7 Tips To Help Your Toddler Follow Instructions

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How To Build Listening Skills In Your Toddler

BY DR SARAH HUGHES

Toddlerhood is a challenging time for parents. Tantrums aside, kids develop many new skills between the ages of 1 and 4, but listening is a skill that many toddlers struggle with.

Shouting won't make your toddler listen

Shouting won’t make your toddler listen

Toddlers might have difficulty following instructions for a number of reasons.  Some toddlers may have hearing difficulties, others receptive language difficulties (difficulties understanding language), but in most cases toddlers can be helped to build stronger listening skills.

Too many instructions, too few instructions, complicated instructions, poorly timed instructions all reduce the likelihood of your toddler following your instructions.

Help your toddler listen. Start with these 7 tips for building listening skills in toddlers.

Tip #1:Make Sure You Have Your Child’s Attention

Before you give an instruction, say your child’s name and make sure they’re looking at you and listening. If your child is in the middle of an activity wait until they’ve finished what they’re doing or until there is a natural break in the activity.

Tip #2: Make Sure Your Demands Are Reasonable

Only ask you child to do what they’re capable of – make sure your instructions are age-appropriate and avoid giving instructions if your child is highly distressed or in the middle of another task.

Tip #3:Use Repetition

Your toddler’s language and comprehension skills are still developing so they may need you to give an instruction more than once. As a general rule, if after 5-seconds your child hasn’t responded to your instruction, get their attention and repeat the instruction again. Asking your child to repeat the instruction back to you can help you confirm that your toddler has understood what you’ve asked them to do.

Tip #4:Give Instructions Instead of Making Requests

Next time you’re asking your toddler to do something listen to see whether you’ve given an instruction (“please pick up your books now”) or made a request (“can you please pick up your books now?”). Instructions help toddlers to clearly understand what’s expected.

Tip #5:Simplify Instructions

Give brief instructions and only one instruction at a time – “pick up your books” rather than “pick up your books and get your shoes and socks, we have to go out soon so you need to start packing your things away”.

Tip #6:Make Sure You Follow Through

Stay in the room so you can monitor whether or not your toddler is complying with your request. If you’ve given an instruction twice and your toddler hasn’t responded, remain calm and physically prompt (help) your toddler to complete the task. If you’re not able to follow through avoid giving instructions – when you don’t follow through with instructions, your child learns that they don’t need to listen to what you say

Tip #7:Praise Good Listening

If your child complies with a request and demonstrates good listening, praise their efforts. Make sure you use specific praise so your child understands exactly what it is they’ve done to deserve your praise.

Dr. Sarah Hughes is a clinical psychologist and the founder of Think Clinical Psychologists. She enjoys working with children, adolescents, and adults, and specialises in anxiety, depression, postnatal depression, eating disorders, self-harm, and challenging behaviour.