Children feel more and more independent as they get older and as such, they want to do things their way. Once your child turns two, they may become less willing to follow directions. Their sense of understanding increases, making them want to experience new things and try things on their own.
Although children are like sponges, there comes a point when they may develop difficulties in following directions. When they begin to explore their independence and develop a self-image, a child’s non-compliance is their way of communicating that they are their own person. They develop their own likes and dislikes and recognize that their parents’ desires do not always match their own.
A major part of discipline is learning how to talk to children so they will listen. The way we speak to them and those around us is showing them how we want them to speak back to us. Communicating with children in an assertive manner is by far the most effective way. An assertive way of communicating is firm, consistent, clear, positive, warm, and confident. Communicating with children in an assertive way is a real skill, yet it shows your child that you understand what they are talking about and teaches them how to listen.
Here are some ways to get ahold of your child’s attention in order to encourage them to follow directions:
- Use Your Child’s Name: We all like the sound of our own names. The same goes for children. Open your request with the child’s name. Young children can often only concentrate on one thing at a time. Call your child’s name until you have their attention before you speak to make sure that they are listening. You may have to wait for them to give you their attention before you speak.
- Connect with your Child: Be close and be on your child’s eye-level when making a request. You may need to get down to their level or sit at the table with them. When you are chatting with your children, this shows them also what they should do. Not only is it good manners, it helps you to listen to each other. Say your child’s name until you get their eye contact, especially before giving them a direction. It is important that they give you their attention, and you should model the same behavior for them.
- Use Positive Language: Try to word what you want them to do in a positive tone. For example, “Only walking inside please” instead of “No running inside!” This requires much thought and practice but is well worth the effort. Positive and kind words give your child more confidence, makes them feel happier, helps them behave better, and encourages them to try harder to achieve success. Children are more likely to follow directions when the tone is positive. Children learn to imitate you and deliver the same respect and praise to others. Not only does this help improve your child’s emotional development, but it also provides your child with practice in showing kindness, which is one of Educational Playcare’s Core Values.
- Model and Expect Good Manners: Good manners at home and everywhere else should not be optional. If you model good manners to your children and everyone else, they will see that good manners are expected and displayed on a consistent basis. Start teaching your children to say the basics such as “please” and “thank you” before they can speak in full sentences. Children deserve the common courtesy of manners that adults use with each other. They will often imitate the speech and behavior of their parents and care takers. Say “please”, “thank you” and “you’re welcome” to your children as you would to anyone else.
- Speak Developmentally Correctly: The younger the child, the shorter and simpler your directives should be. Consider your child’s level of understanding. For example, a common error parents make is asking a three-year- old a question about their behavior that even an adult may not be able to answer.
- Model Good Listening: Be a role model for good listening by showing that you are paying attention to your child by imitating and reflecting back what your child says. Children are good at expressing themselves with actions. Try to verbalize the feelings your child is expressing with behavior, in words. If your child is too young to speak, try teach them some simple sign language to help them communicate. Babies as young as six months can start learning signs.
It is difficult to embrace a child’s resistant behavior at any age, however, responding harshly or with criticism may only encourage the behavior and can potentially damage your child’s self-esteem. This makes your child stubborn and resist more. Instead, remain calm and keep in mind that non-compliance is a part of development that results in children becoming the unique individuals that they are destined to be as they grow.