How can I help my kids follow my directions?


The physical limitations of making several children do something is why I try to limit my ultimatums and demands.

For instance, if my children did not want to come in the house after playing outdoors, I might:

  • Start a train and go around the yard until they are all joining in, and then lead
    them into the house.

  • State what will go on as soon as they come in and present it in a pleasant way.

  • Make sure I give a five-minute warning so they can finish their ideas (the
    biggest resistance is from us interrupting their play before they’re done or
    ready; warnings help the transition).

  • Announce that coming in successfully is part of playing outside tomorrow night.

  • Pretend to be the house and cry because no one will come into me; OR

  • Pretend to be very hungry and need little kids to gobble up into my fun house tummy.

  • If they were in a fenced yard, I’d go inside and turn off the lights and give
    them a minute to follow me.

  • Narrate a story about what their life will be like if they live in the yard, and talk
    about all the things they would need to do that. I’d make it fun enough to
    entertain them, but be serious enough to convince them it’s not a good idea. (A different scenario, but we did this with the kids one time when I’d insisted they eat one bite of a vegetable and they refused, so I rashly said they’d have to sit at the table until they ate it. We turned it into a fun story where they had to live at the table and exaggerated all the things they could and couldn’t do and they asked lots of questions: “What about going potty?” “You will just have to go in your chair.”
    To which a chorus of “EWWWWWWWW” and lots of laughter followed.)

The big key is to think outside the box and get creative. Incorporate them into the fun of doing what they’re told. Get out of the adversarial mindset, and think of ways to motivate them towards family harmony.