In Therapy

One of the most common complaints from parents is that their child refuses to follow their directions. When a child is defiant, it can cause power struggles in the family that can cause problems in the parent-child relationship. You may start to feel that the majority of your interactions are negative rather than positive.

The following strategies can be used to help increase your child’s compliance and ideally, strengthen the relationship between you and your child.

  1. Catch Your Child Following Directions

You may feel that your child never, ever listens to you, but often times this may be partly because you are only focusing on the negative interactions. If you want to see your child be more compliant, make sure to provide labeled praise when your child follows your directions – the first time.

“Thank you so much for cleaning up your room when I asked!”

“I love it when you help me set the table for dinner.”

  1. Get Eye Contact

When giving a command to your child, first make sure that you have your child’s attention. Sometimes we assume children are paying attention, but in reality, they are focused on something else. To get attention, make sure that you make eye contact with your child.

Get rid of other distractions in the environment. If you are giving a command, but the child has the television or tablet on, chances are that you will not have your child’s undivided attention.

  1. One-Step Directions

After you have your child’s attention, try to keep the direction short and sweet. I like to tell parents to stick with one command rather than giving multiple directions at once. Instead of saying “clear your dish from the table, go upstairs, and brush your teeth,” try just starting out with “clear your dishes from the table.”

  1. Watch Your Phrasing

I’ve noticed that some parents phrase their commands as questions, such as “Do you think it’s time you turned off the television?” Or “Can you clean up your toys now?” When you phrase it as a question, it is not a command and your child could very well respond with “Nope!”

Instead, change your question into a command by stating “clean up your toys” or “turn off the television.”

  1. Tell Your Child What You Want to Happen

Often times, parents give vague commands such as “cut that out” or “stop it.” While you may be aware of what you want your child to stop doing, your child may be confused. Instead of giving instructions like these, tell your child exactly what you want them to do. Ideally, these instructions should be positively-worded.

So here’s an example. You notice your child poking his sibling. Rather than telling your child to “knock it off,” you can say “Keep your hands to yourself.” This tells your child exactly what you expect of him.

  1. Give Warnings

Some children have difficulties transitioning from one activity to another, especially if the next activity is a not so preferred activity. Try giving your child a countdown, when feasible.

“You have five more minutes and then the television needs to be turned off.”

  1. Follow Through

Make sure that you consistently follow through with the consequences of noncompliance. Strategies such as time-out or loss of privileges can be helpful strategies. The key word here is consistently. If you only follow through sometimes, your child will be more likely to test your limits and continue to disobey.

  1. Seek Help

If you are concerned that your discipline strategies are not working, it is a good idea to seek professional help by a psychologist who can help you better manage your child’s difficult behaviors.

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