Help! The children in my 2–3s room don’t listen to me. How can I be firmer with them?

Question: Help! The children in my 2–3s room don’t listen to me. How can I be firmer with them?

Promote a calmer environment and reflect on the needs behind children’s behaviour

We hear you! Whilst 2 to 3-year-olds are a delightful and exuberant age group, we can often feel like their behaviour is challenging us.

When engaged with something, they find it difficult to shift their attention to something else – so even though they might hear your voice, they don’t yet have the capacity to stop what they’re doing and focus on your instruction. Your lack of loudness or firmness has nothing to do with it – speaking quietly and not adding to the already busy environment is more helpful here.

Try cutting out background music, putting soft furnishings on tables and shelves and offering indoor/ outdoor play. Get down to face level and provide clear, short and calm instructions, in single steps. Visual prompts, like a daily timetable or behavioural reminder posters, might also help.

Reflect on your expectations and the needs behind the behaviour:

  • Is it an attempt at connecting with you or other children?
  • Are routines or transitions taking too long?
  • Do children need more active play or quiet play opportunities to support self-regulation skills?
  • Are you expecting too much of them?

Behaviours are always telling us something and your understanding of individual children and child development will support you to figure it out.

Caitlin Mason
Consultant, Community Child Care Association

Angry, overwhelmed child sitting at a table, massaging his temples