Telling your kids what to do

Is every bath, mealtime, family outing, shopping trip or car ride a battle of wills? When children refuse to cooperate, it may be related to the way instructions are given. Here are a few simple tips that can help you.


Keep the number of instructions small. Having too many can for kids – and parents – be hard to handle.


A child with a disability may need more time to process instructions. Try to give them only one at a time and give them a chance to respond to you.


When you ask your child to do something, make sure you have their attention before you begin. Get close (within an arm’s length) and bend down to their eye level. Say their name to get their attention.


Try to avoid times when they are busy doing things like watching their favourite TV show. It’s always better to wait until the program is over to ask them so there’s no conflict.


Choose words that are clear and direct. So, instead of “Would you like to come and have your dinner now?” say, “It’s dinner time. Come to the table, please." This tells your child exactly what to do.


If you want them to stop doing something, be sure to tell them what to do instead – “Don’t run. Walk in the house, please."


Pictures can be used to teach rules and instructions to kids who have difficulty understanding words. You could make a chart together with pictures they have drawn or cut out from a magazine.

Stepping Stones Triple P’s Seven Steps to Positive Parenting

This hot parenting topic sure is a conversation starter! It relates to Stepping Stones Triple P’s third step to positive parenting: “Use assertive discipline.” Read more about the seven steps to positive parenting. Here are more hot parenting topics to get you thinking about how to use assertive discipline:

Stepping Stones reduces child behaviour problems and lowers parent stress levels

Read more evidence that shows it works