Sometimes I when I’m out and about I will see the same scenario unfolding again and again. I take it as a clue that it might be a good article.

This week I saw parents warning until they were blue in the face and the children still didn’t listen. Has that ever happened to you?

If so, you’re not alone. Let me ask you this.

Is it possible that your children perceive the repetitions to “stop it” as individual warnings, not instructions to stop?

Every household is different so that means that no one scenario will represent exactly what’s going on in your house, but see if this is close. 

A child does something and Dad says, “Stop it!” Then Dad goes back to reading the newspaper. The child doesn’t stop it.

Mom chimes in and says, “Stop it now!” Then Mom goes back to making breakfast. The child still doesn’t stop it.

The parents continue saying, “stop it!” two or three more times, adding in a dash of “I mean it!” and “I’m not kidding!” And still, the child isn’t stopping.

Then one parent uses the child’s full name, “Anthony James!” He seems to perk up, but does it one more time.

He only stops when he hears… “Stop. It. Right. This. Minute. Anthony. James. Or. Else!”

Sound familiar?

All parents have a unique way of expressing, “I’m at the end of my rope.” Your child has observed you and your behavior long enough to see things you may not see in yourself.

In our scenario, the child knows that there will be several requests to “Stop it.” He knows Mom comes close to being at the end of her rope when she calls out his full name. He knows he has to listen when she uses his full name and adds, “Stop it right this minute.” Essentially he’s waiting for mom to do what she’s always done, pull out the “big change” before he listens.

The “change” is different for every family. In your family it could be that you use your child’s full name or raise your voice, or yell. The “change” could be that you enter the room with an angry look on your face. Or it might be the threat of loosing TV, computer or getting a timeout. No matter what “the change” is in your house, your child has been trained by you to wait for “the change” before he feels he has to listen.

Children look at your repeated requests to “stop it” far differently than you do. They think of them as single, random comments 1-5. Parents, on the other hand consider the repeated “stop it” as an extension of one single thought.

What can be done? What if you moved your action point to the beginning of the situation instead of keeping it at the end?

Most parents tend not to take action until they’ve hit the end of their rope. You want your children to listen to you the first time, but you’ve taught them that they don’t have to listen until the end.

The way to teach a child to listen, the first time we say something, is to show them, repeatedly, that we take action the minute they don’t listen. I. Do. Not. Wait.

It’s true we’ll have to stop what we’re doing, get up and take action, but it won’t be forever.

Changing the timing of your action will have profound affect on your child and will most likely change things almost immediately. Your firmness will stand out because it’s not clouded by yelling. Changing the timing of your action is a far better way to increase listening. It also allows you to remain calm, and is how you go from reacting to responding.

If you want more information read Yelling Eliminates Listening.

Sharon Silver is the author of Stop Reacting and Start Responding and The Authentic Parent Series. Go to proactiveparenting.net to download two free chapters from her book and learn about other Proactive Parenting programs. Find Sharon on Twitter and Facebook.