You are saying too much. Staying brief and sticking to one or two points is the best policy when it comes to communicating with kids. Giving your child a list of things she needs to remember – say, listing off several chores you want her to do or reminding her to do a number of things to get ready for school, for example – can make it difficult for a child to keep track of everything she’s supposed to do. Similarly, using lots of big words and going into a long explanation about something, such as why you punished her for doing something wrong, can end up just diluting the message. Being brief and specific is especially important for younger children, who tend to have short attention spans.
Your child is focused on something else. Often, children are concentrating so intently on something they’re doing, whether it’s watching a favorite show or movie or playing with Legos, that they simply do not hear you. (Kids, like adults, can get totally engrossed in something; so when they don’t listen, it’s sometimes not defiance as much as it’s that they’re totally immersed in something.) Try to see the positive side to this (they are building their concentration skills) and ask your child for her full attention by going to her and speaking to her face-to-face. And remember to try to give your child some time to transition from the activity she’s doing to what you are asking her to do.
You are speaking to him while you are doing something else. It happens – you’re busy making dinner and you want to remind your child to finish his homework so you yell at him from across the room or across the house. But whenever possible, try to get into the habit of taking the time to go to him and speak to him face-to-face. The chances of your child listening to you are increased exponentially if you pay attention to him fully when making a request.
You are criticizing. Would you like it if someone was constantly criticizing you and would you want to pay attention to what that person was saying? If you are routinely negative (“I don’t know why you can’t ever listen!”) then your child just might just naturally tune you out.
You are either ordering or begging. Going full drill sergeant (“Pick up those toys right now!!!”) or simpering beggar (“Please, please, please, can’t you pick up your toys?”) are both highly likely to yield the same results over time – kids not listening. The better approach is to ask in a pleasant but firm voice. Find that fine line between ordering and pleading with your child.
You are not following your words with action. If you repeatedly ask your child to pick up his toys and you don’t follow through with consequences when he ignores you, then you are teaching him to, well, ignore you.