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Toddler Doesn’t Listen? Teach Them How Without Driving Yourself Crazy!

One day, you bring home a sweet baby from the hospital. And then in a flash, she’s crawling. Then talking and walking. And suddenly, you find your little baby is now a toddler. Just when you start to think this phase is pretty cute though, you find your toddler doesn’t listen. Her new favorite word seems to be “no” and you realize that disciplining a strong-willed child is not as easy and you had hoped it would be.


As frustrating as it can be when your toddler doesn’t listen, it’s also a milestone. It’s at this age that children begin to realize that they are their own person and separate from you.

While that’s a good thing, you still need to step in and be the parent while allowing them to be their own selves. And for those of you that put your children in daycare or with a nanny, you might even have been told your toddler is an angel in their care but your toddler behaves differently with mom.

That might sound a bit confusing so here are some helpful hints from the experts to guide you along and keep you sane as you work on how to get a toddler to listen and how to discipline without yelling.

Crying child, tired father
Crying child, tired father

Level Up

Do you remember what it was like being a toddler or small child? Grownups seemed so tall. That’s intimidating even during a good mood, so imagine how scary it is when your toddler has done something wrong and your voice is booming away from above.

And what if she hasn’t realized she’s doing something wrong, like when she’s running around upstairs? Are you yelling from downstairs for her to knock it off? It hardly sends the message that what you’re saying is important.

If you want to be taken seriously by your child in a non-threatening way where she will listen and obey, get down on her level and look her in the eyes. Stay calm as you do it even if your blood is boiling. Make a habit of this and you’ll find that the toddler that doesn’t listen soon begins to obey the words that you say.


Allow for Appropriate Choices

So, it stands to reason that if this difficult phase where your toddler doesn’t listen is about self-actuality and exerting their own independence that a fantastic way to remedy that is to allow them to make their own decisions.

But this Jedi mind trick isn’t as free flowing as you think. It’s designed to make your toddler feel like she’s calling the shots. Really, it’s about giving her the luxury of choice. You have a choice too. You can fight every single day about putting on shoes when it’s time to get out the door or eating food that isn’t cookies for her meals, or you can give her a choice of two items and let her feel like she’s the boss.

The trick of it is to give her a choice of two things you’re cool with. Try it the next time you need to leave by asking her to choose between two pairs of her shoes and watch how quickly she stops fighting. Or come snack time, offer her an apple or a banana and you’ll be amazed at how fast the feuding ends.

Sad, tired child

Keep Things Simple and Positive

Sure, she might seem like she’s 3 going on 13, but she’s just starting to understand simple commands. Rapidly barking directions at her isn’t going to get the desired results you seek. Tell her one thing at a time in a positive way, avoiding the words “don’t” or “no” whenever possible so she learns to listen to your directions and act on them.


Keep Every Promise You Make

If your toddler doesn’t listen, think about your own actions. Does she know what the consequences are for her bad behavior? And does she know what she can earn for good behavior? Do you keep the promises you make to her for her good behavior?

If not, your inconsistent behavior and your own unclear expectations are making it hard for your toddler to follow you. At this age, rules should be kept simple such as no hitting her siblings or putting her toys away.

If you tell her you’ll take her for ice cream if she keeps her room clean all week and she follows the rules, then you must make good on your promise. Conversely, if she throws a doll at her sister and breaks the rules, you’ve got to dole out the punishment you set for bad behavior. Good or bad, you must follow through with your promises. Not doing so teaches your child that the things you say have no meaning.


Be Calm and Avoid Dwelling

We all have our moments when our toddler doesn’t listen that it rubs our nerves raw and causes us to crack. But we’ve got to move forward every time and stick to calm and consistent behavior in order to know how to get a toddler to listen.

Nothing will change the first time you try it. It’s sticking to your guns and remaining calm without wavering on your positivity that will help get your toddler to listen. Patience is so important here because when you stick to it, you’ll start to see those good behaviors you’ve been hoping to see.


Toddlers look to us for inspiration and cues. We need to remain that force of light in the darkness of these confusing times.

When you follow these steps to disciplining a strong-willed child, you’ll find that as you give her options and stick to what you say, it gives her more structure which in turn helps her to feel more grounded and secure. When kids feel secure as the rest of the world changes around them, they become less afraid and transition into well-adjusted big kids who become well-adjusted adults.


It all happens so fast so take the good and bad of this phase and learn to laugh about it with your partner. For one day all too soon, she’ll be calling you for advice on her own toddler that doesn’t listen to her.

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