If you have a toddler, you know how frustrating it is to have to ask several times to do something. And even when they seem to hear you, they’ll forget to follow through. I have gone through this with each of my kids as they went through the toddler stage and I have learned certain strategies that will help you get your child to do what you ask.
1. Make Eye Contact.
When your toddler is doing something and you’re across the room telling them to stop, the odds are that they will not listen to you. They most likely aren’t looking at you and they know that you can’t do anything about it since you’re across the room. A better approach would be if you go over to them, get down on their level and talk to them face to face. This way, they will more likely to listen to you the first time rather than on the 4th or 5th time you ask them to stop from across the room. If you make eye contact with them and speak to them in a firm tone, they will know that you mean business.
2. Use Physical Touch.
When you get down on your child’s level, touch them in some way like putting your hands on their shoulders or their arms. You don’t need to grab them, but placing your hand on their arms firmly will let them know you’re in charge and when you ask them to do something, they should comply. This will be especially useful if your child turns away from you or starts to walk away. This lets them know that they have to listen to you.
3. Give Your Child Choices.
Children respond better when they’re given choices. Try to give them a choice when giving them something to do. Instead of saying “Can you put your toys away.” (stuff away.) Would you like to put your trains in the toy bin or your crayons back in the container?” Asking them questions like this doesn’t give them a chance to say no. It also gives them some sense of control over the situation because they get to choose for themselves.
4. Don’t Yell or Scream.
Children will be more likely to respond to a calm tone rather than you yelling at them. This works well when you speak to them on their level and making eye contact. Once they see the serious expression on your face, there’ll be no need to yell at them. They will know that you are serious and they they need to listen and comply with your requests.
5. Give Positive Reinforcement.
Children need positive reinforcement when they do something right. When your child listens to you and does something you ask, make sure to praise your child and tell them that you’re proud of them. You can hug and kiss them or maybe even give them a small treat. They will remember this and be more likely to listen to you and do what you ask in the future.
6. Give a Warning.
It can be difficult to comply with your request when children are interrupted or surprised. Give your child time to do what you ask by giving some advanced notice, when it’s possible. You can say something like, “please brush your teeth at the next commercial.” Or use a timer and tell them that it needs to get done when the timer finishes.
7. Keep Your Language Simple.
We often forget that even though toddlers can understand us, they may not comprehend what we’re saying when we use complicated language. With toddlers, try to keep it short and simple so they’re not confused by your directions. Saying “Get down” will be easier to understand than “Don’t stand on the chair. Get down and stay on the floor.”
8. Give Consequences For Not Listening.
When you ask your child to do something, let them know that there’ll be a consequence if they don’t listen to you. Say things like “If you don’t put your toys away, you can’t play with them tomorrow,” or “If you throw your toy in your mouth again, you’ll have a time-out.” Giving them a consequence for not listening to you lets them know that they’ll be punished. It also allows them to make a choice for themselves. If they choose to do it again, that is the choice they made. Make sure to follow through on the consequence or they’ll learn that you don’t mean what you say and they’ll be less likely to listen to you.
9. Make it Fun.
With toddlers, the more fun you make something, the more likely they’ll do it. If you make a game out of putting their toys away, they’ll be more motivated to clean up. It has worked so well with all my kids.