It is no secret that toddlers are the most difficult age group to handle. It is the time when habits are formed, personality and behavioral traits are built and parental influence is at the highest. There is little or no pressure from peers and is the richest period in a child’s life. They are always learning and live in a continuous state of wonder and excitement as they explore the world around them.

Parents can shape and mold a positive environment around their toddlers to help lay the foundation for them growing up to be balanced and rational. But, making a toddler listen is not an easy task. They have short attention spans and it is difficult to put across a message.

How to catch a cloud and pin it down?

The song from the epic “The Sound of Music” says it all. A toddler’s attention span is still developing and it is difficult to get the message across. But, there are some tricks that help you gain your toddler’s attention and make them listen.

Here’s how you can put across your message in a positive and calm way,

Be clear

Talk to your toddler in simple language. Be precise and use a lot of hand movements to sustain their attention. Children like simple words in a calm voice. Being wordy is not effective in getting your child’s attention.

For example, do not go into an explanation of why your toddler should sleep early. Just say something like, “its bedtime, we need to brush our teeth and change.” The impact is immediate. A boundary is drawn and the child will usually respect it.

Don’t make an open-ended comment

Toddlers have a tendency to do what they like to do and not listen to something we want them to do! For example, if you said something like, “Would you like to have dinner now?” or “Please wash your hands and come to the table,” you would be more likely to hear a response like, “later.”

It is a better option to use close-ended sentences that leave no choices. You could just say, “Wash your hands and come to the table. It’s dinner time.” Children do not understand ambiguity. There is a better chance that they will listen if you are direct.

Hunker Down

They are not very likely to listen if you if you are speaking from a height. Sit down at the dining table, hunker down to their eye level or cuddle on the sofa when you talk to your child. The impact will be stronger and deeper. It is important to make eye contact while talking to a young child. The retention is more effective and they are more likely to pay attention and listen to you.

Follow through with an action

If you have said no to cookies at bedtime, but agree to a persuasive child a few minutes later, you just gave the child an opportunity to ignore you at a later date. It is very important that you are inflexible on some things to make your toddler understand that he has to listen to you.


Reinforcing a statement is the most effective way to ensure that your child listens to you. For instance, if you asked your child to wash and brush her teeth at bedtime, proceed to lay out her pajamas and apply toothpaste to her toothbrush. This follow through makes the message clear and the child is more amenable to listen than when the command is supplemented with an action.

Every child has moments of naughtiness and obstinacy. Pick your battles wisely and learn to ignore some. Create an atmosphere of trust and love. Most importantly, listen to them if you want them to listen to you. Children always reflect your behavior.

Featured Image Source: Flickr


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