Refusing to Listen

Featured in Infants & Toddlers

Refusing to Listen

If your child is around two years old and suddenly stops listening to you, don’t be alarmed. This is normal at this age as they start to exhibit non-compliance as they explore their independence. This period can be a very trying time for parents but parents need to remember that they need to teach their child to listen and pay attention. It is sometimes easy to forget that children are not born with these skills in place. If you want your child to pay attention to what you are saying, you need to properly teach them to do that.

Methods of Discipline

It is very frustrating when your toddler refuses to listen to you and you keep repeating the same things over and over. As a parent, you may feel motivated to be more restrictive with your toddler. Unfortunately, this behavior usually makes the situation even worse. Flexibility and appropriate control over choices is often the better way to handle toddlers who refuse to listen.

1. When giving your toddler instructions, try to be close to them and talk at eye-level with them. Obviously, this is not always possible but it is something to keep in mind. This avoids you raising your voice to them from across the room, and making sure you have their attention by looking them in the eye. Employing this method should ensure your toddler listens to you the first time you give an instruction. You will be setting up your toddler for success (by listening to you), rather than failure.

2. Give your toddler some choices that are within acceptable parameters. When your toddler is non-compliant, they are usually looking for control over something. By giving the child choices, you are giving him/her some control over a situation but on your terms. This won’t be possible all the time but when you can, why not give them some choices? For example, instead of saying “Get dressed now”, re-word to give the child a choice and say “Do you want to put on your pants or shirt first?”.

Toddler - refusing to listen - solution

3. When giving your toddler instructions, ensure that the language you use is developmentally appropriate and you are not overwhelming them. Toddlers are just learning how to follow one and two-step instructions so don’t give them any more than that or you will end up repeating yourself. Give your toddler one instruction, then wait 5-7 seconds for him/her to process and respond before speaking again.

4. Try to limit using questions and directives. Again, this comes down to setting your child up for success. Don’t give your toddler opportunities to not listen by giving them too many questions to respond to or too many directions. Ask questions that your toddler will likely respond to.

5. Ensure that you follow through on directives you give your toddler. It is important to be consistent and make sure your child understands the directives, as well as the consequences in advance. If you need to tell your toddler that “If you color on the wall with that crayon again, I’m going to take all of your crayons away” be sure that you follow through with the consequence.

Helping Your Child Cope

One way to help your toddler get through the “refusing to listen” stage is to make listening fun. Play games with your toddler (ie Simon Says) to not only help develop your toddler’s listening skills ,but also when you are trying to do something at times when your toddler is not likely to listen. For example, when dressing your toddler, say “Simon says put up your arms” and then slip the toddler’s shirt on. You can keep it fun by alternating between things you want your toddler to do and funny directions.

Toddler - refusing to listen - result

Another piece of advice is to become a good listener yourself. Show your toddler a good example of listening by reflecting back what your toddler says to you.

As always, praise your toddler when he/she listens to you. Make sure you say “Good listening!”, or “Thank you for listening so what to what I said”. Positive reinforcement goes a long way with children.

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