Tuesday, 11 December 2012

3 Ways to Respond to a Toddler Who Won’t Listen (and a Giveaway!)

Today I am pleased to have my friend Michelle Carchrae from The Parent Vortex sharing some words in this space. Michelle is the author of the newly-released book The Parenting Primer, a guide to positive parenting in the first six years. She describes herself as a "freelance writer, a homeschooling mama, avid knitter, spinner, sewer, crafter, reader and lover of the outdoors."

Today Michelle is sharing her tips on how to respond to a toddler who won't listen, as well as giving away a copy of The Parenting Primer. Look for details below!
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We’ve all been there. The toddler grabs something she shouldn’t. You step in and say, “No, Christmas trees/Aunt Maud’s crystal/the cat’s tail isn’t for playing with. Come play with the blocks over here!” Your toddler half-heartedly plays blocks for three seconds until you look away, then is right back there pulling at the Christmas tree/crystal/cat’s tail again. Why won’t she listen? And what do you do next?

Toddlers are a curious bunch. One minute they want to cuddle, nurse or sweetly stroke your cheek. The next they’re blatantly charging ahead with their own agenda, regardless of your rules. Toddlers are naturally growing into a stage of increasing independence, and part of that experience is learning where their new independence can take them, and where it can’t. A toddler’s refusal to listen is normal, not a reflection of her lack of respect for you or a sign of your lack of parenting skill.

What’s the best way to deal with a toddler who won’t listen? Empathize, Distract and Remove.

1. Empathize. First, empathize with your toddler. Tell him that you understand how fascinating the forbidden object is. Tell him you understand how much he wants it. Really try to feel what it would be like to be your toddler, and keep that empathy in mind when you’re setting boundaries. Of course, just because he really wants to pull the cat’s tail and you can fully empathize with how tempting it must be doesn’t mean it’s ok for him to pull the cat’s tail. Empathy usually  needs to be paired with either distraction or removal to be effective with toddlers.

2. Distract. Toddlers can be amazingly single-minded, but this can actually work to your advantage if you succeed in shifting their attention elsewhere. After you empathize and reflect their feelings back, shift immediately to something else. Pull out a bag of pom poms and a plastic cup. Bring out the kitchen pots and pans. Play “This Little Piggy” or have a silly face competition. Go for a little walk. Read a story. Toddlers will almost always be attracted to an activity that lets them spend time with their important adult, so be prepared to get down on the floor and play for a bit until they forget about the forbidden object.

3. Remove. If empathy followed by distraction doesn’t work, you’ll need to remove either the forbidden object or your child from the situation. This doesn’t have to be a big production, and it’s better if you can keep it as kind and matter-of-fact as possible. “Time to put the crystal away!” is all you need to say to your child, then ask Aunt Maud if there’s somewhere safe for her breakables to go while you and your toddler are visiting. If your toddler repeatedly hits or takes a toy from another child at a party or playdate, it’s time to either leave the party or take some time to calm down together in another room. Chances are he’s either overtired, hungry or overwhelmed.

When my eldest was a toddler, I found it so hard to deal with her independence and refusal to listen. I felt very frustrated, tried so hard to make her listen and I took it personally when she didn’t. Now I know that most toddlers don’t listen at times, and that’s ok. It’s normal. After I understood this, it became much easier to deal with the inevitable toddler challenges.

The Parenting Primer


I’ve gathered up many of the other things I’ve learned about parenting with gentle discipline in the first six years and published them in an e-book called The Parenting Primer. The Parenting Primer starts out by looking at how love and limits influence our parenting, then explores other topics that affect our relationship with our child, such as information on brain development or personality, communication skills, lifestyle choices, creativity and self-discipline.

I've included references to a lot of the parenting resources and other parenting books that I found helpful, and each section ends with some questions to inspire reflection and something to actually try in your real life. Stories and tidbits from my own personal experience struggling to improve my parenting skills are woven throughout the book.

You can buy a copy of the book for yourself or to give as a gift here, or enter the giveaway to win a free copy!

To enter, simply leave a comment below. The giveaway is open worldwide until Friday, December 14th at 11:59 pm PST. The winner will be chosen via random number generator and announced the following morning.

Giveaway closed. Congratulations Nathania!

Rocking horse photo credit: John-Morgan on Flickr, used with Creative Commons license.

41 comments:

  1. I would love a chance t o win, thankyou ;)

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  2. Thanks so much! It is so hard not to take it personally when my toddler ignores me. Would love to win a copy of the ebook!

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  3. Great post, thank you! I need all the reminders and reassurance I can get with my 15mo. baby girl!

