The Instruction Routine: Step One


Hi! I'm Ed Miller.
One of the most common complaints I hear from parents is this, "My daughter won't listen or do what I tell her." There are a number of reasons why it's important to address this issue with your children. 

Children who learn how to follow instructions at home when they're young will be more successful in life. The home is the primary laboratory where this skill can be developed. They'll then be able to follow the instructions of their teachers, coaches, instructors, employers and others in authority positions. They'll be able to put aside their personal agenda and choose to trust someone who they should respect, obey and honor. 

Let's say for example that your son gets a job at the local grocery store when he's of the age to begin work. His boss has given the assignment to stock shelves in Aisle 9. He's putting cereal boxes on the shelves. His boss comes running over in the middle of the stocking job and says, "Joe, a customer dropped a jar over in Aisle 4 and it's a dangerous mess. I want you to go right over and clean that up." Your son Joe responds, "I haven't finished stocking the cereal yet. I'll go over to Aisle 4 when I'm done." The supervisor then loses his cool. How long do you think Joe is going to keep his job? 

Here's a video father is trying to get his sons to get ready to leave. They don't listen and he gets frustrated and upset. 

Does this ever happen in your family?  

If you answered "no" you're probably not telling the truth! Lol!

The father made a couple of mistakes in this example. 

  1. He yelled across the room and didn't get close to the child. This damages the relationship between the parent and child.
  2. He had what we like to call a "loose" Action Point. The Action Point is the place where the kids know he means business. They know that nothing was going to really happen until day came over to them and raised his voice. Unintentionally, he's trained them that they don't have to respond until he gets upset. 
The boys weren't perfect either.
  1. They didn't respond to their father's words.
  2. They didn't come when they were called. 
So how do we change this pattern into something more healthy? 

First, you want to have a meeting with your children and talk about this new routine. Explain the value for them of learning how to follow instructions. Remind them that the goal is for God to train their heart and develop the character qualities of cooperation and responsiveness to authority. You'll also want to share your desire to build more closeness in your relationship with them.

Second, determine to practice a scenario similar to this 20 times a day for a week. Yes, I'm serious! Choose a simple instruction that you actually give regularly. Practice, practice, practice. With a young child, you can even make a game out of it. As much as possible, make it fun. This kind of practice is also called "therapy." Practicing doing the right thing allows God to work in the heart of the child. Here's the way it looks when it's done the right way. 

Do you lean toward being more firm or relational when you give instructions to your kids? 

Share your thoughts in a comment below. Thanks.

Learn About Step #2 Now


There is a very special event happening in November and I’d like to invite you to join me. The Second Annual Legacy Grandparenting Summit will be held at Lake Pointe Church in Rockwall, TX from November 2-4, 2017. We have a very special discount to offer you as a friend of the National Center for Biblical Parenting. It’s the same as the Summit Group Discount, but you can come as part of our “group.” When you register, just use the discount code NCBP17 and that will reduce the price to $144.00 if you register before May 30. 2017. You can still use the code after that, but you won’t get the early bird pricing. Register Now!

The LegacyGrandparenting Summit has quite an array of fabulous speakers and artists as part of the program. I was in Dallas last year for the first Summit and everything about it was top notch. Lean more now. The subtitle for this summit is “Intentional Grandparenting Matters.” You’ll be inspired and challenged to find your calling in ministering to the next generation.


Milan Tomic

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  1. My kids are kind of past this stage, but I agree that kids have to learn to follow instructions, I used similar methods with mine when they were young, and they pay off (most of the time, lol).

  2. I have two sons, ages 4 and 14. Sometimes they listen to me, many times not. The oldest has high-functioning autism. I have to do detailed step-by-step instructions for him. Both boys are too tied to their electronic devices. I have to ask a billion times to get them to do things for me. Ugh! Working on it.

    1. Kerry, I'm going to step in here and offer a comment. I work with kids who are on the spectrum, and I use this exact training strategy that Ed is describing here. These kids need things broken down into small pieces and then they need a lot of practice to make progress. If you continue to follow Ed here and work with him, you'll see HUGE progress in your sons. I had a boy with Down Syndrome in my last coach training. The parents saw major improvement in his ability to manage himself in the morning and reduced resistance. He even started looking for things that needed to be done. Most people wouldn't understand the power of those words, but I'm sure you do.

    2. Thanks for jumping in Scott. Let me add that I'll be talking about kids with ADHD, OCD, the spectrum, etc. in Wednesday's article when we talk about Step 3. The responsibility in this step for the parent is to give clear instructions. Clear instructions for kids facing challenges also means simple instructions with only a couple of parts. I hope you'll follow along.