Getting your Children to Listen and Follow Directions

Behavior Modification Tips and Strategies & Parenting Tips and Strategies

Have you ever wondered how you can get your children to listen better at home? Have you ever wondered how you can get your children to follow directions the FIRST time they are given? There are many ways that you can make this happen in your home! 

Stop Nagging

This can be a tough one. As parents it’s our job to nag, right? Well, actually when we nag and remind our children what they should be doing they never actually learn to do the job or task. Why? Because they know we will nag, remind, and ask them until it gets done. This can be a tough habit to break. Let me use an example. Maybe you have to tell your child to brush his/her teeth 5 times before the task actually gets done. Try this instead, “John I need to you brush your teeth after breakfast.” Of course you are thinking, “Yeah, right, that won’t work.” Well, of course it won’t! So after breakfast simply say, “Teeth” or “brush” or “toothpaste.” A one word reminder. I promise even a 3 year old will understand what you mean. After several weeks it will become a habit and the one word reminders can be taken away. THE LESS YOU SAY THE MORE POWERFUL!


Yes, you read that correctly, practice! Practice what? Practice having your child follow directions. Depending on the age of your child give them 2 or 3 step directions. For kindergarten and younger I would start with 2 step directions. 1st grade and above should be able to do 3 step directions, or more.

An example for a kindergarten child or younger might be brush your teeth and put your shoes on. Perhaps it is first bring me a book and then go get me a pillow. Simple activities that can be practiced easily at home. If you have your child practicing following directions it will carry over into school and be very helpful to make your child successful.

An example for a grade school child would be, get your dirty clothes basket, bring it to the laundry room, and then come set the table. A 7, 8, or 9 year old should be able to do this without any reminders. Also, if you give a direction and he/she don’t follow through, don’t complete the task for your child. A good example would be if you asked your child to put his/her lunch bag in his/her back pack and he/she doesn’t do that, don’t do it for your child! It’s ok if a lunch is forgotten, homework is left at home, or a library book isn’t returned on time. Your child will learn to listen and follow directions by making mistakes, not by being reminded all the time. 

I have two very important jobs in my life. I am a mom to at 15 and 10 year old and I am a teacher of 3rd graders. Both jobs I take very seriously. Both jobs I have one main goal, to help my children be successful, independent members of society. Someday our children will go to college. Someday they will have jobs. The basic skills of listening and following directions are crucial for the future that is ahead of them.

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