Probably one of the hardest parts about parenting is how to get your toddler to listen! Getting them to do what you ask them to do is freakin’ maddening! You try so hard to be patient and you end up repeating yourself over…and over…and over… then you get frustrated and you end up yelling because you’re like, why can’t you just listen the first time I asked you to do this!!
It’s not just you…I’m pretty sure kids are partially deaf to their moms and that’s why they don’t listen most of the time!
Because this is something I’ve had to go through this with two toddlers, I want to let you in on what helped my kids listen, because these tips can help your kids too!
You can also use this No More Yelling Workbook for more specific strategies to help you stop raising your voice!
Strategies to get your toddler to listen
Transitions are your friend- So usually when my kids are playing with a friend, or we have to get up in the morning to go somewhere, or we have to get ready to go take a bath, it ends up being a shit show…one or both of them are crying or screaming because they weren’t ready to do the next activity we have to do.
Related: How To Handle Tantrums Like A Boss
Whenever you have something you have to do, let your kids know ahead of time. So if you are in a play date and you have to leave, give them a 10 minute warning, then a 5 minute warning, then a 2 minute warning to give them plenty of knowledge in advance that you’ll be leaving soon.
If you have a routine that you like to do, do that! We sing a clean up song so whenever they are playing and have to stop, (after I’ve given them the time warning) they know that this song means it’s time to go. So transitions make it more likely they will listen when we’ve got to move on to another activity.
Don’t say ok at the end of your sentence as it sounds like you’re asking them for permission. Just state the expectation- This is a really great trick I learned to help get your kid to listen when you ask them to do something. The trick is to not ask. I know that may seem counter productive, but basically it means don’t let them think they have a choice in the matter.
I was suuuper guilty of this! I would always add ok, to the end of my request to my kids, and that made them think they could say no, when in fact, they couldn’t. It was so ingrained for me to add ok to the end of whatever I would tell my kids, that this is still something I work on!
Some examples of this are:
In 10 minutes you’re going to bed ok?
It’s time to brush your teeth ok?
When you put your shirt on I need you to come downstairs, ok?
When you get your shoes on, we are going to the car ok?
Instead of asking, state what you want them to do. They will be more likely to listen!
Give them two options- I’m pretty sure most kids hate being told what to do. Their whole lives revolve around someone else making decisions for them and telling them what they can and can’t do. So when you want them to get dressed, brush their teeth, or put their shoes on, they want to do the opposite of what you said, well because they can!
Giving your kids two choices will still give them the power they crave to make their own decisions, but doesn’t overwhelm them.
Too many choices can be overwhelming and no options can turn them into temper tantrum city because they want to make decisions.
Some examples can be,
“Do you want to brush your teeth before or after you put your pajamas on?”
“You can choose to eat some of your vegetables for dinner and then get dessert, or you can not eat any vegetables and not eat dessert.”
“Do you want to wear shirt A or shirt B? Do you want to wear pants A or pants B?”
The list goes on and on of how you can creatively get your child to choose an option. They may not always like the options you give them, (like the dinner/dessert option) but you’re still leaving it up to them, which makes it more likely they will ultimately listen because they get to make a decision.
Get down to their level- I’ve found my kids are much more willing to listen to me, when I get down to their eye level and talk to them. A lot of times kids are busy. Busy playing, putting on clothes, putting on shoes, eating a snack, or busy thinking about what they want to do next. When you’re that busy, it’s easy to tune out what’s being said to you. When you stop them and meet them at their level to talk with them, it forces them to pause what they are doing and focus on what you’re saying.
Give them expectations before you go somewhere- Before you head out the door, give your kids expectations! Like, when I would take my daughter on a playdate, I would tell her we’re going over to your friend’s house to play. I expect you to use kind words, safe hands, and remember the toys belong to your friend so you need to make sure you’re taking turns. That way, if need be, during the playdate I can remind her of what we talked about before we left.
Your child is going to pay better attention to what you’re saying before you go somewhere instead of during the trip to the grocery store, or playing with a friend, or at the park.
When they are engaged in something else, they are less likely to listen. So giving expectations the first time when they are already engaged in another activity, isn’t going to work as well as telling them beforehand and reminding them a few times.
Give those expectations a few times (before, during,)- Speaking of reminding, give the expectations more than once. So again, when you’re on your way to the destination, let your child know the expectations. If need be, during your trip give them the expectations again. Don’t think that just because you said something one time they heard you and will remember what you said. Reminders are a good thing!
Ask them to repeat what you said- When I want to make sure my daughter really listened to me, I’ll make her repeat what I said. This is a good way of seeing if they have actually heard and understood what you said or if it went in one ear and out the other. Repeating it in their own words will help them remember as well!
Make it a game or a song. I like to use this when I want my kids to clean up. But usually when I tell them normally to clean up they’re whining they aren’t done yet, they act like they don’t hear me, or it’s another shit show. But if I make a game out of it or sing a song, they want to do it!
A popular one in my house is whoever can put the most (blocks, crayons, balls, cars, etc.) away, is the winner! Or I will sing a song and I will sing faster and faster, which makes them clean faster and faster! I’ll also play Simon Says and mix in the cleaning game, (Simon says touch your nose, Simon says shake your foot, Simon says grab that book and put it in the book shelf). These games and songs make them excited to do what you asked!
Getting your toddler to listen to you can be super challenging because of the frustration you experience when they don’t do what you asked. Using these tips will help prepare your kids for upcoming changes, (a time when they notoriously don’t want to listen) focus on and remember what you said or asked, gives them the control they want, and makes it fun to listen!