Parenting toddlers is a struggle; there’s no getting out of it. These tiny humans are learning to assert themselves, longing for independence they can’t handle, and trying to communicate their feelings without having the words yet. It seems no matter what you try, you just can’t figure out how to get your toddler to listen.
It’s too easy to get into a power struggle with your toddler when you want them to do something. But you soon find out that gets you nowhere.
Want to know how to get your toddler to listen? First you have to study your child and figure out how to speak their language. What works for another child may not work for yours. (And what worked for yours last week may not work today!)
That’s why it’s important to have a variety of ideas in your toolbox to pull out when your toddler won’t listen.
Five Simple Ways to Gain Your Toddler’s Cooperation
Try out some of these and find the ones that work for you and your toddler.
Instead of telling them what they CAN’T do, tell them what they CAN do. For example, when you see your child jumping on their bed, you could say, “Jumping is fun, isn’t it? Let’s jump on these pillows on the floor.”
Little ones love when you notice what they’re doing right! And they take note when you mention what their siblings are doing right. You may say something like, “Do you remember what a great job you did brushing your teeth yesterday? That was wonderful! I bet you could do it again!” Or if one of my girls is doing a great job but her sister says she’s not brushing today, I make sure she hears me praising her sister for opening her mouth wide and letting me brush all her teeth.
3. Use the same routine each time
This is especially effective with transition times such as bedtime, leaving the park, or moving from playtime to mealtime. When my girls were toddlers and we made frequent trips to the park in the stroller, I would always bring a snack for them to eat on the way home. Instead of telling them it was time to go home, I said, “It’s time to hop in the stroller and have a snack while we walk. Bye-bye, park! See you next time!”
4. Have a song for an activity they often resist
We’ve sung this song to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat: “Brush, brush, brush your teeth. Brush them every day! Brush and brush and brush and brush, keeps them clean always!” (Yeah, the words don’t have to be newsworthy. And the tune doesn’t have to be new!)
Any activity your child struggles with can have a song. How about this one? “Buckling my carseat, going to the store now. I am buckled in my seat. Wonder what I’ll see?” Tune: Little Bunny FooFoo. I totally made that up just now. See how simple it is? If doesn’t have to rhyme or match the tune. Just start singing a tune using words that have something to do with the activity you’re doing. The simple act of changing your voice from yelling to singing will probably cause your child to take notice.
5. Work together
This is especially effective when doing a chore such as picking up toys. Little ones are always more agreeable to doing a task that we are doing with them, so I try to do that whenever possible. Of course they would rather just keep playing while I do all the work, so I’ll say something like, “You pick up the green blocks and I’ll pick up the blue ones.”
Grab Your Reference Chart and Five More Ideas
Do these always work? No. If only life were that simple! There are a million little factors involved in figuring out how to get your toddler to listen. But these ideas may help you reduce some of the power struggles and gain a little more peace than you have now.
If you’re looking for even more ideas, sign up for the printable chart below and get an email including five more ways I get my toddlers to cooperate.
Here’s a bonus idea: simple two-word phrase I use to gain my little ones’ cooperation. Check it out!