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Toddler Won't Listen

Help! My Toddler Won’t Listen!

It’s not uncommon for a parent to say, “My toddler won’t listen!” It’s an exciting time for parents when their little one first starts to demonstrate an understanding of what is being said to him.  I remember how impressed I was when I first saw my nephew respond to the request of his mother to bring her a book.  But as a child enters toddlerhood, the question can change from, “Does he understand what I’m asking?” to “Does he understand AND will he do what I’m asking?”.  Parents in the United States typically raise their children with a goal for them to be independent and self-sufficient.  But at the same time, they still want their kids to listen to us as the adults in charge of their safety and well-being.  So, how do we accomplish this? Here are some tips to help get your toddler to listen.

5 Tips for the Toddler that Won’t ListenToddler Won't Listen

  1. Teach expectations and reward positive behaviors. While it would be nice if all kids were able to pick up on this by themselves, it can be very important to make your expectations explicit.  Letting him know that he needs to stay with you at the grocery store, or that he should signal to you when finished eating can decrease the chances of him engaging in behavior that is unacceptable to you.
  1. Use visuals. Remember that toddlerhood is a time of rapid growth and development, especially in the language arena.  While they are not able to hold and process as much verbal information as older children, they are learning to connect words to ideas.  One way to support this development is through utilizing visual aides to encourage their understanding.
  1. Simple language, simple concepts. Have you ever thought, does he even understand what I’m saying?  Well, he might not!  Keep your language as simple as possible.  Don’t give long explanations for your rules or why you want your toddler to do something.  Rather, give a simple command and pause.
  2. First/then. As infants develop into toddlers, the development of memory and other intellectual capacities pave the way for an understanding of temporal relationships.  That is to say, children at this age can begin to understand that before Y happens, X must occur.  For example, saying to a child, “first we clean up these Legos, then we can play outside” is much easier to understand than, “we’re not going anywhere as long as these Legos are all over the rug”.  You can use this first-then model with many tasks and routines of your toddler’s day.
  1. Empathize. Lastly, and perhaps the most important tip to get your toddler to listen is to empathize. Growing up is tough!  So, try to take your little one’s perspective.  Toddlers have different ways of thinking, feeling, and interacting with the world as compared to older children.  As caregivers, we must be aware that factors like feeling hungry or missing a nap can have a huge impact on a toddler’s ability to meet the demands of his environment.

If your toddler continues to have a difficult time following your expectations and behaving in appropriate ways, it is recommended to consult with others.  While toddlerhood is a typical stage of development, if you have concerns about your young one, it is recommended to consult with a mental health professional.

Do you have other tips on how to encourage your toddler to listen?  Please leave feedback below!


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