How to Discipline Your Children When They Are Not Following Directions

Preschoolers love to test whether their parents’ warnings will be enforced, how far rules can be stretched, and how closely directions must be followed. Give your child consistent results for her research on the adult world. Prove to your child that you mean what you say so she’ll feel more secure about what she can expect from other adults. Your making and enforcing rules may seem dictatorial to your child, but despite her protests she will feel more secure knowing that limits are set and rules are defined as she moves from a litde to a big person’s world.

Preventing the Problem

Learn how many directions your child can follow at once.

Your preschooler will only be able to remember and follow a certain number of directions, depending on her developmental stage. To find out your child’s limit, give one simple direction, then two, then three. For example, for three directions say, “Please pick up the book, put it on the table, and come sit by me.” If all three are followed in the proper order, you’ll know your child can remember three directions. Identify her limit and wait until she’s older before giving her more complicated directions.

Discipline Child

Let your preschooler do as many things by herself as possible.

Because she wants to follow the beat of her own drum and have total control over her life, your preschooler will fight for the chance to make choices. Whenever possible, give her the opportunity to develop her decision-making skills and increase her self-confidence. The more control she feels she has, the less likely she’ll be to reject taking directions from someone else.

Avoid unnecessary rules.

Analyze a rule’s importance before you etch it in stone. Your preschooler needs as much freedom as possible to develop her independence.

Solving the Problem

What to Do

Give simple, clear directions.

Be as specific as possible about what you want your child to do, to make it easier for her to follow your directions. Make suggestions but try not to criticize what she’s done. For example, say, “Please pick up your toys now and put them in the box,” rather than, “Why don’t you ever remember to pick up your toys and put them away on your own?”

Praise following directions.

Reward your child for following your directions by praising her job well done. You can also show her how to appreciate someone’s effort by saying, “Thank you for doing what I asked you to do.”

Use countdown.

Make the rule that your child must start a task by the count of five, for example, to ease her into the idea of leaving her fun for something you want her to do. Say, “Please pick up your toys now. Five-four-three-two-one.” Thank her for starting to clean up so quickly, if she does.

Praise your child’s progress-Be a cheerleader as your child takes steps toward completing your requested task. For example, say, “That’s great the way you’re getting up and starting to put those toys away.”

Use Grandma’s Rule.

Children are more likely to follow directions when they know they can do what they want to do after a task is completed. For example, say, “When you’ve picked up the books, you may turn on the television ” or, “When you’ve washed your hands, we will have lunch.”

Practice following directions.

If your child is not following your directions, find out whether she’s unable or unwilling by walking her through the task. Guide her manually and praise her progress along the way. If you discover she can do the task but simply refuses to do so, say, “I’m sorry you aren’t following directions. Now we have to practice.” Practice five times, then give her the opportunity to follow the directions on her own. If she still refuses, say, “It looks like we need more practice. When you finish practicing, then you may play with your toys.”

Following Directions

What Not to Do

Don’t back down if your child resists.

Say to yourself, “I know my child doesn’t want to do as I say, but I’m more experienced and know what’s best for her. I need to teach her by giving her clear directions so she can eventually do things herself”

Don’t punish your child for not following directions.

Teaching your child how to do something, instead of punishing her for not doing it, avoids damaging her self-esteem and doesn’t put attention on her failure to follow directions.

Filed Under: Family & Relationships


About the Author: Alan Kennon lives a very happy life with two kids and a lovely wife. He likes to share his life time experiences with others about how they can improve their lifestyle and personality.

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