How to Give Clear Directions

Do you ever feel like you are constantly repeating yourself when giving directions to your child?  Or wonder if she is really listening to you?  Frustrations build making you and your child unhappy which puts a strain on your relationship.  Listening and following directions are important skills for young children to learn.

There are many reasons why a child will not respond when a direction is given.

  1. The child didn’t hear the direction because it was said in passing or from a distance.
  2. Too many directions are being given at one time.
  3. The direction was too vague and the child doesn’t understand what is being asked. Requests like “Be nice” or “Settle down are not direct enough.
  4. The direction does tell the child what you want from her. Instead of saying “Stop running”, say “Use walking feet.”
  5. The direction is stated as more of a question or suggestion rather than something that needs to be followed. Change “Will you put your shoes away?” to “Lauren, please put your shoes by the door.”

The important factor is following through once you have given a direction.  Try the following technique with your child when he has trouble complying or following what is being asked.  Make sure you have you child’s attention before speaking.  Eye contact is a good indicator.

Do-State the “do” direction.

W-Wait for response (silently count to 5)

A-Ask the child to restate the direction

W- Wait for response (silently count to 5)

P-Provide encouragement or help, if needed.

Remember to “pick your battles” and try not to insist that your child follow directions that are not important.    It is not worth creating a major struggle it is best to just pick a few directions that you will follow through with your child.