How Do You Discipline A Toddler Who Doesn’t Listen? 

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    Even for the most patient of mothers, dealing with the frustration of having their toddler not listen to what they are asking them to do may be a challenge. The defiance awakens a level of raw rage within you that you were previously unaware you possessed, and you find yourself wondering what it will take to finally get him to listen. There is nothing you can do to convince him to cooperate, and it doesn't seem to matter how irritated you get or how many threats you make. When you look back on it, you realise how trivial the "argument" that started it all was: he was talking when he should have been napping, he refused to clean up after himself, and he did not come to the bathroom when you asked him to. Later, you feel terrible when you realise how trivial the "argument" was. When you realise that nagging, repeating, and losing your temper aren't having the desired effect, you know that something needs to change.

    A significant realisation of what it means to be disciplined came to me around this point in my life. My perspective on my toddler's behaviour shifted as a result of a change in my mental framework. You see, the majority of people consider discipline to be synonymous with either punishment or time outs. These are the results that occur when children disobey their parents. On the other hand, discipline is a whole separate concept. Teaching is what discipline is all about. We are teaching youngsters how to act appropriately as well as helping them comprehend and communicate their feelings. Check this list of Sydney early learning programs to help you choose the best education for your children. 

    One of the most challenging and frustrating aspects of parenting, enforcing appropriate discipline can feel like an endless battle of wills between you and your child. This is especially true for many moms. Because your 2-year-old will latch on to another unpleasant behaviour just as soon as she "gets" that she can't hit her baby brother in the head with a doll, and the process will start all over again.

    Just what does it mean to "discipline" an infant or young child? It's been said that it's synonymous with caning and other forms of corporal punishment, but that's not what we're talking about. Many people who are knowledgeable about parenting believe that the purpose of discipline is to establish rules that will prevent your child from engaging in behaviour that is inappropriate, dangerous (such as running out into the street), and aggressive (such as punching and biting) (throwing food). It's also about following through with consequences when he breaks the rules—or what Linda Pearson, a Denver-based psychiatric nurse practitioner who specializes in family and parent counselling, calls "being a good boss." The following are seven tactics that can assist you in establishing limits and putting an end to undesirable behaviour.

    Get down to your toddler's level and make eye contact.

    Taking your child's perspective on the event can literally change how you interpret what's going on. When you want to communicate with someone more effectively, one of the easiest things you can do is stoop down to their eye level when you talk to them. Taking these steps offers three important advantages:

    • He'll take you seriously. It's frustrating when you're trying to be serious, except he thinks the whole thing is funny. Get down to his level, make eye contact, and phrase your instructions in a calm but firm tone.
    • You're more respectful. He can feel "talked down to" when you're physically speaking to him from high above. Kneeling to his level forces you to communicate more respectfully and address his needs.
    • You avoid power struggles. He feels heard, less defensive, and more likely to oblige when he can see and talk to you eye-to-eye.

    Find your toddler's intentions.

    It would appear that defiance is prevalent everywhere. You will recognise it when your toddler defies your requests to come to the table to eat or when he should know better by now not to jump on the bed (especially after you've urged him to cease doing so many times in the past).

    But if I had to guess, I would say that he is not behaving inappropriately in order to provoke your anger. If you investigate more, you might find that he was attempting to mend a toy just at the moment that you requested him to come to the table so that you could eat. In a similar vein, hopping on the bed wasn't an act of defiance but rather of delight at his new toddler bed.

    Give and follow through with consequences.

    Have you ever warned your kid he'd better behave or else? Not only do empty threats fail to achieve their intended results, but they are also rarely carried through. If you follow through with the consequences that are tied to his behaviour, you will gain valuable learning experiences. Taking a stand will define the boundaries he requires in the relationship.

    In addition, honouring your commitments strengthens the confidence he has in you. Although it is possible that you will not win his favour in the short term, you will earn his confidence if you follow through regularly. If you don't correct his behaviour, he will learn that he may continue to act inappropriately because the repercussions you say will never happen actually do happen.

