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Tips For Dealing With a Toddler Who Won't Listen

The Tricks That'll Get Your Toddler to Listen

There's a good reason they're called the "terrible twos." Any mom can attest that kids at this stage are highly energetic and often temperamental. At times they're the cutest charmers in the world, but why do they save their meltdowns for the grocery store line or the dinner table with your in-laws?

It's challenging to maintain control and set limits, but there are ways to tame your toddler's tantrums and get her to listen to you and cooperate.

1. Remember That Meltdowns Are Normal

When your toddler loses it, it can be a terrible, nasty experience, but temper tantrums are a fact of childhood, says Katherine C. "Toddlers have very compulsive behaviors," she says. "They may listen the first time and then go and do the same thing two seconds later." When they are in the middle of a meltdown, remember, "It is hard for them to meet any more demands, so be patient."


2. Stay Calm

"Explaining, making up stories, threats, and stern tones don't always work on my daughter," says Regina P. "A calm voice with an explanation gets her to move eventually. I'd take the extra time compared to tantrums and whining any day."

3. Create a Reward System

Though her toddler was particularly prone to meltdowns at bedtime, Jaiy N. says she's discovered that the antidote is a reward system. "When it's time for bed, we take him outside to look at the moon and then he gets six fruit snacks (we call them moon snacks) while I read him his bedtime story. He'll get really excited about them (the snacks) and so we also use that to encourage cleaning, 'You want a moon snack? Okay, let's clean up so we can go look at the moon and have our moon snacks!' He's all about cleaning and getting his pajamas on, because he knows there's something at the end."

4. Give Attention and Positive Reinforcement

Suzi M. says that toddlers act out or ignore what you want them to do because they're seeking attention, and "they quickly figure out they get attention faster if they are bad. So try to praise them for little things so they feel the attention and hopefully that will make them want to do more good thing. "

In a similar vein, Casey C. advises against yelling, instead recommending positive reinforcement: "It's a really tough age, but you'll probably find that positive reinforcement is better than yelling because they usually don't listen to yelling." Like Jaiy N., she's had success establishing a rewards chart to help reinforce positive behavior. "Chart anything positive she does — helping you clean a little, and anytime she does something bad, then one gets taken away."

5. Try Timeouts

"Timeout, timeout, timeout," suggests Stephanie B. "We've started doing timeouts every time our toddler son ignores us and he's gotten a lot better," she says. "It will take days but being consistent will always work." (See also "How to Make Timeouts Work.")

6. Just Say No

"My son ignores everything I say, but he does understand, 'no' and 'don't touch,'" says Lindsey D. "Sometimes, the best way to deal with a toddler is to just say 'no' firmly."

