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Twin Toddlers Just Won’t Listen

Question:

I have twin toddlers that just won’t listen to anything I say. They fight me almost every step of the way, yet they can also be very good at times. I admit that I am quick to get angry at them and often lash out, which I have now realized they also do. How can I stay calm and teach them to listen, instead of constantly testing my limits?

Answer:

The more ideas you can gather and try, the more likely you will find one that is effective. A toddler’s attention span is short, so try to use as few words as possible. Show and tell them what you want them to do, and practice, practice, practice. Do your best to make practice fun — keep it brief, but do it frequently.

When they are in their car seats, talk to them about listening. Turn off the radio and ask them to show you their “ears.” Let them know that “ears” are for listening to Mommy. So, every time they hear Mommy's voice, they should use both hands and put them behind their ears. That way they won't miss out on what you are saying. Give them positive reinforcement each time you see them do it. This could be as simple as saying, “Good job,” or, “Way to go,” or perhaps you could offer up a high-five or give them a hug. You may even want to start your practices by saying the word “listen” to prompt them to do what they’re supposed to with their hands.

You can use the same type of teaching and practicing when it comes to following instructions. Let them know that when Mommy says something like, “Listen,” (there’s that prompt again) “it's time to put toys away,” they should put their hands behind their ears, say, “Okay,” and when they’re done, they should say, “All done!”

When you are practicing listening and following instructions with them, be sure to include fun situations such as, “It’s time for a story,” or, “Let’s have a fruit snack,” or something else you know they’ll have fun doing.

Try to look at this and other situations that frustrate you as opportunities to teach. Then, rather than becoming upset, take a moment and shift into your teaching mode. Don't give up and return to your old ways of responding. You won't regret it.