Getting A Toddler To Listen? •

Have you ever tried to tell your tiny toddler no as they are splashing in the water bowl for the dog, just for them to toddle back to the bowl to splash in it again two seconds later?  Or you are constantly telling them to not go near the hot stove or the outlets with no success in getting them to listen?  When do kids start to really listen to us?  How do we get these tiny toddlers to listen so we aren’t following them around telling them no all the time?


Toddlers Desire Structure

Discipling your child isn’t to punish them, it is to help modify behavior of your child while teaching them that you are in charge.  We are supposed to keep our children safe in their homes and their surroundings.  So teaching them when things are harmful or dangerous by saying No to them is not a disservice to our child.  Children thrive in situations where the parents are in charge and there is structure. 


Toddlers Are Designed To Be Curious

Toddlers will want to explore their world.  Open cabinets, climb stairs, open drawers, even play in the dog’s water bowl.  We shouldn’t stifle all exploration, because this is how they learn about their environment.  Also remember that toddlers are still tiny, things are going to happen.  Don’t forget their age.  Meaning that if you accidentally left a cup of water within their reach, they will pour it on the floor.  Messes will happen and sometimes things will happen.  Keep calm through it all


Communication Tips You Can Use

There are a few things we can do that can help our communication with our toddlers.  When you see they are doing something wrong make sure you grab their attention.  This can be making a loud clap, saying their name.  Using their name can be quite an attention getter.  We can end up using so many endearing names for our children that using their name can immediately snap them into attention. 

After you get their attention, get down to their level.  Literally.  Bend down and get eye to eye.  Making eye contact makes them focus only on you. 

When telling them not to do something, talk short and sweet.  Toddlers only have a limited language comprehension.  So babbling on and on with a lot of words they won’t understand all of it. 

Use gestures and expressions to help.  Instead of using No all the time, you can switch it up and when an action is done that shouldn’t be, say “That’s a no.”  This gives them meaning that what they did was not allowed.  Saying, “That’s a no,” with a frown and a head shake can make it clear you aren’t happy with what has happened. 

If after saying this your child smiles and does the wrong action again, move them away.  Remove them from the temptation, and try not to cuddle or hug immediately after correcting, or they will think they get loving attention for bad behavior.  


Limited Understanding

Remember your child’s age.  They won’t listen all the time and it will take time for them to learn what you want them to do.  If they still struggle listening to you, try talking in different ways.  Whisper to them, talking quietly may make them want to listen more closely.  Singing can also be a good option.  Singing can improve mood, catch attention, and improve listening.  Try to remain calm, yelling is not always the best option.  Try using a firm strong voice.  Sometimes calling in Dad to help reiterate the No can be helpful.  Men have a deep, firm, “Dad voice” that can help snap kids into listening.  


What about older kids?

If you have older children that don’t want to listen to you, you can use some of these same techniques.  Children of all ages want power.  Since they have little control over so much they can control who and what they listen to. 

Some free will is ok for children.  To help your child keep some decisions in their day, giving them two options of things that you are happy with either is a good way to do this.  If you know they need to wear a sweatshirt to go outside, you can pick two out and say do you want to wear the red one or the orange one today?  Allowing them to choose will help them feel like they are still in control of some things. 

For older kids you can switch your phraseology so they understand better.  Some kids want the whole story.  If you say No when they stand up on a chair, they have to figure out what you are saying no to and why they aren’t able to stand on the chair.  So changing, “No, don’t stand on the chair,” you can say “Chairs are for sitting.”  This gives them a clear reason as to what you do in chairs while still correcting their behavior. 

Some children respond better to saying things they can do, instead of things they can’t.  Changing, “Don’t run in the hallway,” to “Please walk in the hallway,” can be helpful giving them a positive instead of always negatively commanding them what to do. 

Another positive thing to try is to say thank you in advance.  Saying, “Thank you for picking up your clothes tonight,” instead of saying, “I don’t want to find clothes on the floor.”  Is a more positive way to approach your kids in getting them to listen to what you expect to be done.  



Make sure you are clear and concise no matter what age your child is.  Also follow through, and keep up consistently.  Children of all ages sometimes struggle with listening.  Even as adults we can struggle to listen.  Make sure you listen to your kids just like you expect them to listen to you.  Don’t always focus on bad behavior.  If you see your child do something that you like, reward it.  Comment on it.  If you still don’t think they understand, have them repeat back to you what you are expecting.

Listening is a skill that our children have to learn.  Be patient, and remember how old your child is.  A one year old is not going to listen all the time, and they still will throw food on the floor occasionally, or pull on cords they aren’t supposed to.  Be patient, try some of the ideas above, and see what works best for your child.  You know your child better than anyone. You will find the best ways to communicate:)


Toddlers want to explore their world.  We shouldn’t stifle all exploration, because this is how they learn about their environment.

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