A Typical Conversation With Ethan

A typical conversation with a toddler and/or preschooler goes something like this…

Me: Ethan, don’t do that please.

Ethan: Okay.

Me: Ethan honey, don’t do that please.

Ethan: Okay.

Me: Ethan, I’m not going to tell you again! Don’t do that, okay?

Ethan: Okay.

Me: Ethan? Do you want me to flip out? DON’T DO THAT PLEASE.

Ethan: Okay.


Ethan: What did I do, Mom?


Or sometimes, it goes like this…

Me: Ethan, please leave your sister alone.

Ethan: Okay.

Me: Ethan, I’m not going to tell you again. Hands to yourself, okay?

Ethan: But I’m not doing anything.

Me: I just watched you push Lila. Don’t.Do.It.Again.

Ethan: I didn’t push her.

Me: Yes you did! I just watched you do it! Don’t touch her or your going to your room and I’m throwing away the gun/sword/toy/finger that you are poking her with.

Ethan: Okay.


Ethan: What did I do, Mom?


Or occasionally, I get this…

Me: Ethan, please don’t wrestle with your sisters. You are bigger than they are and you can hurt them.

Ethan: Okay.

Me: Ethan, I’m not going to tell you again. No more wrestling.

Ethan: But how come they can wrestle and I can’t?

Me: Because you are bigger than they are and you are a bully. You don’t wrestle nicely, you are trying to hurt your sisters.

Ethan: No I’m not.

Me: Yes you are. Honey, you just body slammed Mia. That’s not okay.

Ethan: Okay.


Ethan: I didn’t do it! Lila did.

And the problem with that last one? Is that he probably didn’t do anything but I have it so programmed in my brain that he’s bigger/older so he must be the one handing out the ass whoopin’s. Truth is, I think Lila is sneakier than he is, and Mia is a bully. I think Ethan probably gets in way more trouble than he actually causes.

But this one is my favorite…

Ethan: Mom? Can we go play in the front yard?

Me: No.

Ethan: Why?

Me: Because I’m making dinner right now and then we have to do your homework and take a bath.

Ethan: Okay.

Ethan: Mom? Can we go play in the front yard?

Me: No!

Ethan: Why?

Me: Because I just told you that I’m making dinner right now and then we have to do your homework and take a bath.

Ethan: Okay. But Mom?

Me: Hmmm?

Ethan: Mom? Can we go play in the front yard?


Ethan: Okay.

Ethan: Mom? Can we go play in the front yard?

This is everyday, all day people. Why does nobody listen to me until I freak out? Okay, don’t answer that. I know I’m a pushover. I’m working on it….

How do you handle toddlers and preschoolers who just don’t listen? What tips or tricks can you share? I’m begging here!



  1. I never thought I would be a yeller. And I wasn’t- when I had one kid. Then I had two and the oldest hit the two’s and threes and yea- all bets are off.
    And seriously, why won’t they just listen sooner.

  2. You know what is scary?

    some days, I have those conversations, and my daughter is eight. hold me.

    Her issue is mostly not listening…and I know that I need to make sure that I am looking at her eyes and she is looking at mine when I say things like that so I KNOW she is focusing on my words. But when I’m busy, I forget that sometimes.

  3. 😀

    I don’t have a solution, but I keep reminding myself to a) get down to their level and make sure they look at me and acknowledge that they understand b) use positive words instead of “don’t” i.e. instead of saying “don’t push your brother” I’ll say “please play nicely”… or something like that…

    It doesn’t always work though and I’m already used to the fact that the minimum time kids need to hear a command is about 5.

  4. Good Lord – I would lose my mind!
    But then this is why the Good Lord gave us wine


  5. It is refreshing for me to read that moms all over have the same struggles daily that I have! We have been trying Love and Logic with our kids and it seems to work well. I am often telling my 8 year old that I love him too much to argue and that is all I say. He now gets it that I won’t change my mind and that is all I will say so he can’t argue with me! The toddlers are entirely a different story! I am now doing things like if I ask them to pick up their room I ask them if they want to pick it up now or in 10 minutes from now. If they don’t pick it up I go in with a trash bag and fill it with everything on the floor! I have only had to do this once! (and no I didn’t give the toys back although they are hidden in the basement!)

