Why Do You Have to Repeat Things to Your Children Time and Time Again?

Have you ever had to repeat things to your children time and time again? We'll tell you why and how you can fix it!
Why Do You Have to Repeat Things to Your Children Time and Time Again?

Last update: 15 December, 2020

If you’re a parent, then you’ll often have had to repeat things to your children time and time again – sometimes even 5 times or more. Is this normal or just a way for children to make you feel agitated?

In the first place, they’re not necessarily doing it to agitate you. Sometimes, if you don’t address them in the right way, they simply may not understand.

So, why don’t children do what we say the first time we say it? Here are some reasons from the child’s perspective, as well as solutions that work for parents.

Why Do You Have to Repeat Things to Your Children Time and Time Again?

Why do you have to repeat things to your children time and time again?

They don’t share your priorities and you have to repeat things

No child will understand why having a bath is so important from your point of view. A child always has more interesting things to do than what their parents tell them to do.

Playing may not seem so relevant to you, but that’s how a child learns, that’s what they do! Of course, this is a good thing, because we’re sure that you want a child who is motivated, rather than one who expects to be entertained all the time.

There’s a great way round this. Firstly, you need to connect with your child by taking an interest in what he or she is working on and recognizing their priorities. For example, “Wow, look at this amazing structure you’re building! Can you show me how it works?

The next thing you need to do is to warn them that, very soon, you’re going to override their schedule with yours. Here’s an example of how to go about it. “Luke, it’s time for your bath. Do you want to take a bath now or in five minutes? In five minutes? OK, no problem, that’s a deal, so let’s do it!

You’ve taught them not to listen to you until you scream or threaten them

Your child isn’t stupid and knows that they can get extra time before bath time if they simply ignore you. That doesn’t mean they’re being naughty – it’s just human nature.

So, if your child normally totally ignores your requests at least five times, it means you’ve “trained” them not to listen to you until you shout at them. And that’s why you have to repeat things to your child time and time again!

So, instead of giving instructions from across the room, go over to your child and get alongside them. Connect with them by commenting on what they’re doing. Here’s an example: “I’m sorry Elizabeth, but I need to tell you something.” Then wait until she looks you in the eye.

If they’re looking at a screen, warn them that you’re going to pause the game or turn off the TV. Don’t give them your instructions until they make eye contact – in that way, they’ll know you’re being serious.

What you should do then is get them to repeat what you’ve said. Give them a warning, stick to the time limit you’ve agreed on, and then follow through with the consequences. If you don’t, then you’re training them not to take you seriously.

They need your help to make the transition

When you’re engrossed in something on the screen of your computer or cellphone, it isn’t easy to drag yourself away to attend to a whiny child! Well, they experience the same annoyance when we’re always telling them to do things. And they do exactly what we do: they try to disconnect.

The solution is to repeat the warning when you return five minutes later. So, simply connect again by making some sort of comment about their game: “Wow, look at those trains!” But, at the same time, remind them of the deal: “Okay, Luke, it’s been five minutes. Remember our deal? Five minutes and there won’t be any problems. Now it’s time for your bath.”

Then, create some sort of connection between their game and what you want them to do. Here’s an example: “Let’s see if those two engines want to jump off the track and choo-choo to the bathroom? Here, I’ll take this one and you take the other one, let’s go!

Why Do You Have to Repeat Things to Your Children Time and Time Again?

Their frontal cortex is still developing

Here’s another reason why you have to repeat things to your children so often. Your child’s frontal cortex is still developing the ability to shift from what they want to do to what you want. Every time you set a limit that requires your child to give up what they want to do in order to do what you want, then they have to make a choice.

When they decide that the relationship with you is more important than what they want to do at that moment, then they’ll go along with your request. Every time you do this, you’re strengthening the neural pathways in their brain that help them redirect things towards a higher goal. This is how children develop self-discipline.

But this only works if your child willingly shifts gears. If you drag them kicking and screaming, then they’ll resist, rather than choose. When that happens, then they’re not building those neural pathways of self-discipline. Hence the word “self” in “self-discipline” – your child has to decide for themselves.

The solution to all of this is to set limits with empathy, so that your child will want to cooperate. You’ll need a lot of practice exercising their brain in order to help them choose the goal you want them to.

In short, you need to remember that your child needs to feel that they’re making the right choice in each case. In that way, you won’t have to repeat things to your children time and time again. So, what are you waiting for to put these strategies into action?


This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.