How To Get Your Toddler To Listen Without Yelling?

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Knowing how to get your toddler to listen can make it easier for many parents and caregivers to manage difficult moments due to toddlers’ tantrums. It is common for toddlers to show behavioral outbursts such as defiance, mood swings, aggression, and screaming. These all are signs of the healthy development of your little one’s brain.

A baby becomes more aware of surroundings when they reach toddlerhood and often desires independence, expresses emotions, exhibits defiant behavior, and often imitates others (1) (2). Therefore, it is normal for a toddler to run or crawl around without listening to the instructions.

Several of the toddler’s behaviors are driven by impulses, wants, and needs rather than logic and reasons. Therefore, it is essential to guide and encourage them to follow basic instructions. Read on to learn about reasons and tips for getting your toddler to listen to your instructions.

In This Article

Why Does A Two-Year-Old Not Listen?

Although it is normal for toddlers to ignore your words, there could be other reasons for your two-year-old toddler not paying heed to your instructions. It could be because

1. You are saying too much, too often.

Give them one instruction at a time

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While you may want your toddler to do many things, giving them one instruction at a time and being short and crisp are recommended. As toddlers have short attention spans, going all out and giving them multiple instructions would fall on deaf ears.

2. They are busy doing something else.

It is natural for your toddler to show defiance and not pay attention to you when performing an activity that interests them. This holds true when your child is watching their favorite show, dancing to their favorite song, or is engrossed in a block activity.

3. Your tone is wrong.

How you instruct your child or ask them to do something is very important. If you are harsh or rude, it might not go down well with them. Similarly, begging your child or being sweet all the time doesn’t work either.

4. You criticize them.

Stop criticizing to get your toddler to listen

Image: IStock

No one likes being constantly criticized. This holds true for your little one too who senses a criticizing tone in what you are saying. If you constantly criticize your toddler by saying things such as “Why don’t you listen?” they will stop listening to you.

5. Your behavior is inconsistent.

When children don’t listen or make a mistake, it is natural and okay to give them time-outs or take away privileges for a short time. However, when you become lenient and do not follow through with your “If you don’t listen to me I will …,” your toddler will take your instructions for granted and never listen to anything you have to say. This is because they know there are no consequences of not listening to parents.

How To Get Your Toddler To Listen?

When your toddler’s reluctance and refusal to listen cross a certain limit, they must be taught how to listen. This can be done through effective communication, using effective parenting techniques, and setting a good example. Here are a few useful tips to get your tiny tot to listen to your instructions.

1. Read stories to them

It is a great idea to read to them

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To teach your child to listen more, it is a great idea to read to them. Reading aloud while using animal sounds and emphasizing certain words to grab their attention is an excellent way to encourage them to listen. Read them stories and poems as they are attention-grabbing, but it also promotes language development and vocabulary growth, which are important aspects of child development.

2. Play listening games

Another way to teach your toddler to listen is by playing listening games. For example, you could play the whisper game, Simon Says, musical chairs, or sound hunt or try some of the activities mentioned in this post to practice and encourage active listening (3).

3. Get down to their eye level

When speaking to your toddler, especially when you want them to listen to you, get down to their level. You can kneel, sit next to them, or lie next to them and look them in the eye while speaking. In doing so, your toddler has your attention and will listen to what you have to say.

You will also observe an increase in compliance from your defiant toddler when you get down to their level as they feel more connected with you and know that you are paying attention to them (4).

4. Spend time together during the day

You are your child’s role model, and they always observe you. If you wish and expect them to listen to your instructions, you will have to walk the talk.

Having meals together or performing activities together is an excellent way to show them how you interact with others in the family. They will observe how you communicate with your partner and inculcate good listening skills and obey you.

5. Speak calmly

Be calm when speaking with your toddler

Image: Shutterstock

Although your toddler’s defiance and tantrums can frustrate you, as a parent, you need to have a calm tone when speaking with your toddler. Toddlers struggle with sudden bursts of anger and frustration. Reacting to these with similar emotions doesn’t solve the problem and only makes them react similarly.

Speaking with your toddler calmly, respectfully, and with empathy helps them calm down and then listen to what you have to say (5) (6). Using a motivating and encouraging tone and positive reinforcement when asking your toddler to do tasks is more helpful than using a strict, stern tone.

6. Give simple instructions

Toddlers have a short attention span. When asking your toddler to do something, keep your instructions short, direct, clear, and specific. This way, they will not just listen to what you’ve to say but also follow them through.

Give direct and simple instructions rather than giving them a list of instructions. For example, saying “Please clear your toys” is more effective than saying, “Pick up your toys, turn off the TV, and come here.”

7. Follow through with your instructions quickly

When you instruct or ask your toddler to do something, you must follow through quickly. For example, if you have asked your toddler to put their plate away in the sink, but they haven’t done it yet, you can guide them to the sink. This way, your toddler knows your instructions have to be followed through quickly, and you’re reinforcing positive behavior through your parenting skills.

