The Importance of Listening to an Upset Child

My youngest two children, aged 5 and 6, get on really well.

They also do, however, quite regularly, argue. It’s typically something like Eve has grabbed a toy off Jenny, or Jenny is sitting in the seat that Eve was in.

As a grown up who’s in the middle of cooking dinner or putting shopping away, my gut instinct is to want to tell them to hush, at least for that moment. To me, who has the worries of an adult, an argument about who should be using the brown felt-tip is trivial beyond belief.

upset child

But I’ve learnt that that approach is wrong. It’s not good for a child to have an issue dismissed when they’re clearly so passionate or upset about it. While it may seem like such a petty thing to argue about, to that child at that time, it’s the most important thing in the world.

One thing we all hate is a sense of injustice – that something is clearly wrong but that it’s being allowed to stand. When you couple this with an inability to have your voice heard, it’s only natural to become upset or angry.

It may be the case that these squabbles happen at the most inopportune of moments, but that’s life. As with many things involved with parenting, the appropriate first response should be to take a deep breath!

We have to put aside our view that what they’re upset about is a small issue. If we want our child to progress, then they at least should be heard in full. When we let them speak and tell us what’s upset them, then we’re halfway to dealing with the problem. At least they don’t have the frustration of being unheard that an “oi you – stop it” may generate.

Upset Child

As with all arguments, there may well be someone unhappy at the end of it. You’re the parent, but you’re also going to have to be arbitrator, referee and judge. If a child at least perceives that you’ve been fair in listening to them, it may make it easier for them to accept something that they wouldn’t want to hear.

As the wise Take That once said, “it only takes a minute”. You’ll end up with less frustrated children, and also kids who learn about the importance of reasoning and listening.


  1. 28 September 2017

    This is so interesting as I often find myself saying “I’m not listening” when one of the kids comes to me upset after falling out with their sibling. I will try harder to listen from now on.

  2. 28 September 2017

    I guess we need to give them the knowledge of how to sort it out themselves too. I have to admit I am guilty of getting the others to make allowances for the younger one.

  3. 28 September 2017

    very well written.. Today agree with you.. with our busy lives lending an ear to a child has all the more decreased and this simple step can resolve a hell load of stuff….

  4. 28 September 2017

    Very well said and vital because we all want to bring up kids who will grow up to be reasonable adults.

  5. 28 September 2017

    My daughter’s are too young to argue with each other yet, but it is a world I’ll be entering soon enough. I’ll keep this in mind 🙂

  6. 28 September 2017

    I’ve been so busy these past few weeks and definitely haven’t listened to the boys ‘disputes’ as much as I normally do. This has definitely made me stop and think. Thank you.

  7. 29 September 2017

    Mine fight like cat and dog and I find it so frustrating as they both blame each other. I do try and listen but sometimes I just have to ignore them

  8. 30 September 2017

    Yes it is very easy to get frustrated by their arguments! I have 3 kids, an older one and twins and boy do they like a moan at each other!! Even things like seating plans!!!

  9. 1 October 2017

    Yes I agree it’s so important to make time to listen even when its hard, such as during cooking food. Also so nice to hear your two get on so well – wish mine did

    Laura x

  10. 2 October 2017

    I remember as a kid mum always used to sit me and my siblings down, each had there chance to talk and others not to interrupt and honestly looking back now I appreciated that, I felt heard and given a chance even if I didn’t like the outcome etc.

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