Are You Giving Instructions Clearly?

We’ve all found ourselves in situations where adults are supervising children. Some adults have the ability to command attention and get children to listen better than others. All they use is what we call a Firm Instruction, a very important part of the discipline process. It's quite useful whether you're working with your own children or someone else's.

Good discipline doesn't just mean finding appropriate consequences. In fact, developing the skill of giving instructions can prevent many of the discipline problems we experience. Here's what makes a Firm Instruction work best.

To give a Firm Instruction you must first get your child's attention. This may involve things like moving close to the child, obtaining eye contact, and requesting the child remove the earphones. Next give a brief, firm, verbal instruction. You don't have to be harsh or irritated, just calm and matter-of-fact, communicating one-on-one with the child.

After giving the instruction, teach your children how to acknowledge your request. This will help you know that the message was received. A good response is to say, "Okay Mom" or "Okay Dad." This type of response tells you three things. It tells you that the child has heard the instruction, avoiding the common excuse later, "I didn't hear you say that."

The child's acknowledgment also tells you that the child intends to follow through. And lastly, the way the child responds to you indicates the child's attitude at the time. Is this an angry or disrespectful "Okayyyy Dadddd!” response? If so, now you know you're dealing with an attitude problem, not just working on following directions.

The Firm Instruction is one step in a complete discipline process, yet it’s often overlooked. Take time to evaluate your instructions and you'll be surprised at how small changes can make a big difference.

What benefits have you seen in your family from a firm instruction?

Milan Tomic

Hi. I’m Designer of Blog Magic. I’m CEO/Founder of ThemeXpose. I’m Creative Art Director, Web Designer, UI/UX Designer, Interaction Designer, Industrial Designer, Web Developer, Business Enthusiast, StartUp Enthusiast, Speaker, Writer and Photographer. Inspired to make things looks better.

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  1. I remember reading about this a while ago and we did start doing it. We like how it gave us feedback on the emotional response of our girls and started showing us attitudes that perhaps we hadn't noticed. It certainly helped create a home where what we were asking was clear and obvious.

    For our younger lass, we had to ask her to also repeat the instruction, as she became very good at simply saying 'okay mamma, okay dadda' and not following through on the instruction.

    We've dropped the ball on this one, and I've noticed that the girls are often confused as to what I have or haven't said or asked. Need to start a bit more firm instruction again.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  2. I have a 2 year old and an 8 month old, but with our 2 year old, I have found that if I give her a few minutes warning, but firmly "In 5 minutes, you have to put the blocks away for nap-time." and ask her to repeat me saying "Okay Momma." Then, when the firm instruction comes five minutes later, it goes much easier than if I were to abrupt her play immediately. I can see this working with pre-teens as well if they are in the middle of an activity- give them a warning and then when the immediate obedience is required, it won't be such a shocker.

  3. I have a 3-year old boy and he's very rambunctious. I've found that having him repeat what I just asked him to do helps him to follow through and it lets me know if he understood me right.

  4. We use yes Mam and yes Sir. To a lot of people they feel this is stuffy and old fashioned. They may not want to be called a Sir or Mam especially if your from the North. However, I feel respected and honored when my children use it after instructions. I also feel confident they will follow thru and get the job done.
    I have to admit that when we first started using yes Mam or Sir I had some defiant feeling myself but, now it is very natural.