Have a toddler who just wouldn’t listen to you? We feel you.

There’s no other kind of frustration that can compare to getting a toddler to listen to you (and failing miserably at it). 

They run around the house, play with things they shouldn’t touch, and make a mess of themselves. No amount of “No! Don’t do that!” can stop these tiny balls of energy. 

Is it another hopeless case of “let’s just wait until they’re older”? Of course not! There are proven ways on how to discipline toddlers who don’t listen. But before we get into that, let’s understand first why it’s so difficult to get them to listen.

Why Won’t My Toddler Listen To Instructions?

why won't my toddler listen to instructions

Could they be simply disrespecting us as parents? The answer would most likely be no. Some children don’t listen to instructions by choice, but the majority of them also struggle with other issues. 

It could be a memory problem. Some kids have difficulty in remembering tasks especially when there are several steps involved. Take for example getting ready for bed. You would brush your teeth and take a bath first. It seems simple enough but the process is not yet second nature to toddlers.

Another possible reason is the distractions. Toddlers have short attention spans. Hearing a certain word, smelling the scent of food, or seeing a different brightly coloured toy could sway them from actually hearing you. 

Given these reasons, it’s easier to understand what seems to be an act of defiance could simply just them being kids. Constant nagging won’t help either of you get any job done. What you really need to do is teach them how to listen.

How To Get Toddlers To Listen Without Yelling

1. Get Down To Their Level

why won't my toddler listen to instructions

Yes, you have to get down to their level literally. This shows that you are paying attention and are serious about your request. This is also applied to everyone else and not just children. For instance, nurses would sit down in a chair when talking to a patient who is lying in bed. Plus, you’ll be able to hear each other better due to close proximity. 

2. Make Eye Contact

why won't my toddler listen to instructions

Although this is a very popular parenting tip, it is a key element that is often overlooked. Not only will making eye contact (and retaining it!) show that you’re serious, but it will also keep your child hooked to what you’re saying. After all, there’s nothing worse than talking to someone who isn’t even looking at you. 

3. Keep Instructions Short

why won't my toddler listen to instructions

Remember, you’re talking to toddlers. Don’t give out a long list of instructions in one go because chances are they won’t remember a single one. They’ll feel overwhelmed and, eventually, they’ll stop listening. Instead, give out short instructions that are straight to the point. When it’s time to eat, they should wash their hands first. Before sleeping, they should brush their teeth. Eventually, these instructions will turn into a habitual routine.

4. Motivate Them

why won't my toddler listen to instructions

When someone compliments you on something, you tend to remember them better. When you get praised for something you’ve put effort into, most likely you’ll want to do it again. The same goes for toddlers. You can motivate them by praising their accomplishments such as something as simple as wiping spilt milk or tidying up their toys. 

However, remember to use them properly. Don’t just say “good job” every time they do something. This will only open up the danger of raising an entitled kid. Instead, try saying “What you did was helpful” or “You found a way to clean up your toys”.

5. Tell Them What To Do

why won't my toddler listen to instructions

“Um, that’s already what we’re doing.” 

But are you giving them clear instructions? Our tendency as parents is to keep giving out rules of what NOT to do. “Don’t leave your toys everywhere”, “Don’t play with your food” and the like.

When you say “don’t”, your toddler will have to go through more steps in their thinking process: “What do they not want me to do? What do they want me to do instead?”  

Not only is this confusing, but it will leave your child guessing their way into what you want. Tell them what to do as clear and simple as possible. 

Instead of “Don’t leave your toys everywhere,” try “Please put your toys in the toy box.” Instead of “Don’t play with your food,” try “Eat your food with your utensils.”

In A Nutshell…

When toddlers don’t listen, they don’t do it out of disrespect. They’re children who are still facing some struggles in handling instructions. That’s just part of their growth. You’ll find that upon understanding where they’re coming from, getting them to listen isn’t actually as hard as we thought.

So stop the constant nagging and try these five proven ways on how to discipline toddlers who don’t listen. 

Is your toddler listening to you? What tip can you share with us? Let us know in the comments!