Does Your Child Listen the First Time?

Updated on January 02, 2011
T.L. asks from Mesa, AZ
16 answers

This question is for those who have kids around 8 years old.
Do you have to repeat yourself, for your child to do what you ask? Do they listen, and respond the 1st time?
For instance, brushing room, procrastinating homework, etc....
If you ask twice, and they zone out..what is your response?
How are you handling these battles?

I have recently started taking away privileges, after I have to tell him something (twice)
seems to work, if I stay consistent.
I want to see how you all handle this. thx

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answers from Albany on

my almost 3 year old does not listen on the 15th time he is told to do something. i tell him if its not done his toys are going back to santa...( i know this will only last for like 1 week) or i tell him that it favorite toy will go into the garbage! Good Luck

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Williamsport on

No child I know responds the first time without consequences for not doing so consistently until the habit is formed to respond and the habit is broken to ignore. Consistency is always key, good work!

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Seattle on

My 8yo is ADHD... so that's something to consider.

Often... absolutely does he do things the first time I ask him to, and most of the time I tell him to do something. And we have a special code that means that something has to be done *immediately* no questions asked. We mostly taught this in game format, but it's come in useful from time to time in every day life. Most of the time, however, no one's life is at risk if instant compliance isn't granted. So I don't demand it, except to train for times when someone's life IS at stake.

There are also tons and tons of times I ask or tell him to do something that either he questions it, throws a fit about it, or cheerfully agrees and promptly forgets, and times where he gets distracted by something shiny in between point A and point B. ((What we're working on for the distracted by x between A & B is not actually NOT getting distracted, but keeping point B in mind for when X is complete, OR seeing if the "mission" can be altered to include x. It's actually a very useful observational skill to be able to deal with the unexpected as things crop up... but it can be devastating to completely forget point B. So we're working on compartmentalization and prioritizing.))

I don't TELL my son to do a lot of things... most of the time I ask. And if I'm asking "no thanks" is a completely correct answer. As is "Do you mind if I ________ first?" or "After x, y, z... absolutely." Ditto if something HAS to happen I don't ask. I tell.

I don't punish for not listening, but I do reward for both listening and helping (aka doing something I ask him to do). A lot of what we work on in our house is pattern and repetition (with adhd one really wants to grind in routines so that necessary things will still happen even when your mind is on something else), intent, drive, curiosity, doing the right thing for the right reasons, and helpfulness.

We also work on identifying things that are rude (in our culture and others), what respect looks like/ feels like/ how to express it. AKA social navigation. We do a lot of this by working in reverse. AKA in order to figure out how one shows respect, we intentionally teach rudeness. And vice versa. We also do a lot of emotional self regulation training, and ways to express or "put on hold" emotional reaction.

By figuring out the edges of each concept it allows my son (or anyone in a new culture) to navigate with the fewest number of social blunders / unintentional hurt.

TYPICALLY I handle "battles" by changing the rules. I'm not fond of fighting, I'd rather improvise and adapt. There's usually a REASON why something is a battle... I'd rather find the root cause and fix it there than bulldoze and insist on my way.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Listen the first time??? Ha!!! Ha ha hahahhahaha hahaha hahaha. Yeah right.


5 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I think we need to award kids the same courtesy we award other adults. When I ask an employee to do something for me at work, I do not expect her to drop everything she is doing - I expect some clarification - eg - yes, does it need to be done right away, I can get to it later this afternoon/when I finish what I am doing or something to that effect. We don't seem to do that with kids who may look like they are daydreaming but in their minds are probably in the middle of something. Plus, unless we make eye contact and use their names, they may very well not really hear what we are saying - good luck.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Modesto on

Use their name and get eye contact when you first ask/tell. I think their little brains are usually otherwise engaged (the same mode that husbands are often in when we speak) and they have to shift gears before they "hear" us. Doing this the first time will usually eliminate the second time. At least you feel pretty justified for discipline when you KNOW for sure they did hear you the first time around.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

It's sure a common difficulty. Consider that part of the problem is that adults expect instant compliance when they give marching orders to kids. If our spouse, mother, or neighbor were to make a request of us, they would usually expect us to agree or not, and work it into our day at our convenience. Even a boss will usually give the message to "get to this when you can."

We don't always extend the same courtesy to our kids, so tuning us out is a defensive mechanism they employ, sometimes because they simply don't want to be inconvenienced, sometimes as a mental-health strategy.

From toddlerhood onward, kids do better when given some choice, and some time to make transitions. One way to reduce toddler meltdowns, for example, is to give them a warning several minutes before a change must happen. Older kids also hate being required to change directions on a dime. (So do I, and I'm 63.)

There are wonderful ways to connect with your child that respect his needs and boundaries while coming to an agreement that meets your basic requirements. Along the way, the child learns to make use of his own sense of direction, and to realize that being part of a smoothly-operating household is in his own best interests, too.

Find out how parenting experts Faber and Mazlish achieve this wonderful balance in the practical book How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk, by Faber and Mazlish. By the time you finish each chapter, you'll be equipped to put the lessons to work in your own family, and see almost instant results. I've read bazillions of parenting books, and this one is pure gold.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Give a warning (I need you to do x by y time) and have consequences for not following through. It does not have to be a huge consequence - and it should be a natural one where possible. Be consistent.
I disagree that children should be treated as adults and given the responsibility of deciding when a task should be completed. They have not developed the time management and decision making skills for that. It would be the equivalent of your boss leaving a new employee to run the business. Also, in many cases they have not developed the maturity to "do it anyway even though they don't want to."

