Getting Your Child To Follow Instructions : 5 Easy Steps.
Finding it hard to be a parent? Confused? Don’t know what to do? Don’t know what NOT to do? Prof Ray Wilks share his take on getting your child to cooperate.
If you’re having a hard time getting your child to cooperate and listen to instructions, don’t feel too bad as most parents are in the same boat. This is not surprising since most of us get no training to be a parent. Strange, isn’t it? If we want to drive a car, we have to learn how to drive and then pass a test. But for the most important of all ‘jobs’, we don’t have to learn anything or pass a test before we can be a parent.
When groups of parent are asked how they learnt to be a parent, the typical reply is, “By doing what my parents did with me” (even if they do not agree with the methods), “By watching family programmes on TV”, “By reading magazine articles about parenting”, “by taking advice from friends”, using “trial and error” etc.
Now, while each of these sources of information may be useful, it is better to use approaches that have scientifically been shown to be helpful. One such approach concerns giving instructions to your children. Often you hear parents say to their young child, “Would you like to pack up your toys?” or “Would you mind putting your school bag in your room?” If you have give instructions like this, be prepared for your child to say, “No, i don’t want to pack up my toys”. Giving good instructions correctly from the start of your child’s life can often reduce behavioural problems in the future.
A request or instruction?
So, the first thing you need to do is decide whether you want to make a request or give an instructions. A request gives your child a choice. For example, if you say to your six-year-old, ‘i wish you’d clean up your room’, that’s a request. You want the room to be cleaned up, but he probably wants to keep playing. You have stated your preference, but you’ve left the decision to your child.
An instruction is something your child needs to follow. For example, “please pick up your clothes and toys now”. This tells your child what you expect, and when. It lets your child know that she really does not have a choice in the matter. Also, only give instructions for things you know your child capable of doing. Making the bed, for example, may be too difficult for a three year-old!
Once you have decided to give an instruction to your child and that they are capable of following them, you can follow these five simple steps, shown to be suitable for children aged up to 10 years :
Step 1 :
Get your child’s attention. How often have you called out to your child from a different room to carry out a task and realised that she has not performed the instruction 15 minutes later? When you question your child, she may reply, “i didn’t hear you. I was watching TV” or “I didn’t know you were talking to me”. To eliminate such situation, get close physically to them (about an arm’s distance) when you want to give your child an instruction. Look directly at your child’s face, get her to look at your face and reiterate your child’s name. For example: “Michelle, i would like you to do two things. How many?” Get your child to say “two”. Remember not to give your child too many instruction at once. Around one to three instruction at a time are usually adequate.
Step 2 :
Give the instructions. Be clear about what needs to be done and when. “Clean up your room! Might seem clear enough, but it really isn’t. Does it mean total cleaning that cleaning that involves putting away the toys, picking up all the clothes off the floor and putting them away in the drawer, vacuuming the floor, and wiping the desk? Does the room need to be cleaned up right away, or will some time later be alright? The better way to give instruction is to say to your child, “when I tell you to start, I want you to do two things. First, I want you to put these clothes in your room and second, I want you to put your teddy bear on the chair in your room.” Then say. “Tell me what I would like you to do?” Have your child repeat the instructions. If your child does not repeat them correctly, give the instruction again and then have her repeat them.
Step 3 :
Tell your child to start. ”OK, please go ahead and do what I asked then let me know when you have finished”. It is important that they let you know when they have finished so that you can check they have actually performed as per your instructions.
Step 4 :
Check. When your child tells you she finished her tasks, check to make sure they have been completed properly.
Praise or re-teach. If your child has done a good job, praise her enthusiastically by saying, “well done Michelle, you put your clothes away and you put teddy on the chair. That is excellent work”. When praising you child, remember to say exactly what they have done well. For example: “You put your clothes away and you put teddy on the chair in your room”. This is called ‘labelled praise’. Simply telling your child, “You have done well” is not enough. You need to be specific about exactly what they have done well.
If your child has not completed both tasks, go back and repeat the steps.
Using ‘labelled praise’ is an important part of giving praises, but being enthusiastic in your praise is also very important. You need to say it as if you really mean it. If your child did something wrong, you certainly wouldn’t let them know in a dull, boring and meaningless way. You would speak to them in such a way as to indicate your disapproval, disappointment and sometimes, your anger.
Raising children can be a joy but it can also be difficult task if you do not learn how to deal with it correctly. Knowing the tried and proven methods can enrich your child’s life and bring you and your family much happiness.
Article from Baby Talk December 2011..