Communicating with a Toddler Who Doesn’t Listen
Frustrated when your child disobeys on purpose? Learn how to communicate with a toddler who doesn’t listen and encourage cooperation instead.
“Felix, we’re walking this way. Would you like to join us?” I ask my toddler. I see his eyes darting, looking at all the options.
“No.” Simple and short and he runs the exact opposite way we are going…
“Felix, we already went that way. Shall we try this way?” I plead, trying to use logic on an 18 month old.
“No.” He looks pretty confident that we can both do what ever we want and we’ll probably, most likely, meet at the car and then wake up at home. But I am a 413 month old and I know that is not how it is going to work.
When Felix first starting defying us, we were at a loss as to what to do. We reached out to his nursery to see how they dealt with his behaviour so we could have a united front. We sought advice from our friends, family, and researched what the experts had to say. A lot of this advice would end in “every child is different” or “it is just a phase.” Your logical mind knows that is true, but when you’re knee deep in the “phase,” it can sometimes be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
My biggest take away from all of this was that discipline isn’t consequences or punishments. Discipline is teaching. We’re teaching children how to behave and helping them understand and express their emotions.
It is still easy to get sucked into power struggles, and honestly, a bit desperate when they won’t listen, but I’ve put together 12 tips and techniques to help you navigate these stressful times.
1. Get down to your toddler's level and make eye contact
One of the simplest ways to better communicate is to get down to their eye level when you speak to them. They'll take you seriously, you're being respectful, and you avoid power struggles.
2. Find your toddler's intentions
Pause before reacting to their behaviour and be curious about why they're behaving the way they are. You'll show empathy and let them know you're "on the same side.”
3. Give and follow through with consequences
Consequences that tie to their behaviour are learning experiences, establishing the limits they need. While you may not win short-term favour, you're gaining their trust when you follow through consistently.
4. Pick your battles
Not everything has to be a battle, While consistency is key, you also need to allow for flexibility and make room for the nuances of life. Ask yourself how important the issue really is to you and your family
5. Give your toddler a choice
Giving choices encourages your toddler to own the task, reduces conflict, helps them to feel empowered, shows that you value their opinions, and helps them think for themselves.
6. Explain the reason
Rather than hearing what to do or not not do, your toddler will be more motivated to comply knowing why they should. Giving a reason takes you out of the equation and focuses on the task that needs to be done.
7. Praiser your toddler when they do what they're asked
Kids thrive on attention, whether good or bad. The best way to counter misbehaviour is to praise your toddler and give them attention when they are behaving. Deep down, kids want to please their parents.
8. Don't "ask" the instruction
Avoid "asking" the instruction or negotiating when you can't. Sometimes you can pick your battles and meet them halfway. For others you need to stand your ground.
9. Use positive language
Using positive language means phrasing your words in something your toddler can do, not something they can't. Better yet, praise them with positive language when you catch them doing something good.
10. Don't give empty threats
Saying empty threats or wild statements weakens your authority. you might also resort to unfair generalisations. These phrases not only label your toddler instead of the action, they're also untrue (they don't always behave this way, 24/7).
11. Talk after the tantrum has finished
Your toddler is past the point of logic once they're in a fit. Be there through their outbursts and allow them to settle down. Once they're calm, only then can you talk and expect them to actually listen and process what you're saying.
12. Listen to your toddler
Listening to your toddler builds a strong bond and earns their trust and love. And above all, listening is respectful. We can only expect to be treated the way we treat others.