Teaching with Choices: Get your Child to Follow Directions

Getting your kids to listen and follow directions is no easy task. Every parent and teacher struggles with this and it takes time to refine this process.

And that’s what I call this, a process. Because sometimes you have to put a lot of work upfront to get things ready in order to make the process work smoothly. Teachers and moms try different things until they find the method that works with their goals.

But what if you feel like you’ve tried everything? And your child just says no?

Then this is when you have a short term option and a long term option.

Short term Option: Provide Choice!

Young children are like teenagers. They struggle with autonomy and express the need to be independent. That’s where choices come in.

If you give your child choices to do something you want them to do then they are more likely to express autonomy.

For example, try some of these common ideas where you can see there is a choice, but the goal is clear.

Getting dressed: Do you want to put on your shirt first or your socks?

Washing hands: Do you want to sing (ABC song) or count?

Going to the lunch table: Do you want to hop like a bunny or walk like a dog?

Cleaning up toys: Do you want to use the 5 minute timer, or race against a song?

But sometimes you need a lot more work behind these choices to make them effective. That's where the long term options come in.

Long Term Option: Practice in Play!

Let’s look at when you want your child to transition.

Transitions mean you’re wanting your child to shift from one thing to another.

It’s super hard for us to do even as adults. Think about it, you’re comfortable, on the couch, or watching something and you know you have to get up and go do something. For kids it’s the same thing, but they don’t have the long planning or consequences of time concepts such as if we don’t leave the house ‘now’ you would be late for work.

Transitions are extra hard on kids because they have to shift from one environment to another that’s usually taking them away from play to a less desired activity.

That’s what simplified teaching is all about. Taking the child’s natural moment in time and creating a learning experience with it. Children need time to watch and practice expectations with caregivers. When a mom teaches a child how to do something through play while feeling connected, the child is more likely going to follow the directions when expected to do so in a non-play situation.

But if you want a quick list of ideas to use with transitions this tip sheet gives you 8 simple ideas to try right away to get your child to play while transitioning from one activity to another.

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