this reason, not listening can be a deliberate way to assert control or power over their own life. When parents and children engage in power struggles, it becomes more difficult for children to listen. To avoid power struggles, parents can:

  • Offer choices: Giving children limited choices empowers them and increases their willingness to listen and cooperate.
  • Avoid micromanaging: Allowing children some autonomy and independence can foster a sense of responsibility and increase their motivation to listen.

Read: A therapist shares the 7 biggest parenting mistakes that destroy kids’ mental strength

8. Inconsistent Communication Styles

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Parents often have different communication styles, which can confuse children. This is likely because you both have adopted the way each of your parents communicated with you when you were children. To bridge this gap, parents can:

  • Present a united front: Agreeing on consistent communication methods fosters a cohesive approach to parenting and helps children understand expectations.
  • Foster open dialogue: Promoting an environment where children can express themselves freely helps them feel heard and encourages mutual listening.

9. Lack of Positive Reinforcement

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While punishments have their time and place, yelling and being angry only do more harm than good. Children respond well to positive reinforcement, and its absence can contribute to a lack of listening. Parents can help by:

  • Praising good behavior: Recognizing and celebrating their child’s listening skills reinforces the importance of attentive behavior.
  • Using rewards and incentives: Establishing a system that rewards listening and following instructions fosters motivation and engagement. This does not mean “If you do your chores, you can watch TV” but rather a “I am telling you that you can watch 5 more minutes of TV before you have to get ready for bed. If you listen to me, you will be allowed TV again tomorrow. If not, you won’t be allowed any TV at all tomorrow”. Then, follow through with that.

10. Emotional Issues

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Emotions are hard to manage, even for adults. For kids, they can seem bigger than ever. Children may face emotional challenges that hinder their ability to listen. Parents can support them by:

  • Encouraging emotional expression: Providing a safe space for children to express themselves helps address emotional barriers and promotes better communication.
  • Seeking professional help if needed: If emotional issues persist, seeking guidance from a professional can provide valuable support and strategies.

11. Lack of Patience

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We can all be impatient sometimes, and that’s with years of practice. Children are still developing their patience skills, which can impact their ability to listen. Parents can help by:

  • Modeling patience: Demonstrating patience in daily interactions teaches children the value of attentive listening.
  • Using techniques to improve patience: Engaging children in calming activities like deep breathing exercises can develop their patience and improve their listening skills.

Read:  15 Parenting Rules That Show Us How to Authentically Love Your Child

12. Lack of Mutual Respect

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While yes, you are the parent and they are the child, you should still respect your children. After all, how do you expect them to show you respect when you disregard theirs? When mutual respect is lacking, it becomes difficult for children to listen to their parents. Parents can promote respect by:

  • Setting a respectful tone: Speaking respectfully to children models the behavior parents expect from them.
  • Actively listening to children: Giving children the same respect and attention parents expect from them fosters a culture of mutual respect.

The Bottom Line

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Remember, each child is unique, and the reasons for not listening may vary. By understanding the underlying factors and implementing strategies to address them, parents can create an environment that nurtures effective communication and encourages their children to listen and respond.

Keep Reading: Parental Burnout: Moms Need Equality In Raising Children, Self-Care, and Most Importantly, Massages.


  1. 13 Reasons Why Your Child Doesn’t Listen.” Psychology Today. Jen Lumanlan M.S., M.Ed. August 7, 2023.
  2. Scientists Explain Why Kids Don’t Listen.” HuffPost. Joy D’Souza. June 30, 2017