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What to Do When Kids Won’t Listen: 7 Tips for Parents

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Learning how to get your teenager to respect you can be challenging for parents. But when teens don’t listen, yelling at them or punishing them doesn’t help. What your child really needs is compassion and respect. If you respect and listen to them, they’ll respect and listen to you.

Figuring out how to get kids to listen—without yelling at them—is crucial to the parent-child relationship. Let’s take a look at what might help both parents and kids when it comes to communication and listening.

Key Takeaways

  • Calm communication is crucial to get your teen to listen to you. If you yell and get into a power struggle, your teen won’t listen and you’ll be upset and angry.
  • Setting clear expectations and boundaries for your teen will help them understand what you want them to do.
  • Discipline isn’t the same as punishment. Positive discipline will help get your teen to listen without making them suffer through punishments.
  • Some ways to get kids to listen are staying calm, being authentic and honest with your teen, and trying to see things from their perspective.

Why Teenagers Don’t Listen to Their Parents

If your kids listen selectively or don’t listen at all, it can be difficult as a parent to know what to do. Understanding your child’s behavior is helpful in getting both of you on the same page.

There are many reasons why kids don’t listen. Sometimes they don’t feel respected by their parents and therefore don’t return that respect. During the adolescent idealism and adolescent egocentrism stages, teens don’t listen to parents because they’re convinced they know better than adults.

In addition, often teens don’t listen to parents because they’re more focused on connecting with their peers. In fact, a 2022 study found that the adolescent brain is wired to tune out parents’ voices and pay attention to unfamiliar voices. It’s part of developing socially and forming connections with people outside of their families. So if your teen doesn’t listen to you, it may be partly due to neurological and development changes during adolescence.

In addition, teens are striving for independence and autonomy. Consequently, they may ignore your advice and instructions. For a teen to become more independent, they need to feel in control of their lives and able to make their own decisions. If you trust them to do that, they can start forming their identity and learning who they are as a separate person from their parents.

Could Mental Health Issues Keep a Teen from Listening?

There another reason why kids won’t listen: underlying mental health issues. Many teens are distracted by excessive worrying, stress, overwhelm, and sometimes anxiety and/or depression. Any one of these issues by themselves can be challenging, but many kids experience two or more of these mental health issues. Mental health challenges can prevent teens from listening to their parents because they’re experiencing distress, exhaustion, confusion, self-loathing, or other mental health symptoms.

Moreover, some teens have Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). Defiant teens often break the rules, overstep boundaries, and test limits. They may be excessively irritable or rude, get into arguments easily, and talk back to their parents. ODD is usually diagnosed in young children and is one of the behavior disorders recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Vol. 5 (DSM-5). If your child has ODD, it can be very difficult to get them to listen, so it’s important that you approach the relationship with extra care, love, and compassion.


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As a parent, it’s up to you to find a positive way to meet your child’s basic needs so that they trust you and will listen to you. You’ll have more control if you don’t lose sight of the fact that your teen may be struggling with stress or mental health issues. Getting them professional mental health help can be a game changer in learning how to get kids to listen, especially how to get kids to listen without yelling at them.

My Kid Won’t Listen to Me, What Do I Do?

Mutual respect is built over time. In order to gain respect from your teen, you need to be dedicated to open communication and active listening with your kids from an early age. Even with that, teens can still be disrespectful. They may not listen at times. But your relationship with your child can withstand the tough times that adolescence can bring if you and your child show mutual respect to one another.

Again, respect must be earned. And it’s a two-way street. Show your teen that you respect them by giving them space when they need it, truly listening to them when they tell you something, and showing interest in their lives. As a result, you’ll be met with the same respect you give them—at least most of the time. It starts with you as a parent.

7 Tips for How to Get Kids to Listen—and How to Listen to Them

With mutual respect comes mutuality in conversation. If you want your kids to listen to you, you need to make sure you’re listening, too. You can avoid power struggles and harsh punishment by listening with intent.

Here are 7 tips to get kids to listen without yelling. These tips will also help you as a parent learn how to listen to your kids.

Practice Active Listening

Active listening is a way to listen to someone while being an active participant in the conversation. As a parent practicing active listening, you want to make eye contact and use fewer words. As a first step to get your teen to listen to you, let your teen talk and you listen, without interrupting.