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  4. Thanks for this. I feel like I really needed this wisdom today...

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  5. wow i love this!! im so relating to each word she says!im soo ganna gain alot of info from this!

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  6. my husband was just saying last night that he's been getting very frustrated with our oldest son's tendency to ignore the things he doesn't want to hear (like, 'please play with your cars on the floor instead of throwing'!). this would be very cool since we're in the throes of the toddler stage with both of them right now.

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  7. Would love to win a copy of the book. I have a degree and work background in early childhood education, but it's so different when it's your own kids, especially when you're trying to parent gently!

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  8. I would love this book!!

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  9. looks like a great book to have as my little one enters the "terrible twos"

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  10. I would love to win a copy of this book- it sounds like such a helpful resource! It can be hard to parent this way with our 4 boys age 4 and under, but my husband and I are committed to parenting them gently and in a Christ-like way. It's hard sometimes but we have seen great things happen in our family since implementing these things. I love to read anything I can on the topic and I am always looking for more tips and practical ideas.

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  11. Sounds like an interesting read. I'd love to check it out!

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  12. Even though I am about to have baby #5, I am just now looking into positive parenting. I would love to read this book.

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  13. Fabulous ideas! Just linked this on facebook and would love to read the whole book <3

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  14. Replies
    1. Congratulations, Nathania! You are the lucky giveaway winner. :)

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  15. Thank you for sharing! Sounds like a very interesting book.

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  16. Thank you for the succinct 3 steps- well explained! Book sounds wonderful! I am sharing your post on my fb!

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  17. Thanks for the advice. I have twin toddlers, I need all the help I can get! :)

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  18. This would be great to help navigate life with my 3 year old!

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  19. Sounds like a very interesting book!

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  20. got my fingers crossed :) Love the snippet.

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  21. Very cool info! My toddler has "selective hearing" :)

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  22. Sounds like a brilliant book. Our 19 month old son is at the stage given in the example - would be great to have some simple steps to put into practice :)

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  23. Sounds like a book I need :) would love to win.

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  24. I currently have 2 toddler at home, 15 months apart. My youngest is very headstrong (just like her mother, I fear) and neither of them can keep their hands off of things that do not belong to them. I'm not sure what the point of buying them their own stuff is, when all they want to touch and play with belongs to me! I will definitely be trying these tricks today as I am at my wits end. BTW, anyone who tells you to 'put stuff where they can't get to it' obviously has never had TWO headstrong, fearless, climbers in an itty bitty house!!!

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  25. With a 2 year old in the house now, I could use a bit of help! Thanks for hosting this giveaway! :)

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  26. I have a 3 year old and 9 month old...certainly can use lots of help! proverbslady at gmail dot com

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  27. I have a 9 month old who has recently learned to crawl and wants to get into everything, and for the first time the other day had to begin telling him no and moving/distracting him because he would not leave the cat food bowl alone. He seems to be a very stubborn little boy (just like both his parents) and he kept going back to it over & over & over...and every time I would tell him "No, cat food is not for playing with" he would start throwing a fit! Crying & yelling. I wasn't expecting this to start to soon! I would love a book that can help me guide my little one as we begin to navigate this not baby age....

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  28. I'd love a copy of this book! We're struggling a bit with our oh so lovely 6 month old daughter who just refuses to sleep. I'd like to know how to discipline her gently. thank you :)

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  29. Sarcasmicrph@gmail.comDecember 13, 2012 6:25 pm

    I am in desperate need of this book. I want so badly to break the ugly cycle in which I was raised yet don't have the tools to do it alone. Every day I can hear the voice of my parents in how I speak to my children, and it frightens me.

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  30. Estelle ,if you are BFing maybe there is something in your diet that contains caffeine or something thats causing her gass thats keeping your LO awake. Do you have a consistent bedtime routine. The first year is hard on our LO's between teething ,milestones and discovering their world they have a lot going on.My Lo just turned one and I knew for the first year to not have any expectations when it came to sleep and to just go with the flow.

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    1. Thanks Helen! :) I am breastfeeding but I do not drink or eat food containing caffeine as that gives me headaches myself. Thanks for the tip though. We do have a consistent bedtime routine, but she takes a long time to settle and wakes up at regular times at night (every two-3 hours)which makes me wonder whether it is learned hunger? Regarding naps she refuses those unless I carry her in the meitai on my back where she can sleep up to 2 hours. I am not sure how and if to sleeptrain her or wean her off BFing at night....so many questions and doubts.

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  31. I think everyone could use this book :)

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  32. I'd love this book. I have an 18 month old who is a bundle of curiosity that we have a hard time channeling sometimes!

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