By Tara Cummings, BA, BST-BA
Parents want happy and harmonious homes. So do children in fact. Children often scream and cry to get what they want, but they would prefer not to, just as you would prefer not to have to feel like you’re going crazy! If you find yourself frequently feeling frazzled and just can’t seem to get your children to follow instructions and routines, simple strategies exist to set you on your way to happier times. If you’re not quite at the stage where your child is resisting and protesting, don’t skip reading the rest of this! Setting up for success is the most important approach to parenting. So even if you’re in the midst of chaos or not currently feeling concerned, being prepared to provide effective instructions will make a world of a difference for you. So, let’s dive right in with the following recommendations for effective instruction giving (note: this method is for instructing your child to do something versus stop something):
Step 1 Formulate your approach wisely: Be within close proximity, say your child’s name, get down to his/her level and provide a brief and concise instruction. If it is necessary to provide an explanation, keep it very short. Keep in mind that the more you talk, the more you’re likely to escalate in frustration and the more your child is likely to escalate with avoidance or protesting.
Step 2 Provide warnings: You child deserves to know that a transition is about to happen. You plan your day and therefore have the luxury of knowing what is happening next. Your child doesn’t so when it’s time to move on, make sure that you set up for success by giving warnings. I recommend 2 to 3 warnings. They can either be time warnings or turns. For example: 5 mins, 2 mins and 1 min remaining or 3 turns, 2 turns, 1 turn remaining.
Step 3 Provide choices: Do you feel good when someone tells you what to do without any room for discussion or choice on your part? I’m going to assume you’re answer is a strong no. The same applies for your child. Build choices into your instructions to offer control to your child. When a child feels like they have some say in what is happening next, they are more likely to follow through with your instructions. Choices can be very simple such as “Do you want to wear your red shirt or the blue one?” or “Do you want to do it or do I help?”
Step 4 First-Then statements: Build motivation into your instructions by telling your child the fun thing that is happening next. This means that you should structure your day by having preferred activities follow less preferred or non-preferred activities. When you provide your warnings and the instruction to begin a transition, use a first-then statement. Example: “It’s time to leave the park. First walk to car, then your favorite song!”
Step 5 1-2-follow through: This is the “go” step. You are now ready to begin the transition. 1) State your instruction, wait 5 secs (count in your head). 2) Repeat the exact same instruction, move closer and point in the direction of the task/activity, wait 5 secs. 3) Repeat the exact same instruction while simultaneously prompting your child to go/start. You can prompt them by guiding them forward, hand-over-hand prompting them or showing them the first step of the activity. Example: 1) “It’s time to pick up your toys, then snack.” 2) “It’s time to pick up your toys, then snack” while pointing at the toys. 3) It’s time to pick up your toys, then snack” while taking their hand and moving it forward to pick up the closest toy.
What do you think about these steps? Take the time today to try them out. The more you use these effective instruction giving steps the more success you will have with your child. If you experience kick-back with step 5, stick with it. Always be prepared to follow through. If you’re not willing to stand your ground, don’t give the instruction in the first place!
For more great tips, parenting information or support go to www.TrueChange.ca, e-mail Tara@TrueChange.ca or call 613-858-8524.
Tara Cummings is a Behaviour Specialist trained in Applied Behaviour Analysis (the science of behaviour). She provides evidence-based parent coaching, training and behaviour consultation to help parents with challenging
behaviours as well as to help parents develop positive parenting skills. Parents who learn and work with Tara raise happier, healthy children in calm and harmonious homes. Contact Tara to sign up for an e-mail course that includes these steps as well as 29 more daily recommendations and tips to make you an effective parent. Additional support and training is also available.