5 Ways to Get the Feisty Toddler to Listen Without Yelling at Them

5 Ways to Get the Feisty Toddler to Listen Without Yelling at Them

Tackling a feisty toddler can really test our limits. How can we get them to listen without us having to yell to get their attention? Here are 5 ways!

Have you seen your child turn into a furious little King Kong when he does not get what he wants? Does your princess turn her nose up high and not listen to a thing you say, even giving you the stink eye? As parents, we experience these typical scenarios on a daily basis. We’ve done what we already could — but even shouting does not seem to work its magic, like how it used to. The big question remains: how to get toddlers to listen without yelling? 

Mums and dads, perhaps before we even try to do it our way, we should first learn about what drives their behaviour. Could it be something that’s natural? Well… read on. 

Why Kids Don’t Listen

It’s almost instinctive — they resist and oppose when it comes to doing what they are told. As parents, we have seen enough. 

But mums and dads, this is because our kids possess a “counterwill instinct”, according to Deborah MacNamara, an author, clinical counsellor and Director of Kid’s Best Bet in a piece for Motherly. And this counterwill instinct when being told “what to think, do, or feel” leads to resistance on their part.

how to get toddlers to listen without yelling

How to get toddlers to listen without yelling: don’t turn it into a battle of who goes louder. They could even be shutting down internally. (Photo: Flickr / stevendepolo)

And we think that it’s either our fault or theirs.

Little do we know, this counterwill instinct is in fact “innate to all humans”. So whether you are a parent or a child, both are hardwired to be oppositional. 

More interestingly, it serves an important function, like all instincts. “This isn’t a mistake or a flaw in human nature,” MacNamara says. It is a natural response that is made to protect oneself when feeling coerced or when facing separation.

Here is where the challenge lies as they are still immature and thus are “more prone to expressions of resistance.” Even if kids are attached to you, they still resist because parents’ “have to” needs have seemed to overpower the child’s “want-to” desires. 

Basically, the child’s instinct to resist has become greater than their desire to follow. 

Being Obedient Versus Being Cooperative

How to get toddlers to listen without yelling may seem just like impossible for some. But we have to remember that like adults, kids don’t like to be told what to do.

And they surely don’t know what’s the “expected” behaviour if there are no proper guidelines set in place. Simply telling them not to do something just because it’s bad or trying to influence them through being the “fiercer” person is not going to work.

Instead of making them feel like they have to do something, MacNamara says that parents should appeal to a child’s “want to” desires.

Perhaps, that’s something for us to ponder about. Do we want them to be blindly obedient towards us, and ignore the voices and thoughts in their head? Or do we want to foster a sense of cooperativeness instead? 

how to get toddlers to listen without yelling

How to get toddlers to listen without yelling: the younger and more immature a child is, the more important a working relationship with their teacher will be in order to learn from them.

Mums and dads, keeping your cool, to the best of your ability, and then explaining and rationalising your point to your kids could help. 

Allow them to make their own decisions. Give them options and actions because they are “experiential learners”, according to Alyson Schafer, HuffPost Canada’s parenting expert. You’ll be surprised at how much that control they have, can change things.

How To Get Toddlers To Listen Without Yelling: Ways To Curb That Behaviour

It could be a long and arduous process to get toddlers to listen without yelling — yes, patience is key — but it is worth it. Besides, yelling all the time takes away the intended impact, leaving your little ones in a constant battle of who’s louder. 

how to get toddlers to listen without yelling

Here are some ways to get toddlers to listen without yelling: 

1. Define Boundaries

Tell your child in advance the reason for discipline and lay out their boundaries, too. Avoid making idle threats as well. He will then understand that you are true to your words and will listen attentively to what you say.

2. Establish Clear Rules

They could be in the form of a written list. Get everyone to agree on what’s expected in the household. Whether it’s behaviour or actions taken as part of a member of the family, get it all written down clear — and get every member to sign. Yes, even the little ones. 

It should also be prominently displayed, like a constant reminder so that your kids will not have an excuse to fall back on what has been established. Raising your voice will be redundant here. If rules are broken, follow up with an immediate consequence. 

3. Take Time to Calm Down

Discipline when applied while you are angry never results in a positive outcome. It causes stress for both you and your child.

So taking the time to compose yourself then follow up, is a good way on how to get toddlers to listen without yelling since it allows you to calm down and gather your thoughts. Your child, at the same time, will be able to contemplate on what made mum or dad upset.

Try to take a step back before you discipline. Your calmness will affect your child as well; he will be more open to and be more understanding of the consequences. 

4. Enact the Consequences And Discuss It Ahead Of Time

Discuss the negative consequences and ahead of time: time-out, take away privileges or even logical consequences.

Take things away or prohibit certain activities if they are misbehaving or being disobedient. For example, set curfews or perhaps take away the PS4 for a period of time if your child misbehaves. 

Basically here, you let your child make their own choices. Do they want to make the choice to behave better, or do their work, so that they won’t have their PS4 taken away? Consider which consequence is most effective and take note, the same technique used one child is different from another.

The key here is consistency. Let your yes be yes and no be no. Your children will understand that you mean what you say and will stop pushing their boundaries.

Stick to your guns, Mums and Dads!

5. Talk It Out

Children are smart, so it’s wise to let them use their power of discernment. Conversations about disciplinary actions, your family’s rules, and his responsibilities do not have to be serious all the time.

Discuss the dos and don’ts with him over snack time, while walking in the park, or in between a match of Scrabble. This will make them feel at ease, open up and understand that discipline is actually an act of love, which is implemented for their own well-being. 

A constant provision of reminders will help them adhere to rules and regulations. Keep an open line of communication as much as possible. A heartfelt conversation between you and your child is indeed a good way to foster that sense of inclusiveness; how to get toddlers to listen without yelling will slowly diminish through understanding.


No parent wants to yell at their kid. Furthermore, these constant shouting battles can create insecurity and anxiety in kids. 

The best thing you can do is to stay calm and not react to every of your child’s whim. As much as patience and understanding are key, rules are too.

Remember to set boundaries, take time-outs, consistently enforce consequences, and thoroughly discuss your family’s rules and your child’s responsibilities to help instill good habits and values at a young age.

Source: Family How, Motherly, Huffington Post

Read also: Smart Ways to Discipline Your Child at Every Age

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Written by

Criselle Nunag

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