July 02, 2015

Q: How do I get my toddler to listen without yelling at him?

A: Our 2-, 3-, and 4-year-olds actually teach us to yell and threaten if we aren't careful. Common interactions go like this: First the child starts to do something objectionable and/or unsafe. Second, we say no. Third, the child continues anyway. Fourth, we say no in a louder tone. Fifth, the child stops and looks at us. Sixth, we say no in an even louder tone. And so on. However, like many things we learn, it's not good for us and certainly not good for our children, so make a resolution now. Say no or "stop" only once, and in a calm, firm voice. If the child does not respond, go and pick the child up and remove him from the situation. Don't yell, don't punish, don't do anything except remove the child from the danger or objectionable activity. You may need to do this several times at first. (That is, when you put your child down, he or she will go right back at it.) Just keep doing the same thing. Very likely, your child will have a temper tantrum before stopping. Let him scream and yell, and when he's done, the whole thing will be over. Once you get the hang of it, you'll be more relaxed with your child. And what's even better, he'll really listen to you.

Copyright 2005. Updated 2009

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