Leading your Toddler: Stop, Look, and Listen

A while back someone asked me how I discipline my toddler. I don’t believe this is the way you should think about toddler behavior. Our strategy on Tinkerbell road is to lead our daughter in positive behavior and not “correct” or punish bad actions.

The structure of our model is Stop, Look, and Listen. This is based off what I learned from years of change management in the non profit and corporate world. Remember this before anything: if your child is being obstinate and isn’t listening worth a darn, there is a 1,000% chance she is tired. Nothing but a nap will work.

1. Stop

Before change can happen the action has to stop. We have had success with this and in any situation can get her to stop in her tracks. This is helpful in public and on the street when cars are coming. “Car! Stop.” She stands still like its a game of freeze tag. The work world parallel is deciding what you will stop doing in order to start something new.

2. Look

The next piece is to say “look at me”. You need eye contact for your toddler to focus on what you are saying. If they are looking away you can’t be sure they are hearing you. This part initially is a game. When I say look she knows I mean business. She will lower her head or close her eyes…anything not to look at me. At this stage in the game I am counting this as progress because evasion is evidence that she is focused on me.  But I want those eyes eventually. In the work world this is akin to getting the organization motivated and focused on the future.

3. Listen

Next: “I need you to listen to me.” This was tough at the beginning, but now I have had more than one instance where “listen to me” has elicited full eye contact and immediate change in behavior. We were at playgroup on Tuesday and she took a ball from someone else. I didn’t get the “look at me” but when I said “I need you to listen to me” she shifted focus and did exactly what I asked her. This is where the organization sets new goals and delivers the new way of doing business.

I will keep you posted on how it works. I feel confident in the process and its simplicity. We need to stop current behavior, focus on the new desired action, and then implement the strategy that comes from Mom or Dad.

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