6 tips to handle a toddler who ignores you

Posted on January 28th, 2019

There is nothing more frustrating than when your toddler pretends not to hear you when you call him or speak to him. Follow our expert advice to nip this behaviour in the bud. By Xanet Scheepers

6 strategies to deal with a toddler who ignores you

“One of your child’s main goals in life is to discover his surroundings and develop his independence. Ignoring you is part of this process (as frustrating as this can be),” says Ashley Jay, educational psychologist in private practice and co-owner of the Norwood Therapy Centre in Johannesburg. “Pretending not to hear you is your child’s way of testing boundaries, to see how you will react to the situation,” adds clinical psychologist from Ubuntu Family Health Centre, Lwanele Khasu.

ALSO SEE: 6 ways to deal with your toddler’s cheeky behaviour

Ashley recommends these 6 strategies to handle your toddler when he pretends not to hear you:

Make sure your requests are specific and doable

A request like “Tidy up your room” is too vague for a toddler to grasp. Instead, say something more concrete, like “Please put your toys in this box”.

Simplify your requests

Your toddler might be ignoring you because he doesn’t understand your request. “At the age of two, children need instructions with one or two steps at the most. ‘Please go upstairs and find your shoes’, or ‘Please come here and sit down next to me’,” explains Ashley.

Follow through

If you tell your toddler to get off the table and he ignores you, immediately lift him down yourself.

Motivate your child

Toddlers love to please, so compliments and praise will go a long way towards getting your child to comply with your wishes. For example, “I’m so proud of you for getting your jacket on so quickly”, or “You are a really good listener”. Ashley says you can also use an incentive to get your child to do what you ask. A star chart could work in this instance. “Give your child one sticker every time he responds on the first request.”

ALSO SEE: The difference between bribes, rewards and praise

Use alternatives to “no”

Your toddler might be ignoring you because he hears “no” too often. Instead of saying, “No, you can’t have sweets now”, say “You can have a treat after lunch”. “When you give a child a choice, you’re giving him a chance to assert himself in an acceptable way,” says Ashley. “Say ‘yes’ whenever you can and take every opportunity to encourage rather than dissuade your child. When he wants to climb a little higher on the climbing frame say ‘Let’s try it together’, which is more positive than ‘No, you’re too little for that’.”

ALSO SEE: New ways to say “no” to avoid toddler tantrums

Try to be understanding

Imagine you’re chatting with a friend when, all of a sudden, you’re ordered to stop what you’re doing because something else has to be done right now. ”We don’t always have time to coax our kids into the car or beg them to wash their hands, but, whenever possible, it helps to give your child notice before you rush him into the next activity,” says Ashley.

“If you’re worried your child seems to ignore you more often than he listens, talk to his doctor about the problem. It’s unlikely there will be a serious problem, but your paediatrician may recommend a hearing test or other developmental assessments,” adds Ashley.

ALSO SEE: Causes of hearing loss

About Xanet Scheepers

Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day.