Toddlers are notoriously “bad” at not listening to their parents. In fact, as toddlers, it’s common for them to test your authority and assert their independence. At their age, they need you to teach them how to pay attention. Here are ten ways to teach your toddler the skills they need to be a great listener:
1. Get on his level
Squat down or pick up you child, so you can look into his eyes and catch his attention. Eye contact is one of the biggest cues children use to understand both what people are talking about and who they are talking to, and it’s essential we use it with them.
2. Give choices but on your terms
Toddlers want to be in control. Minimise defiance by stating requests or directions as choices when you can. Instead of saying, “You need to go to get dressed now”, try, “Do you want to put on your shirt or pants first?” while showing your toddler both options.
3. Be clear and authoritative
Instead of harping on a topic too long, make a strong, simple and clear statement like “It’s time to get in your car seat.” Phrasing a directive in a question (“Can you please get in the car seat now?”) only serves to confuse your toddler, if they don’t actually have a choice in the matter.
4. Focus on the positive
Talk to your child about what you expect him to do (“Walk!”) rather than what you don’t want him to do (“No running!”). This will make off-limit activities a little less tempting.
5. Read to your toddler
Another way to improve your toddler’s listening skills is to read aloud. Use silly voices, or emphasise certain words or phrases to get and retain your tot’s attention. Try to get new reading material as often as you can. Checking out local libraries with children’s sections can help you save money from having to buy storybooks.
6. Be a role model
Your little one will be a better listener if he sees that you’re good a listener, too. Make eye contact when he talks to you, respond politely, and let him finish without interrupting whenever possible. If you create an environment where your child feels heard and respected, he is likely to reciprocate that respect when you need cooperation.
Toddlers will respond better when you include benefits of getting the job done quickly. Say, “Brush your teeth and then we’ll read your favourite book”, instead of “Brush your teeth NOW!”.
8. Be genuine and sincere
Use phrases such as “I need you to” in order to indicate what you need your child to do. Using “You need to” could lead to a potential power struggle when your child responds by saying “No I don’t!”
9. Follow through
Make consequences – positive or negative – known in advance (“First get dressed, then you can play with your truck.” or “If you pot that toy in your moth again, I’m going to take it away.”) Follow through on the consequence if your child doesn’t do what you say; but if they comply, make sure to acknowledge it to motivate the behaviour.
10. Catch your child being good
Chances are your tot will more likely listen to you if you acknowledge his good behaviour. “You put your shoes away the first time I asked. Good job!” or “You were very gentle with the baby. I’m proud of you!” With plenty of positive reinforcement, your child will be less likely to ignore you when you need to steer him back on course.
What strategies have helped you teach your toddler to listen better?