1. Call your child by name.Using nicknames and terms of endearment is very commonplace when interacting with small children. I call my son all sorts of crazy stuff, but when it comes to listening, I’ve found using the good old fashioned birth name is really the most effective.
Using your child’s real name helps get his attention specifically. It helps my son know I am about to share important information that needs to be heard. In the past I noticed that when I have something really special I want my son to see I will call him by name.
For example, ‘Look Jameson! A butterfly!”
Recognizing this, I started trying to use his name when correcting an unwanted behavior. Typically, he is more inclined to look at me when I use his name as opposed to a nickname or term of endearment.
2. Get down to the child’s level.This is something I actually learned when I was a nurse. We were often taught to get down to the patient’s eye level to help convey empathy and a caring attitude. If a patient was lying in bed, I would often squat down a bit or sit in the chair so I could look the patient in the eye when we talked.
This technique can apply to any age or ability. If I am able to I will either squat down or sit on the ground when I am trying to tell my son something important. When at the same level, we can hear and see each other better, both of which improve listening.
3. Make eye contact.This is an overwhelmingly popular parenting tip. It’s popular because it is very effective in a variety of situations. When trying to improve toddler listening, eye contact is huge. After getting down to my son’s level, I say his name again and wait until our eyes meet. At that very moment I know he is paying attention and focusing on what I am saying.
4. Use gestures and expressions.Toddlers understand a reasonable amount of language, but using gestures and facial expressions can better clarify your message and improve understanding. My son understands what I am saying better, if I furrow my brow and shake my head than if I just tell him not to do something. Using gestures and facial expressions help me communicate better with him. Similarly, I also try to use happy expressions and nodding if I want to reinforce something he is doing well.
5. Keep realistic expectations.Recognize age appropriate expectations for your child. Most toddlers will obey only some of the time. It isn’t realistic to expect toddlers to listen to every instruction.
6. Keep instructions short.The shorter and more succinct your message, the more likely your toddler with understand you and listen. Toddlers are easily overwhelmed with long instructions and stop listening. Using one or two very short sentences, I aim to keep it simple.
7. Use praise effectively.When I talk about how to I learned to effectively praise my child, I am often thinking about using praise effectively. If I am offering instructions and my son is listening well, I try to offer up some praise to let him know he is doing a good job. Listening isn’t always an easy thing for toddlers to accomplish. Recognizing my son for his efforts makes a huge impact.
8. Try essential oils.I know it sounds crazy, but lately we’ve been using essential oils to help calm the mood in our house! A few months ago I would have laughed at anyone that told me that a few drops of essential oils could help in a stressful situation. Lavender and Peace and Calming are two oils that we use to help our toddler stay calm (especially before bedtime!)
9. Try the whisper technique.When all else fails, I start whispering and get very quiet. When I am at my son’s level, and I am looking him in the eye, and I know he is ready to listen, I start to whisper. It’s almost as if I am telling him a secret. He starts to listen very carefully and often starts smiling. I also love using this technique when he is screaming around the house or I feel compelled to yell at him. It’s actually kind of fun to do the opposite and whisper.
10. Sing your words.Music is a powerful way to improve a child’s mood, catch their attention, and improve listening. In addition to whispering, you could also try singing. It makes the words more fun and enjoyable. Children often feel like following a set of instructions that are sung to them is an exciting game or activity.
So will all of these tips make your toddler listen all the time? Probably not. But I think it can really help improve listening at least some of the time and help decrease frustration a bit.