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Positive parenting strategies to use when your child isn't listening

Here's how to keep things calm and drama-free when your child isn't listening.

positive parenting when your child won't listen

Giving kids choices has so many benefits—choices build confidence, teach responsibility and prevent tantrums. But sometimes offering choices doesn't go as smoothly as we'd like.

Say you give your child choice A or B...and they choose C. Now what?

For example, it's time to leave, so you ask, "Are you going to put on your shoes all by yourself [choice A] or would you like my help [choice B]?" Reasonable choices that are typically a slam dunk, and out the door you go.

But today, your child ignores you, runs away, picks up their shoes and throws them across the room. That's a lot of choice C.


You might find yourself heating up, tipping over the edge, and marching your child firmly by the arm to make them do just what you want them to do.

You might find yourself pleading over and over, hoping to avoid a meltdown and still get out the door in one piece (though definitely not on time).

You may be frustrated because you understand choices are good, and here you've given them what is good for their little independent selves...and it didn't seem to work.

Here's the thing: Your child chose C because it is his job.

His job is to practice being in charge of himself as often as possible. His job is to test you, to let you know HIS preference, to state loud and clear "I am the boss of ME!"

And your child is right. He IS the boss of himself, and as the boss, he gets to ultimately decide what choice he will make. This is truly evidence of just the kind of self-directed, independent soul you (most of the time) want to grow. Someone who is in charge of themselves.

Okay, but you still need to get out the door. To continue to support your child in their quest to be independent it is important to respect their choice. How does this look and still get out the door—maybe on time?

Try this:

Describe what you see and acknowledge feelings, always

"It looks like you aren't ready to put your shoes on. I can see how mad you feel. It is time to go, and because it is too hard for you to choose I will choose for you."

And maybe you then wrangle your child into your lap and wrestle their shoes on—calmly, matter-of-factly, communicating your respect that they chose otherwise, communicating clearly the result of their choice. And now your child has the opportunity to discover whether they LIKE the result of choice C. Because you are calm and matter-of-fact, it isn't about YOU, it is about them and their choice.

This is truly an opportunity for learning and growth.

Let them see the results of "choice C"

What if it is fruitless to wrestle shoes on, since it takes just one swift kick and the shoes go flying off once again? Maybe the result of their choosing C is that you pick them up in one arm, their shoes in another, and out the door you go. This gives them the opportunity to decide if choice C really was something they liked.

If they don't...Say something like: "You chose to not put on your shoes. You don't like bare feet, it makes you really upset. When we get to school, you can decide if you are going to put on your shoes by yourself or with my help."

(Again, describe what you see and name the feelings!)

Now your child learns a bit more about what they are responsible for—all because you've respected their choice and responded calmly and matter-of-factly about what needs to happen.

Find "option D"

Or maybe you can tell your child needs option D, and you are okay with that.

"Hmmm...looks like you really want to keep playing with your marbles. We need to get shoes on and head out. You can bring your marbles with you if you like. I'd really like to see the biggest one of all! Can you come show me while we put on your shoes?"

And now you've respected their desires, flowed with their energy, and still pointed them in the direction necessary to go. They can feel in charge, and you can feel grateful it worked.

Staying calm and matter-of-fact helps your child discover whether or not he likes the result of the choice he made—now influencing him in such a way that the next time around he may be more likely to choose differently.

What does this require of us? Patience. Understanding. Humor! Consistency. Stamina. Creativity. The ability to PAUSE—essential for helping you find that calm place to respond, that calm place from which to be okay if meltdowns occur.

Choice C—it really is okay. Breathe through it, honor it and be clear on what you really want. Communicate respect for your child's choice and encourage the growth of an independent soul. And still get out the door.

We're so glad to live in a time when modern baby gear exists. Sure, no one is going to argue that having a baby is easy—but it can be easier with support from some gadgets designed to help your baby and put your mind at ease.

As you build your baby registry, look for products that go the extra mile to make your life a whole lot easier. For example, what's better than a bassinet? A bassinet that can rock by itself. And what's better than a traditional baby monitor? One that allows you to actually take a peek at your baby. Believe us when we say these upgrades can make all the difference.

Here are 10 baby gadgets that will make your life so much easier… relatively speaking, of course!


A bassinet to promote safe + sound sleep

HALO Innovations Bassinest Swivel Sleeper Essenta Series Nautical Net

The safest place for your newborn to sleep is in your room, but not in your bed. Thanks to the swivel function of the Halo Bassinest, you can easily tend to your baby during the night—which means more sleep for you, too. Trust us when we say that is the best gift you can give a new parent.

