Children start to develop a separate “sense of self” around age two, and their non-compliance only means that they are trying to be a person separate from you. At that stage, it’s common to hear lots of “I don’t want to get dressed!” “I don’t want to go to bed!” “This is MINE!”.

Some suggestions for increasing your child’s listening:

  • It’s normal for children to want some control, so get into the habit of giving your children choices, on your terms. Instead of saying “Get dressed now!” you can say “Skirt or dress?”; instead of saying “Take your plate to the sink” say “Do you want to take the plates to the sink or help to load the dishwasher?”. Always talk to your children at eye-level to make sure they are listening and paying attention to what you are saying.
  • Be brief and simple. It’s important to keep your language appropriate and talk in small, short sentences so you are sure your message is clear.
  • Save your “no”s and “stop”s for the most important issues such as safe issues, so the words don’t lose their power. You can say “inside we walk, outside we run” “I see that you really like to paint, but the walls are not the right place for it, paint on the paper and we can hang it later!” No’s and Stop’s are attention words and must be used only when you really have to.
  • Keep a positive tone, be sincere, don’t yell. If you do yell, children will respond out of fear, which doesn’t help children to manage their own emotions. It is ok to raise the volume a little when you really need to be heard but try not to yell.
  • Use the word “I” instead of “You”. “I” messages are much less condemnatory. Ex: “I need your help” or “I would like…” instead of “You must do this” or “you need to do this”. In that way, you can avoid children saying “NO, I don’t!”.
  • Let your children know why they need to do what you are saying. Offer them a reason for your request. “Put on your pajamas so we can read a story together” “Let’s get dressed so you can play outside”
  • Make sure they understand what you said, by asking them to repeat the request back.
  • Set the end or closure when needed saying “I am not changing my mind about this.” “Skirt or pants, it is time to leave.”


Parents need to set a good example, if your children see that you are a good listener, they will be too. Put down your cellphone, face your child, talk and listen. Listening is a developmental process. Stay calm and make it fun. The good times will help you through the stubborn times.

wrote by: Marilee Hartling & Paula Boscardin