Clare15424220 Clare15424220 3 years
You teach a child how to behave through your interactions. Children are not naturally manipulative. They are simply behaving in a way that they know will get them the 'volume 10' response. Often busy parents miss the volume on 1 - 5 without meaning to and children will behave to connect. Defiance or tantrums are a communication that your children need your help to understand what it is they don't yet know. They may be overwhelmed, tired, hormonal and can't clearly express what is happening for them. Excluding them at this point teaches them that they can't rely on you for support at the times they need it the most. I know this might sound a little harsh and I know that parents rarely intend to upset their children, but aren't taught the skills to do things differently to build strong relationships from the ground up. Instead parents are taught to deal with the eventuating behaviour instead of simply connecting and meeting the need of the child. If a parent cannot keep calm - they owe it to their child to take care of themselves first and be responsible for their own feelings. This also teaches children that feelings are okay and can change if given time, attention and kindness. Your children don't make you feel anything, they just trigger feelings that are out of sight and not felt to be significant until they erupt.
Manh Manh 3 years
Thank you for sharing tips. My daughter is 2.5 years old. She is mischievous. She seems never listen to me unless i gave her candy, go outside....after that. Recently i can not keep calm and often spank to her. She crys some minutes, then forget and continue does every thing she likes. I try to guide her to do right but she does not want to listen to me. She eat well and i dont mind about that. But she is really mischievous and no listen. If you have experience, please let me know. Thank you Manh
Katy15168103 Katy15168103 3 years
my little boy he just turn 2 years old, he is so cute and very funny, i mean he makes us laugh alot at home with his dance moves its just fun to have him at home...but boy when we are outside its like u switch him off to another child. he likes to walk in the street without holding my hands he run suddenly toward cars. its hard to do groceries with him. he like to run in the store and pick things...what make it even worst he will sometimes just act very aggrisivly with other kids his age like one day in store he just walked toward a little cute girl and kick her and came back running to me. he will push kick hit....i dont know why...i am so worry about him he is so cute and very loving...the other problem is food.. i honestly just force him to eat or alse time out because he just want to keep drinking milk he became so skinny i am so worried about him i have no idea what to do.....any advice plz help
April14377653 April14377653 4 years
Our little man usually needs a nappy change when he's v.naughty. Or food! Third reason he acts up is because he has too much energy (I'm security, get outta my house.. and make mess at dad's shed, not my Fourth in line is sleep time. If I find i'm yelling (ie more than a few times) he gets hoiked off to bed, quick smart!
alishahenderson90541 alishahenderson90541 5 years
I have tried everything from a "nice " tone in voice I have a 3 and 2 year old and my husband is on the road so I'm doing this on my own instill he gets back every 2 weeks but since he's been at work my kids 90% of time just plan don't listen and I have to be on the edge of breaking down bec of the stress before they say there sorry and wil listen the rest of the day bec they fill bad for actin up I hate that I have toile them fill bad to listen but I'm not used to doing this by myself he just started this job beginning of this month , and my 2 ur old girl is horrible when she don't get her way but she's the sweetest little girl a mommy could ask for and when I'm feeling down she always makes me better but I just would like more respect
Denise26933 Denise26933 6 years
I feel like this day and age we are all too busy to want to deal with a crying baby, So, we give them what they want. This creates the monster.
JohannaRocher JohannaRocher 6 years
I love coming in here and realize I am not the only one struggling with some behavior issues in my two and half son.. We thought we were prepared to see the switch change on our son when he turned two,but boy I don't think we were completely prepared for it, It has progressed to everyday we have some kind of incident where he is trying to get his way. But after reading most of the post here in the blog I notice that I have been doing what most of you great mom's are. My husband and myself generally go to him when and wherever he is acting up, we kneel down to his level and look into his eyes, We say No, we tell him why and if he doesn't listen I sit him on my lap until he calms down and then I tell him again, if he is kicking or screaming I use a "fly swapper" when he sees it he knows he is getting spanked, the idea is that it doesn't really hurt is about having something that teaches him the association with bad behavior, the reason being That hand that gives him love shouldn't be the hand that hits or spanks, it's too confusing. And it works great I will share an anecdote so you can have a good laugh: Two days ago by son was playing with his bike and he was trying to do something new and the bike wouldn't respond to his demand, He got of the bike looked at it sternly (like mom looks at him when she is mad) and then he went to get the fly swapper and taught the bike a lesson. I was dying inside wanting to laugh, but I couldn't in front of him I had to explain to him that little boys can't use the swapper for that... that only mommy can do it. I don't want him swapping other people you know.. anyway thanks you guys for sharing your frustration and techniques .. it's always refreshing to share and read...
bradmurphy bradmurphy 6 years
these are all good techniques but my son only throws his tantrums when its time to eat his meals and he refuses to eat no matter how fun i make his meals, he will just scream and scream until he can leave the table and not eat .....does anybody have any tips
EbereIsiwuGeorge EbereIsiwuGeorge 6 years
thank you all for your advice on this issue.. it has caused me a lot of stress, headaches,, and so much more
shuquinsneed shuquinsneed 6 years
