10 min read

Help! Nothing Seems to Work. How Can I Make My ADHD Child Listen?

Featured Image

How can I make my ADHD child listen? Does this sound familiar? Possibly a question you have asked time and again over the last month or even the last week.

You might feel at your wit’s end trying just to have your ADHD child listen and follow simple instructions. Well, at least what seems to you to be simple instructions. After all, it shouldn’t be so hard to pick up clothes and put them in the hamper. Should it?

As with most things involving ADHD, the answer is it depends. ADHD just cannot be broken down so simply and easily. Since ADHD involves complex brain functions, many brain processes that others find so simple, just simply aren’t as simple when ADHD is involved.

As parents, you want the best for your kids. You also want help and respect, and it’s important that your kids give you both. Part of making sure your household runs smoothly and doesn’t fall apart at the seams involves your kids listening and following directions. You should be able to get that small request at least every now and again.

Here at FastBraiin, we understand your frustration. In this article, we want to really dive into what makes it so difficult for your child to listen sometimes. We want to help answer the question: how can I make my ADHD child listen? By the end of this post, we hope you feel more empowered and more capable to make yourself heard in your home.

Why Does My ADHD Child Not Listen?

Before we even get to answering the question of how can I make my ADHD child listen, it is important to first understand some of the reasons it might appear that your child isn’t listening. We want to be careful with our wording here. Instead of saying that your child isn’t listening, we want to say it appears that your child isn’t listening.

When it comes to ADHD, you shouldn’t automatically assume that your child does not listen. They, in fact, might, though, it might appear that they don’t. Alternatively, they could hear and understand and decide to act defiantly instead of obeying. Ultimately, there could be a number of things going on. Let’s look at some of the most common possibilities.

You don’t have their full attention

Before you ask why can’t I make my ADHD child listen, have you first considered whether or not you have their full attention? Many times, the root issue of not listening might reside simply in that something else has your child’s attention. This could occur for a number of reasons.

First, does your child understand that you even want their full attention? Secondly, have you communicated clearly that you really want them to listen and respond to you in this moment? If your child doesn’t seem to listen, they might not realize that you want their full attention.

To fix an attention issue, make sure you make your desire known. You can accomplish this by addressing your child by their full name. Additionally, you need to  make eye contact with them. An additional benefit might include touching them on the shoulder or arm so that they look at you. If they still appear to focus on something else rather than you, you should specifically tell them to give you their full attention.

For a child with ADHD, their mind often jumps from one focus point to another. If nothing specifically grabs or demands their attention, their mind quickly moves to the next thing. To make your ADHD child listen, do everything you can to request and maintain their full attention.

They don’t understand what you are saying and can’t process the information

Another cause of a child seeming not to listen might be that they have trouble processing what you are saying. For many people with ADHD, their brain processes information differently than others. As a result, they just have more trouble understanding communication in the flow of instructions or a conversation. Oftentimes, this then shows up in issues with social skills or the child misbehaving in structured settings such as a classroom.

To get to the bottom of whether or not processing might be an issue, you should start with simply asking your child if they understand. If they say, “no,” or look confused, then you might have a case of troubles with processing on your hands. To address this issue, you should consider your child’s particular learning style.

Many children with ADHD might struggle with verbal commands because they do not learn best in an auditory setting. If processing is an issue, change your approach and possibly try to explain what you want through demonstration. You could also try to write out instructions or use pictures or drawings.

They are being willfully defiant

A final cause of why your child might not appear to listen is that they in fact are choosing to be willfully defiant. Not every case of not listening involves not understanding, processing, or hearing. Sometimes, your child doesn’t appear to listen to you because they in fact hear what you say and choose not to obey.

Of all the cases, this might be the most troubling and difficult to address. In this instance, it doesn’t matter how much you try to eliminate distractions or explain yourself better, the problem isn’t that they don’t hear. They just don’t want to obey.

In response to defiance, if you want to make your ADHD child listen better, you can try a number of things. First, you may want to explain the consequences of their actions again. If they still choose not to obey, you should carry out the consequences. You can’t back down, though, or change the results from what you had said. By doing that, your child might believe they have won the encounter and choose to continue to be defiant in the future. Instead, you should do what you said and carry through on the consequences. Hopefully, they eventually will learn to obey to receive positive results instead of negative ones.

Secondly, if you find that negative consequences have little effect, you might consider seeking out professional help. Many individuals with ADHD also have Oppositional Defiant Disorder, or ODD. ODD is a separate disorder in which a child willfully and persistently opposes the authority of others. If you continually have concerns about your child’s defiance, this might actually be the underlying cause. You should consult with your doctor about your possible options in addressing ODD, if diagnosed.

How Can I Make My ADHD Child Listen?

Now that you understand something about why your ADHD child might appear not to listen, we can really get into how to make sure they do listen. Every child might deal with situations differently. Before trying to address the listening issue in your child, you should identify what the underlying issue really is.

Make sure you understand if they are having trouble paying attention, having trouble processing, or simply choosing to be defiant. Whichever situation fits best will help direct how you choose to respond.

As a general framework, we want to give you the following outline of resources to use to help make your ADHD child listen better. Read through these tips and recommendations and see where you might start implementing them today.

