Today's post is by my friend and fellow writer at The M.O.M. Initiative, Lori Wildenberg. I just adore her!

Walking through the toy section of a department store, I noticed a mom with her around three-year-old son. He was dutifully walking right next to her as she was pushing the shopping cart.

“Ahhh, he is doing so well,” I thought to myself. He was not whining or even attempting to escape.

His mom broke the peaceful mood and saying, “Don’t even think about climbing on those shelves.”

I squeezed my eyes shut and grimaced. I knew what was coming next. (I’m guessing you do too.) Yep, just like a little monkey, he made his way to the top in no time flat; leaving his mom clamoring after him, frustrated and ready to erupt.

How can I get my child to listen?

This is the all-time most frequently asked question Becky and I get in our parenting classes and seminars.

Let’s begin by reframing the question.

The question isn’t, “Why doesn’t my child listen?” The question is, “Why doesn’t he cooperate?”

Usually a lack of cooperation results because the parent states the expected behavior in the wrong fashion.

Think back to the example of the mom and her boy. When she said, “Don’t even think about climbing on the shelves.” What did you picture in your mind’s eye? If you’re like most of us you pictured that little rascal scrambling up the shelves like a jungle gym.

Knowing this, what do you think a young child may envision?

Yes. The same thing.

Youngsters are not mentally sophisticated. They act on what they visualize. Kids don’t picture the “Don’t” they see the action, “Climb on the shelves.”

So what is a parent to do? Simply, don’t say don’t.

Generally speaking most children want to please their parents. Rarely do they deliberately set out to make Mom or Dad angry. (Of course there are a few little stinkers that can’t help themselves, just because getting bigger people to exhibit big emotion feels pretty powerful and exciting.)

So here are 4 tips Becky and I recommend when it comes to getting your child to listen ( or to cooperate).

  • State your expectations in the positive. In the case above, the mother could have said, “Hold on to the cart.” My educated guess is the child would have complied.
  • Use a statement not a question. “Can you hold onto the cart?” gives the child to option of yah or nay.
  • Avoid reminding the child of behavior you’d like to extinguish. I believe the mom above made the statement, “Don’t even think about climbing on those shelves” due to intimate knowledge that she has a little climber.
  • Be proactive using past knowledge. You know your child and the things that tempt him. Be proactive by stating the desired behavior rather than the action you want to extinguish. “Hang onto the cart.”

Not saying don’t is hard. “Don’t…” just automatically flies out of the parental mouth, like a reflex. Enlist your spouse’s assistance. If one slips up and speaks the don’t out of shear habit, get the other’s permission to quickly restate the expectation in the do form. This takes some practice and quick thinking but when parents help each other out, the don’t habit can be broken. Then you will have a child that “listens” better!

Let the wise listen and add to their learning. Proverbs 1:5a


During the LOVE Month, February, 1C13P is celebrating! The 1 Corinthians 13 Parent Series: Raising Little Kids with Big Love and Raising Big Kids with Supernatural Love and their companion study guides, is being formally launched. My co-author, Becky Danielson and I are so excited; so much so that we wanted to spread a little love around.  We are giving away over $400.00 of gifts: books, jewelry, and one-on-one parent coaching with either Lori or Becky, both licensed parent and family educators. To be eligible for the gifts, comment on this blog post or on an article over at during the month of February. Winners will be randomly drawn each Friday and notified via email. Thank you for sharing in this special month long event!


loriLori Wildenberg loves to encourage and support parents in their quest to be the mom or dad they want to be. Lori and her ministry partner and co-author, Becky Danielson, are licensed parent and family educators, authors of three parenting books, speakers, and founders of For more information or to connect with Lori go to or visit the 1C13P facebook page

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If this post was a blessing to you, head over to Amazon where you can find more great faith-based and easily applicable tips and information in our newly released books:  Raising Little Kids with Big Love and Raising Big Kids with Supernatural Love.