Being a busy parent affects everything we say and do – including how we communicate with our kids. How hard it is when kids don’t listen? We already have a lot on our plate. This morning I watched a mum in her car stop at the traffic lights and quickly spoon some food into her mouth. As she drove round the corner I saw her balancing a bowl of cereal in her lap. Busy parents can struggle to get everything done and getting kids to listen can be a mission. Here are 3 ways to be more effective even when we’re busy so we can get those kids listening.


Being present and really listening is a big booster for any relationship. Constant busyness is a roadblock to communication. Rushing around means we wind up on auto-pilot. We’re not  aware of what we’re doing because we’re just too busy doing it.

When we’re busy doing lots of things, all at once, we are often not in the same room as our kids. I am in a habit of giving my kids instructions when I am shouting at them from another room.

How crazy is it that we expect children to listen when they aren’t even in the same room?

To engage with kids we need to be physically present. Being in the same room is a good start to improving communication and getting kids to listen.


It can feel like it’s our kids’ fault that we have to ask them over and over again to do basic things. A friend of mine observed “Eeeek, parenting is like looking in the mirror.” Was it 10 times or even 20 times that we repeated ourselves?

It takes honesty to work out what’s going on when kids don’t listen. When we repeat ourselves we have  trained children to know we don’t actually mean it unless we ask 10 times and we are shouting.

Sometimes when we are busy we speak to our family in a way that we would never do with a work colleague or our best friend’s child. ARRRGH! I would be nicer to them if they would just listen to a single thing I say.

Saying something more than once is scientifically proven to be a nag. Nagging isn’t motivating or very nice. Kids do listen when we speak in a low, slow voice. Not a batman voice but a kind one. It helps when we have a smile on our face  (even when we don’t feel that smiley) to engage cooperation.


Getting children to listen to us involves investing time and building relationship. Kids will generally listen to parents who have a firm and loving parenting style.

Young children don’t have the emotional maturity to say “ I’m having a hard time leaving the house and I am feeling a bit “yukky” about it.” Instead they will say “Can you play with me?”. This is like a red rag to a bull for parents on a mission to get out the door.

It’s a balancing act – parents can’t stop what we are doing every 2 minutes – but keep looking for those opportunities when the 2 minutes you spend will pay back dividends. I can guarantee they will not coincide with our busy agenda. Understanding our child’s temperament can help work out when they really need that 2 minutes. Aim for a few more moments of warmth and connection to help build relationship. Here’s a story which shows how a Mum I know spotted a good opportunity to try this out:

“My daughter didn’t want to get out of bed. I resisted the urge to tell her to “harden up princess” even though it was really bad timing for me (I had to give a presentation that morning). Fully dressed in my work outfit, I decided to get into bed with her for a cuddle for a few minutes. Our morning went a lot better and I got to my presentation without any dramas.”


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