Our son is really a good boy listening the first time on everything and doesn’t cry, but recently he has been the opposite. I m not strict but his mom is strict and recently my wife started a part time job since 3-4 months and he stays that time with his grandma and uncle.

What I have noticed is that he started using mobile for games. When other relatives' kids come over they play on mobile. He cried that he wanted too, so grandma and his mom got him one which I oppose. He is also crying when coming back home from grandma, but his recent change in mood has worried me.

He won’t listen to me over and over even after repeating until I scare him that I will take away his iPad or turn off TV. In comparison he is quick to listen to his mom. even when we are in the same room, while playing games on mobile, he would rather tell me to wait and the same thing after 5-10 min. As for his cousins, their parents don't bother as they literally give the mobile or "12 hours cartoon" to get them busy and it is not until someone cries that any of the parents pays attention. He learned it from them, but you cannot tell another's child not to do something, because your own child is getting spoiled (i.e. to not use mobile).

My frustration is why the sudden change of me repeating over and over again but he is not listening or crying to his mom. What is going on? Why is my son so agitated?

  • Can you identify the situation surrounding his "selective hearing"? Does it happen only when he is playing games on a device? Are calling to him from across the room, or do you get his attention first? Do his cousins behave the same way with their games? (In other words, did he learn this behavior from them?)
    – elbrant
    Jan 13, 2019 at 2:20
  • I do not call from another room or across. We are in the same room. Yes and no to his "Selective hearing" when playing games on mobile. He would rather tell me to wait and same thing after 5-10 min. As for his cousin, there parents don't bother as they literally give the mobile or "12 hours cartoon" to get them busy and it is not until someone cry that anyone of the parent pays attention. Yes and no to the fact he learned it from them, but thing is u cannot tell other's child not to something coz ur own child is getting spoiled (i.e. not use mobile), All I wanna know why my son is so agitated
    – localhost
    Jan 13, 2019 at 16:14
  • I'm not attacking you. I'm just trying to understand the situation.
    – elbrant
    Jan 13, 2019 at 19:06
  • 2
    How old is your son? Everything you've described seems pretty normal for a "toddler" to me. Jan 16, 2019 at 14:28

1 Answer 1


This isn't out of the realm of normal toddler behavior, but it seems to be true (from experience, and the anecdotes of other parents) that for some young children, mobile games, cartoons and other screen time is so over stimulating to their brains that they become quite out of balance and show personality changes like hyperactivity, increased tantrums, aggression, and sleep disruptions. There is some scientific basis to the idea that these are more than behavior problems, but have something to do with screens causing intense brain and limbic stimulation, which is a potent combination of low-level stress and strong pleasure/reward. For susceptible kids, it can be almost like an addiction.

If you think this is what is going on, and you can't correct the situation by simply limiting screen time and engaging him in more imaginative play, outdoor play, interaction with other people, etc, you may want to consider asking your son's pediatrician for advice.

But I think that your son's case is a lot less severe than that. You say "I'm not strict but his mom is strict" and "He won’t listen to me... In comparison he is quick to listen to his mom". I think that one big part of the puzzle is that he knows he can get away with not listening to you and keep playing on his device. He probably has a good idea how many times he can tell you to wait or ignore you before you get serious about the idea of taking his ipad.

You can handle this the same way as any other common childhood behavior problem: positive reinforcement (praise, nice things happen) when he listens to you the first time, and negative consequences when he rudely ignores you. Remember that punishment, especially overly harsh punishment, is usually less effective than rewarding success. Give your child plenty of chances to succeed, and don't 'set him up to fail' by always interrupting his games just to see if he reacts, but once a warning is issued (i.e. "get your shoes on now, or you will lose your ipad time for tonight"), and he ignores or disobeys it, you must follow through, every time, without fail.

Ideally, start with notifying him of the upcoming transition so he has time to process the instruction and wrap up what he's working on, ("In five minutes it will be time to wash up for dinner"), then once the five minutes are up give an instruction ("Please put the game down and wash up now."). If he does so, thank him for listening and express that he did a good job! If not, give a warning, ("Wash up for dinner now, please, or you will lose your tablet time tonight"). Then, thank him if he listens, and if he doesn't, let him know that he's subject to the consequences ("You chose not to listen when I asked you to wash up for dinner, so you can't have tablet time tonight.")

Also, I recommend that you limit your son's screen time, at the very least temporarily, to see how that impacts his health and behavior. He will certainly protest that it's unfair that his cousins have unlimited games and cartoons, but life isn't fair, and while you are right that you can't tell another's child not to do something because yours is getting spoiled, you also can't really be permissive to the point of being detrimental to your child's wellbeing just because other children can handle screen time better or their parents have different rules.

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