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.