Start teaching decision making skills early

Making sure your ADHD child listens and follows directions begins with helping them understand proper decision making. For your children, when you tell them to do something, they find themselves with a decision to make. They can either choose to obey or choose to disobey.

To help them choose well, you need to let them know about decision making. They need to have a basic foundation of how decisions and consequences function. To help them best, you should teach them early that positive choices reap positive rewards while negative decisions produce negative results.

Start teaching this at an early age. Whenever you ask your child to do something, and they appear indecisive, you should instruct them that they have a decision to make. They can choose to listen and obey or choose to not listen.

As you explain this, explain to them also the consequences of each choice. For instance, with choosing to obey, they can play video games for an extra 15 minutes. In not obeying, though, they will not be able to watch TV.

With providing your child clear results and teaching decision making, you help your child understand that choices matter. This also instructs them to identify when they face a decision making opportunity. With these skills, your child will better be able to know when you want them to follow directions and how they need to respond.

Focus on your kids, not the tasks

The next step for making your ADHD child listen involves understanding that your relationship with your child means more than any task. Sometimes in the fog of everyday life, we tend to forget why relationships matter. Oftentimes, we get so caught up in what needs to be done that we focus more on tasks than relationships.

As a parent, your kids shouldn’t primarily think of or see you as a task master or work manager. Your primarily responsibility should be to provide a loving atmosphere for your kids. Your main responsibility is not to make sure they do tasks x, y, and z. The love you show your kids cannot be dependent on what your kids do but rather your relationship with them.

The ironic part, though, is that often when you focus on the tasks and not your kids, your kids tend to rebel. The secret then to make your ADHD child listen is to really focus on loving them well. Make your relationship with your child the primary thing they see, and more than likely they will want to listen and obey. When a child feels love and attention, they naturally want to please and help out at home.

If you find it hard to get your child to listen, you should really examine how much you have taken the time to notice and get to know your kids. If you find that you behave more like a task master instead of a supportive parent, start today to correct your relationship with your children. For tips on building a good relationship, read this post on 7 ways for parents to improve relationships with kids who have ADHD.

Be short and to the point

If you want to make your ADHD child listen, you need to make the most of their attention span while you have it. Individuals with ADHD have trouble staying focused on one thing for very long. While you might be able to get your child’s full attention for a moment, be careful and use your time wisely, as something might soon come along to pull their attention away.

To make your ADHD child listen and follow directions, make sure what you have to say is short and to the point. If you want your child to do something like clean up their room, don’t waste time talking about how they never pick up their things. You can save the lecture on keeping their room nice and tidy for another time.

Instead, get their attention, and tell them directly that you need them to pick up their room and put away their things. After giving the brief instructions, ask them if they understand. If they do, follow up with them after a few minutes to make sure they do what you asked.

Keeping what you have to say short and to the point leaves little room for distractions to take hold. You don’t need every instruction to blow up into an argument. To make everyone’s lives easier, keep it short and avoid arguments and distractions before they occur.

Depend on routines to keep kids on point

Here at FastBraiin, we can never speak enough about the importance of an ADHD daily routine. Routines provide the needed structure and rhythms to help your ADHD child stay on task. If you want to make your ADHD child listen, try using daily routines to your benefit. One way to do this might involve building in specific time periods each day for general household chores.

For instance, if you find that your child seems not to listen most when you tell them to pick up their room. Instead of picking this battle at random times during the day, make a routine of having them clean their room every day after school. After a while, you won’t have to continually ask them to do anything, they will begin to do it from habit.

This same technique might help with things like homework or walking the dog. You can build any kind of daily chore into a regular routine. Instead of you always asking or ordering your kids to do something, make the routine do all the work for you.

Use concrete words and descriptions; avoid abstract ideas

If you want to make your ADHD child listen, you need to communicate in concrete terms. Many children in general might struggle with abstract conceptual ideas. The younger the child, you might see this more often.

Abstract ideas include things that you cannot touch or hold or point to. For instance, if you say to your child that they are being “bad,” the idea of bad or good might be difficult for them to grasp. Similarly, when you say organize or clean something as a general concept, they might not grasp the idea at first.

Instead of saying organize your room, you might change it to say something like put this specific thing on this specific shelf. In this instance, you have replaced a general conceptual idea with a specific and direct example and task. The more concrete the instructions the more likely that your child will follow through on the commands.

If you find your child struggling to follow through on what you ask, they might be struggling with the words you use. Try using more specific concrete words and see if your child responds better.

Work as a Team to Make Your ADHD Child Listen Better

Ultimately, in the end, to make your ADHD child listen better, you need to see the issue not as your child’s issue but as your family’s issue. You shouldn’t continue to demand things from your child without working with and alongside them. As with most family concerns, you should view your child’s struggle with listening as a concern that you can work through as a team.

By working as a team, you can better focus on your relationship with your child. Getting to the root causes of how your child processes information might solve most of the listening concerns in the first place. Even if your child behaves in a willfully defiant way, don’t give up on them. Tell them that you care for them and want to help them listen and obey better.

Making your ADHD child listen can be a difficult task. You don’t have to be alone in figuring it out, though. While it might take time, you can learn to communicate in ways to make your ADHD child listen. We hope you can use some of the tips in this article to help you better face the issue today and this week.