1. Ask for Your Child’s Attention
Begin by asking your child to stop what they are doing and look at you. This may mean that you need to eliminate other distractions. Have them pause the TV, turn away from the computer or put down the toy they are playing with. Ensure that you have eye contact before beginning your instructions.
2. Give Instructions at Your Child’s Level
We often overwhelm children with multiple step directions. When we give longer directions, such as “get dressed, brush your teeth, comb your hair, put your shoes on and get your backpack.” A step is often missed because the direction was too complex. The number of steps in a direction that a child can process will vary. You may have to give one-step directions and slowly increase the number. It can be helpful to number the directions as well. For example, “There are three things I need you to do: 1- get dressed, 2- brush your teeth, 3- put your shoes on.” This can assist with remembering what you are asking them to do and how many steps are involved.
3. Be Precise
Give your child concrete tasks to complete and avoid being vague. For example, you may say “You need to put your clothes away, make your bed, and throw the trash away,” versus “Clean your room.” This lets your child know your expectations and what you would like completed.
4. Check for Understanding
Have your child repeat to you what you would like them to do. Check to see if they remember all the steps they need to complete.
5. Use Visual Cues
Some children may benefit from having visual cues. You can provide a picture or a model of how you would like the table set. You can use pictures to remind the child of each step in a multi-step procedure (i.e., have a chart for cleaning their room including throwing trash away, making the bed, putting laundry away, putting toys on shelves, etc.).