10 Phrases To Use When Your Toddler Doesn’t Listen

Toddlers, in their stage of rapid development, are often wrapped up in a whirlwind of exploration and newfound independence. As parents and caregivers, moments arise when well-intentioned instructions seem unheard, making the discovery of 10 phrases to use when your toddler doesn’t listen crucial for fostering cooperation and mutual understanding.

Understanding The Development Stage Of Toddler

Understanding the development stage of toddlers is essential for parents and caregivers as they navigate the intricate journey of raising young children. These suggestions from Custom Gifts UK provide key aspects of toddler development, shedding light on this crucial stage.

  • Motor Skills

Toddlers transition from tentative steps to confident walking, refining their coordination and balance. However, they might occasionally move or grasp something too quickly. Using the guide “10 Phrases To Use When Your Toddler Doesn’t Listen” becomes instrumental in such moments, offering language that not only redirects behavior but also reinforces positive actions in the context of motor skill development.

  • Cognitive Development

Like sponges, information is absorbed by their rapidly developing brains, and understanding simple instructions and concepts begins. Grasping the idea of rules or boundaries, however, can be challenging. To aid this cognitive growth, parents can employ strategies such as incorporating educational games and using positive reinforcement when child doesn’t listen to one parent. 

Developing Cognitive in Toddler
Developing Cognitive in Toddler

  • Language Acquisition

The toddler stage is a critical period for language acquisition, marked by an explosion of vocabulary and the beginning of basic sentence construction. However, as toddlers navigate the complexities of language, moments of disobedience may arise. This guide of 10 phrases to use when your toddler doesn’t listen becomes a valuable resource in this context, providing language that not only aids in understanding but also encourages the continued growth of language skills.

  • Social and Emotional Development

Toddlers embark on a journey of social and emotional development, forming attachments and experiencing a range of feelings. Early friendships emerge, and toddlers start to understand the impact of their actions on others. During this sensitive period, parents play a crucial role in nurturing emotional intelligence and providing a secure foundation. 

  • Exploration and Curiosity

Toddlers, fueled by an insatiable curiosity, naturally explore their world, contributing to cognitive, emotional, and social development. Parents can create a supportive environment, balancing exploration with appropriate boundaries. The guide for 10 phrases to use when your toddler doesn’t listen proves effective by redirecting attention, setting boundaries, and acknowledging a toddler’s curiosity constructively.

10 Effective Phrases To Use When Your Toddler Doesn’t Listen

Navigating toddlerhood requires mastering communication in moments of non-compliance. As toddlers explore newfound independence, using the right phrases when your toddler doesn’t listen is paramount for fostering understanding and cooperation.

  • That Was Frustrating/Upsetting/Disappointing…

Used to acknowledge and validate a child’s emotions in challenging situations, this phrase among 10 phrases to use when your toddler doesn’t listen is effective in promoting emotional awareness and encouraging open communication. For example, if your child is struggling to complete a puzzle and becomes visibly upset, you can say, “That was frustrating, wasn’t it? It’s okay to feel frustrated. Let’s take a deep breath and try again together.” 

Calming Down Upset Toddler
Calming Down Upset Toddler

  • Mommy/Daddy needs…

When using this phrase, you want to assertively communicate your own needs or boundaries, setting expectations and teaching children to respect others’ needs. For instance, if a parent is working on a task and needs some uninterrupted time, they might say, “Mommy needs a few minutes to finish this work. During that time, you can play quietly or choose a fun activity to do on your own.”

  • Remember When…

When a parent wants to reminisce with their child about a past positive experience or use a past situation as a reference point for guidance, the phrase “Remember when…” is essential. For instance, if your toddler has a tendency to throw food during meals, you might say, “Remember when we discussed keeping our food on the plate? It helps keep our eating area clean. Let’s try that, okay?” 

This use of the phrase recalls a previous conversation about expectations and guides your toddler toward more appropriate behavior, aligning with the principles of effective communication outlined in 10 phrases to use when your toddler doesn’t listen.

  • Show Me Gentle/Kind

This phrase is particularly effective in teaching empathy and reinforcing positive interactions. For example, if your toddler is playing with a friend and becomes too rough, you might say, “Show me gentle hands when playing with your friend. We want to play nicely together.” In this scenario, the phrase “Show me gentle” prompts your toddler to adjust their behavior by emphasizing the desired action.

  • First doing this, then doing that

In the context of effective communication strategies outlined in “10 Phrases to Use When Your Toddler Doesn’t Listen,” incorporating “First doing this, then doing that” provides a clear structure for your toddler, making it easier for them to follow instructions and cooperate during transitions.

For example, if it’s time to transition from playtime to bedtime, you might say, “First, let’s clean up our toys, and then we can read a bedtime story.” This phrase helps your toddler anticipate what comes next and eases the transition between activities.

Teaching Children to Clean Toys
Teaching Children to Clean Toys

  • Let’s…

The phrase “Let’s…” is versatile and can be used when you want to engage your toddler in a cooperative and interactive manner, encouraging them to participate in an activity or follow a specific instruction. 

If you want your toddler to try a new food, you might say, “Let’s taste this yummy vegetable together. It’s an adventure for both of us!” This phrase invites your toddler to join you in the exploration of new flavors, fostering a sense of collaboration and shared responsibility.

