What To Do When Your Toddler Doesn’t Listen – Toddler Tuesday

toddler doesn't listen

 toddler doesn't listen

My goodness.

October has been a crazy flurry of busy activity. All of it lovely, of course – visiting family, caring for little ones, gymnastics and playgroups, preparing for our travels, and generally being alive and living – but it’s still hitting me hard right now. With a bit of calm settling in now, as my littles are napping after a busy morning of Strong Start awesomeness and we bid my sister’s family a reluctant goodbye, I am taking count of what needs to be done this month (too much) and making peace with the fact that there is a cold settling in to my body. This is what happens when you spend your life with tons of little children, keep yourself overwhelmed by filling every little scrap of space on your to-do list with a task, and don’t take care of yourself the way you should be.

Ah well. I have two days starting this evening when I can “relax” (as much as you can ever relax when you’re responsible for a little person, anyways) and try to catch up on things/rest and recuperate.

So. To the point of this post. Toddler Tuesday.

Due to all the business, I am going to make this short. Really, it’s a simple tip that doesn’t require a zillion paragraphs of thoughtfully constructed prose, so don’t worry about missing out on the full effort I generally put forward when writing up something to share. There will likely be a few of these simple posts this month as I attempt to fulfil my group’s goal of posting every day in October. (Ha. Why? Why did I think this was a good idea??) So let’s jump into it.

It can be incredibly frustrating when your toddler doesn’t listen. Want to know a quick and easy way that I often have a lot of success using to get my preschoolers and my toddler to comply when I am asking them to do something? Of course you do. I’d probably agree to just about anything if I thought that would lead to my toddler being perfectly agreeable for even one whole day.

This trick my professor in my Early Childhood Care and Education studies at CapU taught me works like a charm most of the time. Because young children are eager to be in control of their lives, being active participants in their world and practice their independence and capability, using this desire for autonomy can be highly effective.

Try This When Your Toddler Doesn’t Listen

When my little one (or a child at the preschools where I have worked) seems to be ignoring my directions – for instance, I am asking Z to hand over a toy that is due to another child and she is walking away, holding steadfast to said toy – I simply ask her “Can you do it by yourself? Or do you need my help?” By asking this, I’m not only giving children a choice – which can be a successful strategy in itself – but I’m also phrasing the choices in a way that allows no room for choosing not to do what I’ve asked.  If they choose not to hand over the toy, they are making the choice for me to help this pass off happen.

Often the child will quickly follow the direction as a way of acting autonomously and showing that they know how to do something all by themselves. However, you might be surprised at how often a child will respond by verbally choosing for me to help them. You see, sometimes (or even, many times) children are not disobeying your instructions because they are tiny little devils sent to make your life hell, but rather because they are young people who are in need of attention, direction, and facilitation in their learning to be kind, helpful and competent human beings.

I know, shocker, right?

Sometimes little Johnny just doesn’t understand how to appropriately move over to Ted (which one is Ted, anyhow?) and hand him the toy (the blue hammer, not the other five items he’s holding and is unsure of what’s being asked for).

So there you have it. Give it a shot, and you will likely be surprised how quickly little Sally jumps up into the chair you’ve been sternly directing her to sit in for the last fifteen minutes while you juggled your baby. And if your little one chooses to follow the instruction with your help (either verbally or by not complying), follow through my using your body and words to help the child complete the request in a way that transmits that you want to help them do the right thing, then expressing your pride at a job well done when it is finished.

What tips do you have for me for getting little ones to be happy and helpful? No matter how much I have learned, there are always new things I would love to know. Every day is different, and requires new solutions. Please. Throw me a rope.

5 thoughts on “What To Do When Your Toddler Doesn’t Listen – Toddler Tuesday

    1. Hannah Post author

      The follow through is very important. If she knows you will not be “helping her” when she refuses, it may not be very effective. Also, it’s important that she has a desire for independence.


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