When using active listening, reflect back what your teen is telling you. Ask thoughtful questions to make sure you’re understanding correctly. Show that you’re interested in what they have to say. Research published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology shows that using eye contact, nodding, and listening attentively helps teenagers open up to parents about breaking rules or having hurt feelings.

Set Clear Expectations and Stick with Them

As a parent of a teen who isn’t listening or showing respect, it’s important to establish clear expectations and healthy boundaries. Make sure your child knows what is expected of them and what the consequences will be if they don’t listen.

But it’s not enough just to set these expectations and boundaries. You need to enforce them and stick to your guns, even when your teen starts to argue or talk back. In fact, teens will respect you more if you follow through on enforcing boundaries. If your child knows that you expect them to do something and they don’t do it, it’s your job as the parent to enforce the rules you’ve established.

Use Positive Discipline

Discipline is necessary when parenting, especially when your child is a teen. But that doesn’t mean using harsh punishments. There’s a difference between punishing and disciplining. Punishment makes a child suffer for breaking the rules. Discipline teaches your child how to act better next time. Positive discipline can go a long way in getting your child to listen, respect boundaries, and hold up their side of the agreements you’ve made as a family.

Stay Calm

If you get heated about something that your teen did (or didn’t do), you may be met with hostility. If you lose your cool, chances are your teen won’t listen to you. But if you remain calm and talk to your child using an even tone and a relaxed demeanor, they’re much more likely to respond in kind.

Remember, when you yell, your child tunes you out. It’s very difficult to communicate effectively when one or both parties are yelling and screaming. That’s why learning how to get kids to listen without yelling is important if you want to have effective communication with your child.

Be Authentic and Honest—Without Oversharing

Being honest and authentic with your child is part of showing mutual respect. If you want your teen to be open and honest with you, you need to demonstrate that behavior and reciprocate. You don’t need to tell them everything about your life. But there are some things that are appropriate to share and can strengthen your connection. For one, be honest about why you’re setting a boundary. For example, the reason you’re setting a curfew might be because you’re concerned about their safety when they’re out late. Or if they’re struggling in school, you might want to make sure they have time to do their homework.

If you can be honest with your child about what’s influencing your decisions—instead of just saying “Because I said so”—they’ll be more inclined to be open and honest with you. One study found that teens who felt their parents listened to their side of the story and talked over important decisions with them had higher life satisfaction.

Try to See Things from Their Point of View

One of the best ways to understand your child is to empathize with them. This means that you understand what they’re feeling and can share those feelings with them. Put yourself in their shoes. Remember back to when you were their age and what it was like for you. Did you ever think your parents were too controlling—or just didn’t get you? You may find that you can understand your teen better the more you empathize with them and see the world from their perspective.

Remember That It’s Not Easy Being a Teen

Being a teen is tough. They’re experiencing intense changes as they go through puberty and form relationships outside the family. It’s hard work finding out who you are and who you want to be. That includes sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as their values and what matters to them most.

How Newport Academy Strengthens Parent-Child Relationships

Parent-child relationships are incredibly important, especially during the most formative years of adolescence. Teen treatment at Newport Academy can help teens and families manage difficult emotions, improve communication and parenting skills, and build healthy coping tools. Ultimately, trengthening connection and restoring trust are the best ways to get your teenager to respect and listen to you.

Newport Academy treats the whole family system, not just the teen. This means our teen treatment programs help rebuild parent-child bonds that have been disrupted as a result of mental health or substance abuse issues. We tailor our treatment to each client, utilizing modalities including CBT, DBT, and family therapy to provide the best possible care.

Start the healing journey today: Contact us for a free teen mental health assessment.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do I get my child to listen without yelling?
  • Why does my child not listen until I yell?
  • What are some healthy coping skills for when teenagers don’t listen to adults?
  • How do I handle a teenager that doesn’t listen?
  • What’s the best way to get kids to listen?


J Neurosci. 2022 May. 42 (20): 4164–4173.

J Experimental Child Psychol. 2021; 209: 105178.

Front. Psychol. 2021 Feb. 12: 10.3389.