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Following are some tips to help you when your children just won’t listen to your instructions

1. Give your instructions simply
To get children to tune into what you have to say we need to follow the advice of successful advertisers. You’ve only got a few seconds – say the headline only. Coca-Cola doesn’t say, we think you’ll like Coca-Cola, it is black and fizzy, it was developed by scientists in Germany for medicinal purposes etc. etc. They say: Coca-Cola is the best drink, buy it now! When a child is misbehaving you’re lucky to get their attention at all, so don’t push it by trying to explain WHY they have to change what they are doing. They won’t be listening. You will be wasting oxygen and words.

Teaching, or filling in the ‘why’ is for later when everyone is calm and not misbehaving.

2. Give instructions once only
Giving instructions once, is about being assertive and in charge, repeating yourself actually puts the child in charge. It tells them that you have got nothing else but to keep repeating yourself.

3. Give instructions clearly
Giving the instruction clearly is about telling the child what you want them to do. We often tell children what we don’t want them to do, which is too abstract for a child who is misbehaving. Children change their behaviour more easily through replacement not erasure. It is too much to expect them to just stop behaviour without giving them something to replace it with. E.g. Instead of, “Stop running in the house!!” say, “Sam, walk in the house. Thank-you.”
Remember: Say thank-you at the end of the instruction, not please or ‘O.K?’  Saying thank you is polite and sends the message that you expect it to happen. It stops you from raising your voice at the end, which changes your clear directive into a question.

Children are clever, if you ask them a question – they know they have the right to answer either way!

In my next article I will be sharing some more ideas explaining what to do if you still find yourself repeating your instructions over and over.

  • If they ignore you and appear to be staring into space wave your hands in front of their face – not too close but to make sure whether or not they react. 1. It could be a hearing problem. 2. It could be an absence seizure…….Say their name first to get their attention. Please don’t do what one Mum I know does – yell instructions and wonder why the request isn’t done. There is more than child in the household.

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  • A common problem shared by all mums. Now my kids have left home, I have 2 dogs and a hubby that don’t listen :/ Although one has an excuse, he is deaf.

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  • I know that feeling! Really interesting article! Thanks for sharing this!

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  • I find that if you give more than one instruction it is too hard for them to focus and follow,

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  • SOME GREAT IDEAS HERE TO TRY ON MY GRANDAUGHTER, BU T I MUST SAY SHE IS A PRETTY GOOD GIRL ANYWAY

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  • make sure the instructions are clear and the children understand what is meant

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  • I just hate it when you ask a 7 year old to do something and make sure you say please, only to be given a blunt “no”., and who seems to have lost manners and doesn’t say “please” or “thank you” any more…..yet you have a 2.5 year old who says them most of the times without even being prompted even when tired and grumpy.
    They have both been taught good manners using the same phrases etc. Where oh where did we go wrong with the elder one??

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  • Great attitude to this problem! I have two at home

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  • And some days you just have to ask the three times!!!

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  • sometimes I think the kids are deaf, they totally ignore you when you speak to them. is it a learned art or do they really zone out

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  • I find myself repeating instructions to get ready every single morning with my 6 year old son – it’s driving me crazy!!

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  • My kids don’t listen it’s a boy thing!!

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  • I’d love it, if my children would listen to me and I didn’t have to repeat myself over and over and over :(

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  • Thanks for the tips.

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  • We have a similar strategy – limit the words used, don’t repeat (as prior requests unanswered give the child the impression they don’t always have to cooperate) and treat others as you want to be treated – ie if you would like them to be polite be polite to them


    • I tried that and Missy denied I said it an hour later.
      Not true because she scowled at me when I spoke to her the first time.

    Reply

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