If you have ever been the mom (or dad) who feels like you are always yelling at your kids, you are not alone. It seems that many kids develop a sort of selective hearing to tune out the nagging of their parents. And possibly no age group will test those selective hearing boundaries more than toddlers who are just figuring out the delights of personal choice.
Instead of a constant wash, rinse, and repeat cycle with the same behaviors that are not working, try these behaviors instead:
As parents, we make this mistake the most often. Children constantly hear us talking at them, telling them what to - and what not to do. Much of what we say to them is out of habit or obligation. Honestly, it is no surprise that they learn to tune us out.
If you find yourself repeating something that you have already said, stop what you are doing and take a minute to sit down and talk to your child. It only takes sixty seconds, but that interaction will be more meaningful than sixty minutes of nagging the same things on repeat. Plus, both of you will leave the interaction feeling calm and in control.
Set Realistic Expectations
Another trap that some parents fall into is expecting themselves out of their children. While you might have the intrinsic motivation to clean up after yourself or the restraint not to throw yourself on the floor when your pencil breaks, your toddler doesn’t. Remember that you are a grown person who has had years to learn how to manage your emotions. And let’s be honest, during a bad bout of PMS or a low blood sugar spell, and you still don’t have a handle on your emotions all of the time.
Keep in mind that your toddler is brand new to feeling emotions and they don’t yet have the understanding or control to behave appropriately when they feel strong emotions. If your toddler is on the brink of a meltdown and they have stopped listening to your words, now is the time for compassion - not consequences.
Toddlers are particularly skillful at pushing buttons and testing limits. With clear boundaries in place, it is important to understand that you won’t win them all. Toddlers are just learning about boundaries and consequences and they are not going to make the right choice every time. Give them some grace anyways or you risk discouraging their participation altogether.
Talking through feelings is a good way to help your child learn how to process what they are feeling. Unfortunately talking doesn’t work for every child or every situation. Try rotating through the different calming methods so that your child learns a variety of different tools instead of just one coping mechanism.
Toddlers may seem like they are not listening, but the reality is that they are probably just experiencing some sensory or emotional overload. If you begin to feel frustrated that your child isn’t listening to you - it is time to stop everything that is going on and simplify the situation. Make sure you have their full attention - and that they have yours. Explain what you are asking them to do and why - and allow them to retort with their frustration or confusion. Remember to always validate their feelings, but remain firm and consistent that they follow through with your request.