How to Get a Toddler to Listen and Follow Directions
How to Get a Toddler to Listen
- Parenting Skills: Understanding Toddlers and Their B...
Did your baby suddenly become a toddler right before your eyes? This article takes a look at toddlers and their behavior to help parents understand this important stage of life.
How to Get a Toddler to Listen
Getting a toddler to follow directions can be difficult and frustrating for both parents and the toddlers themselves. Their little brains can only handle so many instructions at one time, so a direction such as “find your shoes and put them on”, simple as it seems, is sometimes too much for the toddlers to process. They might hear the word ‘shoes’ and locate the items, but within the next second they are drawing on your front door with a crayon (true story—he is lucky it was a dry erase crayon and easy to clean…). For toddlers to focus on a set of directions, the directions need to be broken down into easy to follow pieces and given step-by-step. It takes a mixture of time and patience.
So what can a parent or caregiver do to end the frustrations of kids not following directions? I have learned my lesson from a fuzzy little character on Disney Junior—Special Agent Oso.
Three Special Steps Song
Who is Special Agent Oso?
Special Agent Oso is a little teddy bear special agent (el oso is Spanish for bear) who is given special assignments to complete to help children with tasks like learning to make salad, tying shoes, making a bed, etc. In order to complete each special assignment, he must follow ‘three special steps’ given to him by his Paw Pilot (aka Palm Pilot). There’s a cute little song that the Paw Pilot sings to Special Agent Oso that breaks down the steps before the assignment and repeats the steps at the end of the assignment. When the assignment is completed successfully, Special Agent Oso is awarded a “digi-medal”.
"Should I Listen to Mommy?"
"But I Followed the Directions, Mommy!"
Using Three Special Steps with Toddlers to Follow Directions
My toddler son loves Special Agent Oso and knows the songs associated with the show quite well. On the frustrating oh-great-now-there’s-crayon-on-my-front-door day, I decided to experiment with the “three special steps” aspect. I needed him to get his shoes on before we left for a shopping trip. In a terribly loud, slightly off-key voice, I began singing the song.
“Step One: Find your shoes! Step Two: Pull out the tongues and put your feet in! Step Three: Match up the Velcro!”
His eyes went wide. It was now all a game, and he was going to win a digi-medal in his mind. As he located his shoes, I kept on singing. He willingly put on his shoes just as the song told him to do, step by step. When he finished with his special assignment, he was ecstatic, to the point of jumping up and down and clapping his hands.
He completed his assignment; in my mind, I was ecstatic, jumping up and down and clapping my hands. Frustration was eliminated.
And then I realized the shoes were on the wrong feet….Oh Toddlers!
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Your Special Assignment: Help Your Kids Follow Directions
Even if you can’t sing or don’t want to, you can use the concept of three (or four, five, etc…) special steps to complete a task. For everyday tasks such as putting on clothes or shoes, making a bed and cleaning up, it might even be a good idea to make a small poster with the steps on it so the toddler can see and hear the steps (the more senses they use, the more they can remember).
We as parents or caregivers just need to remember to have patience. These little creatures are just learning to do things that years ago we accomplished. With patience and time, all can be successful.
Congratulations, Special Agent Parent. You just earned your own digi-medal for reading this hub. Now go out and help your toddler with their special steps! Good luck on your mission.
And you? Have any tricks to help your kids follow directions?
What do you do to get your children to follow directions? Please share what you do or have done in the comments below. I really enjoy reading about other ideas from parents and caregivers.Thank you so much for reading!