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Tips for talking to toddlers so they actually listen

If you are like me, you sometimes find it hard to get your toddler to listen to requests. Especially if they aren't too fond of doing what they are being asked to do. My son is very smart and sometimes he thinks he can outsmart his dad and me. But after doing this thing called parenting for three years we tend to recognize when he tries to "play" us.

My son has a speech delay and sometimes that affects the way he can understand and/or reacts to requests. His dad and I noticed he was missing certain developmental milestones so we talked to his pediatrician. She recommended speech therapy to help him be able to reach his developmental milestones and it has been a tremendous help. He is talking more than ever now and although we're working on putting words together to put sentences, he has come a long way and I can only thank God for all the growth he has shown within the last year.

Like many moms, I tend to get frustrated and, some times my frustration resorts to yelling at my son so he can listen.

Honestly, I don't think there is anything wrong with your child understanding that when you use a stern voice you mean business. But I do not believe that this should be done for every request, this voice should be reserved to close the discussion about things with your child that you are not willing to bend on. After attending a few sessions with his speech therapist I found that talking your child through a task is a tremendous help when they are learning to understand and comprehend. Mainly, because as you talk your little one through each task, they can associate those tasks in their minds with the requests and aids in overall understanding.

All in all, it has been a process and I learn something new each day to help my toddler learn how to listen. So I wanted to share a combination of tips from AskDrSears and from my personal experience that have helped me along the way. I hope you all find these as helpful as I did.

1. Connect Before You Direct

Before requesting your child do a task, kneel, and get on their eye level. This aids in connecting with your child so they do not feel like they are being controlled and/or intimidated.

2. Address the Child

When you speak to your child, address them by name.

3. Stay Simple

This is something that has helped tremendously with my son. Keep it short and sweet!

4. Make an Offer the Child Can’t Refuse

You can reason with a two or three-year-old, especially to avoid power struggles. “Get dressed so you can go outside and play.” Offer a reason for your request that is to the child’s advantage, and one that is difficult to refuse. This gives her a reason to move out of her power position and do what you want her to do

5. Ask Your Child to Repeat the Request Back to You

If your child can not repeat the request back to you, chances are that the request is too complicated.

6. Be Positive

I know this is easier said than done, especially if your toddler is in the middle of a tantrum. For example, instead of saying "do not run in the house", say "we walk in the house and run outside."

7. Give Choices

Giving your child the choice of either or helps them to feel like they have a sense of control. For example, when it is time to eat dinner I ask my son, "would you like spaghetti or chicken tonight?" and he will pick and it makes the transition to dinner time much smoother. This has proven to work better than telling him, "it's dinner time!"

8. Talk the Child Down

The louder your child yells, the softer you respond. Let your child ventilate while you interject timely comments: “I understand” or “Can I help?” Sometimes just having a caring listener available will wind down the tantrum. If you come in at his level, you have two tantrums to deal with. Be the adult for him.

9. Speak Developmentally Correctly

The younger the child, the shorter and simpler your directives should be. Consider your child’s level of understanding. For example, a common error parents make is asking a three-year-old, “Why did you do that?” Most adults can’t always answer that question about their behavior. Try instead, “Let’s talk about what you did.”

10. Give Advance Notice

It's nothing wrong with a heads up. For example, "playtime will be over soon and you will have to say bye-bye to your toys." This has helped with my son's overall tantrums because giving him a heads up helps prepare him for transitioning to the next task.

Stay tuned each week for new posts about co-parenting, toddler life and motherhood!

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