10 Tips to Help Your Child Follow Directions

Do we always love them? Yes. Do we always like them? Debatable.

You got it – we are talking about our children.

Sure it may sound a bit harsh, but honesty is the best policy, and – come on – we have all had days (weeks? Months?) where we are on our very last strand of patience (and sanity) because our child refuses to listen.

On those days, can you really blame us for not liking them very much? Didn’t think so.

In an attempt to reduce (because let’s be real, there’s no chance we are going to eliminate) these days, we have searched and searched, and searched some more, and pulled together a collection of, what we think, are the top 10 tips to help your child follow directions.

Not only will our children learning how to follow directions better benefit our sanity as parents, but it will also benefit them as a life skill. Whether they are starting their first job, trying out for a team sport, or taking an important exam – being able to understand and take direction is an essential skill to have.

We know you want to see your child succeed just as much as you’d like to never have to repeat yourself again – so keep reading and start trying these new strategies out today! Remember, it’s not always about what you are saying, but about how you are saying it.

  1. Command Their Attention

Before giving instructions, ensure your child is paying attention to you by asking them for their attention.

A simple “listen to me” or “look towards me” is a great preface to the instructions you are about to give.

  1. Minimize Distractions

Most of us adults can’t pay attention to too many things at once – so why should we expect our children to?

If they are watching TV, reading a book, or playing a game, get them to set it down or turn it off before dishing out your directions. If your child is focused on other things at the same time as you are speaking to them, the chances of them hearing, processing, and understanding what you’ve said probably won’t be very high.

  1. Be Clear and Direct

If you don’t try to give clear and precise directions, you really can’t blame your child if they don’t understand what you are asking them to do.

Keep things simple and to the point.

  1. Tell, Don’t Ask

If you ask, rather than tell, you are inviting them to refuse.

Don’t give them the option of saying no, because 9 times out of 10 that’s what they will do.

Rather than asking, “would you mind cleaning your room?” tell them, “clean your room please”.

  1. Give Instructions One At A Time

Chances are, if you list off 5 different things you need your child to do, they aren’t going to remember all of them. The most effective way to get through the list is to give them one task at a time. Once they’ve listened and successfully completed the first task, then direct them through the second, and so on.

  1. Use Age Appropriate Instructions

A 5 year old is not going to understand the same directions you may give to a 10 year old, and a 14 year old might be offended if you try telling them what to do as if you were speaking to a toddler.

If you want to get through to your child, you need to speak to them at an age appropriate level. The younger they are, the simpler the instructions should be. Gauge what their level of understanding is and gradually give more complex instructions as you see fit.

  1. Give Them Time To Process

We know – it’s a reflex.

We tell them something and, if we don’t see them hop to it immediately, we find ourselves repeating the order (usually with a raised voice this time) before even realizing what we’re doing.

This strategy may take a little more effort (particularly patience) on our parts – after given directions to your child, simply wait a little bit. Children need adequate time to process the things we are asking of them.

Additionally, if we are constantly repeating ourselves, our children will adopt the idea that they don’t have to listen the first time because there will always be a second or third. This is not a good habit for them to be in.

  1. Get Close

Rather than yelling orders from upstairs, outside, or in another room, if you want your child to understand and carry out your request your best bet is to physically move closer to them.

Eye contact when giving directions is important. It will make them take you more seriously and will give you the ability to see whether or not they even understand what you are asking of them.

  1. Give Visual Cues

Some children need to see to learn. If your child is having troubles following rules or directions based solely off of hearing them, trying using visual cues.

Point to what you need them to do, show them how to do it, create charts or schedules they can follow, etc.

  1. Acknowledge When They Do Listen

We may not like to admit it, but it’s true – we are all too quick to raise our voices when our children don’t follow the directions we’ve given them, but do we ever take the time to praise (or even simply acknowledge) when they do?

Even just a few encouraging words, such as a “good job” or “thank you for listening” can make a world of difference. If you are showing positivity to them, they are more likely to respond to you in a positive manner.

Do you have any other tips or tricks on getting your child to better listen and follow directions? Share them below!

References

  1. https://cyberparent.com/parenting/help-child-excel-exams/
  2. https://childmind.org/article/how-to-give-kids-effective-instructions/
  3. https://beenke.com/parenting/9-useful-tips-help-children-follow-instructions/
  4. https://www.rachelmadel.com/blog//helping-your-child-follow-directions-in-5-easy-steps-part-ii

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