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10 Tips to Help your Child Follow Directions

Many parents ask us how they can improve their child’s sense of following directions. Oftentimes it may seem that your child is simply disobeying you, but there can be other factors that are affecting their ability to follow instructions. Remember that each child is different, and some may struggle more with focusing than others.

  1. Establish Eye Contact: If they are in the middle of a task, make sure to get their attention clearly by asking them to look in your direction. A great way to do this is by saying: “Please look toward me. Put your listening ears on!”. To increase their engagement, you could also get down to your child’s eye level.
  2. Simple & Concise Language: When giving instructions, many parents may tell their children to do a task without specifics. For example, instead of saying “clean your room”, you should say “fold your laundry, sweep the floor, etc.”
  3. Clarify your instructions: To make sure your child has an understanding of your directions, ask them to repeat the set of instructions back to you. This will allow you to clarify whether or not they understood the task at hand. This will also allow time for them to ask questions.
  4. Sequence: Oftentimes parents tend to give many directions at once such as “don’t forget to clean your room before you eat your snack and walk the dog”. This can be overwhelming for some children. Use sequential words when giving directions such as first, then, next, last, etc. in order to avoid confusion.
  5. Positive Affirmations: Instead of telling your child what NOT to do, try telling them what to do instead. Instead of saying “don’t scream”, try to say “stay calm & quiet”. This gives your child an understanding of what they can do rather than what they cannot do.
  6. Visual Aids: Some kids may be more inclined to follow directions when visual stimulation is provided. Consider printing out photos of chores that need to be done, or pointing in the general direction of the instructions at hand.
  7. Repetition: When giving instructions, try to repeat them a few times. This will give your child a concrete memory of the task that needs to be completed.
  8. Volume Distinction: The tone in which you give directions is so important when you’re speaking to your child. A happy and enthusiastic tone is known to breed better results.
  9. “Wait Time”: A great way to go about this is by giving a set of instructions such as : “Make your bed”, and then asking a follow up question: “What chores need to be done today?”. After asking the follow up question, give your child 15-20 seconds to respond & make sure to use an expectant pause.
  10. Make Following Directions Fun: One of the best ways to engage your children is to play games with them! Games such as Simon Says, and i-spy are great places to start. Check out this link for a list of fun games to practice enhancing their “following directions” skills!
10 Tips to Help your Child Follow Directions

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