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How to Get a Child to Listen and Follow Directions (Simple 3-Step Process)

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, drinks liquids when sick, 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’ trick.

That’s right, a trick! There’s hope for getting your kids to listen and follow directions.

My parents used a playful technique instead of screaming and disciplining. It worked like magic.

I want to share this playful approach and 3-step process, so you too will find parenting easier, more rewarding, and fun.

The Trick to Getting a Child to Listen and Follow Directions

My mom and dad embraced a “can do!” spirit, used their imagination, and created games to deal with challenging moments.

They turned parenting into a game!

Let me illustrate this with a quick example before I explain the 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.

When I became a mom, I learned firsthand how creating games improved frustrating situations.

This playful approach makes parenting easier and more fun. You also empower your child and provide opportunities for quality family time. Goodbye nagging, yelling, and getting into power struggles.

Ready to learn this simple and effective technique?

3-Step Process to Become a Playful Parent

Please note that 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!

By creating games to deal with frustrating moments, you’ll have more fun as a parent, you’ll empower your kids, and you’ll spend more quality time with your family.

Want to Get Inspired?

Sign up and download a printable tips sheet with easy-to-implement ideas. You can hang it on your fridge or carry it with you as a quick playful parenting reference. These are also described in my blog post, How to Be a Fun Mom and Playful Parent—in Less Than a Minute (Like Mary Poppins!)

Want More?

Parents are super busy. That’s for sure! Now my kids are grown, but I remember those days where I barely had time to do anything. I was always racing around, attending school events, and taking them to after-school activities. It was especially challenging since I was a stressed-out single parent. Today, life is even busier with smartphones always within reach.

Yes, smartphones! That got me thinking. I could share this effective, playful parenting approach in an entertaining, easy to read way.

We all have spurts of time throughout the day, like waiting in lines, sitting in our car until school finishes… you name it. So, I’ll quickly share my parents’ creative technique where the messages are told through light-hearted, relatable, super-short stories with a “let’s-be-real” tone.

That’s exactly what I did. While waiting, you can take out your smartphone and within a few minutes be entertained while learning playful ways to deal with everyday parenting frustrations.

Introducing not your typical parenting bookParenting—Let’s Make a Game of It, an Amazon #1 New Release in 7 parenting categories.

Written for busy parents, you can read a standalone, light-hearted chapter in only 5-10 minutes.

Similar to the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, the how-to messages are told through enjoyable, anecdotal stories.

Easy to flip through and read by a particular parenting challenge.

Relatable with easy-to-implement playful parenting ideas that also spark your own playfulness.

Check out the glowing 5-star reviews on Amazon.

Yes, I Want It!

(Special Price: eBook only $4.99, Paperback only $8.99)


Read reviews and praises from mommy bloggers, therapists, and parents. Here are a few testimonials:

“It is refreshing to read a book of parenting ideas, that is as much fun to read as the ideas are to implement.” —Deborah Hoffman, speech language pathologist and director of Communication Clubhouse


“Unlike most parenting books, this one is easy to read and entertaining. Instead of recommending consequences or rewards, this book teaches you how to create games to encourage desired behaviors in your children. What a joy to read!” –Marli Diniz, marriage & family therapist

“Love these inspiring stories! They shift unhappy and frustrating moments into fun learning experiences.” –Dr. Alice Wahl Lachman, parent and educator



“The book is full of creative strategies that solve daily parenting problems, and I loved the author’s let’s-be-real style of writing. She doesn’t paint herself or her kids as perfect people, but she encourages parents to tap into their innate creativity and work with their kids to make life more enjoyable–even while doing all the stuff that doesn’t seem fun at first glance.” –Megan, “The Many Little Joys” mommy blogger


How do you get your child to listen and follow directions? Please share your ideas by commenting below.

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!

    • 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!

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