    Oh these endless battles make me TIRED!!!
    Good Luck!

  6. I have no tips or tricks because i am going through the exact same thing you are and may or may not have any hair left since i have pulled it all out for these same examples. the only difference is my 3 yo is a girl and the 2 yo twins are boys. I feel your pain, you are not alone in this. Hang in there, this too shall pass, or that’s what i keep telling myself anyway :)

  7. I feel ya! I have crazy conversations like that all the time with my 3 kiddos. Also, I know of at least 1 time where Bridge did start it w/Sean. But that was his first taste of pay back, ya know. Like she finally had enough of him pushing her around. Now it’s pretty much the two girls against him and of course, he’s usually the one caught.

  8. I have similar conversations with my kids, but they’re older. I know, that probably doesn’t give you much hope for the future. Sorry!

    I’ve decided that kids listen better when we yell. I hate yelling, but they make me do it! Sometimes, I also debate of speaking in a foreign language. Maybe it would work better?

  9. oh my sweet friend…I have these same conversations every single day too….TIMES 2!!!! I ask them “would it better if I said it in another language or LOUDER???” “How many times do I have to say it?” Gio answered the other day, “Maybe 3 times Mommy…”

    He’s lucky he’s cute 😉

    loved this !

  10. My girls, annoying though they can be with 30-minute crying jags over who got to wear the fairy costume last, do actually hear what I say. They may not act on it, but they are wise enough not to ask twice (ok, not to ask three or four times). My 2.5 yo son? Roo? He’s just like Ethan. A never ending stream of repetition. never mind that I have explained myself. never mind that I’ve said no. never mind that I’ve threatened exposure on the forzen tundra if he persists in asking again, and again, and again. He’s the energizer bunny of annoying. My solution? I say yes, or sure, or right way! Then I ignore him. Buys me, oh, 5 minutes of peace.

  11. LoL! Sorry, shouldn’t laugh but, the post and frustration brings back so many memories.

    I’ve got a couple suggestions for you: ignore him. First answer (to why they can’t ___) is sufficient. Second time, think of it as confirmation. (Re-iterate why they can’t ___.) Third time, ignore!

    You’ve made yourself clear so you don’t need to get sucked into the badger game. (Mom, please?)

    Also, instead of yelling, even when you want to … whisper. It kind of stuns them into submission because they can’t be yelling and hear you whispering at the same time. LoL

    Good luck!

  12. Oh yeah. Talking to a little boy is like talking to a wall. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get any better.

  13. Jen is SO right. They are like talking to a wall. They don’t absorb anything.

    Even when they’re 8 and a half.
    I hate to be the bearer of bad news.

    When I’m not sure who did what,I make everybody go to their neutral corners for 10 minutes and chill out.

  14. okay so i know i shouldnt be laughing – but i am… sorry! just sounds SO MUCH like my kids – especially at dinner time. I have no advice {sorry} i really do think it’s just ‘how toddlers are’. sending patience :)

  15. No tips from my side either, I have similar situations with my tot (3yo). I do the counting to 3 and it usually helps by the time I finished with 2, however …
    o.n.l.y. if I rise my voice (aka yell). If I talk with my normal voice, he’s just ignoring the counting and keeps doing what he’s doing. And he doesn’t have a physical hearing problem, not at all. He just tries me. Sigh. I hope it’s a stage and it will pass. Some hope is allowed, right? 😉

  16. Oh I can relate! I’ve started saying, “Gee honey, I’ve already answered that question.”

    And for the behavior troubles, I’m a believer in the redirect-warning-consequence strategy. But it’s ME that has to be consistent…otherwise I just end up negotiating with them, which is a no-win situation for me.

    Hang in there!

  17. This actually stressed me out a bit because it is currently exactly what I am living thru!

  18. My toddler won’t listen, and it drives me insane. I resorted to yelling at first but it all it did was force my toddler to ask me louder! I just ignore or ask my husband to take care of it

  19. Every time I find myself thinking “Well, when he knows a few words, things will be easier” “Well, once he passes his terrible twos, things will be easier” I read stuff like this that makes me wonder what the heck I’m getting myself into! Do they offer patience lessons?! Maybe if I start now, I’ll be fully prepared for Mason to be Ethan’s age. EEK!!