  • Take a deep breath

Utilize the expression “Take a deep breath” when aiming to assist your toddler in handling intense emotions like frustration, anger, or anxiety. For instance, if your toddler is throwing a tantrum over a desired toy, you could say, “Take a deep breath. It’s fine to feel upset. Let’s discuss it.” 

This phrase among 10 phrases to use when your toddler doesn’t listen encourages the toddler to take a moment, breathe deeply, and establish a calm pause before addressing the emotional challenge.

  • I understand that…, but…

Acknowledging your toddler’s feelings before providing information or setting limits, the phrase “I understand that…, but…” effectively demonstrates empathy while maintaining clarity. In the scenario where a toddler insists on having more sweets before dinner, you might say, “I understand that you really want more sweets, but we need to wait until after dinner to have them. How about we choose a healthy snack now?”

  • Can you help me with…

The expression “Can you assist me with…” is utilized when you wish to involve your toddler in a cooperative and supportive manner, nurturing a sense of responsibility and teamwork. It is particularly effective in making them feel appreciated and capable. 

For instance, during the cleanup, you could say, “Can you help me with putting the toys in the box? We can accomplish it together, and it will be enjoyable!” This phrase encourages your toddler to actively engage in the task and perceive it as a collaborative endeavor.

Toddler Helping Mom
Toddler Helping Mom

  • Thank You for Listening

To express gratitude and positive reinforcement to your toddler for paying attention and following instructions, using the phrase “Thank you for listening”. For instance, if they clean up their toys or sit at the table promptly, saying, “Thank you for listening and cleaning up your toys or sitting at the table. It really helps!” reinforces the importance of cooperative behavior. This phrase, part of “10 Phrases to Use When Your Toddler Doesn’t Listen,” encourages continued positive engagement from your toddler.

See more 6 Tips to Handle Daughters Who Blame Their Mothers For Everything.

10 Parenting Pro Tips To Get Your Toddler To Listen

Parenting a toddler can be both rewarding and challenging, especially when faced with the common scenario where your preschooler doesn’t listen. 

  • Establish Clear Expectations

Establishing clear expectations means providing concise and clear language to convey expectations and reinforce positive behavior. For this Life Advice, consider using the phrase “First doing this, then doing that.” This phrase is effective in communicating a clear sequence of actions and helps toddlers understand the order of tasks or activities, setting clear expectations for their behavior. 

  • Positive Reinforcement

Acknowledge and praise their good behavior, emphasizing the positive outcomes of their actions. By incorporating phrases like “Thank You for Listening,” from the guide “10 Phrases to Use When Your Toddler Doesn’t Listen,” you create a positive association with listening and cooperating, motivating your toddler to repeat these behaviors for affirmation.

Setting Positive Reinforcement
Setting Positive Reinforcement

  • Use Redirection

When faced with defiance or resistance, the art of redirection becomes a valuable pro tip. Gently guide your toddler’s attention to a different activity or task, diverting their focus without confrontation. 

Phrases like “Let’s try this instead” or “How about we do this together?” can be instrumental in smoothly redirecting their energy and attention toward a more positive and cooperative direction.

  • Offer Choices

Empowering your toddler with choices provides them with a sense of control, fostering cooperation. Offer simple choices within acceptable limits, such as “Do you want the blue or red cup?” or “Would you like to wear the green shirt or the yellow one?” 

This strategy, mentioned in the guide “10 Phrases to Use When Your Toddler Doesn’t Listen,” not only promotes independence but also mitigates power struggles by giving your toddler a sense of agency within defined boundaries.

  • Active Listening

Demonstrating active listening is a powerful way to encourage your toddler to reciprocate. Get down to their eye level, maintain eye contact, and respond with empathy when they communicate. 

Phrases like “I hear that you’re feeling frustrated” or “It sounds like you really want to play with that toy” show your toddler that their feelings are acknowledged, fostering a positive and open line of communication.

  • Create a Routine

Routines provide structure and predictability, making it easier for toddlers to comprehend expectations. Phrases like “First doing this, then doing that” help toddlers understand the sequence of activities, fostering cooperation within the established routine.

Create a Routine for Toddler
Create a Routine for Toddler

  • Use Imaginative Play

Engaging in pretend play not only makes learning enjoyable but also allows your toddler to understand and follow instructions through play scenarios. Using phrases like “Let’s…” from the list of “10 Phrases to Use When Your Toddler Doesn’t Listen”, makes the learning experience more engaging and fosters cooperation. 

  • Be a Role Model

Children often learn by observing, and being a positive role model can significantly influence your toddler’s behavior. Demonstrating active listening, using polite language, and showing respect create an environment where your toddler is more likely to emulate these behaviors.

  • Keep Instructions Simple

Effective communication with toddlers involves keeping instructions simple and clear. Break down tasks into manageable steps, using language appropriate for their comprehension level. 

  • Celebrate Small Achievements

Celebrating your toddler’s achievements motivates continued cooperation and listening. Positive reinforcement, be it verbal praise or small rewards, forms a positive link with following instructions.

Phrases like “Thank You for Listening” from the guide “10 Phrases to Use When Your Toddler Doesn’t Listen” become a natural part of this celebration, reinforcing the connection between attentive behavior and positive acknowledgment.


As a crucial resource in navigating this stage, the guide for 10 phrases to use when your toddler doesn’t listen offers a repertoire of language that aligns with a toddler’s evolving comprehension. These phrases not only convey expectations but also foster a positive parent-child connection, creating an environment of cooperation and mutual understanding.