Providing Clear Instructions – a Fine Art of Discipline

Part of your everyday communication with your child involves giving her instructions to follow for her own good or that of others. There is knack to doing this well. When issuing a command, move close to her, say her name and seek eye contact. Then firmly give your order, adding whatever supporting gestures may be necessary.

Tell her exactly what you expect. Precise words work better than the vague. Commands should be stated positively and be sure to give one command at a time. Your child will only be confused by a series of them, not knowing which to obey first.

Pause and think before issuing a command you might regret later or have to back down from. If you must regret, tell your youngster that you have changed your mind, this is better than leaving a threat hanging over her.

Make your command reasonable. Stopping to take your child’s age into account, you may realize that she is not ready developmentally to respond. It is useless to tell a two year old to share her toys when she has no concept of sharing, but you can talk to her about taking turns.

Commands should never be disguised as questions. “Would you like to go to bed?” invites an honest “no”. “It’s time to go to bed” reflects a reality the child cannot easily argue with, especially if she has got used to a routine.

Avoid starting a command with ‘let’s” unless you really mean it. Too often parents use this trick to lure their child into compliance when in fact they have no intention of joining or helping her. Also avoid using threatening or verbally abusive, retaliatory or vengeful commands.

They merely create guilt and induce fearful submission. They do nothing to teach good behavior. It is essential to give a command only once. You do not want your child to get in the habit of thinking you will repeat orders until she complies, or that she need listen only when you are about to lose your temper.

If you specify that your command should be carried out right away, allow her five to 10 seconds to begin responding. Then start applauding her for cooperating. If she blanks, respond firmly.

geeta krishnan