Menu Close

How to Get a Child to Listen and Follow Directions

kids in playground-how to get kids to listen and follow directions

Want to get your child to listen and follow directions without any power struggles?

Imagine it. No more morning madness trying to get out of the house. Goodbye to nighttime standoffs going to bed later and later. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if your child avoids melting down, enjoys going to museums, and even cooperates with chores?

I know, it sounds too good to be true. Usually, when your child fusses, misbehaves, and doesn’t cooperate, you want to clench your teeth and yell, “STOP IT! LISTEN TO ME!”

I get it. I’ve been there… many times.

But yelling is exhausting for the parents, stressful for the kids, and doesn’t create a positive family environment.

Even though my children are grown and living on their own, I distinctly recall those frustrating everyday moments. The arguments, power struggles, screams, and tears. You name it, it wasn’t fun for anyone.

Sometimes things got really chaotic before I remembered my parents’ playful trick of making parenting a game.

Make Parenting Easier—and More Fun!

Want your children to willingly listen? Turn frustrating power struggles into a fun game.

Learn how with Parenting—Let’s Make a Game of It, an entertaining book of 5-minute stories that teaches playful parentingplayfully. An Amazon #1 New Release in 7 parenting categories, it’s perfect for busy parents.

Getting a Child to Listen and Follow Directions

With a “can do!” spirit, my parents used their imagination and created games to deal with challenging moments. Goodbye nagging, yelling, and getting into power struggles.

Let me illustrate this with a quick example before I explain the simple 3-step process.

When I started first grade, my dad walked me to school. He wanted to combine his morning exercise with spending quality time with his little girl. What a great idea! So he thought, but I just dragged my feet and complained the entire mile. “Why can’t we drive like everyone else?” It wasn’t fun for either one of us. Most people would have given up, but not my father. Then one day, he bounced out the door like Tigger and spent the twenty minutes playfully quizzing me about state capitals and other trivia facts. That day, our daily morning walks became treasured daddy-daughter moments that lasted throughout my elementary school years.

As a mom, I learned firsthand how creating games improved frustrating situations. It was a lifesaver, especially as a stressed-out single parent.

It can help you too.

3-Step Process to Become a Playful Parent

In this circumstance, playful parenting doesn’t mean “play” in the traditional sense, like playing a board game, catching a ball, or doing some other activity with your child.

It means creating a playful approach to encourage cooperation.

I know, being playful seems counterintuitive when you’re annoyed. And doesn’t this take longer and require more effort? Maybe, but the reality is that your child is NOT helping and you’re in an unpleasant, stressful power struggle. Wouldn’t it be better to make this fun?

So, how do you go from Point A (ready to scream) to Point B (getting your child to listen and cooperate)?

The trick is applying the three C’s:

  • “Can do!” attitude
  • Clear understanding of the goal
  • Creative problem-solving

1. “Can do!” Attitude

Sure, this situation stinks, but replace your frustration with optimistic thoughts.

I got this! It may take several attempts, but I’ll keep trying until I find something that works.

Remember that anything will be better and more effective than yelling.

2. Clear Understanding of the Goal

Before you can solve the problem, you first need to understand your goal. What are you trying to do?

For instance: I want help cleaning up the living room. It’s a mess with toys, books, cups, and clothes everywhere!

3. Creative Problem-Solving

Now you want to think-outside-the-box and brainstorm creative, playful solutions.

How can I make this fun?

Your child is more likely to listen and follow directions when the game is tied to something they enjoy.

Here are various ways to make cleaning up playful for toddlers through school-age children:

  • If your child loves singing, sing while picking up items. “Tra la-laaaaa! Here are blue paaaants, a red sh-iiiiiiiirt, and dirtyyyyyyy s-oooooocks!” Or modify a popular tune like the “Farmer in the Dell.” “What should we put away? What should we put away? You get to choose three th-i-ings that we’ll put away.”
  • Do they like playing games? Play their favorite music and race as you clean up the room. Or set a timer and count how many things you pick up. Or roll some dice and then everyone puts away that number of items before someone else takes a turn rolling the dice.
  • Like to dance and move around? Wiggle, march, and dance as you pick up items. “Hop like Tigger when getting your clothes. Now skip or prance like a pony while you collect everything red.”
  • Into superheroes? Pretend to be superheroes with different superpowers. “This time, let’s fly around and pick up all the toys like Superman!”

Sometimes it’s helpful to glance around the room for a spark of inspiration. If you’re stuck, you can even ask your kids for ideas and make this a team-building activity. Whatever you do, don’t give up. Adopting a playful approach will get easier.

And it nothing else, make a game of it!

Put the Fun in Parenting

Want to stop power struggles and connect with your kids?

Turn frustrating, everyday challenges into a fun game. Your children will listen and cooperate willingly.

Learn how with Parenting—Let’s Make a Game of It, an entertaining book of 5-minute stories that teaches playful parenting playfully. An Amazon #1 New Release in 7 parenting categories, it’s perfect for busy parents. Only $7.99 (eBook) and $9.99 (paperback) on Amazon.

  Make parenting easier

  Empower kids

♥  Connect families

Want More Parenting Tips?

How to be a Fun, Playful Parent… in Less Than a Minute (Like Mary Poppins)

46 Playful Ways to Enjoy Parenting

13 Tips for Staying Sane While Working from Home with Kids

Posted in Parenting Tips


  1. Ruth

    Love, love, love the trivia walking idea! I’ll have to try this next time my kids drag their feet and complain. I’m also going to try these three steps because yelling at my kids isn’t working. I wish my parents raised me with this playfulness. Alas there’s hope for my kids. Fingers crossed!

  2. Karen

    I agree that yelling doesn’t work. It may be easier to yell, but it isn’t as effective for getting a child to listen and cooperate. And it leaves everyone feeling badly. This playful game approach works, just keep trying different ideas until you find what clicks with your kids. Keeping my fingers crossed for you. Here’s to parenting playfully by creating games. Go, Ruth, go!

Comments are closed.