Tell me this title doesn’t get your attention: How to Get your Child to Listen? Having this answer is like the magic spell that parents (and teachers) everywhere are looking for. I was excited to see that the author of the original post was none other than our colleague at the University of Virginia, Amanda Williford. 

As I was reading her post, I remembered a previous blog post about balancing regard and organization in the classroom. Amanda's advice parallels the CLASS dimensions—specifically in two toddler dimensions: Regard for Child Perspectives and Behavior Management (and could map just as easily with pre-K dimensions).  

Regard for Child Perspectives

Children need opportunities to be autonomous. The Toddler Dimensions Guide says this about Regard for Child Perspectives:

“When teachers encourage children to contribute to activities and to share their ideas and perspectives, children learn they are genuinely valued. Teachers who make appropriate decisions about providing children with genuine responsibilities during classroom activities and tasks maximize children’s independence.”

Behavior Management

But acknowledging children's perspectives must be balanced with behavior guidance. Children need guidance to learn how to manage their emotions and reactions.  

I noticed two indicators in particular that Amanda touches on in her post: Providing Clear Expectations and Positive Phrasing.  

“Guide children’s behavior by providing them with clear expectation of how you want them to behave in the classroom. Use simple and specific language so that children understand exactly what expect. For example, instead of saying 'Don’t throw the blocks,' say, 'We build with blocks.'"

As you read Amanda's original post below from Please and Carrots, think about other CLASS dimensions or indicators that you recognize and how you can use them to “get your child to listen.”


How to get your child to listen

by Dr. Amanda Williford, Child Psychologist, Research Professor, UVA | Blog

Young children need opportunities to be autonomous and to be in control of their own thoughts and bodies. However, there are times when we need our little ones to do what we say​. Have you repeated yourself over and over to a toddler and wondered how to get your child to listen?

Most of us have repeated ourselves trying to get a toddler to do what we want, and those repeated requests and​ ​the​ ​non-compliance cause frustration that can quickly turn​ ​into raised voices and negative emotions…no fun for parents or toddlers.

Here are a few simple techniques that will increase the likelihood your child will comply ​​when you need them to:

  1. First, give your child many opportunities for choice throughout the day.​ ​[You can refer to the previous article on Choice for ideas]. If they have opportunities for choice, they are more likely to listen when choice is not an option.
  2. ​Try to limit the number of requests your child must comply with.
  3. When choice is not an option, your child will be more likely to comply when your instructions are simple, clear and provide positive directions. ​These are effective commands.​

The word “command” can seem strong but it is simply giving direction that is not optional. For example, saying “Are you ready to go to the store?” implies that your child has a choice​ ​-​ ​your child is free to say “No​,​ I don’t want to go!” If this is not a choice, instead say “It’s time to go to the store. Please walk to the car.”

Here are some quick tips on how to give effective commands:

  • Get​ ​your child’s attention. Make eye contact. Often, we ask our children to do things when they are actively and intensely engaged in another activity. Do not assume your child has heard your request​ – ​make sure you have their attention.
  • Give 1 command at a time that is clear, specific, and positive.​ ​Tell your child what to do instead of what not to do (“you need to walk” instead of “don’t run!”)​.​
  • Make sure it is clear what you want your child to do (“It is time to clean up, so please start by putting the blocks in the box”, instead of “it’s clean-up time”)​.​
  • Your voice should be firm and confident (but not angry or irritated)​.​
  • Make statements, don’t ask questions (“Tony, please go inside” instead of “Are you ready to go inside?”)​.​
  • Acknowledge your child if he completed the task (“Great job picking up those blocks!” or “Now that you put your shoes on, we can go outside.”). [You can refer to the previous article on effective ways to praise]​.

– for more tips, check out our Parenting Advice section –

​With these simple techniques (simple to understand, not always easy to do!), you will increase the likelihood that your child will listen when you need them to. Remember, it will not work all the time and every parent struggles with this. Just keep doing your best!


What is the Promise of CLASS for Infants, Toddlers, and Pre-K Children?