More than any other complaint, I hear this from parents: “MY KID DOESN’T LISTEN TO ME!”

Here’s the thing. What we are really talking about when we refer to “listening” is this: cooperation from my child when I want my child to do something she doesn’t want to do. And here’s a truth about cooperation and listening: the more you feel connected to someone, the more you want to comply with requests.

In our adult lives, listening works the same way. If someone is asking us to do something we don’t want to do, we listen because either 1) we are scared of that person or 2) we feel close to that person. We want our children to listen to us because they feel close to us.

How can you do this? Start here:

Connect to your child in the moment before you ask something from her.  I always remember the wise words of my nine-year-old son, who told me this about listening: “Kids don’t always listen because usually, a parent asks us to stop doing something fun to do something that isn’t fun.”

So connect to your child before you make a request to do something “less fun.” Your child has to feel seen in what she’s doing or feeling before she’s able to switch out of something that feels good in her world (i.e., building blocks; running around the house) and fulfill a request that is a priority in your parenting world (i.e., getting her shoes on and leaving the house).

An example: “Wow, you’ve been working so hard on that tower. I know it’s going to be a bit tricky to pause and take a bath. If we do a quick bath now, you will still have time to build before bed.” Another: “I know it’s so hard to end playdates because you’ve been having so much fun. We have to leave now; Kaito’s mom and I can set up your next playdate really soon.”

Here’s one more thing to keep in mind: our kids aren’t supposed to listen all the time. They’re really not. Remind yourself that you are raising kids who will become adults, and I think it’s pretty safe to say we don’t want our kids to have 100% blind compliance to the authority figures in their lives.

Connection leads to cooperation. When we feel seen, we become less defensive and more flexible.