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How to Give Clear Instructions to Children

Does getting your child to do something feel like an impossible task? One of the reasons may be the way in which you are asking. Children are not necessarily receptive to the types of verbal instruction that we use with our spouse, colleagues or other adults. Instructions for children must be given in a way that they understand. Below are some helpful hints on how to give kids instructions that will make both you and your child more successful.

Get your child’s attention – Make sure that you have your child’s attention before you give a direction. You should be within three feet of your child so you can talk in a normal or calm voice. This helps your child know that you are talking to him/her. You can get your child’s attention by calling his/her name, making eye contact, or turning off the lights.

  • Be clear and concise – Instructions should be short and to the point. The fewer words the better. A good guide is one word per year of life. (ex. Instruction for a two-year-old might be “shoes on”; where a five-year-old might be “go get your shoes on”). If there are too many words, it becomes more difficult for the child to know what is expected. The instruction should also be free of vague words.
  • Give one instruction at a time – Do not give your child a long list of instructions. When you give more than one instruction at one time, your child may forget, not understand, or feel overwhelmed.
  • Be realistic – Give your child instructions that you know he/she can follow. For example, do not expect a 3-year-old to get completely dressed by him/herself.
  • Be positive – Let your child know what you want them to do rather than not to do. When we only describe the negative behavior “don’t run” we still leave many other options available (skipping, hopping, etc.). Telling the child what we want them to do “walk, please.” Does not allow for any other options…

Read more: Parenting.org

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