top of page

How to Get Your Kids to Listen Without Yelling or Arguing

The request from a young mother told a familiar story. Her sweet, adorable toddler was hijacking her night, every night. Bedtime to this two-year old was an invitation for hours of fun and games as she repeatedly climbed out of bed and mom just as determinedly put her back. My friend had tried every trick offered on all the mommy blogs and was at her wits end. She reached out to me, hoping for relief. After a short discussion, the young mother felt confident and empowered to begin a new bedtime routine that night. She calmly explained to her daughter what to expect and prepared her for a new style of nighttime parenting. Astonishingly, she never needed to carry out the planned consequences. That night her daughter quietly climbed into bed and stayed there the whole night. Although mom was prepared for loud wails and several exhausting evenings as she implemented the new routine, it never happened. Peace and quiet reigned in the house, transforming bedtime from chaos to serenity. What on earth happened? Was it magical or coincidental that her toddler began behaving at bedtime on the very night mom felt most prepared for misbehavior?

In truth, it was neither magical, nor coincidental, but rather the reflection of a powerful Biblical reality. From the beginning of Braishit (Genesis) when Hashem (God) created the world with ten statements, the Torah (Five Books of Moses)  teaches us the tremendous power of the spoken word. Human beings have the potential to shape reality with our words, to build and destroy worlds through speech. This week’s Torah portion Parshas Tetzave (Exodus 27:20-30:10) is the only section of the Torah from Moshe Rabeinu’s (Moses’s) birth until his death at the end of Deuteronomy without his name. Throughout the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, Moshe’s name is mentioned almost 600 times. The lack of his name in this week’s Parshah is glaringly obvious. Jewish tradition teaches that Moshe himself made this happen. In Exodus 32:32, while praying for forgiveness for the Jewish people after the sin of the Golden Calf, he requested, “Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin – ; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.” While a lesser person’s words may not have the same impact, Moshe was a man of integrity and holiness and his words formed a definite reality. Hashem did forgive the nation’s sin, but Moshe’s expression still made an impact  and his name is blotted out of one section of the Torah, this week’s portion.

A gentleman’s word used to be his bond. Previous generations understood the inherent power of the spoken word. Today, we are bombarded with meaningless drivel as far too many people spew words without thought. Unfortunately, the more foolish rambles we hear and speak, the more desensitized we become to the potential power of our words. We forget how impactful our words can be. Nowhere is this more evident than in the parent-child relationship. Children are born with an affinity for their parents’ voices gained in utero. They are naturally attuned to listen to their parents’ every word and they are exquisitely sensitive to a parent’s tone. When children consistently don’t listen to their parents, it’s often because parents don’t really believe their words make a difference. 

When the young mother explained to her toddler how bedtime would be different going forward, this wasn’t the first time she had done so. The difference this time was that for the first time, the mother believed her words. She was confidently prepared to carry out her plan, and that determination was transmitted to her daughter in the tone and words she used to prepare her for a new style of bedtime. The toddler responded to the new tone in her mother’s words and her behavior changed accordingly.

To raise children who listen to their parents, parents must first believe in the power of their decisions and statements. A mother who doesn’t really believe her own statement of “Bedtime in ten minutes” will certainly communicate that indecision to her children. Conversely, a mother who feels competent and confident in her decision that bedtime is in ten minutes, will convey that message in her tone to her children who will react accordingly.

Parents’ words have power and are impactful. Children are naturally inclined to listen to their parents. However, before children can do so, a parent must first believe their words themselves. When facing your next parenting conundrum, I urge you to take the time to think calmly and clearly to determine how you really feel about the situation and what you deeply believe is the correct answer. (If you haven’t yet watched Parenting As Partners, I urge you to do so. In the video, Max and I share with you how we make parenting decisions that reflect our deepest values and give you guidelines to do the same.) After you feel confident in your decision and in your power to carry it out, then calmly and clearly share your decision with your children. When we believe in the power of our words, then our words become powerful. A parent who believes in and knows the value of their statements, raises children who naturally do the same.

For even more help getting your children to listen to you the first time you speak, watch Parenting for Children to Listen, my video presentation full of timeless  insights and practical suggestions for today’s parents.

This week’s article is dedicated to the memory of Maoz Morell, 22, who was injured in Gaza on February 15 and died of his wounds on February 19. Maoz was a dedicated Torah student. His brother, Dov Morell, described Maoz as a “writer and a warrior” who, even after enlisting in the army, “did not for a moment abandon Torah study… Before the first entry into Gaza, families were given the chance to send things to soldiers. Maoz requested only a watch, camera, two copies of the Tanakh and a translation, so he wouldn’t miss out on his regular studies. Every time he came home you would see him with a book in his hand, except when he collapsed from fatigue, of course.”

I want to also express gratitude to Hashem for the birth this week of a daughter to Elchanan and Hila Klein. Elchanan was murdered a few months ago on his way home from reserve duty. Elchanan was a student in the same school as my son, and on November 15, 2023 I dedicated Marriage - A Partnership of Individuals to his memory. May their new daughter bring comfort to her family and community.


Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
bottom of page