  20. Yeah, I have conversations just like these every day in my house too. Especially the pushing one. Or the “don’t throw the kitten in the air or make it scream because you’re hurting it” conversation. Or the “don’t roll on and jump on the baby-you can do it to your sister but not the baby because he’s too little” conversation. I don’t know what I was thinking by having 3 kids in 3 years, even though I adore them. I am constantly screaming at someone to stop doing something.

  21. I feel your pain, lady! Just the other day I took Rachel to the bathroom in Target, and while I was helping her with her pants and wiping, I was repeatedly telling her NOT to touch the tampon trash can that’s affixed to the stall wall! “Rachel, don’t touch that, it’s dirty…Rachel! Don’t touch that!…..Rachel! I said don’t touch!….RACHEL! WHAT PART OF DON’T TOUCH DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND?”

  22. sigh…this is what Eddie is going to be like, isn’t it?

    and from experience i know that it doesn’t get better. My teenage students (mostly the boys) are STILL like this.

  23. Laughing so hard. With you, not at you. Just this morning I looked at my family and christened them, “The People Who Never Effing Listen to Me.” I didn’t actually say the F-word, but I could have – because none of them were listening.

    The only thing I’ve found that works is to squat down or sit down, so we’re eye-to-eye, and nearly whisper when I talk to them. Even then, it only works some of the time.

  24. HAHAHA! Funny, cause it’s so familiar

  25. I really wish I could give you some words of wisdom, especially being that my kiddo is now 15. Unfortunately, all you’d have to do to get a conversation between my son and I down is simply change a few of the words to make them more age appropriate.

    He’s heard the majority of what I say almost every day his entire life…..and yet he still needs to be reminded. He still forgets. And I’m just left there, asking myself how, why, where did I go wrong?

    What I have learned so far is this. Gauge them more on how they act out in public or when you aren’t around. If you’re constantly getting reports that your child is so amazingly awesome that his friend’s parents want him around more in the hopes that his behavior rubs off, instead on insisting they are most definitely talking about the WRONG kid, pat yourself on the back for doing a good job. They never act like that to their parents…it’s the only universal thing I’ve heard of so far. But at least you’ll have that :)

    New follower

  26. I was that 2nd kid, and since I was a girl, all I had to do was walk into a room my older brother was in and scream or cry and my mom would immediately come in and holler at him! I try not to do that with my oldest, but I do it every time!

    And I have the exact conversations with both my boys. Or the conversations consist of “Why” after every single thing!

  27. As a few have noted, it really doesn’t improve as they age. All my kids still are like this and they are 6-17. I’ve considered just recording my voice so I don’t actually have to speak.

  28. I have conversations like this hourly. In fact, as I was reading this, I was having a similar conversation:
    “Open the cabinet?”
    “No. Do not open the cabinet.”
    “OK! Open the cabinet!”
    “No! What did I just tell you?! Do not open the cabinet!”
    Lather, rinse, repeat.

  29. If you figure out the answer to this one let me know won’t you.

  30. I have a flat spot on my head from banging it against the wall.

    I have the converse (?) of this as well.
    Maddy: Mommy, I want milk.
    Me: Ok, one sec.
    Maddy: Mommy, I want milk.
    Me: Let me put down the groceries.
    Maddy: Mommy I want milk.
    Me: Yes Maddy, I’m getting you a glass.
    Maddy: Mommy, I want milk.
    Me: I heard you, I’m getting it.

    Someone shoot me.

  31. Let me assure you, as a middle school teacher, I dont’ think it ever stops. I must repeat myself 45000000 times per day and then when I have HAD IT, they are so shocked– what did I do? I guess I don’t scream enough in the classroom (I save that for home) so one girl imitated my deadpan “I am very angry right now. So angry. Furious. I can’t believe you have made me so mad right now.” She told me they didn’t believe I was mad because I was too calm. If only they knew that this was because the alternative would have gotten me fired!!