How to Get My 3-Year-Old to Listen

By Amy Sutton
monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

Preschoolers are busy little creatures that are packed full of virtually endless energy and seem to always be getting into something. So, it's understandable if you feel like you're always harping on your 3-year-old to get him to listen. Don't be too hard on yourself, though, because you're not alone. To get your munchkin to listen, understand how his little mind works.

Understanding Your 3-Year-Old

Before you can determine the best way to get your preschooler to listen to you, you need to understand her. At this age, it is common for children to confuse fantasy with reality. HealthyChildren.org recommends that you join your preschooler in fantasy play to help her find new ways to work out her problems and express her emotions. This bit of freedom will help her become responsible and conquer her fears.

Speaking to Your Preschooler

Preschoolers are not yet capable of understanding complex rules and instructions, states HealthyChildren.org. If you want your 3-year-old to listen, provide him with clear, concise instructions. Keep what you're saying short and to the point. If you chatter on and on, you're going to lose his attention and you'll be wasting your time. Instead of staring at him from above, get down on his level to speak to him, suggests BabyCenter. Crouch down next to him or sit down at the table to speak with him, remembering to maintain eye contact.

Reward Good Behavior

Listen to your preschooler when she has something to say, to show her that her opinions and thoughts matter. She will be more likely to listen if you give her that respect. Praise her for her accomplishments and good behavior. When you catch her being good or doing something well, tell her what a big girl she is and that you're proud of her. Spend quality time playing with her and enjoy this special time in her life, suggests WebMD.

Disciplining Your 3-Year-Old

After clearly explaining the rules to your preschooler, it's important to create consequences for ignoring these rules. At this age, short-term consequences work better than long-term consequences, according to KidsHealth. Create a time-out area in your home, a place without any distractions. When your 3-year-old breaks the rules or doesn't listen to you, place him in time-out. It's recommended that you either place your child in time-out for one minute per year of age, or until your child calms down.