    Pick your battles

    Spending time with your toddler can be exhausting, but it is especially so when every interaction leads to a quarrel. This makes spending time with your toddler feel even more demanding. You keep a close eye on him and are always prepared to correct him at the first sign of inappropriate behaviour. There are times when you have to choose your fights and determine which behaviour is absolutely necessary to change and which ones aren't as crucial as the others. However, it's important to remember that not every situation has to be a fight. Although consistency is essential, there must also be room for flexibility in order to accommodate the complexities that are inherent in life.

    Give your toddler a choice.

    Providing your toddler with options will prevent a potential meltdown and encourage them to listen to you. How? Providing many options:

    • Encourages him to own the task. Putting on a jacket won't seem like Mom's Terrible Idea I Must Rebel Against. Instead, he gets to decide between a green or grey jacket.
    • Reduces conflict. Avoid many tantrums by drawing attention to the choices he can make, not the task he's resisting.
    • Feels empowering. He's under the rule of adult decisions nearly all the time, whereas making choices allows him to voice his opinions. He'll embrace his choices and follow through with them.
    • It shows you value his opinions. You make most decisions for him, but you also offer options because you care and respect his decisions.
    • It helps him think for himself. Giving choices allows him to assert himself and develop critical thinking skills. He'll hold himself accountable and decide which option he'd rather do.

    Explain the reason


    In one experiment, female participants were given the opportunity to skip forwards in line to make copies just by using the word "because." It came to light. When given an explanation for why they should comply, people are more likely to do so.

    The same can be said for your infant or toddler. It's easy for him to feel resentful in a world dominated by adults, especially when he's constantly being told what to do. Imagine having to follow laws that you don't always understand or having to do things that you don't particularly want to do.

    Instead of being told what to do or what not to do, he will be more motivated to comply if he is aware of the reasons why he should. The next time you ask him to do something, make sure to include a reason why he should comply. For example, you may say, "Don't jump on the bed because you might fall and hurt yourself." When you explain why something needs to be done, you remove yourself from the equation and put the emphasis on the work that needs to be done.

    You are not his "mean parent" who orders him around simply because you have the authority to do so. Instead, you are explaining to him the importance of carrying out the request that you made of him. Because you are putting the justification for your request front and centre, you won't come out as authoritative, especially if the tone of your voice is respectful while you are explaining why you are making the request.

    Praise your toddler when she does what she's asked to

    Children thrive on attention, regardless of the quality of that attention. Unhappily, they would rather have attention in the form of disputes, yelling, and scolding than they would have no attention at all. Praising your toddler and paying attention to her when she is behaving appropriately is the most effective strategy to correct her behaviour.

    Kids, at their core, have the desire to make their parents happy. They are devastated when we express disappointment or anger towards them because they crave our praise. Take advantage of this fact and give her compliments whenever she demonstrates good behaviour.

    Don't "ask" the instruction.

    You have probably begged your toddler on more than one occasion, whether it was to finish a chore, behave themselves, or take a bath. My best guess is that he just shrugged it off and kicked you out of the house. It is best not to "ask" for the instruction or attempt to negotiate when you can't. Make sure that you are not received with silence or indifference when you suggest that it is time to take a bath. It is important that you forbid him from continuing to play video games or fiddle with toys.

    You have to choose your battles and sometimes you have to meet him halfway. You have to maintain your composure for the sake of other people. Put simply, rather than "asking" him to do anything (as in, "Can you put on your shoes?"), explain the task in terms that cannot be avoided (as in, "Let's put on your shoes").

    Use positive language

    Positive language is framing your statements in a way that emphasises what your toddler is capable of doing rather than what he is unable to do. The difference between "Walk" and "Don't run" is this distinction. Even better, use complimentary language to congratulate him whenever you observe him engaging in beneficial behaviour. For illustration's sake, let's assume he isn't escaping in plain sight. Praise him and say, "Look at you walking!" Looking for an early learning centre in Sydney ? Then Little Angels early learning centre  is what you’re looking for. 

    Positive language will elicit a better response from him because no one like being told what they should not do. Additionally, he will believe that he is capable of behaving appropriately and succeeding. You are not exhibiting faith that he is able to handle these instructions when you say things to him like "Don't you even think about..." and similar phrases.

    Don't give empty threats.

