Helping children follow instructions

As a parent, I try very hard to set my children up for success.  This is especially difficult when I want them to do something that I know they might not want to do at the time.  Several families have asked me about this lately, AND I have found an excellent resource lately, so I wanted to share a few thoughts.

 

Sometimes, I’ll ask nicely for them to do what I want them to do.  I make sure to use Please, as this is the magic word in our household.  Sometimes, I just sidestep the request and try the following:

If my 3 year old needs to do something that she doesn’t want to do, I try to give her two appropriate choices to accomplish whatever, and/or a good reason to do it.  For example, she typically doesn’t want to go to the car, so I’ll ask enthusiastically – “Do you want a piggy back ride to the car, or do you want to hop like a bunny?” (Or whatever her favorite movement is at the moment – a great reason to have a large realm of movement options.)  Or “When we’re in the car, we can listen to the Fiddle Dee Dee CD or the Zoo Train CD.  Which one would you like?.”  Most of the time these work.   If you’ll notice, I didn’t directly request for her to go to the car – that would start off on the wrong foot.  (I also use these techniques to get her to go brush her teeth.  When James was young, the only way I could get him to go to brush his teeth was to carry him upside down.)

 

As SOON as she makes a move to comply, I PRAISE her “That’s a GREAT idea, jumping like a frog to the car – what a helpful choice you made.”  as I hop along with her, singing “Here we go a Hopping to the Car…” and ribbit a few times.  It is really important to offer specific praise about their ability to make a good choice, as SOON as they start to move toward that choice, and continue to make that choice a fun one.

 

If none of my creative ideas are making a difference, I bring it down to, “You can choose to do it yourself, or I will need to help you.”  Again, because we have done this for so long, it usually works.  She now says “Oh, OK”.  But, she is 3 years old, and very strong willed, and occasionally I have to help her by picking her up and physically assisting her to do whatever needs to be done.

 

Recently I listened to a CD by Becky Bailey called “Preventing Power Struggles”.  In it she supports a lot of these ideas, and details very specifically how to get out of the Power Struggle Loop.  Although I’ve offered choices and positively redirected the younger age well for awhile now, I still learned a great deal by listening to this CD, especially about adding words of empathy while physically assisting them to make appropriate choices.  I actually would add a few differences to what she has to say, but this 2 CD set is a really great start!

 

I was also enlightened about how differently older children should be approached.  I really needed this.  Although I’ve got good bearings on the younger set, as my son gets older, these techniques are not working so well.  There’s a reason!  And something different to do!  I look forward to trying some of her ideas.  Although I’m still not ready for him to grow up so fast.   

 

See www.beckybailey.com , for the resource.  It actually comes in a set that includes the book “Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline”, and a set of Responsibility Cards.  I am just starting the book, and would love to have conversations with others who might also be interested in reading it along the same time.  Anyone interested?

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