Toddler Won't Listen

image001Toddlers sometimes won’t listen to their parents because of their inability to pay attention. If you keep on repeating a command ten times over to your toddler, he may develop a habit of not listening to you until you have at least said the command ten times over.

Toddlers may also be looking for attention when they don’t listen. However, if you keep on nagging your children, they would not develop listening skills; instead, it may eventually make it hard for them to listen to their teachers and to make friends. This post will try to explain the reasons why toddler won't listen and what can be done to solve the problem.

Toddler Won't Listen—Why?

It is normal for toddlers not to listen to what an adult is saying. The reason for this might be that they are unable to understand half of the words that are being spoken to them. Therefore, if your toddler won't listen to you occasionally, it is part of their natural development process and there is nothing to worry about. However, if they never listen to you, it might indicate some problem and you need to consult with a pediatrician.



Cognitive or verbal delay

Children are able to understand commands given to them by their parents by age two. However, children with cognitive or verbal delay may be able to hear the command but not interpret it. If you find your toddler not being able to follow your small commands by age two, consult with your pediatrician immediately.


Headstrong children use selective hearing as a way of defiance. Children might just not want to listen to some of your commands and would start ignoring them even though they understand them perfectly.

Disorder of autism-spectrum

Children who are suffering from autism-spectrum disorder might also appear deaf to their parents. If your child shows any signs of this, then take him/her to a pediatrician immediately.

Impairment of hearing

Children born deaf or who have suffered some kind of trauma after birth might lose their ability to hear. If your child does not start responding to your voice or sounds in the first few months, schedule a visit to your doctor as soon as possible.

Disorder of sensory processing

Children suffering from sensory processing disorders can listen to the voice of the parents, but they cannot understand it because their brains are not able to process the tone or the sound created in a normal manner. This disorder makes the child incapable of responding to the parent or taking part in communication.

If Toddler Won't Listen, How to Handle It?


1. Read to Your Toddlers

Read books to your toddler as it would improve his ability to listen. Try to read aloud and make sound changes when reading so that the child does not lose interest. Buy new books for the child so that he has to listen attentively in order to know what happens next in the story.

2. Get Down To Your Toddler’s Level

Shouting commands while standing above the toddler would most likely spook him and he would not listen to what you are saying. Therefore, it is a good idea to get down to your toddler’s level when giving him a command. In this way, he will listen to you and act upon it as well.

3. Share with Your Toddlers

Sharing a meal together with the whole family is a great way of making the child listen. When all the members of the family are gathered around a single table and eat their meal together, they will interact with each other and the child would get a chance to hear them all and engage with them, too.

4. State Your Message Clearly

Children have a very small attention span, so do not blabber on about something before giving a command to your child as he will most likely not listen to it. Instead, try to give your command in small and precise words that the child can easily listen and comprehend.

5. Make Your Follow-Through Speedy

If you give your child a command but he does not listen to you, follow-up your command immediately by showing the child what you want him to do.

6. Reinforce Your Message

After giving a command to the child, try to reinforce it with a physical movement as well. For instance, if you want him to go to bed, switch off the lights or put a hand on his shoulder and tell him again that it is time for him to go to bed.

7. Give Your Toddler Warnings

Give the child a warning when a sudden change is about to happen. For instance, if you are going out with him, tell him that he should leave his activity and accompany you. These warnings should be given immediately since the child is not able to keep track of time.

8. Give Your Toddler Realistic Instructions

Do not ask the child to do all the work at once. For instance, when asking him to clean up his room, tell him first to keep his books away. After he has done that, ask him to put away toys and other stuff. In this way, toddlers will do the things you ask as it is manageable for them to perform these tasks.

9. Motivate Your Toddler

Barking out the commands are most likely to piss off your child, so do not yell at your toddler. Try to say something positive at the end of your command to encourage and motivate the child to do as you are saying.

10. Set a Good Example for Your Toddler

Setting a good example for your child by listening to him would make him listen to you. Since he sees you paying attention to what he says, he will start paying attention to what you say to him.

11. Catch Your Toddler Being Good

Try to limit telling your toddler what he should not do or where he is wrong. Your child would not appreciate this and would be less likely to follow your commands. Instead, try to encourage him or appreciate him when he behaves well or does a good thing. This would grab his attention and show him that you comment on his good actions, too. The more positive feedback you give your toddler, the more he will listen to you and the less he will ignore you when you tell him what to do.

Want to get more information about how to deal with toddler won't listen? Check out the video below:

Try Games That Get Your Toddlers to Listen


If your toddler won't listen, there're some games you can try to handle the problem.



How it helps

Invite over a friendly puppet

Get a puppet and use it to attract the attention of the child and then ask him to do different things for you such as clapping his hands or picking his toys off the floor.

The toddler sees the puppet as a friend and thus follows his commands because he does not think that the commands are being given to him by mother who is trying to wrest his independence away from him.

Take a treasure hunt

Hide a toy and tell him that you have a treasure for him to find. Give the child directions on how he can find the treasure.

The child will listen to your commands because he is interested in searching the treasure. This would help in improving his memory skills as well.

Start a small mimic

Pick a sound that is coming from an unknown source and ask your toddler to listen to it. If he refuses to participate, show him how to listen and then try to mimic the sound yourself.

The child might find it difficult to listen to a sound that is not coming from a visible source, but overtime it would improve his concentration skills and encourage him to listen carefully, too.

Sing simple songs with your toddlers

Make up a song that tells about a task that your toddler has to perform and use motions along with it to make it a fun exercise for your child.

The child is more likely to follow your commands when singing a song which explains the action you want him to perform rather than when you are barking the command at him.

Try a flashlight tag

Take a couple of flashlights and dim the lights of the room. Ask your child to point his flashlight at the same objects that you are targeting with your flashlight.

In the dim light, the child would be less distracted and would follow your commands more easily. He will also become less afraid of darkness.