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Most parents repeat themselves when giving children instructions simply because they don’t know what else to do when their child doesn’t respond immediately. When parents do this for a period of time, not only does the child become conditioned to not respond the first time, but the parent is conditioned not to expect the child to respond the first time. Well, here are a few strategies:

The first one is to practice wait time. If your child doesn’t respond immediately, don’t repeat the instruction over and over until he responds. Wait a few seconds or even a minute before giving the instruction again.

Next, if you have to repeat the instruction, don’t say it the same way. Change the words without changing what you want your child to do.

Next, don’t ask. When giving your child an instruction, put it in the form of a statement. For example, if it’s time to eat, instead of asking your child if he’s ready to eat, tell your child that the food is on the table and he should turn off the television and come eat.

Next, allow natural consequences. For example, if you tell your child that the food is on the table and he doesn’t come to eat, the rest of the family should eat without him. If he misses dinner, close the kitchen or give him an alternative dinner that may not be as appetizing as the original.

Finally, talk to your child about what you expect when you give him a direction. If you expect him to respond within 10 seconds, tell him and show him how long 10 seconds are.

Teaching your child to respond after the first request isn’t only important for you and your family, it’s very important in a school setting, and avoids a lot of wasted instructional time.

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