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

They are focused on something, they have to first hear you, it has to go in their ear, in their brain, they have to recognize it is something to change their focus onto, they then need to redirect their brains to process what you are saying and decide to do it or ignore it, they have to stop the activity, get up, go to another area and do the task.

That's a lot to ask a child sometimes. I learned that by counting I remember to give them time to process what is going on and to decide to do what I am asking.

I ask K to do something and if she doesn't respond I count to 1, I ask again after a few seconds and then if she doesn't respond I count on to 2, 3 etc...if she has not responded by 5 she gets consequences.

So, a sequence goes something like this:

K, I need you to pick up your things out of the living room......a bit louder in case she didn't hear me, K, please come now.....One...wait about 10 seconds, TWO...(she usually comes by this point because she has head me counting and knows she is on a countdown to get something done)...K, I need you to come here....THREE...wait about 10 seconds and FOUR...what is going to happen to you if I get to 5? .......FIVE!

Then I go get her and she comes in with me if I even have to pick her up and bring her. We have a talk about her ignoring me and then she looses something big, like her bike for the rest of the day, or if it's a really nice day out she gets grounded from outside the rest of the day. If done a few times she will get the idea. Like I said, the counting gives me a chance to remember she needs a few minutes to process the request, and then she has time to respond.

I hardly ever have to go to 5 because she knows she'll get something taken away or maybe get a swat on the hiney with my hand. Not a big deal, she hasn't had a spanking in a months and months.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Albuquerque on

Hi T.,
My husband and I have 4 teenagers (14yo girl, 15,17 &18 yo boys). we insisted on first time obedience when they were young for 2 reasons. One, (and this is the big one) if I had to tell them two or three times, or had to count to three, by the time I got to the third time or the count of three I was flaming mad. I couldn't then discipline if they didn't obey, without it being abusive. If I said "please pick up the legos" and they didn't obey and I immediately metted out the discipline (which may be taking away the legos, or a spanking or whatever my husband & I had decided beforehand was to be the punishment for the lack of obedience) then I was still level headed and able to discipline out of love not anger. I never got mad or had to yell to get their attention. (to see if they hear you and are ignoring you, all you have to do is ask them if they want a cookie...I guarantee they'll hear you ask!) The second reason we insisted on first time obedience was that when they get out of the house as young men and women, no one else will give them to the count of three to obey....the speed limit is 25 if you go 50 and get a ticket you're stuck with penalty the first time. If your college prof says you have a paper due Friday, its due Friday, not Monday or Tuesday. etc.

Be consistent and keep up the good work! It is so worth it later! We have four teens and we still love them and they still love us! It was so worth the incredibly hard work we put into it when they were young!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

We took a parenting class at our church which was extremely helpful in teaching our 2 boys first time obedience, etc. We used a marble jar system: they each had a jar, I would start each week with 5 marbles each, they would earn a marble for listening the first time or loose a marble for not listening right away, they could earn extra marbles for going above and beyond in any area, at the end of the week if they had 10 or more marbles they would get a special date with mom or whatever we decided was the reward). Each week, we were able to add a new skill: listening, getting dressed first thing in the morning without being told, keeping their rooms clean, etc. Once a skill was mastered (after 2 wks or so), it became an expectation and you don't necessarily earn marbles for it. This worked marvelously (even for our ADHD child). After about 1 year, we didn't even need it anymore.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

yes mine did it between 8-10 stay consistant the grounding is the only thing i found that helped at that age they have selective hearing. trust me they will outgrow this and it starts again around 15 :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

My child is 2, but I teach 4th grade - 9 year olds. No, they don't seem to listen the first time, but you've already found the key to the problem - be consistent. Do you know the book "Parenting with Love and Logic"? I've used those strategies with my son and my students with great success, even students who have ADHD and other problems.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Tulsa on

My d just turned 9. It drove hubby nuts. We got the reward chart and she only gets a star/point for those things she does without us reminding her.
I have a terrible habit of repeating myself and she tunes me out. I learned to say it once and done. It works if I stay consistent too.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

For my 8 & 11 yr. olds: ff I just ask something while passing through chances are the kids do not hear the request....BUT if I stop, make eye contact, use their name, still get down at their level (still very short) and speak to them respectfully, they comply if not instantly as soon as they finish what they are doing.

Great advise from many others here already, especially the book Parenting with Love and Logic. My fav for sure.



answers from Phoenix on

Yes, my son acts this way. Most boys cannot follow more than one direction at a time, it is the way their brain is wired. I have daily expectations listed and hanging in their rooms: make bed, brush teeth, pick up toys and room; homework, feed dog, etc. We try to make the outcome positive - "If you choose to do all of your jobs then you get privelges" . Their privelges are T.V., video games, playing, etc. We make it their choice so we are not the "bad guys". If I am asking him to do something for me that is not on the list, I make it one or two things and then have him repeat it back to me. My son has a lot on his mind, always thinking about something and it takes awhile for his thinking to shift into something else, so repeating helps. I know it is frustrating, but it is the way our kids are and accepting it helps and teaching them skillsj on how to shift their thinking helps too.

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