Getting your child to follow directions better can be the key to a happy home. Whether the children are toddlers, teenagers or somewhere in between, you can get them to understand the importance of taking direction. Work on their listening skills, and use appropriate rewards and punishments to improve their behavior.

Step 01

Give clear and concise directions. Directions should be worded as simply as possible. A concise direction will help your child understand exactly what is expected and will help you to keep her attention.

Step 11

Remove all distractions in the room. Look the child straight in the eye as you're giving the instructions. Don't tell the child what not to do; make the statement positive and direct. Ask the child if he understands the instructions after you're done.

Step 21

Use the appropriate volume, tone and rate. Raising your voice may only help to escalate the level of conflict or refusal. A child's emotions will often move closer to matching the perceived emotion of the adult giving the directive. Therefore, speaking in a lower volume will usually help to calm a situation down. He is likely to respond with a lower volume himself. Speaking just a little bit slower and using the right tone of voice can also help.

Step 31

Give the directions and usually just one reminder before following through with consequences. Most children (unless there is a specific disability or difficulty that might get in the way of their understanding) understood the direction the first time. Continuing to repeat the direction over and over can escalate stress and refusals and result in a verbal battle of control.

Step 41

Set limits. If the child doesn't comply with the directions, give her one redirection and let her know what the positive consequences are for following the direction and what the negative consequences are for not following it. If she does not follow the direction as requested the second time, follow through immediately with consequences that are meaningful to her.


  • Each child has something that is meaningful to them. Parents sometimes feel at a loss to find anything their child will work for because they have taken everything away and it does not seem to matter to the child. What matters to the child may be less obvious, like being left alone or being able to spend less time on chores.

  • If the child is given a second direction, provide a reasonable amount of time, like one minute, to make up his mind. Often children will take up the whole minute, but that has given them time to really think through the consequences and they wind up making a good choice.