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  • Writer's pictureRachel Packer

10 Tips to Help Your Child Follow Directions

Check out some simple tips that make it easier for your child to succeed in following directions. Remember to praise your child when they have successfully completed a task!

1. Ask For Your Child's Attention

Ask for your child's attention by saying, "Look at me, please. I need you to listen."

2. Minimize Distractions

Once you have your child's attention, you want to keep it. Minimize distractions before giving directions. Turn off the TV. Ask your child to put down a video game or book. Make sure he/she is looking at you.

You can model this behavior by giving your child your full attention while giving instructions. This helps show that what you're saying is important.

3. Speak Quietly

It may be tempting to speak louder or speak over your child when there is something you need to say or get done. But give directions in a calm, even voice. This way, your child can focus more easily on the substance of what you have to say.

4. Use "Wait Time"

"Wait time" is a 3-7 second pause after you say something or ask a question. Research shows that kids process better what you have to say- and respond- when you let it sink in. After the wait time your child may still not follow your directions. If so, repeat what you've said.

5. Check for Understanding

Ask your child to repeat the directions back to you. Or give him/her a chance to explain the directions in his/her own words. It gives the child a chance to ask questions and you a chance to clarify instructions.

6. Tell, Don't Ask

Many parents phrase directions as questions, such as, "Would you set the table, please?"

Your child may think he/she has a choice about following the directions. Rephrase what you've said so you are telling instead of asking.

For example: "Come set the table, please".

7. Give Instructions One at a Time

Kids with attention and learning issues may struggle to follow a sequence of steps. You may say, "Please set the table, wash your hands and tell your sister it's time to eat." Your child, however, may get stuck after setting the table. When possible, give one direction at a time. Or, try to group things together in ways that make sense.

For example: "When you're upstairs washing your hands, please tell your sister it's time to eat."

8. Number Your Directions

Typically, people can hold up to four things in their memory at one time.

Say things like: "There are three things you need to do," or use words like first, second, then, next and last.

9. Be Precise in What You Say

Kids who have problems with attention or organization may have trouble with vague directions. You may think your child isn't following directions to clean his room, but he may have trouble figuring out how to get started. Be specific. A written check list may help as well.

For example: "Please put your laundry away, pick up trash and make your bed." Instead of saying "Clean your room."

10. Use Visual Cues

You may want to point out what needs to be cleaned. You can also demonstrate what you're asking your child to do.

For example: "Please set the rest of the table the same way I'm setting this spot".

Are you dealing with an aggressive child, hyperactive adolescent, or defiant teenager? Contact me today to see if therapy would be a good fit for you and your child.

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