6 Year Old Won't Listen to Mom with Shared Custody We Need Some Tools

Updated on January 01, 2019
J.S. asks from Andover, MA
7 answers

My daughter shares custody of her 6 year old son. She has him 2 days a week. She feels that he listens well to his father and grandmother where his home base is but doesn't listen to her. Any advice for both of them?

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So What Happened?

Thanks for the responses. We will keep listening and looking for tools. We have to learn how to make this the best possible environment for all concerned. We are all learning. It's not broken but could be better.

Thank you Diane for your comments. I agree on living arrangements. It should be about what's going to be the best outcome for the child and there are many things that factor into this. It's not necessarily a reflection on there being something 'wrong' with one parent.

More Answers


answers from Washington DC on


Welcome to mamapedia.
It's rare that a mother gets so little custody.
How does she treat him?
Does he not listen when he is reprimanded or just in general?
Do both houses have the same rules?
Does she ASK him to do things or does she DEMAND that he do things? For me - that's the difference - your child is not your slave.

Both houses should sit down and talk about rules and bed times so that there is NO CONFUSION or the line "well Dad let's me do this" - no confusion. Rules and consequences the same. So if he breaks the rules at mom's house? The consequences are the same for BOTH houses.

She needs to get to know her child. Being the "two day a week" parent? Her son could be seen as the "party house" since there doesn't appear to be the same rules at each others house. So when he gets reprimanded how does he respond? Does she start screaming or yelling when he doesn't listen?

There is sooo much missing from this post.

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answers from Portland on

Well, his routine is with his home base, so that's his 'norm'.

I would have your daughter try to mimic what her ex does to keep it consistent - do they coparent at all? (i.e. work together?) So same types of parenting styles (e.g. how they reward and handle consequences, etc.)

Sometimes the parent who has the child less time, is seen as more lenient in the eyes of the child. They will test limits.

I think she's aiming for respect. She should be firm, have limits, rules and be consistent - just as she would be if she had him full time.

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answers from Washington DC on

well, the first thing to keep in mind is that shared custody has some positives but the huge and obvious negative is that it's confusing and distressing for kids, especially ones as young as your granddaughter.

so some empathy is called for above and beyond finding ways to make her listen.

has this little girl had any counseling to help her deal with her complex living situation? i think we haul out 'counseling' too often as a solution, but sometimes it's really helpful.

it's hard to say what your daughter needs to do without further info. defiance, sullenness, sadness, acting out and selective hearing are all possibilities, but the mother's reactions are key. having firm boundaries and reliable consequences are important, but the main thing i'd do with a little girl in this situation is to give her plenty of space to express herself and be heard without *discipline*.


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answers from Norfolk on

It's hard to tell what you mean.
6 yr old doesn't listen to what exactly?

Many parents - even those who are in stable 2 parent homes - find that small children don't seem to listen.
It's a matter of the child being so engaged with playing that they simply don't hear what mom or dad said.
If that's the case - it's not that the child is ignoring anyone - the parent needs to learn how to talk so the child will hear them.

With our son I had to get his attention first.
Then I had him look me in the face.
Then I'd talk to him and tell him what I want him to do.
(And keep this simple - 'pick up your toys' is too general - break it into 'put blocks in their box', and when that is done then 'put your books on their shelf', etc).
Then I'd ask him to repeat what I just said.
Then I'd explain anything that he was confused about.
Then I'd tell him to come back to me when he finished.

Repeat - a lot - into the teen years actually.

Once I got my communication routine down there was a lot less frustration for everyone every which way around.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Do you ever get to visit with your grandchild? It might be helpful to gently ask questions about the living arrangements to better understand his perspective. You can ask “what is your favorite thing about mom’s house, what’s your favorite thing about dad’s house? What is the worst thing about mom’s house, what is the worst thing about dad’s house?” These questions should be very matter of fact, like of course there would be good and bad wherever you go. Just listen, see if you can learn something about how he is feeling about the situation. Does he miss his mom, his dad when he’s not with them? Acknowledge this must be hard.

If your daughter can understand him better, it might be easier for her to know what to do. In general, all parents of young children should develop a routine that is clear. It doesn’t have to be exactly the same everyday, but there should be some aspects that are consistent and fun, like meals, bedtime and hygiene routines, etc. When he gets to her home, she can explain what the plan is for the day and/or the weekend, and provide reminders along the way to help with transitions, “after breakfast we will go to the park”, “we will be leaving the park in five minutes, let’s get ready.” If he has trouble, she can acknowledge the feeling, “I know it’s hard to leave the park”, but also stick to the plan, “but remember we are going to dinner with Grandma when we get home.” If he doesn’t cooperate, put her arms around him, tell him how much she loves him and how important it is to listen, and help him along. Being playful can help with most things, “let’s see who can get to the car first.” Keeping listening fun at this age builds good listening habits for the future.

It also might help, if mom and dad are on good terms, if they can spend a couple of minutes at the beginning and end of the visit to discuss the plan. Dad could say something to mom about how his week has been, “he’s had a good week, spent some time playing with his friend and listened well at school”, and then to his son, "hey buddy, have fun with your mom, I’ll see you tomorrow.” Same when he returns to dad, mom can say “we had a lot of fun playing with grandma”, and “hey buddy, have a good week with your dad, can’t wait to see you next weekend.” They should keep it positive, and resist any temptation to complain about his behavior. His behavior will improve when he feels safe and secure in his life.

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answers from Santa Fe on

Keep in mind that it is pretty normal for a 6 year old to be terrible at listening. I know both my kids were at that age. I would have to go over, touch them,look them in the eye, and ask again. I'd have to give a count to 3 if they were doing something (like playing a game on the ipad) and then it was time to turn off the game. Then I'd have to touch them and look them in the eye and ask them AGAIN. Kids this age are really bad at listening. Why does she think he listens well to Dad and Grandma? Has she seen this happen? Do they give a consequence for not listening? Does your daughter give a consequence? I think you got some great advice.I wish her luck...kids are works in progress and it takes a lot of patience.

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answers from Boston on

It may be hard to know what happens in the other house. Your daughter says he listens to his father and grandmother - but does he? Or do they just say so, so she thinks it's all on her?

If there is a good coparenting relationship between your daughter and the child's other family, it's worth finding out what the expectations are, what the "code" words are (for instructions, correction, redirection, consequences) and to use the same ones. The dad needs to support that Mom is the boss at her house, and that the parents agree on this.

Transition can be hard from one house to the other for kids of all ages. By the time they get used to the 2-day house, the weekend is over, and it's back to the routine. I don't think it matters if the child lives with dad and visits mom, or the other way around. It's sad that there's an expectation that somehow "living with mom" is the norm and there must be something wrong with her if the child lives with dad.

The non-custodial parent never gets much of a chance. Transitions from one activity to another can also be hard for some kids, whether it's "turn off the TV and come to dinner" or "finish up your worksheet and come to the story circle" (ask any elementary school teacher about how they have to give a head's-up or 5 minute warning to at least half the class.

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