How to Get Kids to Listen to You

It’s the last week of school for our kids. This means they will be around me ALL THE TIME for the summer. This being the case, I thought I’d share some stuff on parenting. Stuff for me to remember as I seek to survive another summer.

I avoid giving parenting advice because my kids are still growing and I have reservations about giving advice when I’m not even done yet. It’s like being taught how to pitch from a guy who has only pitched two seasons. Is there a big enough track record so I know I should listen to you?

I do not share these things to tell you what a great parent I am–that will be judged one day by my kids and ultimately by God. I share these things because these are some of the things I have used to guide my parenting.

My first guideline for parenting is FAITH.

By “faith” I mean, the idea of faithfulness. God is worthy of our faith because God is faithful. If He says something, we know He will do it. He will fulfill every promise. “Faith comes by hearing.” Faith is all about listening. Parent the way God does–do what you say. The best way to get kids to listen to you is if you listen to you.

We should endeavor to fulfill every promise we make, but life will prevent you from doing many of them. God can manipulate any situation to guarantee the result He wants. If God wants His people in the Promised Land and Pharaoh says “NO!” God can make it happen anyway.

I can’t. Therefore, James says to us, “ye know not what shall be on the morrow” so instead of making promises say, “If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.”

This says to me–Jeff, do not trust yourself. Don’t make promises, and if you do, put a clause on them. This has greatly impacted my parenting.

Hey Parents–one of the reasons why your kids don’t listen to you is because they listen to you! Kids listen very well, they’ve figured out that you rarely ever do what you say, therefore, they don’t do what you say.

When our kids were little we would take them to restaurants that had play areas. You would sit in there and eat your burgers while losing your hearing as creepy, gooey kids flailed around screaming.

Parents would get ready to go and would say to their kids, “OK, honey, we’re leaving in two minutes.” As soon as I would hear that, I’d push the button on my watch to time how long before they left.

Yeeeeeaaaaah. The reason why your kids aren’t getting ready when you say to is because they already know you aren’t going to leave.

I, on the other hand, never said these things. I would get up and say, “Children, we’re going” and I’d walk out the door. All it takes is a few times of being left behind at a restaurant before kids figure out, “Hey, when dad says we’re leaving, we’re, like, actually leaving.”

Now, in the interest of up-frontness and not leading paranoid women into thinking I’m cruel, I didn’t actually leave, leave. I just left their sight and made my way toward the car. I believe there was one time when my wife and I actually began driving away from Burger King, but only once and we were able to see them the whole time through the window.

My bottom line is this: Listen to yourself if you want your kids to listen to you. Understand your fallibility, your complete inability to actually fulfill promises. If you don’t even listen to you, why should they? Let this lead you to three responses:

1) Only say what you’re willing and able to do. If you say it, then do it.
2) If you can’t guarantee something, then don’t. Put a clause on, “If I can I will.” Maybe even go with James’ phrase “If the Lord wills I will take you to Great America this summer.”
3) Stop talking so much. It’s better just to do than to say.


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