How I Tricked my Toddler into Listening

Life with a toddler brings laughter, silliness, adorable memories…and frustration. Listening is difficult even on the good days — their independent spirits are blooming, and stubbornness is in full force. If sharing my latest Hail Mary parenting pass helps at least one frazzled toddler-parent, then the struggle has been worth it!

In my extensive, highly scientific research in the field of toddlers, I have come to the following conclusion: They be cray-cray. Adorable, but certifiably crazy.

If adults acted like toddlers…

Any adult who actually did those things on a regular basis would be under psychiatric evaluation in no time. (Full disclosure: I may have witnessed my adult brother do a few of these things.) Toddlerhood is a beautiful blend of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. They’re happy and energetic one minute, then sad (and still energetic) the next. They must hear voices, because Mommy and Daddy sure didn’t say anything about eating suckers for breakfast. Or waking up at 6:30am. Every morning.

After one particularly rough morning (during my week without Facebook), I reached the end of my rope. Asher doesn’t respond to counting, or conversations, or threats, or spankings, or time-outs. I knew he needed some sort of visual aid to help him out when he went rogue. In my desperation, I turned to a paper plate. In less than five minutes, Mr. Listening Ears was born. He has my ears.

I explained to Asher that when he made good choices, listened, and obeyed, that Mr. Listening Ears would be happy. But when he made bad choices and didn’t listen to Mommy and Daddy, Mr. Listening Ears would be sad. When I introduced our new friend, I had Asher touch Mr. Listening Ear’s orange paper ears, and we talked about using our listening ears. Then he touched his own ears to solidify the concept.

He hangs out up high on the refrigerator — away from toddler hands and constantly visible. When Asher starts to exhibit a wee bit of craziness, I remind him that Mr. Listening Ears is currently happy, and we wouldn’t want to make him sad by making bad choices. Sometimes it thwarts a tantrum, sometimes it doesn’t.

On the occasion that the smile turns to a frown, Asher goes nuts. He definitely does not like seeing the sad face. He’ll fuss and cry, saying, “Mommy, make Mistew Wistening Eaws happy!” To which I reply, “Only Asher can make him happy with good choices.” Sometimes he continues on to full-on-meltdown-mode, and other times he course-corrects to earn back the happy face. We’ve had more successes than failures with this new method, which is promising.

So, my toddler won’t necessarily listen to me, but he will listen to a paper plate. I’m calling it a win.