    Your power will be diminished if you make outlandish remarks or empty threats. For instance, the threat "If you don't pick up your toys, I'm going to throw them all out!" doesn't carry any weight because the scenario appears to be so absurd. (Except, of course, in the case where you really go through with it.) In addition to this, you might make sweeping generalisations. You could say something to the effect of, "You never listen to what I say," or "You constantly misbehave," to your toddler, for instance. These terms not only define him rather than the action, but they are also false because he does not constantly behave in this manner twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

    Talk after the tantrum has finished.

    When children reach the point of throwing a fit, they can no longer be reasoned with. It is comparable to how we feel when we are experiencing road rage; there is no point in trying to communicate with us during one of such episodes. Instead, you should wait for the outburst to go down. The next step is to give your kid a hug and show that you understand the feelings he is experiencing. Stay calm and present throughout his tantrums, and give him time to collect himself.

    Once he has regained his composure, you will be able to talk to him and have reasonable expectations that he would listen and consider what you have to say.

    Listen to your toddler.

    How frequently do you ignore your child when he is trying to get your attention even if he is crying out for it? My children may be pleading with me to pay attention to them, but all I can think about is whether or not we have enough basil to make pesto. What is typically my reply to that, then? "Uh-huh..." I say to them as I pretend to listen to their stories.

    I wasn't exactly at the top of my game there. Pay attention to what he has to say. It's true that his stories can grow repetitive and confusing halfway through, to the point that you'd probably prefer be working or unwinding than listening to them. However, showing him that you are interested in what he has to say is the surest way to acquire his affection and trust. And most importantly, active listening demonstrates respect. It stands to reason that we should only expect to be treated in the same manner in which we treat others, right?

    Know Your Child's Triggers

    It is possible to forestall certain kinds of bad behaviour, provided that you are able to foresee the factors that will set it off and devise a strategy to combat it in advance, such as getting rid of things that could serve as physical temptations. This tactic was successful for Jean Nelson of Pasadena, California, after her son, who was two years old at the time, found great amusement in dragging toilet paper down the hall and chuckling as it unrolled behind him. "The first two times Luke did it, I told him, 'No,' but when he did it a third time, I put the toilet paper to a high shelf in the bathroom that he couldn't reach," Nelson says. "When he did it a fourth time, I moved the toilet paper to a high shelf in the bathroom that he couldn't reach." "To a young child, nothing beats the excitement of ripping through the toilet paper. It was simpler to remove it from his path rather than to argue with him about it."

    Bring toys for your 18-month-old to play with inside the shopping cart in case he is prone to pulling cans off the shelves of the grocery store while you are out doing your shopping. During in-home playdates with her friend who is 2 years old, if your toddler does not share her stuffed animals, remove them from the designated play area before her friend comes. If your child, who is three years old, enjoys drawing on the walls, you should put the crayons in a drawer that is difficult for him to access and never allow him to colour unattended.

    Practice Prevention

    Some children exhibit undesirable behaviours when they are hungry, overtired, or frustrated as a result of being confined indoors. Let's say your kid is typically upbeat and bouncy in the morning, but by the time lunch rolls around, he or she is cranky and exhausted. Plan outings to the store and visits to the doctor for times of the day when she will be functioning at her peak. She should be prepared for any new experiences, and you should explain to her how you expect her to behave in those situations.

    Also, get her ready for the upcoming change in routine by saying something like, "In a few minutes, we'll need to collect up the toys and get ready to go home." When a youngster believes that she is better prepared for something, she is less likely to grumble about it.

    Be Consistent


    According to Claire Lerner, LCSW, director of parenting resources with Zero to Three, a national nonprofit promoting healthy development of babies and toddlers, children between the ages of 2 and 3 are working hard to understand how their behaviour impacts the people around them. "Between the ages of 2 and 3, children are working hard to understand how their behaviour impacts the people around them," "If your response to a scenario keeps changing—for example, if one day you let your son throw a ball in the home and the following day you don't—you will send him mixed signals, which will confuse him."

    There is no set number of times or reprimands that should be administered before you can expect your child to stop engaging in a particular form of undesirable behaviour. However, if you consistently answer in the same manner, he will most likely get the message after the fourth or fifth time. Orly Isaacson of Bethesda, Maryland, found that maintaining a consistent approach was essential during her 18-month-old child's time of biting.

