Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Getting A Toddler to Listen

Let's face it, no matter how good your tactics are, sometimes children do not follow directions.   It is a part of being a child, and it is going to happen.  However, I use several different approaches depending on the situation, and I can happily say that my daughter USUALLY ends up cooperating.  As I have said in a previous post, nothing about being a parent is predictable, so that should always be in the back of one's mind.  Nevertheless, there are strategies that work better than others, and I have been mostly successful.

Before I share these approaches with you, I feel it is necessary to share what toddlers are going through at this particular stage of development.  I think that understanding a toddler's struggles can help when faced with certain situations.

Toddlers are constantly attempting to learn and master new and challenging skills, such as walking, running, and climbing.  Although I do not remember these milestones in my own life, I am watching my daughter go through them.  It is exciting and wonderful, while being frustrating and scary.

Along with physical growth, toddlers are also trying to gain their independence.  I have found that this is the most challenging aspect as a parent.  This toddler mission explains why children of this age use the word "no" so many times in a day, and want to do things their own way.  In learning to be an independent individual, toddlers might test limits, and refuse to do things.  It is hard to balance the need for independence when one is still so dependent on others.

In addition, one and two year old children are learning to talk, but cannot always clearly express their wants and needs.  Toddlers also do not know how to appropriately display emotions, they are still learning.

Keeping all of this in mind, here are some helpful tips to get through this fun and active time in your child's life:
1.  Offer choices as much as you possibly can, even if it seems silly.  Make sure the choices are clear, and keep it simple.  Also, there should be a definite answer, "no" cannot be and option.  Here are some examples of times and ways I offer my daughter choices.
      "Would you like the blue plate or the orange plate?"
      "Who is going to brush teeth with you tonight, Mommy or Daddy?"
      "Are you going to wear your green shirt or your purple shirt?"
      "Do you want to get your diaper changed on the table or the bed?"
2.  Countdowns help end activities, or give warning to upcoming events.  I do five minute countdowns for my daughter.  I remind her how much time is left after each minute.  Examples of how I use this approach:
      "There are five minutes left until bedtime."
      "In five minutes we are leaving the park."
      "We are going into your stroller to walk the dog in five minutes."
3.  This advice was passed down from a very good friend, and a mom of three.  Have your child say "goodbye" to things/places when it is time to leave or stop the activity.   It gives your toddler a sense of closure and control, and it works well for my daughter.  Here are some times I use this method:
      "Say goodbye to the park.  Bye-bye swings, bye-bye slide and sandbox.  See you soon"
      "Time to say goodbye to the bath.  Bye-bye bath, thank you for getting me clean."
4.  Use distraction.  In other words, if your child is doing something you do not care for, try getting their attention on a different activity.  For instance, if your little one is throwing toys, start reading a book to a bunch of his/her dolls.
5.  Try not to use the word "no" or to make negative statements.  Tell your toddler what he/she CAN do, rather than telling what they cannot do.  For instance, if your little one starts to color on the floor you can say, "We can use crayons on paper."  In my daughter's playroom, we have one rack of DVDs.  When she starts to play with them, I say, "You can play with any of the toys in this room."
6.  Set your expectations before starting an activity.  State rules before you begin playing.
      "Let's keep the play dough on the mat."
      "We are going for a walk.  We hold hands outside."

Keep in mind that every child is different, and every day is different.  Sometimes one strategy will work one day, and not the next.  One approach might work for one toddler, but not another.  Experiment, and see which ones work for you and your child, and if you have any advice, please share!


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