6 Strategies To Try When Your Toddler Does Not Listen

Strategies to try when your toddler does not listen

Strategies to connect with your toddler when they won’t listen!

Yes, I was finally able to identify some.

It’s rough on parents and kids alike and I was getting very desperate to find a solution that worked.


I was getting a little scared of those meltdowns in public and at home, those defiant cries for eating the chalk, drinking water from the dog bowl, not wanting to leave any place.

Yes, twos are hard, not because twos are terrible, but because their brain is growing at a crazy pace.

As per The Harvard University, “in the first few years of life, more than 1 million new neural connections are formed every second”

Every Second? Apparently!

When their brain is already processing so much information, how can you get your point across to your toddler, to make sure they do the needful.

Related Post: The Psychology behind why your toddler is not listening.

Here are 6 strategies to try when your toddler does not listen.

You need to be very clear in your language.

Explanation and Clarity in your words are very important to make kids understand what you mean by a certain sentence.

You can’t be too simple or too obvious when it comes to choosing words for connecting with kids.

Situation: Your 2 yr old wants you to drop what you are doing and come attend to her needs or play with her.

At such a time, telling her “I’m Coming” is not going to work.

You have to be more detailed — How long will it be before you can come (1 mins or 3 mins or how much ever long it takes). You need to tell them, what are you doing and why is it important.

So you could say: “ I’m making dinner, we’ll all be very hungry soon, I’ll read you that book or play with you in 15 mins, or I’ll come see what you are doing in 2 minutes when I can take a little break to check on you”.

This doesn’t work instantly, they’ll cry a bit, but will usually find something else to do very soon.

To an adult “I am coming” means,’ I am busy with something I will come when it’s done.’

Kids take everything you say literally, so “I’m coming” means I’m walking towards you.

You see; Kids can’t read between the lines, like adults.

[bctt tweet=”Kid’s can’t read between the lines, and you can never be too simple with your explanations.”]

Tell them the reason behind your instructions.

Kids are driven by curiosity, they need to know the WHY.

It’s their driving force.

They need to know the reason behind everything — What – Why – How. These are the terms they think in.

I share a lot more about this concept in — Why do kids break house rules.

So, when you want them to listen to you; tell them WHY should they stop doing what they are doing or WHY should they do what you asked them to do.

When you can connect with them with a reasoning, their chance of agreeing with you increase exponentially.

And you know the beauty of explanation?

The reasons you give them could be any — it’s socially unacceptable, it’s a risk for them aka safety issue or it’s a risk to the caregivers.

All of the reasons above are acceptable to kids when we explain them correctly. Even to kids as young as 2 yrs old.

Example: Don’t touch the electric outlet or you’ll get a shock, is not enough.

You will need to explain more: You can’t see the shock, but it’s very dangerous, and you’ll be hurt very badly. This is the reason I never play with it.

They are more likely to believe you with this explanation, than “you’ll get a boo-boo if you touch the electric outlet”, or  “don’t do it” Or worse, don’t tell them the reason behind the rule.

There is nothing more frustrating to a child when we don’t tell them why they shouldn’t do what they’re doing.

Trust me I have tried it unconsciously and was baffled at my toddler for not listening when the truth is that I was speaking incorrectly.

Be Calm and Be Consistent.

This is the Key.

They need to know you mean it, so be consistent.

And, that you are not going to budge from your house rules. 

Neither are you going to be baffled when they don’t listen! Show them your Calm.

When we’re calm and consistent, they realize mom is in-charge and they actually feel more comfortable with it.

You need to stop them Physically from doing what is unacceptable.

Very often we are not clear, and sometimes the kids can’t process our instructions.

At such times we need to show them physically what is expected.

I had an issue with my son spitting playfully., with consistent redirection he had learned in theory that spitting is for sink, and we shouldn’t spit anywhere else.

But he couldn’t comprehend it completely, so he would tell me when asked, “spitting is for sheenk”; but would still keep spitting playfully.

Until I started taking him to the sink every time he spits for fun.

With just 2 incidences, he learned that he can’t spit all the time and that he’ll have to come to the sink to spit, which was no fun.

That reduced his playful spitting drastically.

Be consistent with your expectations in public and don’t bribe.

I always have this temptation to just give my son whatever he wants in public, to end his crying and screaming.

I am sure you have this temptation too.

Yes, public meltdowns are very embarrassing, and we want to end them instantly by whatever works.

But the issue with “whatever works” is — kids get a hint that it’s a good thing to misbehave in public because they get a reward for that.

And, we parents say they know they’ll get what they want in public so they manipulate us.

Not true. We gave them this idea.

If we are consistent with them in our expectations in public too, it’ll probably just take one or two times of going through the entire tantrum, until they understand the expectations remain the same, irrespective of the place.

Try to Avoid Rewards and Punishments

I strongly think rewards and punishments are short lived.

It’s only a matter of time when they’ll lose interest in the reward or they’ll become resistant to your punishments.

What will you do then? Increase the rewards and Punishments? Not ideal at all.

You are supposed to do the right actions, because they are right, not because right actions will fetch you a reward.

Similarly, by doing the wrong things they won’t be punished. We (adults) will keep redirecting them until we do the things in the right way.

They should listen to you because they trust you as their leader, as their parent.

This trust and innate desire to listen to you is going to come when they see you putting genuine interest in their actions.


Kids as young as 2 Yr olds have the emotional and cognitive competence to understand all of the reasons you give them to listen to you.

It’s just a matter of using the correct method to connect with them!

They often get very excited about little things and their inner instinct takes over — what they should or should not do.

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