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How to Get Your Toddler to Listen

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How to Get Your Toddler to ListenHow many times have you found yourself repeating a request to your toddler over and over again, wondering to yourself if your toddler can even hear you? There were so many times when I would ask my toddler to do something and then wind up convinced that he must have a hearing problem because he would either do something different from what I asked or he would ignore my request altogether. It would usually go a little something like this:

Me: “Sweetie, will you please go into your room and grab your shoes so we can get going?”

(silence)

Me: “Sweetie, Mommy asked you to go into your room and grab your shoes. We have to get going.”

(silence)

Me: “Son! We have to go! Where are your shoes? Why aren’t you listening to Mommy?”

Sound familiar? This can be frustrating beyond belief, especially if you are in a hurry and also you happen to know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with your toddler’s hearing because you had it tested by a professional audiologist. Or, at least, that’s what I did. At any rate, I knew that he could hear me.

Am I Doing Something Wrong?

It wasn’t until I talked to a professional child psychologist that I found out that the problem wasn’t with my toddler, it was with me. My approach was wrong, so he truly couldn’t do what I was asking him to do. Apparently, toddlers process information differently than we do as adults. When I barraged him with a lengthy request, he literally could not process everything I asked him to do and therefore he just purged the whole thing.

The child psychologist taught me a thing or two about how to phrase a request to a toddler in order to make it possible for the child to listen and respond.

How to Talk to a Toddler

  • Make it a command. Don’t ask your toddler if he wants to get his shoes on. Instead, tell him to get his shoes on.
  • Keep it simple. Don’t give a lengthy explanation of why he needs to do what you ask him. Instead, keep the request simple so there is not too much information to process.
  • Be polite. Don’t bark the command, but instead be respectful without pleading.

So instead of  “Sweetie, will you please go into your room and grab your shoes so we can get going?” it should be “Abram, please get your shoes on.” I now know to give him a few seconds to process the request and to react to my command. If he doesn’t respond, I give the same request and wait a few seconds again. If he still doesn’t respond, he’s met with a calm, “Abram, please get your shoes on or time out.”

Ever since I started using these tactics I have had more success getting my toddler to cooperate. I know it is contrary to what we’re taught as parents; I can’t be the only mom out there who has been narrating activities with a long winded monologue all day long because I was told to talk to my baby as much as possible. Sometimes, however, simplifying things can make a huge impact on how compliant your toddler will be.


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