You might be surprised that how you tell your child to do a task can make a big difference and whether they do it or not. I will walk you through some of the common mistakes parents make as a try to get their child to complete the tasks they want them to do and how you can fix them.
1.Vague requests. Don’t be cryptic in your requests. Be very clear about what you are expecting from your child. Be sure to include any timeline expectations you have. Avoid: “Mary, I want you to pick up your room this weekend.” Instead say: “Mary, I need you to vacuum and dust your room before dinner tonight.”
2. Asking in a passive voice. Be firm and directive in your tone when giving a command. That does not mean increasing the volume of your voice. It means making the request expecting that your child will do what you ask them.
3. Asking in the form of a question. A common mistake. It is much different to say “Johnny, will you go clean your room?” vs. “Johnny, I need you to clean your room now.” If you are not giving them a choice in whether they do the task, don’t give the command in the form of a question.
4. Giving too many commands at once. Most children have difficulty with more than one or two commands at a time. This is especially true for ADHD children. Instead give instructions preferably one at a time so that the child can focus on that one task. If it helps, you can write down tasks that have multiple steps, but only present one at a time.
5. Get your child’s attention when you give a command. Nowadays there are multiple things vying for your child’s attention: videogames, their phones, texting with friends, the TV, etc. There are two things you can do to help with this: first turn off the distraction before you give the command. Secondly physically bend down so that you are eye to eye with your child to give them the request making sure that they are looking at you versus whatever it is they were doing.
6. Not making sure your child heard the command. It can help when parents ask their child to repeat the instructions given to them. That way you can ensure the child heard what you are requesting of them accurately.
7. Not writing commands down so you don’t have to repeat it. Oftentimes conflict occurs because a parent is having to repeat over and over the commands they are giving their child. Write down clearly what you are expecting the child to do. If a child is unclear what you are asking, refer them to the list you wrote so that does the talking for you.
There you have it. Simple steps that can have powerful results. As you are starting to implement giving more effective commands, keep it simple. Choose one behavior to focus on. Be sure to practice saying the commands aloud so you hear the tone of your voice and feel what that is like internally for you. Then begin to implement the change and notice the impact it has on your child. Many parents I work with find doing this small change coupled with other strategies can make a tremendous difference with their child’s compliance.