Getting your Toddler to Listen - SmartMom

Getting Your Toddler To Listen

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Getting your toddler to listen can be a difficult challenge. Three years old, what a magical, adorable age. Except when your toddler is not listening, which is most of the time he is awake. These five suggestions may make dealing with your little one a little less stressful, and may even help with getting your toddler to listen.

1. This is the time out bible, and you should purchase and memorize it right away. If your toddler is doing something s/he is not supposed to do, like, for example, refusing to put on shoes, you say, “that’s 1…. that’s 2…. and that’s 3 and we go into time out.”  You must be consistent, and never waffle, or insert a “2 and a half.” Once you start counting, if your child doesn’t listen, it’s time out after 3. Time out can be in your child’s room, on the steps, or in a designated chair.  If your child gets up and leaves time out, you silently return her to the time out place.  This can be made easier by using an egg timer, which you set for one minute per age of child. The key is the egg timer goes on only once your child is seated silently (or crying, but not screaming) in time out.

Do not engage with your child during time out.  The real name for time out is “time out from positive reinforcement.”  So basically, you’re punishing them with boredom.  And if you talk to them, even about how they didn’t listen, they aren’t bored anymore, and you’ve just taken away the whole point of time out.

2. Keep your expectations low.  You can’t use time out for everything or your house will become a joyless battlefield. A toddler has very low impulse control, so pick your battles. Aim for, at most, one battle per hour. If they won’t put on their shoes, and that’s your battle, then you have to relax about them not eating their lunch. And so forth.

3. Bribe when necessary. We all do it, and sometimes you need your kid to listen right now or your splitting headache will turn into a nervous breakdown. Here are my favorite bribes: 20 minutes of iPad time, 20 minutes of TV, 1 jellybean (Jelly Belly are all natural and 4 calories each so I’m not too worried about them being candy), or Special Time with Mommy. What’s this, you ask?

3. Special Time with Mommy: I know I say this a lot, but this is an all-purpose awesome parenting technique. If your toddler knows she is going to get to do a special 15 minute activity of her choice with you, she will be a lot easier to handle. The rules of special time are as follows: it must be 10-15 minutes, you must let them choose the activity, and you must not teach, question, or otherwise annoy your child during the activity. All you’re allowed to do is narrate what’s going on, like this:

“Hey, you’re putting the Lego man on the slide! Look at that, down he goes. Now I’m putting the Lego man on the horse. Neigh!”

You may think this sounds like a strange way to interact, but it’s kids’ favorite thing in the world. It’s all your attention, focused solely on them, without you trying to get them to act a certain way or answer some question. Try it!

These techniques will hopefully help with getting your toddler to listen when she acts less than angelic. And if all else fails, the toddler years will be over soon.


Here’s some more advice about how to discipline your little one. 


For all of the moms that read to their little ones, how do I get my toddler to sit and listen while I read to her?

Our 3 1/2 year old has seasonal allergies and takes medicine for them. When he takes the medicine his behavior is out of control and he won’t listen. Does anyone know of any other meds he could take that wouldn’t have such behavioral side effects?

How do you keep a toddler from acting out because of a new baby?

Best book recommendations for toddlers? My 2 1/2 year old won’t listen!

How do you discipline your toddlers? My 21 month old is not listening at all.

Just wanted to share a method I have been using successfully to get my 3 year old to listen and clean up

What is the best way to discipline a 16 month old? Is it ok to lightly spank them?

Has anyone experienced a meltdown with their toddler where eventually you (the parent) lost it too?

My 16 month old is not listening when I tell him not to do something. How did everyone discipline/teach their toddlers?

Anyone else have a 3 year old that is out of control and won’t listen?



To all the Moms that read to their little ones. I want to read more to my little toddler but she won’t let me read. She likes to sit in my lap and flip the pages, she is more interested in the pictures than the stories. Should I just talk about the pictures with her or read what little bit I can while she is on the page or would it be better to try and teach her to listen to the whole story? Any advice.

How do you keep a toddler from acting out because of a new baby? My daughter is desperate for attention although we give her tons of attention and affection. I’m trying to include her in activities with the baby but she is relentless and not listening at all. I know she is in the terrible twos but it’s gotten really bad in the last week.

Best books on parenting for toddlers? My 2.5 yr old does not want to listen no matter what I’ve tried, is pushing his limits with me- I’ve tried time out, counting to 5, using incentives for good behavior, even spanking (once). I know there has to be a solution, thanks!

How do you discipline your toddlers? My son is 21 months and not listening at all. Time outs don’t work very well. I was making him sit in his chair when he kept throwing his toys. Then he started throwing them, looking at me and going to his chair himself while laughing. I’m getting very frustrated.

Just wanted to share something for all the moms with toddlers! My 3 almost 4 yr old hates cleaning out her toys so I came up with this method. She gets 1-2 chances to pick up toys and if she ignores me or leaves them they go in mommy’s basket. When she DOES listen the first time or I see her cleaning up on her own, she gets to pick something back out! Whatever is left over after a few weeks is donated. This has been working great so I wanted to pass it on!

What’s the best way to discipline a 16 mo toddler? Is it ok to lightly spank them when they know they’re doing wrong? I give him plenty of chances before he loses my patience. How do or did you correct your toddler to behave and listen?

Has anyone experienced a meltdown with their toddler?

My son is almost 16m and we are at the stage where I know he can understand but doesn’t always listen, especially if I ask him not do do something.

Anyone else out here have a toddler (3) that is just out of control? Mine won’t listen to me at all, I have to sit and hold him in time out. If I tell him to do something his answer is always no. He just sits and screams at the top of his lungs. Advice??

I have a 2 year old toddler and she doesn’t listen..


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