Why Your Kids Listen More to Their Dad Than You

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Lean in real close. Let me tell you a secret.

Today was hard. As a pregnant mama of a handful of kids under age 7, I struggled today. I’m sitting here at 8 p.m. and seriously contemplating just going to sleep. It was definitely a Monday with a fussy baby, a whiny toddler, and even the “big” kids who didn’t want to cooperate. I even had a hard time hauling my 8 months pregnant self around the house to do regular chores, you know, like picking up Cheetos off the floor. If you’ve ever been 8 months pregnant you know how hard it is to bend over.

Parenting a bunch of kids is hard, parenting one kid is hard. Throw in some homeschool and it is very hard. 

My husband and I used to joke around before we had kids. He has this laid-back, non-confrontational personality. I’m very Type A and tend to be a little explosive sometimes. I always said I would be the disciplinarian, and he would be the push-over.

Guess what? I’m the push-over and sometimes my kids don’t listen to me.

My kids don't listen to me

I try to build in regular clean-up times throughout our day. Since we homeschool, when I say I’m with all my kids all the time, I truly mean it. When you have a band of preschoolers parading through your house while you’re teaching reading and addition, things get a whole lot of messy. I’m talking an overturned Little Tikes table in the middle of the floor.  The little blue chairs that go with it are haphazardly flung halfway across the room. There’s LEGO duplos hiding in the most mysterious places, and if I’m not careful, cereal bar may end up smooshed into the carpet. So, yeah, I try to get the kids to regularly clean up before the chaos overwhelms me.

It usually goes something like this: 

Me: “Kids, it’s time to clean up. Let’s pick up the living room before we have lunch.”

Kids: I get a couple of sideways glances, and they continue playing.

Me: A little louder this time, “If you don’t get this mess picked up, you won’t get to play video games for the rest of the day!”

This usually gets my oldest to start moving, albeit slowly.

Me: “Okay, that’s it. No video games for the rest of the day, no video games tomorrow, and now you can go sit in your rooms by yourselves!”

My oldest begins quickly picking up the mess, while my five year old usually collapses into a sobbing heap and mutters something about me being the meanest mama ever.

When my husband is home, all he has to say is, “Clean up!” and they do it without missing a beat.

Geez. I’ve come up with a few theories on why they obey him the first time, and why I have such a hard time getting them to listen. Someone tell me it’s not just me.

It’s my voice

I don’t have a very authoritative voice. I’m soft spoken, and I don’t tend to make demands very well. I also have an issue with trying to explain things. Rather than just saying, “Clean up,” I tend to say why we need to clean up. I may even go on a rant about how the messy house makes me feel overwhelmed. Unfortunately, all that talk goes in one ear and out the other.

I don’t follow through

I don’t follow through with punishment very well. My kids have known me long enough to know this. They know they can get away with stuff from me. My husband always follows through. I shouldn’t give in so easily, and I know it’s my weakness.

I’m naturally a nurturer

I’m their mother. The one they come to for comfort. If they get hurt, I’m the first one they run to, not their dad. I really think they associate me more with gentleness and their father with firmness. It’s just the natural order of our family. 

We are working on obedience. I’m not just their mother, but I’m their teacher, and it is so, so important that I have that authority in our home, especially when Dad isn’t there. I’m having to rethink the way I word things. Here’s the not so secret secret,  honestly, I do think there’s always one parent you can get away with more stuff with, and one parent you just can’t. 

Why Your Kids Listen to their Dad

Who is the disciplinarian in your house?


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  1. I’m a retired home schooling mom. (Yes, there is life after home school! 😉 )
    We both were self-disciplined and we both disciplined the kiddos. However. I did always notice that difference you write about, above. I always chalked it up to the children being used to, or even tired of, my voice, a bit like a mosquito. And my voice is soft, as you noted. My husband’s voice scares even my friends. Ha!
    One big diff in our home, I think, was that the children were spaced at about 4-year intervals. I always got my bluff in on one, before the next showed up.
    Another huge difference is we did not allow screens. No TV, e-games, or anything like it, not even the computer was an option for them, as we password protected it from them, just to keep our files safe from curious fingers. They never even worked on the computer until they were high-school age.
    The scene you described above would not have happened in our house more than once, because we also used Biblical child discipline, which is extremely effective, but does require getting up from the recliner! 😉

    1. Hi Katharine! I’m not a huge fan of screens, but they are a part of our lives. We do limit them in our house, though. My husband is a lot better with biblical discipline than I am, if you know what I mean!

  2. I’m in your shoes – but not pregnant! I finally learned that I can only wear so many hats with being Mom and homeschool teacher. The kids will listen to the piano teacher much better than they will listen to me at the end of a school day, so paying for piano lessons when I can play well enough to teach them piano myself, is so worth it!

  3. Joanie, I’m right there with you (not pregnant, but have 8 month twins). Being consistent is hard, but does make such a big difference in how the kids respond. I’ve found when I say clean up if I assign specific items to each child they know what I am expecting. For example if I want to clean up my living room I assign someone to put away books, someone to put the baby toys away, someone to take care of the laundry baskets and anything else that I can specify, if I don’t have enough things in one room for everyone to work on then I assign 2 people to one job or send someone to work on a quick task elsewhere. When they see me “working” too I think it helps them know for sure what to do. I hope your week improved and I’m praying for you right now to have a restful and encouraging weekend.

    1. Great ideas, Suanna! We do something similar, it’s just motivating them to actually do it that’s difficult! Thank you for the prayers! I hope your weekend was lovely!

  4. So frustrating but so true! It is totally my voice and sometimes because I’m just too tired to actually do anything, the lesson I have taught my kids is that I don’t mean what I say which is NOT what I want to be teaching them! My husband actually pointed this out to me when I was complaining to him about why they weren’t listening to me…. talk about a humbling moment! 😉

  5. I don’t have this problem. I’m not soft spoken and gentle, but I’m still a loving nurturer. My older children have figured out discipline is equal to love because they see how other children behave horribly and their parents ignore them. My husband makes ridiculous and extreme empty threats as punishment and never follows through on even a reasonable version. I’m reasonable from the beginning and firm regardless of the whining. My children listen to me and respect me.

    1. Omg! I am not alone. I am pregnant, with 5 children in home. 4,5,8,11,16. The two oldest not much of a problem. The biggest issue the 8 year old. Trying to keep her busy enough to not ruin my days. Its exhausting. I feel like Im failing most days trying to be the best. They take me for a joke. Especially the smaller ones. Their dad never discipline them, He just say in any tone do this or that and its no hesitations. I dont know what to do at this point to gain my authority. I am the one dealing with them 90% of the time. I am not soft spoken, yet I feel like I am bc I can not get them on track of what my expectations are.

  6. Wow!! This was like reading a mirror, if you know what I mean! I’m not pregnant, but my youngest daughter has Down’s, and my 2 older ones are homeschooled…I’m going to give you idea of not explaining everything a try, I didn’t even realize I was doing that!! Thanks so much for sharing!!

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