$239.99

A smart swing for your baby

4moms mamaRoo 4 Bluetooth Enabled High-Tech Baby Swing - Classic

Believe it or not, many babies are born with strong opinions about how they want to be rocked, swung or shushed to calm down. With the mamaRoo's various motions and reclining positions, you'll be able to find a setting your baby loves when you need to free up your hands for a bit.

$219.99

A complete travel system for car + sidewalk

Chicco Bravo Travel System - Indigo

No matter where the day takes you—or what mode of transportation you need to get there—getting a complete travel system for your baby will equip you for anything.

$379.99

A swaddle you don’t have to wrestle

Love To Dream Swaddle UP Original

What do babies and Harry Houdini have in common? A knack for breaking out of tight constraints—which can be a headache when swaddling is the best way to help promote good sleep. Thanks to a breakout-proof swaddle that allows your baby to sleep with their hands up, you don't have to work up a sweat just to get your baby comfortably swaddled.

$29.99

A nursery wherever you need it

Baby Trend Lil Snooze Deluxe II Nursery Center

During the early days of parenting (when you are feeding and changing your baby around the clock), having convenient access to everything you need with a go-anywhere nursery station can save you serious time and energy.

$99.99

A little help for stuffy noses

Fridababy NoseFrida Nasal Aspirator

Up until the point years down the road when your child is able to blow their own nose, the sniffles can be a real struggle—but not with a nasal aspirator that makes it easy for you to get that snot out of their nose.

$15.99

A way to keep an eye on your baby

VTech 5" Digital Video Baby Monitor - VM5251

Trust us when we say you'll sleep better when you know your baby is also sleeping soundly. That's why we're so thankful for modern-day video monitors, which allow you to check in on your sleeping baby without running the risk of waking them up when you sneak in for a peek.

$79.99

A bassinet for hands-free rocking

Simmons Kids Silent Auto Gliding Elite Bassinet - Odyssey

Babies are soothed by rocking motions. But what does that mean for you if you can't rock them throughout the night? With an auto-gliding bassinet, they can comfortably drift off to sleep... and continue snoozing.

$99.99

An easy way to contain diaper smells

Diaper Genie Expressions Pail

Sometimes it's the little conveniences that make a big difference in the quality of your day-to-day life. That's why a great diaper pail should not be undervalued: By containing the smell, you will save yourself dozens upon dozens of trips to the garbage can.

$24.99

A white noise machine that pulls double duty

Hatch Rest Sound Machine, Night Light & Time-to-Rise

A phone-controlled sound machine may be something you never considered until now, but it will be a major lifesaver for years to come, especially as it can also function as a time-to-rise clock that promotes good sleep habits for your child.

$59.99

And as for securing all these awesome products? Well, a Target baby registry is the way to do it. By creating your baby registry with Target, you will also enjoy their Year of Benefits registry program, which includes perks like a welcome kit with more than $100 in savings and samples, two 15% off coupons to complete your registry, and a full year of returns. The benefits are better than ever right now: Target just launched the Year of Exclusive Deals perk as one of its registry benefits, and this includes a year's worth of discounts on baby essentials (think diapers and formula) and comes complementary when you sign up for Target Circle.

Because while parenting may not be "easy," deciding to register with Target definitely is an easy decision. Start your Target baby registry now and enjoy shopping with a Year of Benefits featuring a Year of Exclusive Deals available via Target Circle, two 15% off coupons, a year of hassle-free returns, a free welcome kit and more!

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.


And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3

$35

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Life

20 baby names that mean miracle—and will never go out of style

In these extraordinary times, we could all use some small miracles.

Meaningful baby names will never go out of style. Whether you decide to name your newborn after a beloved family member, or are simply searching for a name that reflects the journey that led you to parenthood, whatever you choose will stick with you for the rest of your—and your child's—life.

Almost every parent, at some point, refers to their child as a "miracle," though the meaning of the word itself might differ depending on who you're talking to. Miracle is a beautiful word that can double as a name, but there are many other thoughtful baby names to choose from if you're considering giving your baby a name that suggests an extraordinary event, a gift from above or a rare wonder.

Whether you're looking for a familiar name with a miraculous history, such as Aaron, or you're searching for a unique name that means "rare miracle," such as Ender, there are so many choices for both girls and boys that are equally as meaningful as they are interesting. Choosing a baby name with the special meaning of "miracle" is a signal of hope and optimism—and in these extraordinary times, we could all use some small miracles.

Putting a unique twist on a beautiful classic isn't hard with these baby names that mean "miracle."

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