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Steps in Giving Directions

Step 4: Add a consequence

Dad and son painting

Consequences can be positive or negative. Positive consequences let your child know you are happy with his behavior. Labeled praises, hugs, or high fives are examples of positive consequences and let your child know you are happy he followed your directions. If you praise your child, you might say, “Great job putting on your shirt all by yourself!” This praise tells your child exactly what you liked about his behavior. Click here for more information on how to give a labeled praise.

Negative consequences are things you do after your child’s behavior to show you are not happy with the behavior. Examples of negative consequences include delay of a privilege and time-out. If your child does not follow your direction, you can give him one warning and tell him what to expect for not following your direction. For example, you might say, “Pick up your toys or you will go to time-out.” If he still does not follow your direction, follow through with the consequence immediately. As your directions get better and your child learns to follow your directions, use warnings less often. Also, try to avoid repeating a direction over and over.  Warnings and repeating directions teach your child he does not have to listen the first time you give a direction. He will learn it is only important to listen after you have given a warning or repeated the direction. Always follow through with consequences if your child does not follow directions. Click here for more information on consequences.

Even if your child receives a consequence, he still has to follow the direction. After the consequence, you should give your child the direction again. If your child follows the direction, you can praise him for following the direction. If your child fails to follow directions again, you should repeat the same negative consequence so that he learns he has to follow your direction to avoid the consequence. This is why you need to make sure you have plenty of time to follow through with consequences. It may take several attempts to get your child to follow your directions.

Once your child follows your direction and the consequence is over, go back to positive interactions with him.

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