When a child or teen doesn’t listen to us, it’s hard to know how to react. This mom questions how she can command respect from her kids.

Q: We have six children, and our oldest (a young teen) isn’t complying with what we ask her to do. When she doesn’t, neither do her siblings. All of the kids ask us why they should listen when their siblings aren’t or why should they get punished when their brothers and sisters aren’t being punished.

I’m also trying to be a the leader, but they still don’t want to listen. I’m trying to change in so many ways, but every time I turn around, I get talked back at, cussed at, and not respected. I usually spend the week cleaning up the mess they’ve made over the weekend, plus the things that didn’t get done the evening before.

How do I get them to understand that they need work together, and do their responsibilities when they won’t even listen to me?

A: Why are you explaining yourself when your children ask why they should listen, etc.? Do your answers make them look at you and say, “Gee, mom, when you put it that way, I get why I should listen to you”? No. Stop wasting your breath and words!

Repeat after me: You do not have to explain your decisions/actions/instructions to your children. You do not owe them fairness or explanations. You do not need to ensure that they have buy-in/agree with your decisions. You need to ignore their protests and whining.

Repeat after me: You do not have to explain your decisions/actions/instructions to your children. You do not owe them fairness or explanations.

You’re spinning your wheels searching for the perfect consequence, the perfect explanation that will magically compel your children to obey the first time with a smile on their faces. Ain’t gonna happen, so stop wishing for it.

Your reality is that you’ve allowed your kids to behave this way. You admit to cleaning up their messes, and spending more time worrying that your changes aren’t working because the kids aren’t straightening up immediately. By your reckoning, this took many years in the making, so it won’t go away overnight.

But there is hope! A parent coach can help you triage this mess, so that you will see success and can build on that success—and rebuild positive connections with your kids.