    Every time Sasha bit down on Isaacson's finger, she yelled at her in a much more stern tone than she normally would have— "No, Sasha! Don't bite! That makes Mama feel bad! "—after which he offered her a toy as a diversionary tactic. According to her, "I'm very low-key, so raising my voice startled Sasha and got the word across quickly." A word of caution: by the age of 2, many children have figured out how to get their parents to give in simply by being adorable. It doesn't matter how adorable (or astute) your child's strategies are; you must not give in to them.

    Don't Get Emotional

    When your 18-month-old pulls on the dog's tail or when your 3-year-old stubbornly refuses to brush his teeth for the gazillionth night in a row, it can be challenging to maintain your composure. But if you let out a shriek of rage, the message you're trying to convey won't get through, and the situation will become much worse very quickly.

    When a youngster is surrounded by a parent's unpleasant attitude, he or she will see the emotion but will not be able to hear what is being spoken. Refrain from raising your volume even if you feel compelled to do so because your child's enjoyment of the situation will only increase if you show anger. Instead, you should bring yourself down to the same eye level as your child, take a few slow, deep breaths, and count to three. Then, when you offer the reprimand, be quick and forceful, serious and harsh in your demeanour. If you're looking for a Early Learning Centre Sydney that develops children's unique capabilities, you’re in the right place. 

    Make your goal "managing the situation rather than your child" instead of "controlling your child." This may need you to readjust your expectations regarding what is feasible for a period of time, at least until your daughter's capacity for self-discipline has had more time to develop. It's possible that your expectations for her patience and self-control need to be adjusted downward a little bit. A positive step in the right way would be to make it your mission to ensure that everything runs smoothly throughout the day so that there are less occasions on which the two of you can feel frustrated.

    Don't view discipline as punishment

    It is possible that disciplining your children will make you feel as though you are torturing them. Discipline, on the other hand, is more of a means of actively engaging with children to assist in the shaping of their moral character — a method of teaching them what is good and what is wrong. And the ability to do so is very necessary in order to perform properly in society.


    It is one thing for your child to throw a fit or beat his brother; it is quite another for him to openly disobey you. Acknowledging the feelings and motivations he has expressed would encourage him to listen. Get on his level and explain to him in a clear-headed but strong manner what it is that he must do. Explain the reason why, and even provide options that have been cleared by the parents.

    Pick your conflicts carefully to avoid becoming involved in power disputes and to assist him in "saving face." Carry out the consequences you've decided upon, and give him praise whenever he complies with what you've requested of him. All of those little instances of positive reinforcement add up to a cumulative effect that is significantly more powerful over time. And yes, there will be times when you feel like a complete failure as a parent, just like everyone else. There could be a time in which he obeys, but then there could be another moment in which he wilfully disobeys. There is no silver bullet; everyone, including children, is subject to having a terrible day because we are all human.

    But being strict or handing out punishments is not the same thing as practising discipline. Instead, it is teaching him appropriate behaviour, how to control his emotions, and how to deal with challenging circumstances. Discipline with the goal of assisting him in learning from the experience despite the fact that he sits and smiles while defiantly refusing to put the toy cars back in the box.

    FAQs About Discipline A Toddler

    If she doesn't listen, take her to the quiet and safe spot you've designated for time-outs, and set a timer. When it goes off, ask her to apologize and give her a big hug to convey that you're not angry.

    Luke adds that "the most psychologically damaging thing you can say to a child is a lie that they find out later was not true. If this pattern repeats enough times, it will be very psychologically damaging."

    Disobedience can have a variety of causes. At times, it is due to unreasonable parental expectations. Or it might be related to the child's temperament, or to school problems, family stress, or conflicts between his parents.

    These include:

    • Show and tell. Teach children right from wrong with calm words and actions. 
    • Set limits. Have clear and consistent rules your children can follow.
    • Give consequences. 
    • Hear them out. 
    • Give them your attention. 
    • Catch them being good. 
    • Know when not to respond. 
    • Be prepared for trouble.

    Disobedience can have a variety of causes. At times, it is due to unreasonable parental expectations. Or it might be related to the child's temperament, school problems, family stress, or conflicts between his parents.

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