Why Won’t She Follow Directions?

Do you ever get frustrated that your child doesn’t seem to follow directions?  Maybe the problem isn’t your child, but the way you’re asking.

In a recent email from ExchangeEveryDay, the following caught my attention:  “As adults we often forget when we are talking to children, that they think more concretely and process information at a slower pace than we do.   When we adapt our instructions to children’s levels of understanding, we are not talking down to them.”  This observation comes from David Elkind in his new book, Parenting On the Go.  Elkind offers tips to go along with this observation, such as…

  • Be specific.  Instructions should be short and clear…  One guideline is to use one word per age of child.
  • Because children process information more slowly than we do, it’s a good idea to give only one instruction at a time.
  • Accentuate the positive.  You will have much more success and much less frustration if you tell children what you want them to do rather than what not to do.
  • Phrase your instructions so as to tell the child what you want, not ask him or her to make the decision.

Along with his advice, another good tip is to let your child know that he/she did a good job after following your directions. Praise your child. The more you praise your child, the better the chances are that he/she will follow directions in the future.

I know this is advice that most of us know, but in the midst of parenting, we sometimes forget.  The most important thing to remember is – How You Ask Matters!




Have a Great Week!