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Parenting Tip

February 28, 2013

 Giving Instructions Clearly

 We’ve all found ourselves in situations where adults are supervising children. Some adults have the ability to command attention and get children to listen better than others. All they use is what we call a Firm Instruction, a very important part of the discipline process.

A Firm Instruction is quite useful whether you’re working with your own children or someone else’s. Good discipline doesn’t just mean finding appropriate consequences. In fact, developing the skill of giving instructions can prevent many of the discipline problems we experience. Here’s what makes a Firm Instruction work best.

To give a Firm Instruction you must first get your child’s attention. This may involve things like moving close to the child, obtaining eye contact, or requesting the child remove the earphones. Next give a brief, firm, verbal instruction. You don’t have to be harsh or irritated, just calm and matter-of-fact, communicating one-on-one with the child.

After giving the instruction, teach your children how to acknowledge your request. This will help you know that the message was received. A good response is to say, “Yes Mom” or “Okay Dad.” This type of response tells you three things. It tells you that the child has heard the instruction, avoiding the common excuse later, “I didn’t hear you say that.”

The child’s acknowledgment also tells you that the child intends to follow through. And lastly, the way the child responds to you indicates the child’s attitude at the time. Is this an angry or disrespectful “Okayyyy Dadddd!” response? If so, now you know you’re dealing with an attitude problem, not just working on following directions.

The Firm Instruction is one step in a complete discipline process, yet it’s often overlooked. Take time to evaluate your instructions and you’ll be surprised at how small changes can make a big difference.

This parenting tip comes from the book Home Improvement, the Parenting Book You Can Read to Your Kids by Dr Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN.

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