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How to Get Kids to Listen to Rules

See also: Parenting Top Tips

Children become defiant as they grow: this is a natural part of the learning process and can help them to develop skills, knowledge, and ways to survive in life.

However, when children become too defiant and refuse to listen to the rules, problems can start to occur. Rules are put in place for good reasons: first to teach children boundaries and respect, and second to make sure they abide by the law and don't get into trouble when they're older.

Children who start to defy the rules and no longer follow them can cause major problems for all involved. This is where you need to setup a new line of learning and define boundaries so your children can start to respect the rules again.

So how do you start this huge task?

Here are some simple tips to develop your parenting skills while helping you to teach your child to respect the rules.

Best Practices to Get Kids to Follow the Rules

Understand the Underlying Reasons to Their Behaviour

Sometimes before you can use the appropriate methods of getting your kids to listen, you must first understand why they may be misbehaving in the first place.

Smaller children may not follow the rules and be naughty because they’re tired or hungry.

Other reasons why a child may not follow the rules is because they want attention, they’re being teased at school, or they may be jealous of another new sibling.

There’s generally always a reason for bad behaviour and, by understanding what that reason is, you may find a simple solution as to why your child isn’t following the rules as they should.

In some cases, it’s a good idea to sit down with your child and have an open and honest conversion. When you’re going to have a conversation with your child, start by asking them what is wrong, why they feel angry and why they think it’s OK to not follow the rules.

At first it may be hard to get them to talk but, once they open up to you, listen. If you don’t listen to them speak, then why should they listen to you when you want them to follow the rules?

Both of you speaking honestly and openly about the rules, why they need to be followed, and the reasons why your child feels like they don’t have to follow them, will help to determine your course of action.

One Thing at a Time and Be Specific

Many people tend to forget that smaller children have short attention spans.

This is where you need to be clear and choose one thing for your child to complete first that’s most important. There’s no point in barking out three or four different orders if your child won’t get passed the first one. Instead of saying tidy your clothes, put away your toys, make your bed and feed the fish all in one go, focus on the most important thing first.

For example:

“Daniel, can you please feed the fish, they’re hungry” – simple, straightforward and to the point. If they follow through with this then move onto the next chore they need to complete.

“Daniel, please go make your bed” – and so on.

Along with your rules, you need to be specific.

Instead of “Daniel, you need to tidy your room” be more specific.

“Daniel, please put your sandals in the wardrobe” or “Please place your toys in the toy chest”.

If they don’t want to complete the task at hand when asked, then it’s time to bring in the consequences.

Consequences: Never Use Threats or Bribes

When setting up consequences for their actions, it’s important to never use bribes or threats.

Bribes and threats work in opposite ways; a bribe will tell the child that if they do what you asked them to, then they will receive a bribe in order to complete it next time. This can be expensive in the long run.

Instead, work on setting up negative consequences to their actions.

For example:

Daniel, can you please feed the fish, they’re hungry.

“No, I don’t want to.”

OK, then you don’t get to go to the baby store to pick out a present for baby Sam.

Saying the negative consequence after you’ve received their answer teaches them to decide whether or not their next action will cause them to miss out on something they want to do.

“OK Mom.”

Setting up appropriate consequences helps your child to learn decision making at an early age.

Don’t Back Down, Follow Through

When getting your child to follow the rules, it’s important to set the scene and not back down.

If you want your child to follow the rules, you can’t let them have any leeway.

For example, if you want your child to brush their teeth after eating chocolate before bed, you need to follow through and not back down.

There may be a fuss, a crying session, or a temper tantrum. This is normal, however, by showing them that you’re not going to back down, and that you’re going to follow through with your consequences, it teaches them how far they can push you and how much they can get away with.

They will soon learn that if they don’t follow the rules, there will be negative consequences to their actions.

Reward Good Behaviour

Rewarding good behaviour is a great way of showing your child that you approve of their action in an easy to understand way. The more you reward good behaviour, and ignore bad behaviour (when appropriate of course), the more your children will listen to you.

Rewards don’t have to be extravagant like money, they can be simple things like reading two stories at bed time, a simple toy from a lucky dip box, or a piece of their favourite candy. Rewarding good behaviour is more productive than paying attention to bad behaviour. Once you pay attention to bad behaviour, your child will continue the cycle of bad behaviour to get your attention.


Getting your child to follow the rules is all about listening, understanding, and setting up the boundaries that you expect in your household.

By utilising these tips and techniques you have a greater chance of getting your kids to listen to the rules. Yelling at your child constantly won’t work because they become used it.

You need to setup a solid foundation they can follow. So are you going to try out the new skills that you’ve learnt?

About the Author

Caroline Kastner is an active mother to her young son and loves to blog about anything parent related.

She has been contributing to Active Baby and other websites with practical advice on parenting. She is an advocate for children and families, and is looking forward to one day adopting a child to add to her loving family.