Toddler testing you? What to do when your kid won’t listen.

Is there anything more frustrating than telling your kid to do (or not do) something and then watch as they deliberately disobey you? Well, probably, but it sure is near the top of the list! After all, we want our kids to listen to us, right? To respect us and do as we ask? To trust that we mean what we say? Of course we do!

In order to achieve that goal, we have to teach our children that, not only do we mean what we say, we will follow through to make sure they believe us, respect us and listen to us. How? Well it starts with always following through with what you say.

When you ask your little one to do something and they don’t listen, you must intervene immediately… Every. Single. Time… Children are born scientists, their objective in life is to test everything, especially boundaries, restrictions and limitations. This is how they learn what they can and cannot do and it’s completely natural…. Although, that fact is hard to focus on when you’ve told your kid to ‘get down’ half a million times. It’s in those moments that we have to remind ourselves that yes, it does feel like they are testing us, because, in fact, they absolutely ARE testing us. They test to see your reaction, to see what result their actions will have, to figure out why you reacted the way you did last time, how far they can push before you do it again… If you react with emotion (frustration, anger, exacerbation, etc), then next time they will push even harder because they need to know where the limit lies. If they continue to test you, it’s because you have not made your expectations or boundaries clear enough.

For example, you can’t let them climb something a few times and then expect them to listen to you when you tell them not to climb on it. That sends them the message that it’s okay sometimes, or maybe just the first 3 times, or maybe just for a few minutes, they will test and test until they figure it out.

As a pre-k teacher (& as a Mom) if a child is starting to climb on something unsafe, I use my Manager Voice to say “Get down. Not safe.” (Be sure to check back soon for my post explaining how to use your Manager Voice.) **Keep in mind that it’s also important to tell them what TO Do (i.e. Get Down) instead of what NOT to do (i.e. No Climbing).

If it’s clear that they heard me and they are just ignoring my direction, I would immediately pick them up and remove them from whatever they are climbing on. Then, try to redirect them with another activity, such as pointing out something that is safe to climb on or some other area to play.

If they try to climb back up, repeat
the process, tell them to get down and then remove them if they don’t listen. If they try a third time, remove them from the area and use your body to physically block them from being able to start climbing again.

Once your child understands that you respond immediately to their actions and that you will follow through with what you say, they will be more likely to trust, respect and listen to you.

Stay tuned for my next post “Managing Tantrums Mindfully” to prepare yourself for handling your little ones testing and the inevitable push back that will occur when implementing boundaries, restrictions, or limitations.

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