Wondering How To Get A 3 Year Old To Listen? Here Are 5 Tips

‘Josh? Josh? JOSH-UA?? 1….2….. 2 and a half…’ (which is a glorified 3, and we all know it).

Sound familiar?

Yes. Too many.

Raising a toddler has some huge challenges.

And I know that may not be so comforting when you are in the throes of flying shoes, temper tantrums, or a hunger strike, but there are ways to avoid completely losing your soul as you scramble your brain for ways to get your toddler to listen.

During these desperate times, we must remind ourselves why they aren’t listening. The reasons are likely more than simply a build-up of ear wax. So before we move on to how to get a 3-year-old to listen, we should look at why. Let’s take a look.

What you will learn:

  • Why your 3-year-old doesn’t listen
  • How to get a 3-year-old to listen

Why Is My 3-Year-Old Not Listening?

how to get a 3 year old to listen


It almost sounds draconian to question whether or not your child is catching enough zzzs. Most children, by age 3, will have dropped their daytime naps, which leaves a long window of time during the day that they are now awake. Those naps are dropped naturally, as the need for them disappears, but what you are left with is a child adjusting to a brand new day. What is also a key factor is that so are you. You loved it. An hour each afternoon to put your feet up with a coffee and some sugary snack. Just a smidgen of ‘you’ time that left you both restored for the rest of the day.

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Well, that is gone now. And don’t you both know it?

Another question you may ask yourself is, on top of the napless day, are they sleeping enough or adequately during the night? As each child differs, you might be wrestling with wet nights as you train away from nappies. Is there a broken pattern forming, and is there a way you can fix it?

Eating Habits

Hidden sugars in foods, alongside poor diets, can cause brain fog, restlessness, and mood swings that vastly outweigh the five minutes of fake energy that those things bring.

Do you ever wonder why your child bounces off the wall one moment and then appears grumpy the next? It might not be anything that you are aware you are doing wrong. Hidden sugars and coloring can be found in various foods and even medicines that we assume are safe or make our children happy or better.

Take a few minutes to explore what is going into your toddler. It may even be that they are not getting enough food. 3 year olds can get hangry too.

Screen Time

lady looking at smartphone

I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about you. How often do you sit on your phone or laptop, promising you will be just a few minutes when you say, ‘I’m not listening to you right now, but I will be ready to in a few minutes.’ If this sounds like it could be you, then what is happening mirrors what you are doing.

Put the phone down. Whatever it is, it isn’t that important.

Remember Their Age

It sounds too easy, but you do have to remember, through all the frustration, that your child is at the ripe age for protesting. They learn who they are, what they like and dislike, and how to push buttons. A child needs time to develop their ability to retain instruction, and so naturally, at this age, they will fight tooth and nail. Because they can. That might not be what you want to hear, but you still have the upper hand.

They need you now more than ever to help them.


By remembering their age, you can also ask yourself if what you are asking or saying to them is even met with understanding. Children grow quickly, but their brains still develop ways to respond and filter what is around them.

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If what you are saying to them seems too complicated, they will switch off and even display their own confusing response as anger. Make sure you are simplifying your requests.

How To Get A 3 Year Old to Listen

So you have thought about what could be going wrong for you. You have thought about possible reasons why your child doesn’t listen to you, and you want to take further steps to understand how to get a 3-year-old to listen. Where do you begin?

There are steps forward from this point, and the awareness of what may be going wrong is half the battle. Don’t be fooled. It won’t be easy to create harmony in your household. But once you have broken the barrier and taken control of what is causing the upset, you will reign supreme again.

Shall we explore your options?

Routine Routine Routine

If you know what’s coming, you know very quickly how to adapt. Being a child is no different. It is crucial to implement a routine for them (and you) so that you can enter each stage calmly and with preparation. Not much is said for differing bedtimes or contrasting meal times. For example, your child is left thinking, ‘When will I get my next meal?’ or, ‘What time will I go to bed tonight?’

The best thing to do is look at your days as they are now and ask yourself, how can I level out the consistency for both myself and my child?

Arrange those mini landmarks in the day to coincide with your needs, and ensure that they become a regular pattern.

Setting Expectations

I don’t mean for yourself. Keep your expectations at the back of your mind. Your child right now is the one who needs expectations. This is different from knowing sleep or dinner is coming. These are those little moments during play or as you get ready to transition from playtime to mealtimes.

Do you ever notice how your child isn’t ready to finish what they are doing to do something else? Me too. The best advice to give here is to give a simple heads up. ‘OK, we will have 5 more minutes, then it is time for,’ ‘Alright, two more minutes and then it is time for,’ and so on.

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This is a very effective tool when going from one thing to another and can also be applied with, ‘5 more turns and then we need to start packing up.’

An equally effective way to set this type of expectation is to set a timer. My favorite is my phone timer, and I will set it on however long I need. But the goal here is that when the time is up, the time is up.

Don’t Back Down

This leads me to point 3. Do NOT back down. No, Sir. Do not change the goalposts. If the goalposts move, your child will assume they have, and no matter how much you think you’ve got this, you don’t if you change your mind or back down.

Stick to your guns!

Quality Time

mom talking to toddler

Easy to say, especially if you are already a stay-at-home parent, but quality time with your little one is essential. You form bonds, and you get to be a kid again. Your child also feels like they can come to you for fun and attention (the right sort of attention). When we don’t give that positive reinforcement, we return the need to give negative attention.

The shouting, the tears, the unnecessary time spent creating the memories you’d rather forget. So play. Read. Laugh. And Know that its’ OK to do those things.

Sometimes cleaning the house can wait!

Level With Your Child

One great way to understand your child is to get down to their level. I don’t mean to start shouting back at them. I mean physically crouching down and meeting their eyes with yours.

Listen to what they are saying. Why are they fighting whatever your requests are? Meet them in their world, and you may surprise yourself with a discovery.


Understanding how to get a 3-year-old to listen takes time. Changing your habits to change theirs isn’t easy.

But once you meet halfway in a land called a happy medium, you will soon discover that it was all worth it.

Good luck! 


About ME

Let’s start with the obvious, I’m a dad.

I have 2 kids. One was dragged out from the comfort of his Mother’s womb kicking and screaming, and the other was a little easier.

Dad Gold was created to give tips that I wish someone had given me!

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