Parenting Tip of the Week – Giving Good Directions

Good communication with your child is key to a healthy and positive relationship. Last week we wrote about the importance of praise and active listening. This week we’re getting more specific with some tips about giving directions to your toddler or preschooler.

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Giving Good Directions

Giving directions to your toddler is about more than telling them what to do. Good directions for your child help them learn about their world, what is right and what is wrong, and what kind of behavior you expect. So what are good directions?

According to the experts at the CDC, good directions have four steps:

  1. Get your child’s full attention. Get your child’s full attention by calling them by name and making eye contact when speaking to them.
  2. Give a direction to your child. Tell your child exactly what you want them to do by being specific and making a statement instead of a question. For example, avoid giving directions like “Can you go clean up now?” Try to re-frame them as “Michael, I need you to please go clean your room.” This second sentence is more specific (“your room” vs. “up”) and is an example of the difference between asking and telling.
  3. Make sure they’ve listened and followed through. Check back after a short amount of time to see if your child listened to your directions.
  4. Add a consequence. Remember, consequences can be both positive and negative! If your child listened to you, use the kind of labeled praise we discussed in last week’s Parenting Tip. If your child didn’t follow through, enforce your directions with a negative consequence such as a loss of privileges.

Following these steps and tailoring them to your unique family can help you reduce your stress and build a better relationship with your child. We know it can be difficult, though! For some more tips to deal with specific challenges, see here.

If your child has learning or attention issues, Understood.org can be a very valuable resource. Check out this page for some of their suggestions on giving direction to children with those specific challenges.

What has worked for you when giving directions to your children? Let us know by tweeting us @PCAAmerica or by leaving a comment on our Facebook page!