It is so frustrating when our children don’t listen to us. It can lead to yelling, ineffective time-outs, and an unhappy parent and child. But it’s important to remember that when your toddler doesn’t listen, it’s not because they’re a bad child, they’re just a child who needs to be taught to listen. So how do you teach someone to listen, especially when they’re an independent, strong-willed toddler? Well, keep reading because I’ve got all be best tips for you.
-Get Down On Their Level: Getting down on their level and making eye contact with them, let’s you know you have their attention. When you yell from across the room, it’s easy for them to tune you out, but when you’re physically down on their level, face-to-face with your child, they listen much better.
-Give A Direction Not A Question: We often use a question format to tell our child to do something. Example, “Will you please pick up the toy you dropped on the floor?” When we ask it as a question, our children think they have the option to say no, and when they say no, we view it as them being defiant and not listening. But we were the ones who asked it as a question making them think they could say no. Instead, only ask it as a question, if “no” really is an acceptable answer. If “no” is not an acceptable answer, give it as a direction. Example, “Pick up the toy you dropped on the floor please.”
-Tell Your Toddler What You Want Them To Do, Not What You Don’t Want Them To Do: Example, if your toddler struggles with hitting, say “hands off” instead of “don’t hit”. It’s such a simple change of wording but makes a huge difference! When you say “don’t hit”, all your child hears is “hit” so they hit. But when you say “hands off” they know the behavior they’re expected to do.
-Offer Choices: Give your toddler some power and control over their life by offering them choices, choices that you’re ok with. Example; “It’s bedtime. Would you like to walk into your room by yourself or would you like me to carry you in?” Or “You have a poopy diaper. Would you like to lay on the changing table to get your diaper changed or on the floor?” When children feel like they have some sort of say in their life, they are much more likely to comply. And it’s also great practice for all the choices they’ll have to make when they’re adults.
-Let Them Know The Consequences: Clearly state the logical consequence that will follow if they choose not to listen. Example: “You need to take the marker out of your mouth. If you choose to put that marker in your mouth, then you will be all done coloring.” Another example: If your child tries to run off when in a parking lot, say something like “Running in a parking lot is not safe. A car could hit you. It’s my job to keep you safe, so if you choose to try to run, I will carry you.” Notice how I said “if you choose…” Using the word “choose” makes them responsible for their own actions, consequences, and rewards.
-Allow Time To Comply: *This goes for times when your child is not in harms way. Adults rarely comply to a request the second it is given and sometime adults even have to be reminded to do what was asked of them, so why do we expect more from our toddlers than we do from adults? Maybe that drawing your child is coloring is really important to them, and they want to finish it before having to stop to do what you want them to do. Give your toddler time to comply before you get frustrated and angry with them. You can count to three or set a timer to help your child know how much longer they have to finish what they’re doing. If you have older kids, you can give them a deadline for compliance. Example: “You need to clean your room before you can go to your friends house” or “You room needs to be cleaned up by 5pm tonight.”
-Follow Through & Be Consistent: Following through is key! If you don’t follow through with the consequence of your child not listening, they won’t learn from it. And if you’re inconsistent on when you follow through and when you don’t, they will test their limits to see if this is a time when they actually have to listen or not. Follow through and stay consistent, and they will learn to listen.
–Remain Calm. This is sometimes easier said than done, but try to remain calm. Let the consequence be the teacher. If you yell, all they learn is that them not listening to you makes you mad. Example, if your toddler throws a toy and you yell/get mad, all your toddler learns is that it made you mad. But if you stay calm, and let the consequence (taking away the toy) speak for itself, they will learn that toys are for playing with, not throwing. If your child doesn’t listen and chooses to throw the toy, and then throws a fit when you take it away, show empathy for them by saying something like “Bummer! Toys aren’t for throwing, they’re for playing nicely with. I know you were having playing with that toy and that is such a bummer that you chose to throw it.”
-Praise Them When They Do Listening: The behavior you give attention to is the behavior that is reinforced and the behavior your toddler will continue to do. So give a lot of positive attention to your toddler when they listen. Example: “I liked how you listened to Mommy when I said it was time to put your shoes on! High five! Thank you!”
These tips will set your child up for success as an adult too because it gives them a lot of practice listening, making choices, and learning about consequences. You can also use these strategies on your teenager or even your spouse 😉