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How to get toddlers to follow directions

how to get toddlers to follow directions

When your child is a toddler, they start to explore their independence and test boundaries – testing your patience along the way. They don’t always listen, and they want to do things on their own timeline. But teaching your child how to follow directions is an important lesson.

Giving your toddler directions is more than just telling them what to do. Good directions help them learn right from wrong and what you expect from them.

How to give toddlers good directions

  • Use clear, simple commands.
  • Be short and to the point.
  • Get his attention first by lowering to his level and making eye contact.
  • Don’t ask a question when you really don’t mean for him to have a choice.
  • Be polite and firm when there is not a choice: for instance, “Please pick up the block.”
  • Be sure to wait 5-10 seconds after each instruction to let your child have time to respond.

How to help your child understand and follow directions:

  1. Get your child’s full attention by calling him by name and making eye contact when speaking.
  2. Tell your child exactly what you want her to do by being specific and making a statement instead of a question. For example, instead of asking “Can you go clean up now?”, re-frame it as “Michael, I need you to please go clean your room.” 
  3. Check back after a short amount of time to make sure he listened and followed through.
  4. Add a consequence. Remember, consequences can be both positive and negative! If your child listened, make sure to offer praise. If he didn’t follow through, enforce your directions with a consequence, such as a loss of privileges.

Getting your child to listen doesn’t need to be a struggle. With consistency and practice, your child will be following directions in no time.

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