Quick Tips

Six Keys to Giving Good Directions:

  1. Make sure you have your child’s attention when you give a direction.
  2. Be clear about what you want your child to do and when she needs to do it.
  3. Ask your child to repeat the direction back to you to make sure he understands.
  4. Avoid asking questions when you want your child to do something.
  5. Give one direction at a time.
  6. Model good listening skills during special playtime and give your child positive attention for good listening.

Giving Directions

Giving good directions are useful in many situations:

  • Good directions teach your child how to behave.
  • Good directions are helpful when you need your child to do something specific or stop your child from doing a misbehavior or something harmful.
  • Good directions can prevent misbehaviors.

Steps for Giving Good Directions:

    1. Get your child’s attention. Bend down, squat, or sit next to your child so you can make eye contact.
    2. Give the direction. Tell your child what you want him to DO instead of what NOT to do.
      • Be sure the direction fits the child’s age and abilities.
      • Tell your child exactly what you behavior you want to see.
      • Give one direction at a time.
      • Give the direction in a neutral tone. Avoid yelling or raising your voice.
      • Be polite and respectful. Modeling politeness and respect when giving directions teaches them good manners.
      • Use gestures as needed. Kids sometimes do not understand what they are being told to do. Simple hand motions can give them the clues they need to understand.
      • Choose your words carefully. Give directions that are clearly what you expect your child to do and only use words like “let’s” when you will be helping your child.
      • Give limited choices. Only use choices when you are ok with what your child chooses. Using only two choices works best with young children.
      • Provide carefully timed explanations. If your child asks “why” to a direction, provide a reason before giving the direction or after the child follows the diction.
    3. Check compliance. Make sure your child follows your direction. They may seem like they did not follow directions by:
        • Doing something slightly different.
        • Dawdling or stalling. Sometimes children may say, “Wait a minute,” or tell you they are going to finish something else before following through with your directions.
        • Pretending not to hear. Many children ignore directions in an attempt to delay or avoid having to do what you told her to do.
        • Following part of the direction. Children sometimes do part of a direction but not the entire direction. If it is clear your child understood and is able to do what you asked, doing only part of the direction counts as not following directions.
        • Following directions with a bad attitude. Children may follow the direction but with a bad attitude.
        • Undoing. Children sometimes do what you tell them to do and then undo it. You may need a second direction or a more specific direction to get your child to do what you want.
    4. Add a consequence. If your child follows your direction, tell her exactly what you like about what she has done. If she does not follow directions, remain calm, get the child’s attention, repeat the direction, check the child understands what you want him/her to do, and warn the child what consequence will follow if he/she does not do as told. If your child does not follow your direction within a short amount of time, remain calm and follow through with the negative consequence you warned him/her about.

Click here for more detailed information about the steps for giving directions

Page last reviewed: November 5, 2019