Boys Town's Top Five Strategies for Giving Instructions to Children

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Parents often find themselves frustrated when children don't do what they want them to do. Boy's Town Psycholigist has some advice in these situations which could reduce the frustration and result in children following instructions.

The more you praise your child the better the chances that he/she will follow directions in the future.

Boys Town today released advice for parents on giving children good instructions. Children are not necessarily receptive to the types of verbal instruction that we use with spouses, colleagues or other adults. Instructions for children must be given in a way that they understand. The national child care organization, started over 90 years ago, encourages families to instruct children in a way that will make both the adult and child more successful.

1.    Get the child’s attention –Be within three feet of a child in order to talk in a normal or calm voice. Get the child’s attention by calling his/her name, making eye contact or turning off the lights.
2.    Be clear and concise – Instructions should be short and to the point. The fewer words the better. A good guide is one word per year of life.
3.    Give one instruction at a time – Do not give a child a long list of instructions. Give a child instructions that he/she can follow.
4.    Be positive – Let a child know what they should do rather than what not to do. When adults only describe the negative behavior such as “don’t run,” many other options are still available to the child. For example, tell the child, “walk, please.”
5.    Don’t ask, tell – Do not ask your child to do something. Instead, tells a child, in a firm but pleasant voice, what it is that they should do. Do not say, “Will you go brush your teeth?” That would imply that the child has a choice. Instead say, “Go brush your teeth.”

“Make sure you reward compliance by letting your child know that he/she did a good job following the instruction,” said Amanda McLean, Ph.D., Boys Town Psychologist. “The more you praise your child the better the chances that he/she will follow directions in the future.”

Boys Town counsels families and schools across the country on best parenting and discipline practices. These strategies incorporate those teachings and can be used for effective parenting in the home.

You can find more information at The Boys Town National Hotline also offers free advice to parents 24/7. Call 1-800-448-3000.

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Kara Neuverth
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