Reader Michelle is dealing with a very frustrating situation: a toddler who won’t pay attention to her warnings and instructions. She sends the following letter:
I came across your blog a few weeks ago and passed it on to my friends. I absolutely love your blog. Very insightful and down to earth.
I have a question though. My son is now almost 2 and it seems he has no ears. He will do something and I’ll ask him nicely to stop: “Don’t do that please, Mommy doesn’t want you to get hurt” or similar. He will look me in the eyes and continue doing what he is doing. It’s driving me mad and time out does not work with him.
I’m at wit’s end and have no idea how to get him to stop and listen to me. What am I doing wrong?
Thank you very much for your lovely letter.
I know that this behaviour is frustrating, but when children start approaching the age of 2 they are becoming little people, and in an attempt to be more independent they feel the need to test their boundaries. It’s certainly not caused by your doing anything “wrong”; sometimes it just takes a while to arrive at the approach that works best with a particular child.
I recommend that you remain calm and composed when one of these exasperating episodes arises, but try changing your tone of voice so you are firm and you are clearly conveying your authority to your son. If he responds to you when you ask him not to do something, give him great praise.
If even when using the firm voice he is reluctant to listen to you, tell him “I am going to count to 3”, give him the chance to respond; if on “3” he backs down, just give a very simple “good boy”. If he is defiant and refuses to obey, take his hand and in a firm voice explain that what he is doing is dangerous or is something that you just don’t want him to do. This might lead to a little tantrum; if so, just ignore it for a couple of minutes and carry on. Then go back and distract him with something else. He is not sad or hurt, just frustrated.
Good luck! Once you’ve had a chance to see whether this approach produces some results for you, please feel free to let me and my other readers know how you’re getting on by leaving a comment.