Parenting Tips

Helping Your Child Mind

Children spend a good part of every day following instructions, so it's no surprise when they don't always comply. One way to help your child mind better is to give good instructions. Here are some suggestions for giving effective instructions:

  • Only give an instruction if it is really needed.
  • Gain eye contact before giving an instruction.
  • Use a neutral tone of voice.
  • Give instructions one at a time.
  • Give instructions that are developmentally appropriate. Some tasks have multiple steps, and your child may need you to simplify them.
  • Tell the child what to do instead of asking.
    Say Please sit down right here instead of Would you like to sit down?
    Say Please pick up your toys instead of Let’s pick up your toys, okay?
  • State commands positively.
    Say Please get down instead of Don’t climb on the coffee table!
    Say Please hold my hand instead of Don’t run away from me!
  • Avoid repeating commands. Your child might come to expect you to repeat yourself before he/she complies.
  • Avoid vague commands.
    Say Please walk instead of Behave yourself!
    Say Please wait for your turn
    instead of Play nicely.
  • Provide choices when appropriate, such as You may watch TV or color quietly.
  • Use redoing commands for certain behaviors, such as Go back and walk this time
    or Put the toys away gently this time, instead of throwing them.
  • Use “when-then” statements, such as
    When you finishing picking up your toys, then you can play your video game.
    When you complete your homework, then you can invite your friend over to play.

Don't forget to use praise whenever you can. It will have positive consequences, including:

  • causing the behavior you like to increase
  • helping your child understand what you like
  • increasing the child's self esteem
  • adding warmth to your relationship, and
  • making both of you feel good!

It is estimated that, every day, the average child hears 432 comments or words that are negative and only 32 that are positive. You can build a more loving, cooperative relationship with your child by choosing positive words and body language when you communicate.

These tips were submitted by licensed psychologist Charley Bowen, MA, who works with children and adults at Cabell Huntington Hospital's Counseling Center. If you'd like to learn how to improve your relationship with your child, please call the Counseling Center at 304-526-2049.

 

  • Last updated: 02/11/2014
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