I am going to try and utilize all 6 because my toddler trinity is a hand full and sometimes I don't know what to do and spanking is not an option in my home. So I use the time out system and its perfe ct because she doesn't like it all all, and her grandmother brought her the preittiest cahir it has Time Out writtin in pretty letters and butterflies is al on the chair and when Trinity first saw the chair she thought it was just a regular chair that she could sit in. And at first for a while I didn't reinforce the chair and I was allowing her gto sit in it to watch t.v. and eat her snacks. thn one day it clicked "this chair is for when she misbehaves not for pleasure', so I stopped her from sitting in it just whenever and now it is being used for what it was bought for and what it say's on the chair right where her little bottom goes "Time Out". Now she knows what its for and she does not care for it at all and now that she's been out of daycare for 2 weeks and in preschool she's picking up all sorts of things. And yestaurday (friday) she is really misbehaving I have to tell her to stop repeatedly and its like "OMG what's the matter? So I am glad I opened my email and read this thank you :)
VanessaBryan VanessaBryan 6 years
i lad hate's being told "no" usually the main cause of his tantrums, i always make sure to give attention and possitive reinforcement but he doesn't respond to being praised either, he doesn't really respond to anything, haven't done the time out's, i sort of take him away from somewhere for a minute or two which usually works and calms him down, he usually kicks up a right stink when we go out shopping especially on the food shop, but we took him for the first time in ages the other day, and he was really good, sat in the trolley, picked himself out some new pj's before we went round shopping so maybe that helped, helped put the shopping on the counter then bag in the bags.
TamsinTriance TamsinTriance 6 years
The reward system is good but I wouldnt recommend using fruit snacks as a reward at bedtime. Fruit is full of sugar and will coat the childs teeth with a layer of sugar that overnight will eat away at the protective enamel coating on the childs teeth.
CarolJeanCastro CarolJeanCastro 6 years
I think I loose my temper a lot in a day, I have a 2 year old boy who likes to test me. I am trying my best to use positive discipline, because If I start yelling or spanking he thinks that it's ok to scream or hit when your frustrated.
PeggyDellinger PeggyDellinger 6 years
Courtney, my little boy tried that. I grabbed both of his hands in one of mine, grabbed his chin with the other hand and looked him straight in his eyes. I said "I am your mother, you DO NOT hit me and if you scream at me again I'm putting soap in your mouth". He already knew about soap in the mouth from biting. He still talks back sometimes but I just look at him and say something like "I am your Mom and you will listen to me." Then I make him do whatever I told him to do. Sometimes when I tell him to clean his room I actually have to move him around, holding his hands and MAKE him pick toys up and put them away. These instances are getting to be less and less frequent. You have to assert your authority without losing your temper. Losing your temper will just reinforce that loss of temper is ok and THAT is why your twins act that way. They lose their temper and flip out. Be calm and forceful. Good luck!
PeggyDellinger PeggyDellinger 6 years
Sometimes it's best to talk to them as well. You can't just spank, yell or time-out, etc... I have 2 year old twins and they're very good kids. They get "pops" (not real spankings yet, I don't think that they're old enough or "bad" enough for a spanking. How can an almost baby be "bad"?), they go to time out and yes, sometimes I just ignore them after saying to them something like "I already said no but you can keep crying if you like" or "That is unacceptable and if you keep crying it will not change my mind". They know what it means. 2 yr olds are not dumb and most of them grasp enough language to understand. My favorite one is to say "go ahead, scream louder, get it out" then I just scream with them (not in public, lol) and they usually quiet quickly. The key is consistency. You're just trying to teach them what is and is not acceptable. Not make them perfect little angels. I pick my battles and expect setbacks. That helps me to stay calm.
AlyCopeland AlyCopeland 6 years
Giving two options, one in more of a mutual favor usually works... And can avoid a fit. Thanx for everyone's advice, because it sure can be challenging..
RobynMangan RobynMangan 6 years
My daughter will be 3 in September, and is comparable to the devil... lol! She is good in public most of the time. But I am having an issue with her getting out of her car seat. I have spanked, yelled, and pulled over to put her back. Nothing is working. Why hasn't someone created a cover to cover the buckle? Any suggestions...?
MelanieTeKurapa MelanieTeKurapa 6 years
Disagree with #3. There are enough things for kids to do at bedtime to add looking at the moon and extra snacks to the list. It would get my kids too hyperactive. If it's time for bed, they go there, even if I have to carry them myself. I like Jo Frost's technique, where you just keep putting them back in bed until they get it. And I started time-outs (#5) with my one year old (for one minute). He knows what it means and he even takes himself to the passage sometimes!
AmySchmidDietrich AmySchmidDietrich 6 years
I agree with who made teh comment that they are worse for the moms. My twins are angels for my mother in law and others that watch them/take them out... and they are holy terrors for me when we go out in public.
LauraMeffen LauraMeffen 6 years
OMG !!!!!! I am not alone and I don't have the worst child ever. Thanks I needed to know that there are good moms out there that also have "busy/determined/spirited" children. It does sound like more of a boy thing. I have an almost 3 year old son who just doesn't like to listen and is all over the store with me chasing him. I find if I give him nutritious snacks and bring them to the grocery store he is pretty good.
CrystalMagee89134 CrystalMagee89134 6 years
I have a two year old boy that is going threw his terrible twos, the other day we went to target n he threw himself down cuz he was tired, put him in the car started moving n out he went.. I guess that's the way he tells me he's tired....
AmandaClarkLoveless AmandaClarkLoveless 6 years
My 3yr old drives me crazy sometimes. She has my will and I can tell she knows exactly what to do to get to me. And she plots it! She knows that when we go to the store I usually wont be as strern with her in public, so she will pick up everything and put it in the basket to buy and will not take no for an answer. This has gottin so bad that when I get to the check out I have more to put back than actually buying! I almost give up.
danielleasante danielleasante 6 years
Thankls alot... My daughter always wants to get her will
MaryJayLobitanaElOweini MaryJayLobitanaElOweini 6 years
This is just the right read I need right now. Recently gave birth and my two years old is on her mood swings every now and then. I feel sorry for spanking her most of the times because she don't listen. But good thing I saw this one. Now it's up to the test. Hope it works.
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