Instructing Children For Life
by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN
There’s more to giving instructions than just accomplishing tasks or getting children to do what parents say for the sake of convenience. Valuable lessons for life are hidden within the instruction process. Through instruction, children learn character and skills that will help them to be successful outside the home. They learn things like how to set aside their agenda for someone else, how to complete a job without Mom or Dad reminding them, how to report back when they’re done, and how to be responsible when no one is watching.
Most importantly, children learn to respond to Mom and Dad so that they will have the necessary character to obey God as they grow older. Maybe that’s why Solomon talks fifteen times in the book of Proverbs about the importance of listening to instructions. As you concentrate on a routine for giving instructions, you will pave the way for healthy spiritual relationships between your children and God.
By teaching children to follow directions you help them develop the character they need to listen to God’s instructions and obey him. It’s a lot of work but the time you invest now has benefits that will last a lifetime. After all, as adults, we must also comply with instructions that we don’t particularly like. Sometimes God asks us to do something we don’t fully understand or wish we didn’t have to do. Obedience usually requires work, self-discipline, and humility, qualities not easily found in society today.
The instruction process builds character by helping children learn to follow directions without arguing or complaining. When parents give up on giving instructions, they miss valuable teaching opportunities. That doesn’t mean parents should just overpower their kids. If you work to implement an instruction routine, both you and your kids will benefit. The ramifications are important because as you do the daily work of parenting, your children are learning how to respond not only to you, but also to their future employers, team leaders, and ultimately to God.
9 Tips: Getting Children To Follow Instructions
1. Lay a good foundation. Be proactive. Sit down with your children and discuss why following directions is important.
2. Communicate expectations. It’s hard to hold anyone responsible for poor behavior if expectations are not clearly defined and communicated in the beginning. Come up with clear, positive guidelines you want children to follow. Then clearly communicate those guidelines to everyone.
3. Focus attention. Before you discuss anything of significance with your kids, make sure you have their undivided attention. If they’re not looking into your eyes, they may not be listening.
4. Involve children. Ask your kids to assist in the development of guidelines and rules. People respond better when they feel they are contributing to the whole.
5. Offer choices. There are multiple ways to accomplish a task. If possible and as appropriate, allow older children to decide how and even when to complete your instructions. Remember, you previously established and communicated clearly defined expectations.
6. Provide clear instructions. Simple, unambiguous directions are critical. It sometimes helps to break a task into several steps. Encourage children to stay with the job until it’s finished.
7. Drive-thru review. After you place an order at a fast-food window, they repeat the order to make sure they heard you correctly. Practice this with your kids (and others, too). Once you give directions, ask them to repeat what you’ve said.
8. Reward and penalize. As appropriate, rewards and penalties can be tremendous motivators. Teach your children that each choice comes with a consequence. Help them make good choices by creating positive and negative consequences as they make decisions.
9. Praise and applaud. Parents often pay more attention to what’s not being accomplished rather than to all the positive behaviors children exhibit. To reinforce positive conduct, frequently appreciate and praise your kids. Good behavior is a big deal!
We have developed an online survey designed to gather information about parent concerns regarding children’s use of technology. All responses are anonymous and confidential. We will post our findings and you can then present them to parents. Total estimated time to complete the survey is less than 10 minutes. Please help us by sending the following link to your parents and colleagues, sharing it on your walls or Twitter accounts, or even putting it at the bottom of your own blog posts.
DiscipleLand’s family of resources forms a comprehensive Children’s Discipleship System™ – an intentional, relational, and transformational process designed to help children become aware of our Awesome God. When children experience Him, their lives will take on a whole new motivational paradigm. Click here for a Free catalog.