9 Things Your Toddler Will Pretend They Don’t Hear You Say, Because Selective Listening Starts Early

Toddlers are funny creatures. They’re still learning to grasp language, and the communication gap can be frustrating for all parties involved. Not being able to express their wants or needs may lead to epic meltdowns on their part (and sometimes yours, too). And yet, they can use their developing language skills to their advantage when it comes to being able to pretend they don’t understand what you’re saying when you ask them to do something they don’t want to do. Toddlers understand way more than we give them credit for, and they’re smart, too. If you tell your toddler something they don’t want to hear, they’re great at pretending they didn’t hear anything at all.

I feel like I spend half my toddler-rearing time telling my child not to touch things, only to have those requests completely ignored. “What? Me? I thought you were talking to the other small person in the house,” she seems to say. She’s also mastered the art of looking me right in the eyes as she does something I’ve explicitly asked her not to do, only to cry hysterically when I pull her away from said thing. There are several things that I can always depend on my toddler to pretend she hasn’t heard me say.


“Don’t Touch That.”

This one will elicit the equivalent of a “la la la, I can’t hear you” from your little monster. Because they will, in fact, touch that.


“It’s Time For Bed.”

My child likes to distract from this one by requesting more books be read. It’s effective, since I want to instill a love of reading in her. How do you say no to a toddler politely requesting to read?


“Do You Need A New Diaper?”

If I smell the invigorating aroma of fecal matter, I’ll ask my toddler if she pooped. She stares at me blankly before looking away. If I ask if she needs a new diaper, she’s more direct. She very plainly states no while waving her arm in my general direction to prevent me from getting close enough to pick her up and carry her to the changing table.


“That’s Not Yours.”

In Toddler World, everything is theirs. It is not, however, yours.


“Don’t Push That Button.”

“What button? This one? The one I’m pushing right now?”


“Here, Eat These Vegetables.”

I’ve tried every trick in the book to get my kid to eat vegetables, with no luck. Most recently she ate the noodles and sucked the cheese sauce off the mac and cheese, while spitting every piece of hidden broccoli back out onto the table as if to say she caught on to my master plan.



No is meaningless when they hear it come from your mouth, but serious AF when they scream it at you. Interesting how that works.


“We Don’t Lick Shoes.”

“Maybe you don’t lick shoes, mom, but I happen to think they taste great.”


“Please Don’t Play With Your Vulva At The Table.”

File this one under “Things I Never Thought I’d Say.” And yet, why would anyone want to play with their vulva in the privacy of their bedroom when they can do it right at the dinner table?

Images: Courtesy of David D./Flickr; Giphy (9)