Getting Kids to Do What You Want Them to Do

12 02 2012

Managing the behavior of children can sometimes seem impossible.


A well-prepared teacher can have a lesson sabotaged by one mischievous student.

“Stop talking…Don’t get out of your seat…Stop bothering George …This is not the time to play with your toy…Please stop spinning your ruler…Don’t lean back on your chair…”

A responsible parent trying to shop may follow this all-familiar script:

“Don’t touch that…Leave the mannequin alone…Don’t run inside…Stop saying that over and over…No, you can’t go there…No, we can’t buy that…”

Children can wear us out!             

Instead of telling them what not to do, give them something very specific to do.

Sometimes teachers tell students what to do without getting the resistant student to comply. That’s when being very specific helps.

Vague: “Get to work.”

Very specific: “Pick up your pencil and answer the questions now. Keep working until you are finished.”

In the home, the script might sound like this:

Vague: “Do your chores.”

Very specific: “Pick up all those toys and put them in the toy box. Pick up every book and put them in the book shelf. Throw all the trash in the trash can. Put all the clothes in the laundry basket.”

If the child talks back, simply get closer to the child and repeat the directions like a broken record without raising your voice.

Here’s a real conversation I had with my teenage son:

Me: “Move your clothes from the living room and take them to your bedroom now.”

Chris: (while walking up the steps empty handed) “I’ll do it later.”

Me: (following close behind him) “Move your clothes now. Take them from the living room to your bedroom now.”

Chris: (in the bathroom) “I’m going to take a shower now.”

Me: (putting my foot in the door to keep it from closing) “Move your clothes now. Take them from the living room to your bedroom now.”

Chris: (still in the bathroom) “I don’t have any clothes on.”

Me: “Put a towel around you and move your clothes now. Take them from the living room to your bedroom now.”

Chris: (huffing in frustration and resignation) “Oh, all right.”

Practice watching adult-child interactions in the mall.

Look for parents telling their children simply what not to do.  They’ve entered the Land of Not -where people speak only “don’t” and “stop.”

Then listen for parents telling their children what to do.

“Hold onto my coat. Look for a white jacket. Tell me when you see a sale sign.”

Before our sons could read, I gave them their own food list. Pictures on their list were of things I needed to buy. Their job was to look for those items. It kept them busy and helped me.

If you’re interested in learning more about this method of behavior management, check out Michael Valentine’s website.

What’s your greatest behavior management challenge?

New School Year – New Hopes

20 09 2011

With the new school starting, there are more pressures for children who have special needs and for their parents.  Adjustments, getting needed supports and accommodations, working through struggles associated with school (homework, socialization).  Our son was diagnosed with ADHD when he was five years old.  Every year at conference times the teacher would say something like, “Chris has a bit of trouble paying attention.”  I felt like answering, “Oh, I hadn’t noticed.”  Or “Well, that makes the 50th teacher who’s told me that.”  Thankfully, the Lord helped me respond in a God-honoring way.  So often I longed to hear the teacher acknowledge how hard Chris was trying…That he had to work harder at paying attention, at being organized, at making friends.  I wished they would see his love for the Lord, and his desire to memorize scripture. 

I’m certain there are Christian teachers who pray a prayer similar to the following:

For the Parents of a Struggling Child



They come to the parent-teacher conference



Knowing full well

What they’re not going to hear.

They won’t hear that their son is in the top reading group,

Or that he’s a whiz at math,

Or that his penmanship is flawless,

Or that he’s entering the science fair,

Or that he was last to sit down

At the spelling bee.

But, Father,

Let them hear what I have to say.

Let them hear

That even though school is hard for him

(and probably always will be),

He never gives up.

He struggles on until he gets it,

And what he’s learned, he’s earned;

It’s his to keep.

Let them hear

That this report card doesn’t mean

Their son’s not good enough.

Rather, this standard of measurement

Isn’t good enough to measure him.


Let me say

And let them hear

That he’s as fine and brave and good a person

As ever I’ve met.

They came this evening



Let them go home satisfied

And proud.

What do you wish teachers knew about your child or you?