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You know that stage where toddlers realize they don’t have to listen? We’re in that! Caroline is starting to ignore us and just keep doing whatever it is she’s doing. I find myself repeating directions over and over. Sometimes she even says “no”. The reality is that my daughter is not always really listening to me. Once I realized that, I started doing something that has helped.

Before I give any requests/instructions/directions/etc. to my daughter, I am saying  “Caroline, look at Mama, please”. If she doesn’t look, I wait. If she still doesn’t look, I say it again and wait. If she still doesn’t look, I touch her and say it a third time. She’s gotten really good (with practice) at looking at me on the first try (with allowable wait time).

Only then am I trying to ask her to do something (come over to me, clean up her toys, etc.). This is working really well for us. Now, she’s still 1.5 years old. So the whole concept of following directions is new to her and something she is currently learning. I have to remind myself of that. Just because I
know she understands me, this is something she’s currently learning to do (just like using a fork, or going potty on the toilet). There are going to be mistakes, and accidents, and misunderstandings, and testing boundaries. All of that is completely normal and to be expected. I am keeping that in mind, while having my expectation be known that she listen to me the first time I ask her to do something.

Every tool that we have in our toolbox to utilize, is a good thing. Every time we can set them up for success is a fabulous thing! With success, we can provide positive reinforcement (lots of praise). This is key to learning any concept.

Now, Caroline and I both know that, if I take the time to ask her to look my way, she is listening when I give her instructions. She is focused on me and not the activity that she was doing before. This will allow her to follow the request better (since she heard me). It also allows me to provide appropriate consequences if she does not do what I asked.

I thought back to when I was teaching high school. I wasn’t about to give a new direction when I didn’t have “eyes on me”. I always stopped my class and asked for their attention. Even at the high school level, it was important to say “I need all eyes on me”. Otherwise, some students would decide they were paying attention (even if they were continuing with the previous activity). Many thought that being quiet was paying attention, when, in fact, that was not what I was looking for. I wanted to make sure I had their full attention, which meant having their eyes as well. Sometimes simple instructions like this make a WORLD of difference!

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