How to Get Toddlers to Listen Without Yelling

How to Get Toddlers to Listen Without Yelling

Written by Mellownest
How to Get Toddlers to Listen Without Yelling
Toddlers don’t listen because…
You’re interrupting their flow!

If there is one trait that defines toddlerdom it’s being on the move! No longer confined by their baby body they can suddenly walk, clamber, build and explore.

The world is their oyster.

Goodbye jumperoo, hello sticky toddler fingers in your makeup!

How to Get Toddlers to Listen Without Yelling

Around the age of 18 months your toddler is undergoing an explosion of brain connections and their noisy, on the go, fingers in everything approach to life is actually totally developmentally appropriate (if a little inconvenient).

You might not think that poking crackers into the DVD player is a skill that needs mastering but your toddler is likely to disagree. With all of these exciting new activities to work on your toddler isn’t feeling so inclined to listen to your every request especially if it involves a less appealing option like getting dressed.

A great way to make finishing a little easier is to let your little one complete what they’re working on or give them a cue of when time’s up.

Visual cues like getting your coat usually work well for a toddler level of understanding.

Time doesn’t really mean anything to them.

You know that you only have twenty minutes to get dressed and get to their favourite class but for a toddler this is a pretty complicated concept.

Under the ages of four or five time is a pretty hazy notion and toddlers in particular tend to live in the here and now.

Though you know that they love the class, until they are actually there shaker in-hand, your five-minute warnings don’t really mean much.

Why Your Toddler Doesn’t Listen

The fix?

Make getting ready and getting out the door playful. Nothing stops a toddler in their tracks so much as being shouted at and even if you manage to wrestle the socks on, they’re able to pull them right back off again.

Use singing or reading stories to engage your toddler while you get them ready. It might take a little longer but it’ll be a far more pleasant experience for the both of you.

Also, statements that fix on routines rather than times are much more helpful for younger children.

So saying ‘We’ll go to class after breakfast’ is more helpful than saying ‘We have to be at class for 10 o’ clock’

You aren’t thinking about your language.

Picture the scene.

Your toddler is deeply engaged in threading beads on string as you call out from the other room,

‘Shall we get a bath?”

Your toddler promptly replies in the negative (if at all) and gets on with their activity.

Ah. Stumped. This scenario leaves you with nowhere to go apart from insisting that it is actually bathtime and that they have to go in whether they want to or not. Cue meltdown.

toddler fun learning

Your mistake?

You asked a question rather than making a statement.

What you meant to say was ‘bathtime, let’s go’

Or even better you might have offered a directed choice like;

‘Do you want your bubbles or your ducks in the bath?’

or

‘Shall we skip or have a carry to the bath?’

That way you’re managing the activity but giving your toddler some much wanted control too.

You haven’t really made the effort to connect.

Put simply they almost aren’t hearing you as you call across the crowded playroom.

You haven’t got their attention and they aren’t invested in what you want to say to them.

A better approach is to go over and get down to your child’s level, then make physical contact with them and check for eye contact before you say anything.

toddler fun learning

Your smiley face and gentle touch are far better motivators than any yelled threats.

So, stop, slow down, connect and make it fun and you will have happier kiddies and parents.

Child’s play really!


Claire and Dr Nneka founded Mellownest with a simple purpose; to inspire and empower mums. Their backgrounds in Psychology and Wellbeing mean they know what it takes to stay happy, healthy and connected to your values. Recognised for their mindful, relationship-based approach to parenting, regular contributors to Mumbler and been featured on Motherly and Parent.com.

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