Why Won’t They Listen? Exploring 4 Common Reasons Your Child Might Not Follow Instructions


Being a parent can be quite challenging. Actually, it might be the most challenging task we undertake. It’s more than just the numerous nights without sleep, significant financial pressure, and ensuring our children’s physical health. A significant part of parenting involves guiding our children to become safe, compassionate, and respectful individuals. This can be challenging, especially because children often have their own opinions and may clash with their parents.

So, how can parents effectively communicate with their children without getting frustrated? A great part of this challenge is bringing curiosity into the resistance. Considering what might be difficult for our child at that time allows us to remain patient and clear-headed, enabling us to offer empathy, validation, and guidance for moving forward. Below are a few common factors that could be causing a child’s resistance:


  1. Do our expectations align with the appropriate stage of development? Reflecting on our child’s growth and progress is crucial. It’s crucial not to measure one child against another. For example, parents may anticipate their child to demonstrate a similar level of maturity after witnessing another child perform the same action. However, each child grows at their own speed, and it’s important to keep this in mind when considering what expectations are appropriate for our child.


  1. Have the child’s fundamental requirements been fulfilled? At times, it could be as straightforward as “My child is hungry” or “My child is tired.” Everyone has a breaking point, and when a child is hungry or tired (or both), their ability to respond and control their behavior may be compromised. It applies equally to adults as well.


  1. Has the child had a tough day? If that’s the case, they might just need some time to relax or reconnect, rather than facing discipline right away. According to the wise words of Thích Nhất Hạnh: “the way out is in.” It’s crucial to take a moment and assist our child in understanding their emotions in order to make progress. Amid difficult circumstances, it’s important to show empathy by acknowledging the struggle and providing support through a gentle touch, a hug, or comforting words.


  1. Are our emotions as parents regulated? It’s crucial to remember to take time to check in on ourselves just like we do with our child. If a parent is dysregulated, it’s probable that the child has noticed this behavior. Every now and then, parents may require a break to relax and catch their breath. Recognizing these instances can assist both parent and child in staying regulated, while also demonstrating key methods for regulating emotions in the moment.


It’s common for children to resist and for parents to feel exasperated with discipline. However, incorporating mindfulness and curiosity into parenting can help alleviate these frustrations. It’s crucial to seek help when necessary. Having a strong social support system can help reduce stress and increase resilience. Our family, friends, pediatrician, and mental health professionals can all provide valuable support.

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