7 Ways to Avoid Asking Your Kids 100 Times to Follow Directions

Peace at Home June 1, 2017 | Ruth Freeman

A parent recently asked me how to stay calm when asking her child to do something 100 times. She made me laugh, but this question really deserves a complex answer – the entire theory behind how to win cooperation. But here is the simple answer.

  • Don’t ask your child to do anything more than two times.
  • Set kids up for success by having a daily routine that includes important tasks taking place at the same time on a regular basis – such as clearing up public spaces, putting away toys, preparing meals and getting ready for transitions (morning and evening routines, departing for sports or other outside activities). This might mean that 15 minutes before dinner each day is pick up time for the whole family – except the cook.
  • Try to organize more challenging tasks to take place before more pleasant activities and use the “When, Then” format. “When you get dressed and have your backpack ready, then we will sit down to breakfast together and I am looking forward to that!” “As soon as your room is picked up, we will go to the park.” “If your homework is done by 7:00 we can watch that TV show together.” And then refrain from nagging, coaxing and reminding. Allow natural consequences to occur. Use enthusiastic praise as soon as task is completed.
  • Consider family meetings to talk about weekly chores and plan fun times together. Use family meetings to address chronic challenges, come up with solutions as a team and rotate leadership of those meetings.
  • Make sure that you spend positive, fun time with your child every day, just enjoying time together. Fill up their attention bank – so they don’t have to use misbehavior to get attention.
  • When your child follows directions use effective praise – describe the behavior in positive words and express yourself enthusiastically.
  • Remember that compliance is not really an important measure of your success as a parent. It is often overrated and leads to too much parent-child conflict. You want a child with strong self-worth, confidence, compassion and curiosity. 100% compliance isn’t necessary for all that.

And perhaps most important, reflect on your own ability to manage stress. It is called self-regulation. Most parents want their kids to develop self-control but that only comes when kids can regulate their own internal stressors – self-regulation. And they learn that essential skill from our modeling and their relationship with us. If you are wired, reactive or overwhelmed, it will be difficult for your children to calm down enough to follow directions and more importantly to develop internal controls.  Learn ways to bring your brain back to calm and in the long run it will help your child’s capacity for following directions.

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