5 Reasons Kids Listen to One Parent More than the Other

It's common for kids to listen to one parent better than the other.
Ruth Jenkinson / Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images

It’s not uncommon for kids to listen to one parent better than the other. Sometimes they listen to the one they spend the most time with. At other times, they listen to the one who yells the loudest.

Gaining the most compliance doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a better or worse parent. But it can be a sign that you and your partner may want to examine your discipline techniques and see if there are any changes either of you wants to make to your discipline strategies.

Whether your child seems to tune you out, or he listens to you and not your partner, here are five possible reasons for the discrepancy:

1. One Parent May Have a Better Temperamental Fit

The fit between your temperament and your child’s temperament is key to good behavior. If your child is a bundle of loud energy, his temperament is likely to fit better with a parent who runs around and wrestles with him, as compared to a parent who prefers playing quiet board games.

Understanding the fit between a parent and child’s temperament can help you better understand your child’s behavior. Once you identify areas that aren’t a good fit, you can identify strategies to overcome those obstacles, which can be a big step in getting your child to listen better to both parents.

2. One Parent Gives Better Directions

There are lots of ways to give directions, and some are much more effective than others. So while one parent may give clear, direct instructions, the other may ask politely.

And asking your child, “Do you want to pick up the toys now?” isn’t likely to lead to compliance.

Look at the ways you give directions and pay attention the subtle differences in your tone and choice of words. Watch to see what direction-giving techniques gain the best response from your child. You may find a little fine tuning to the way directions are given makes a big difference.

3. Each Parent’s Rules and Consequences are Different

Two parents will never have the exact same tolerance for misbehavior. And that’s OK. But it’s important to make sure your expectations are similar.

If your rules are drastically different, work with your partner to create a discipline plan you can both agree on. Otherwise, the more lenient parent may set the stage for the other parent to be the “mean” one, which will greatly influence your child’s behavior.

4. One Parent Talks Too Much

The parent who talks the most may actually get the least amount of compliance. Constantly saying things like, “Sit still,” and “Stop tapping on the table,” trains your child to tune you out. The parent who is able to speak up when it’s important may be more likely to grab a child’s attention and gain compliance.

Of course, you should spend time talking to your child about fun activities and things your child is interested in. But avoid nagging and giving your child a barrage of orders.

5. The Child Has a Closer Relationship with One Parent

The way your child feels about you plays a major role in the likelihood that he’ll respect your rules and limits.

Just like most adults are more motivated to work for a respected boss, a child will strive to behave better for a parent who is well-respected.

It’s not always about how much time you spend with your child that matters. The amount of quality time you spend together is what’s most important.

So a stay-at-home parent who spends the day doing chores and giving orders may put in less quality time compared to a parent who plays games with a child during the evenings. Getting your child to listen requires quality one-on-one attention

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