How To Get Kids To Listen And Follow Instructions

Robyn Foyster Robyn Foyster has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team


Feb 03, 2021

Dentist and author Dr Catherine Yang gives The Carousel her tips to get kids to listen and follow instructions. Here is her story.

It is hard enough working as a dentist, looking after patients with varying degrees of fear, about being in my clinic, and all requiring different treatments on a daily basis. But the most challenging job for me is to be a good mum taking care of our two beautiful children, aged 7 and 10 – especially as they transition back to school after a year of disrupted schooling in 2020.

Like many mums who want to provide the best for their children, I was guilty of being on the merry-go-round of 9 to 10-hour workdays, six days a week. It was no surprise that, by the time I came home, I was exhausted. My kids would often already be in bed after having dinner with my husband. Every day was a hurdle and weekday mornings were a chaotic blur getting everyone ready for school and work. The house was constantly a mess; dirty dishes in the sink, toys over the floors and books scattered from the benchtop to dining table.

asian girl with milk on lips
Photo by Alex Green on

I’d feel deflated, wondering why no one ever listened or followed simple instructions to help whilst I worked so hard for everyone in the household.

Sometimes, I would tidy up the house with my tired body and sometimes I would shout at my family with discontent in the mornings or I would sleep in the whole Sunday, ignoring everyone and everything just so I could have a break. I felt like a failure. I started to receive phone calls from the school when the class teacher was concerned about my son’s behaviour – he would ignore the teacher’s instructions, play by himself and throw a tantrum if another kid wanted to play the same toy or game.

My family’s turning point came when an old patient came for his 6-monthly-dental-check-up. He worked as a scripture teacher at another local primary school and he had been my valued patient for nearly 20 years. He was in his 70’s and just celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary. When in my clinic, we always had great chats about philosophy and life in general. I shared with him the challenge of with my children, and the phone calls from the school. He laughed and said, “I listen to your instructions for looking after my teeth, doc.” We both laughed when I asked him, “May I ask why you would listen and follow my instruction?” He replied with a smile, “Because I can feel that you care. Sometimes you make me feel that you care about my teeth more than I do and I don’t want to let you down.”

a mother kissing her child
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Boom – Light bulb moment!

That day, I packed up immediately and went home early to find my husband about to cook their dinner in the kitchen. Everyone was surprised I was home ‘early’. Our children rushed to the door, screaming with excitement, jumping up and down, shouting, “Mummy’s home! Mummy’s home!” I felt the sense of inner joy as we hugged so tight together. At that moment, we were reminded of love, care, joy and peace.

kids, caring

And I realised how right my wise old patient had been. Care is key.

We all enjoyed our dinner together, had a games night afterwards and actually played as we picked up the toys from the floors and packed away the books together. We laughed, worked as a team and had FUN. When my husband and I kissed and tucked the children in bed after they’d brushed their teeth, my husband asked them for three things they were grateful for in the night prayers, both children said, “mummy’s home!”

Life is full of challenges and getting yourself heard and having important tasks completed can sometimes feel like a battle. If your goal is to feel calmer, more connected and less stressed for your loved ones, try out a few of the practices below:

STEP 1 – Let them know and feel your love and care for them. 

As Maya Angelou said, “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”.

STEP 2 – Be present with them.

parents, kids

Make time to listen to their wants and understand their needs.

STEP 3 – Involve by participating.

Teamwork promotes stronger relationship, strengthens the bond and improves outcomes with efficiency.

Care with love and love with action! People listen because they feel being cared about. 

For more information about interpersonal skills for better work and family relationship, follow on her Facebook (

Dr Catherine Yang, a senior dentist, an author, a speaker, and a mum of two primary school children, provides helpful advice about how to get kids to listen and follow instructions by building a happy relationship at home and at work. She is an Amazon’s best-selling author of her book, ‘STEP ON FEAR’ and a keynote speaker in Australian Dental Congress and international dental conferences.


By Robyn Foyster Robyn Foyster has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team


Robyn Foyster is the owner and publisher of the lifestyle websites, and She is the only person to edit and publish Australia's three biggest flagship magazines - The Australian Women's Weekly, Woman's Day and New Idea. Robyn was Group Publisher of Bauer Media's most successful and prestigious magazines including Woman's Day, Good Health, Grazia and ran Hearst in Australia including Harper’s BAZAAR, Cosmopolitan and madison. Voted one of B&T's 30 Most Powerful Women In Media at the Women in Media Awards Robyn was a keynote speaker at Pause 2021, Cebit & J&J Women In Leadership. Robyn was also the winner of the prestigious Magazine Publisher Association’s Editor of the Year award.



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