The Instruction Routine: Step Two

Hi! I'm Ed Miller.

You'll remember that one of the most common complaints I hear from parents is this. "My son won't listen or follow my instructions." Does that ever happen in your home? It certainly did happen in my home! I'm so happy that I learned about developing a good "Instruction Routine." It made a huge difference in my family and it has done the same in many families. It's not a silver bullet for this problem, but it provides a framework to train the heart and develop important character qualities. 

I'm going to talk about Step Two today. If you haven't read the article introducing the "Instruction Routine" and describing Step One, you might want to read that first. 

The Parent responsibility in Step Two is to "Consider the Timing." Most parents are busy, overwhelmed and often stressed out. Life today is full of challenges. I remember many times when I would see something that one of my children needed to be doing and I would impulsively jump into action. I didn't always consider whether the timing was right to address this issue with my child. Early on in our parenting, Joanne and I embraced the importance of "choosing your battles." You can't make a big deal of every issue or problem with your children or your home will be a regular battleground. "Choosing your battles" means that you ask any or all of the following questions.

  1. Is this an important battle?
  2. Is this a good time to interrupt my child from their activity to give an instruction? Before interrupting, you may want to find out what you child is currently doing.
  3. Am I able to do this in a calm manner? Giving instructions when you're angry is likely to have a negative result and do damage to the relationship with your child.

The Child's responsibility in Step Two is to "Always Be Ready to Receive an Instruction." Life is full of interruptions. It's the norm in life. Some children and adults think they should be entitled to an uninterrupted life. Children need to learn that receiving instructions is part of their job description in life. Whereas some kids believe their job description is to get to the next level of the video game. They learn that when given an instruction they have an obligation. That’s an uncomfortable feeling that "I NEED to get this done."

This kind of change needs to happen at the heart level. We need to help our kids envision what it will mean for them in life to be responsive to authorities. We need to pray for them and ask the Lord to change their hearts. Ultimately, we want them to be responsive to God and to His Word. This is the ultimate goal and measure of success in life. 

How are your children doing on being ready to receive an instruction? Rate your children on this scale. 

-10 ------------------- 0 -------------------+10
The negative numbers represent kids who are not responding well with -10 being very unresponsive. The positive numbers indicate that the child is doing well with +10 being exceptionally responsive. 



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  1. Oh boy did this article resonate with me. I tell single parents this all the time. Single parents are especially stressed and they just want to get things done so they tend to jump in there full force. I know I did and I too had to learn to pick my battle because there was only one of me and no other adult in the home to support me. No dad to say, "Do what your mother said." Or, "Listen to your mother."

    I got criticized more than once about their bedrooms being a mess but that was one battle I didn't have the energy to enter. However, I did tell them I couldn't come and visit them in their rooms because messiness makes me nervous and on edge. They were more than welcome to come to my room and visit.

    Thanks for all this good parenting advice Ed. I'll be passing it along to many single parents.

    1. I appreciate your encouragement Linda. And thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. As always, you have some great insights and input. I hope you're doing well.