Experts Say – Getting Your Child to Listen

My daughter who is now four has begun to tell me that I keep telling her what to do and don’t give her choices. There are many times when she refuses to listen to me, even when I try to reason with her. Getting her to clear her toys can sometimes turn into a full-blown argument. How can I get her to listen to me without seeming too overbearing?

The social-emotional profile of a four-year-old:

1) Changes of mood is rapid and unpredictable (from being happy to getting angry due to frustration, neglect or from denying her requests).

2) Able to cooperate with others and participate in activities or role play.

3) Constantly seeking adult approval and showing pride in accomplishments.

4) Wants to be independent but get easily frustrated when problems arise.

5) Being more verbally aggressive than physical.


By challenging her or stopping her from engaging in her current activity as well as making a sudden transition e.g. from playtime to bathtime can result in the child fighting back hence the constant fighting with adults. When this happens, the following tasks will be upsetting, reinforcing to the child that such associated tasks will be unpleasant which will make her want to avoid it. At times, getting upset is the way to avoid doing the task oftentimes resulting in the adult doing it instead. In order to get the child to take responsibility for her chores, parents can try the following:


·         Give the child time to make any transition by telling them, “you have five more minutes to ….”. For younger children, you can set a timer or a           clock for an older child.

·         Break big chores into more manageable ones and give specific instructions. Instead of saying “go clear your room”, say “please pick up your           toys on the floor then we can do something together after that”. Avoid giving long instructions such as “go and clear your room, pick up all               your toys and bring all your clothes out”. It can be confusing to the child so break it into smaller tasks in different stages filled with fun                     things in between.

·         Use games to aid the clearing, for example, see who can pick up more toys or use a timer or a song as a rule. Use role play by letting her                 pretend she is ‘mummy’ and get her to show you how she picks up her clothes. Getting the child to model after you is a good example.                     Making it a family affair can make it fun. Everyone has to do it no matter the status and have an enjoyable meal after.

·         Let your child make choices and be independent. Ask your child what would she would like to do first and how she is going to do it. You are           not looking at being perfect but to inculcate the habit. By making it fun and enjoyable, your child may do it faster. Reinforce positive                         behaviour with rewards such as a snack or playtime after the task is completed. At times, praise can be reward enough for your child.                       Charts with stars can also help her see her achievements and rewards.

·         Also, as parents, you’ll first need to teach your child how to complete the task. With more information, she is more likely to carry it out.                     Explain to her the reason why the task needs to be completed eg. you may fall or step on your toys and get hurt or your favourite toy                       will be damaged.


Question answered by:

Daniel Koh


Insights Mind Centre

Thanks for sharing!