“Please put on your pajamas honey.”
“I’m not going to ask you again!”
Another blank stare.
Have you ever asked your child to do something, and in return, you receive a blank stare? There have been many times when I’ve given our preschooler a direction, and she doesn’t follow through. As a busy parent, moments like this can be extremely frustrating! In my parenting journey, I started to question – why doesn’t my child follow directions?
Shortly after our daughter turned three, we decided to increase her independence. She was going to learn to put her pajamas on by herself. The only problem was that our toddler didn’t seem to listen to anything I said. Whenever we told her to get dressed, she would stare at us or whine, “But I can’t!”
I often believed she was being defiant. Shouldn’t a preschooler know how to put her pajamas on? I didn’t want to lose my temper over pajamas, but I felt frustrated.
As a parent you may have questioned: How do I get my child to listen without yelling?
I was at a crossroads. Was my daughter being defiant and strong willed? Or was I missing something?
As parents, it can be difficult to tell if our kids deliberately disobey or don’t understand what we are asking. But when I paused and considered the situation, I asked myself:
What if they aren’t following through because of a misunderstanding instead of an attitude of defiance?
We often forget that children need simple, explicit directions. For example, if we tell our toddlers, “Please put on your pajamas.” They may need help figuring out where to start. Young kids do not always know how to break down “big” tasks into smaller parts. They don’t know the first step.
Why Your Toddler Won’t Follow Directions
So the reason they aren’t listening to anything we say isn’t because they want to misbehave. They struggle to follow directions because they don’t understand what we are asking them to do.
One way to determine if compliance is an issue is to break down the task into simple steps.
Start with the basics. “First, find the arm hole. Great, you found it! Now put one arm through the armhole.” It may seem silly to an adult, but many young children need tasks broken down into clear, straightforward steps.
We tried this technique with our daughter at bedtime and were pleasantly surprised. She started following through, and she could follow our simple commands!
It turns out she wasn’t being disobedient about putting on her pajamas. We asked her to do something new, and she needed help. Now she can do it all by herself!
Another factor to consider is personality. One of our children is very brave and has no problem trying a task “all by herself!” Another child is more cautious and wants to get it perfectly right on the first try. The second child may need more encouragement to try the perceived “difficult” task, and that’s okay. Learn what works for your kids!
What about you? Have you ever wondered why your child was disobeying you?
If you aren’t sure if it’s defiance, instead of disciplining right away, take a step back. Have you been using phrases like:
- Be a better listener.
- Go play.
- Get ready for school.
- Pay attention.
Although these phrases seem obvious or simple to adults, kids may need more explicit directions. What does paying attention look like? What does getting ready for school entail?
If you enjoyed this, you’ll love Unshakable Kids!
“Our role as a guardian includes teaching our kids how to protect and guard their own hearts” You can raise strong kids, even in a broken world!
Think about what you are saying and break it down. Try giving thorough directions and breaking tasks into small, manageable steps. You may be surprised that your child didn’t understand your initial commands!
If you have determined it is defiance, you must decide how to discipline. I’ve found the more I talk when trying to discipline, the more my kids tune me out. Here are some of my best tips when correcting misbehavior (they may surprise you!).