How To Get Toddlers To Listen

Being the parent of a toddler can be tough- they are affectionate and sweet but can also be strong willed and defiant. They are at the age where they are more mobile and curious, so there are lots of opportunities for them to hurt themselves.

In this article we will look at how to get toddlers to listen to you in an easy guide.

How To Get Toddlers To Listen

It is at this age when it is really important for toddlers to listen to you, yet getting the attention of a toddler and getting them to do as they are told can be very challenging!

This useful and informative guide will give you the steps you need to get your toddler to listen to you and bring some more harmony to your family home. 

How To Get Toddlers To Listen 

Teach Them To Listen 

As an adult, listening to others might seem like a very basic skill. Remember, toddlers are learning a lot of basic life skills for the first time and will need some guidance, one of these will be to teach your toddler how to listen.

Help them to practice listening skills with activities like reading aloud to them, listening to music, or listening to a children’s radio station or an audio book. If they get distracted then gently bring their attention back to the activity. 

This will teach your toddler  the important skill of being able to focus their attention to listen carefully, which will make it easier for them to listen to you. 

You should also set a good example for your toddler by being a good listener yourself. If your toddler sees you demonstrating good listening skills then they are more likely to be a good listener themselves. 

Make Sure You Have Your Toddlers Attention

You might find yourself repeating yourself several times and your toddler still isn’t listening to you. It can be frustrating, but they might not even realize that you are addressing them directly. You might be wondering how I can get my toddler to listen?

Toddlers do not have the same level of social skills or awareness as adults, so you need to make things clear and keep things simple. Get down to their level, make eye contact, say their name, and make sure you have their attention.

You could even ask them to pause what they are doing and listen to you, as this makes it clear what you expect from them. If necessary, let them know that they can return to their activity in a few moments but you need them to listen to you first. 

Dos Instead Of Don’ts

It can be very easy to tell your children what not to do, but parents sometimes forget that they also need to tell their children what to do instead.

By phrasing your commands as positive statements which make it clear what is expected, this can often reduce defiance and encourage cooperation. 

For example, instead of saying ‘don’t leave your toys on the floor’, you could say ‘can you put your toys away please?’ This gives them a task and an easy instruction to follow. This way a toddler is much more likely to listen.

You can also apply this method to responding to your toddler’s requests. Instead of saying ‘no’, make an alternative suggestion.

For example, if your child asks to go to the park you could say ‘not today, but why don’t we go to the park this weekend?’, or ‘we need to go grocery shopping first, then we can go to the park later on’. 

It is also important to listen to your toddler and what their concerns and viewpoints are.

Keep it Concise

Toddlers have a much shorter attention span than adults so you need to make an effort to keep things concise. Don’t give them lengthy lectures or several commands at a time to listen to, keep it simple and short.

This will stop them from getting bored or losing focus, which in turn will stop you from getting frustrated. 

If you need to, you can break down tasks into smaller ones. For example, instead of asking them to put all of their toys away (a task that will likely seem daunting to them, and could cause them to lose focus half way through), ask them to put their building blocks away.

Once they have done this, you can ask them to put another toy away. This is a much more realistic approach and is a great way to learn how to get toddlers to listen to your requests.

Check That They Have Understood You

How To Get Toddlers To Listen

Sometimes parents assume that their toddler hasn’t listened to them, when actually the child has listened, but not understood. Toddlers do not have the same level of comprehension as adults so you might need to repeat things several times. Do this calmly.

If your toddler has not understood you then you might need to rephrase. You can ask them to repeat back what you said to make sure they have taken it in and understood it. 

Sometimes the issue will not be how to get toddlers to listen but how to get your toddler to understand what you are saying.


Your toddler is more likely to listen to you if they can trust you, and they know you mean what you say. If you tell them that they will have to go to their room if you don’t behave but you never follow through with it, they are much less likely to listen to you in the future. 

Similarly, if you tell them off for throwing a ball in the house but let them do it on another day your toddler will have less respect for your rules and won’t listen to future ones. 

Avoid Time Based Warnings

Toddlers don’t really have a strong concept of time, so telling them that they have 10 minutes until bedtime won’t be useful. Instead, you can tell them that when the episode of their tv show finishes then it is time for bed. 


There are lots of ways to motivate a toddler, and giving them motivation will make them much more likely to listen to what you are asking them to do. 

Toddlers are keen to be independent, so you could ask them to show you how good they are at something. For example ‘can you show me how you can clean your teeth?’ You can also point out the benefit of doing something- ‘once you have put your toys away we can go outside and play’.

You should also praise toddlers  for doing as they are told, so they understand it was the right thing to do and are more likely to listen to and do it again.


As you can see from this article, there are many challenges that parents face with toddlers when trying to teach them how to listen and react accordingly.

As discussed, it is often the case that instead of thinking how to get toddlers to listen to you, it might be necessary to consider that your toddler is too young to understand the request.

Hopefully, in this article, we have given you some handy hints and tips to navigate this tricky time and help you learn how to get toddlers to listen to commands. 

Joyce Bailey
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