Why Won’t My Toddler Listen?

Why Won’t My Toddler Listen?

“Why won’t my toddler listen?” parents frequently inquire. “Why won’t they obey my directions?” they truly mean. Children are born with the ability to decode our words and infer our unsaid signals, so they are ready to listen. 

They are also distinct individuals who develop their own thoughts, beliefs, and wills soon. Babies and toddlers frequently comprehend what we want yet opt to do the exact opposite. So why aren’t the kids following our instructions? The most prevalent explanations are as follows:


For a number of causes, children feel cut off. Perhaps, instead of being the respectful, benign leaders our children need to understand our expectations, we’ve been harsh and manipulative (often without even realizing it).

We may have made the typical error of taking our child’s age-appropriate reluctance to change personally. How could this kid, to whom we have effectively dedicated our life, willfully disobey or disappoint us (for example, by hitting her infant brother) after we have informed her hundreds of times? Is she not fond of us?

Because they don’t feel loved, children typically repeat their difficult and defiant actions. They think that they are out of favor with us, that they are misunderstood and criticized when all they want is our assistance. 

Our behavior-control techniques (which are frequently delivered with a dash of rage or impatience) may make our kids feel uneasy, confused, or even afraid, which shows up in their more unpredictable conduct. These impulsive acts tend to repeat themselves until we understand the powerful message our children are sending us: be my gentle leader and help me reclaim my sense of safety.

Words are insufficient

When their lovely 11-month-old child smacks them in the face, smiles, then do it again after they say, “OW!” parents are typically taken aback. “You’re harming me!” or “No, we don’t hit!” Has this infant become nasty or stopped loving us all of a sudden? Of course not; she’s merely expressing something she can’t say, and now is the time to show that we’ve taken control of her behavior and that we’ve got her back. 

“I won’t let you strike me,” we assure her as we calmly restrain her flailing hands. That’s a pain.” “You’re having a hard time not hitting, so I’ll put you down,” we could say if our child is in our arms and continues to flap at us.

Then she bursts into tears after putting our infant down. “Aha, Josie didn’t sleep well last night, and even though it’s too early for her customary naptime, she’s fatigued,” we know now that we’ve done the required measure to avoid her from upsetting us. That’s her message, and it’s no surprise she doesn’t want to stop striking.”

We recognize the absurdity of taking their refusals to follow our verbal orders personally once we realize that our words aren’t enough for most young children (and how difficult it is for them to understand and communicate their needs). It is our responsibility to make our expectations known by acting firmly yet gently.

How our hesitancy leads to guilt

When parents feel their words should br enough or are otherwise hesitant to act, they may try to persuade their kids to do (or refrain from doing) whatever it is out of sympathy for them. When a kid refuses to clean up the playroom, for example, parents tell their child that she is hurting their feelings, or when there are power clashes, they become vulnerable and weep (which usually only happens when parents are reticent to take charge by setting a clear boundary). 

Not only are these answers unhelpful, but they may also make youngsters feel guilty and lead to an unhealthy sense of responsibility for (and hence uncomfortable with) other people’s vulnerable feelings.

We’re either unconvincing or overly enthralling

Our children’s ability to follow orders is determined by the method in which we provide them. Some parents need assistance honing their confident, matter-of-fact delivery and remembering to complete their sentences with a period (rather than a question like “okay?”).

Parents may also need to master the “ho-hum stride,” which they may employ instead of lunging at the infant who is ready to touch the dog’s dish and yelling, “NO!” Or chasing down the child who bolts when it’s time to leave the park (emergencies like running into traffic are a different story, of course). The time we may save by hurrying rather than confidently sauntering might result in multiple repeats of the undesired behavior, which has now become an exciting game.

When youngsters pout, yell, or test out the filthy new term they heard at preschool, “ho-hum replies” can assist. If we disempower the behavior by ignoring it (which does not imply purposely ignoring our child) or giving ho-hum, casual guidance like “That’s a touch too loud,” or “That’s an unpleasant term,” kids are far more likely to forget that word and quit crying or shouting. Please do not make use of it.”

We are overly directive

Nobody enjoys being told what to do, particularly toddlers (or teenagers). Give children (even newborns) options and autonomy wherever feasible. From the moment they are born, children want to be active participants in their lives. Include toddlers in decision-making and ask them to assist you in solving problems.

When we balance our instructions with plenty of unstructured playtimes when the kids are in charge, they are more likely to listen when we lead them. It also helps if we remember to recognize our child’s point of view, such as when we say, “We’ve been having so much fun outside, and I understand why you don’t want to come back in, but we have to.”

Our youngster has more important things to accomplish

Not following orders is sometimes a positive thing because it represents our child’s healthy, natural inclination to learn the way that young children learn best — via play, discovery, and inner direction.

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