8. Reinforce your message

Toddlers can be stubborn and exhibit challenging toddler behavior. If they decide not to listen to you, they won’t. To get your toddler to listen to you, you will need to reinforce your message directly or subtly. For example, if you have been asking your child to put away their toys, instead of repeating “Put your toys in the basket,” you can be more subtle and say, “How about you put your toys in the basket, so we can go play in the garden?”

9. Give advance notice

It’s time to go back home, but your toddler is still playing with their friends. When you insist on going home, your toddler suddenly throws a tantrum and refuses to come home with you.

To avoid these instances, you can give your toddler advance notice. You could say “Let’s stay here for ten more minutes, and then, we’ll go home.” Although your toddler is quite small to understand the concept of time, they will be better prepared to follow your instruction when the time comes.

10. Give doable and realistic instructions

For a toddler, their toys form a large part of their life. When you ask them to put away their toys to eat, sleep, or go out, they might outright refuse to do so. To get them to listen, you can give them instructions such as “Put away your yellow blocks for a while, and you can play with them later.” Such instructions are not just doable but also realistic.

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Set time limits instead of rushing into an argument with your toddler. For instance, you may loudly count to ten to give them a time limit to do what you ask. It will help them know that there’s a time limit to their actions (10).

11. Be creative

Motivate them in different innovative ways to perform activities

Image: IStock

It is common for parents to think that yelling will make the child listen to them. However, this doesn’t always work. In the case of a toddler, it is important to use effective strategies to motivate them. One strategy is to use different innovative ways to perform activities that you wish them to do. Additionally, it is important to have age-appropriate expectations from them and provide positive reinforcement when they comply. For example, you could play a clean-up song when you want them to put their toys away.

12. Provide Information

Slightly older toddlers might be interested to know why you have asked them to do something. Offering information relevant to the instruction might motivate them to do it. For example, if you are heading out for dinner, and you have asked your toddler to clear up their toys, but they refuse to listen, you can tell them you want them to clear up their toys so you can all head out. This information might be a source of motivation for your toddler to listen to your instructions.

13. Listen to them

By listening to your toddler more often, you are letting them know that they are worthy of your attention, and you care for what they say (7). In doing so, you are also communicating to your toddler that they should also pay attention to what you say when you do.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. At what age do toddlers understand discipline?

According to experts, most children start the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behavior from around three years of age (8). Parents can help their children understand discipline better by setting age-appropriate expectations and clear boundaries.

2. Is it okay to scold a toddler if they won’t listen?

When a toddler doesn’t listen to you, you may lose your calm and feel like scolding them. However, you shouldn’t scold your child too often. Scolding can make them anxious and may worsen their behavior. They may also become defiant and start ignoring you (9).

3. What are the negative effects of yelling at toddlers?

Your toddler is likely at an increased risk of health problems in adulthood, an underdeveloped brain and inability to process good news, issues with making friends and being fearful, and may have anxiety and increased aggression (11).

4. Why is getting your toddler to listen without yelling important?

Yelling at your toddler is ineffective in getting them to listen. It can make the problem worse. When you yell at your toddler, you send the message that you don’t respect them. This can damage your relationship and make it harder to communicate with them in the future. Give them the necessary space to develop their own voices and respond in the future rather than react.

These tips on “how to get your toddler to listen?” require your patience and understanding to be fruitful. Pay attention when your toddler tries to communicate to teach them the importance of listening to others. A toddler’s behavior is largely driven by their interests, needs, and impulses as their brains are still developing. Short and crisp instructions are easy for them to grasp and follow. Eye contact and consistency are important to grab their attention. It is important to remember that rewards and consequences are also effective tools in encouraging good behavior. Use clean-up songs or other creative ideas to make following instructions fun for toddlers.

Infographic: Things You Should Try To Make A Toddler Listen To You

Handling toddlers can be exhausting, both physically and mentally, for parents. The trickiest part can be making them listen to you and follow your instructions. So, fret not if you’re at wit’s end. In the infographic below, we present tips to help you effectively deal with your toddler.

what to do when your toddler is not listening (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Get high-quality PDF version by clicking below.

Download Infographic in PDF version Download Infographic
Download Infographic in PDF version

Key Pointers

  • Toddlers may ignore your words because they are preoccupied or have short attention spans.
  • They may also ignore you if you criticize them often or have inconsistent behavior.
  • Giving them realistic and clear instructions, speaking calmly, and subtly reinforcing the message could help toddlers follow your commands.
  • Help them work on their listening skills by reading a story or playing listening games.

Explore strategies for encouraging your child to listen attentively without resorting to yelling. Discover five practical techniques for improving your communication skills with your child and establishing a healthier connection.


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11. Effects of Yelling; Cambridge Montessori
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