5 Ideas to Help Kids Learning to Follow Directions
Please put your toys away. Please put your toys away. Please put your toys away now! Sound like a broken record? Sometimes it does around my house. It can be very frustrating and hard to keep calm when your child does not follow instructions or completely ignores your requests. Often kids view these instructions as commands or even punishments, when they are simply ways to make their lives (and ours) easier. Following directions is a crucial life skill, and if it’s not cultivated properly at home can be a problem once school arrives. What are some ways you can help your child follow your directions? We’ve got a few ideas.
5 Ideas to Help Your Kids Follow Directions
One at a Time – Give your child one instruction to follow at a time. Younger children, or those with attention deficit issues will not respond well to a number of tasks as once such as “put your shoes away, clear your plate and hang up your backpack”. Instead, choose one activity and wait until your child successfully completes the task before giving him another. If you have an older child, think about giving him or her a list of single items to complete. As your child completes one chore, he can cross it off the list and move onto the next.
Eliminate Distractions – Before telling your child about a chore or a household rule, it’s important to eliminate all distractions so she can focus on what you are saying. Turn off the TV or computer, face your child and speak to him or her clearly. You will find that taking time out to eliminate distractions works much more effectively than yelling directions across the house.
Define your Expectations -As busy parents, we don’t always clearly define our expectations of what we would like to see our children do at home. It can be frustrating to walk through the door at the end of the day to a messy kitchen and get angry at our kids for not tidying it up. Instead, clearly define what you expect to happen. You could say to your child, “By the time I get home from work, I would like you to put the dishes in the dishwasher, wipe down the counters and set the table for dinner.” With clear expectations, the entire family should be able to eliminate frustration and confusion and the chores should be done without question.
Choose your Words Carefully – Sometimes by simply changing the way you phrase the request, your child will be able to follow directions. Think about telling your child what you would like him to do, rather than asking. For example, “please pick up the towels from the floor” is more effective than “will you please pick up the towels from the bathroom floor?” Kids who hear the request as a choice, likely will not complete the chore. Instead, don’t phrase the chore as a choice, phrase it more as a command.
Reinforce Positive Behavior – Often we, as parents, are quick to reinforce or recognize negative behaviors. (Yes, even I’m guilty from time to time!) Think about rewarding the positive behavior instead. Recognize your child’s excellent listening skills, or their responsiveness for performing the task after only one request, or even the positive attitude they maintained while working. If your child begins to receive positive reinforcement for following directions, expect him to have an easier time complying with your requests.
If you’d like more information or ideas, check out Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish’s book, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk.”