Parents, Why are you Talking When Your Child’s Not Listening?

Two Things That Might Help

I discovered two things that really helped me on my parenting journey.

  1. When your teen or adult child stops listening to you, stop talking (trying to teach, instruct, etc.) and start praying. I’m not saying don’t talk to them, but stop the constant attempts to teach, instruct and train.

2.  Talk to the One who is listening—to God. And remember, you need to listen to Him, too.

With a rebellious child, much more can be accomplished by our conversations with God than with them.

As parents, we’re often teaching or training our children in some way. We’re preparing them for adulthood. Some lessons they’ll carry all their lives, while others are temporary. When they’re younger, they tend to be more teachable. However that usually changes during the teen years, although even non-rebellious kids don’t always want to hear their parent’s opinions.

There were principles we wanted our kids to learn. We did our best to teach them a Biblical Worldview, an understanding of scripture, the good news of the gospel, the privilege of prayer, the value of being part of the body of Christ and more.

Training started early in their lives and continued until they were on their own. A favorite time was teaching them how to study the Scripture for themselves, discussing deeper issues. I’d been impressed with the Inductive Bible study method since early in my Christian life and wanted them to be able to use this method as well.

In the teen years, teaching moments can become more difficult. We’re seen as old-fashioned in their eyes. When our daughter Renee became rebellious, she listened to us less and less. She didn’t like our rules or opinions on issues. Times of conflict became more frequent. Sadly, I kept moving into what we call the insanity cycle: doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.

I kept trying to tell her what I thought, teach her my wisdom and show her my better way.  We’d clash, then she’d shut down. Frustrated and angry with each other, we’d stomp off to separate rooms. This happened a lot.

When your child’s under your roof, there are only so many places you can go to get away from each other. Your home is full of angst all the time. It’s not fun.

We’d clash over Renee’s curfew, who she was hanging out with, where she could and couldn’t go, work she needed to do around the house, cleaning her room and a host of other things. Can you relate?

Not listening to her mother or me increased. Early in Renee’s senior year of high school she was grounded for drinking. That was a miserable year for the whole family. In my stubbornness, I kept trying to teach, instruct and show her the way she should go. But she wouldn’t listen.

One evening, after yet another clash, I dismissed myself. I needed to go to my bedroom and pray. My frustration and anger flowed. “Lord, you’ve got to show her what I’m saying is right. I’m trying to help her. Come on Lord, HELP!”  Shamefully, too many of my prayers were like this. I’d pour my heart out and tell God what I wanted. Then I’d say, “Amen” and leave. It was a one way conversation that probably looked a lot like what I was experiencing with my daughter—all talk on only one side.

However, this time was different. I made my speech to the Lord, but this time I paused to be quiet. Tired of the struggle, I rested there a few minutes before I got up from my knees. In those few minutes I sensed the Lord speak to my spirit, “Why do you keep talking to someone who isn’t listening?”

The thought gave me a deep heart-check. We’d taught Renee from early childhood. Now it was time to trust the power of God to work in His wise and sovereign way in her life. She knew the truth, so now I needed to be quiet.

I also sensed the Lord say something else that evening. “Talk to the One who is listening.”

My focus needed to be on talking to Him about my concerns . . . not my daughter. Only He could get through to her now.

From that evening on there was a lot less talking and teaching directed at her, but there was a lot more prayer. I’d ask God to bring back to Renee’s memory passages of scripture she’d memorized, songs she’d sung in church, good moments with family and times of joy with wholesome experiences.

How sad that I tend to think of prayer as a last resort rather than my first response. With a rebellious child, much more can be accomplished by our conversations with God than with them.

We found it humorous to hear Renee tell us something someone else had said that got her attention, when we had said almost the exact same thing. We saw that God reached her by another voice, yet with the same message. Who the messenger was didn’t matter.

When your child stops listening to you, stop talking and start praying. And remember, listen to God, too.


How often do you say the same things to your kids, but they’re not listening?

Is that enjoyable? Do you think it’s enjoyable for them?

What would your relationship look like if you did less teaching, lecturing, etc?

Would ramping up your conversations with God in prayer change anything?

Why not give it a try?

“Surely, the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear to dull to hear” (Isaiah 59:1).


**Thank you to Tom, for today’s blog. 

4 thoughts on “Parents, Why are you Talking When Your Child’s Not Listening?

  1. Thank you so much for this article. We have been praying and asking God to give us wisdom and good Christian advice for our 17 year old son going through the very same pattern as your daughter. No one else really understood our situation. I am so thankful for you both for helping us during this trying time.

    • I’m glad you found the article helpful. Thank you for letting us know. I’m so sorry you’re going through something similar with your son. It’s really difficult to find others who understand, especially in the church. God guide and lead you through this time. We pray your journey will be short and your son will accept help and find wholeness soon.

  2. I am thanking God for this today after a sleepless night of worrying about my 17 year old going through the same thing. It’s like you’ve been living in my house, watching the interaction! Praise God for using you to show me what to do when I was really feeling helpless and miserable. Thank you for your ministry.

    • Dear Lisa, I apologize for overlooking your comment. We thank God that he is using us in any small way to help other hurting parents who feel like you. May God give you soul rest as you surrender your 17 year old to his care. He can’t ever get away from his Creator. Please find comfort in this:
      “I cried out to God for help . . . when I was in distress I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands and my soul refused to be comforted. Then I remembered my songs in the night. (Ps. 77: 1-6).
      Be comforted by heavenly songs in this dark night of your soul.

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