02 September 2010

Following Directions

I really hate to write these kind of posts, because I don't want my children to read them when they are older and think that I thought bad of them, but I really need some help with Big Sister. I was hoping that I could call on the hundred or so cumulative years of parenting experience of all my readers.

Big Sister has a really hard time following directions.

If I ask her to do something there will be one of a few different reactions: talking back, ignoring, making up her own directions ("Did you say such and such?" when she knows full well what I asked her to do) and very rarely actually doing what I asked. Most often it's talking back and being resistant. Here's an example that happened this morning. I was at her school waiting for the bell to ring with her. At Big Sister's school they have all the kids line up on their class "dots" on the black top. She decided she wanted to play with the jump ropes so she went and got one. About 10 minutes later the bell rang. All the kids were coming in from the grass and putting away their balls and ropes. I told Big Sister I heard the bell and that she needed to put the rope away.  We had the following conversation: 

Big Sister: That wasn't the bell. That one went doo-doo-doo-doo.
Me: No that was the bell. See all the kids coming in from the grass. Please go put away your jump rope.
BS: That wasn't the bell. It went doo-doo-doo-doo
Me: Yes, Big Sister it was. Please show me that you know how to follow directions.
BS ignores me
Me: Big Sister, please go put your rope away. All the kids are starting to get in line.
BS starts to walk really slow over to where the ropes go
Me: Quickly please so you can come back and get in line.
BS walks a little faster and finally puts her jump rope away.

This drives me crazy! I held my tongue but I wanted to say, "Don't make me send you back to Kindergarten where you can learn to follow directions!" I'm glad I didn't say that. But seriously I know she has a problem. How do I help her? This kind of exchange goes on constantly in our home. I try to be patient. She gets time-outs when she talks back. But I want to teach her how to follow directions, not punish her all the time. I know that she is going to have a hard time in school if she can't figure this one out. I want to spare her that. One girl in her class this morning interjected into our little rope conversation and said, "She never raises her hand in class." I don't want kids to be saying things like that already. 

What strategies do you use to help teach your children how to follow directions? 


Cheryl said...

Oh, golly. I'm not sure I can help --my kid has an anger problem and another one a manipulative problem. I've never really encountered this one before.

However! I will try.

It sounds to me like she's just pushing the boundaries as far as she can. Which, luckily, is normal in kids her age. I think you are responding the right way, though --don't let her get away with it! Maybe do a pow-wow with the teacher so s/he's aware that you are aware and maybe s/he can help give you some advice, too.

One other thought: I hate it when I see that other kids or people don't like or trust or want to play with or just adore my children. It's hard for me to realize that not everyone is going to like them, but...it's true. So, don't be too worried about what the other kids say/think, because it's inevitable, eh? Focus on praising her qualities, what she does right, and then, like I said, don't let her get away with nothin'! :)

Good luck!

Alison Wonderland said...

The best thing I can think is that you make consequences clear and then follow through. And let others do the same. If she's not following directions in school let the teachers take care of it. (That's not about handing off your responsibility, it's about the fact that most kids are more freaked out by discipline from someone who they don't know loves them. If that makes sense.)
At home I'd put a time limit and a consequence onto every request. say it once, maybe twice (but make it a rule that you always say it that many times and stick to it) and then follow through. Don't coddle and don't nag.

The best way to prevent our children's pain is not to protect them from it but to teach them the concept of consequences.

Melissa said...

Talk to her teacher - see if there really are issues there and an maybe the teacher will have a few ideas. She's surrounded by 6 year olds all day long!

My sister's little girl is, eh, head-strong. Completely and utterly. So, they created a reward system. They went to the craft store and bought some fake gems of all sizes and then a big, clear jar. Every time my niece follows directions, is nice to her sister, whatever, whatever, she gets a gem in the jar. If she's naughty she gets one taken out. At the end of the day, if she hasn't had any taken out then she gets a BIG gem as a bonus. As soon as she has filled up the jar she gets a treat (ice cream with mom, a small toy... nothing huge, but incentive). The jar isn't huge, but that's been a good thing. She needed to see that she could be good and that the reward was in sight.

I don't know if that helps or not. For me, I take toys away :) I found that time outs were not very effective for my kids as they got older. They would just sing or play or talk to themselves. So, I started taking away favorite things and they have to earn the item back with good behavior. I know it's not ideal, but it works for my kids... for now!

Staceygirl said...

Do you know what's hard? Being the parent and doing the work that it takes to correct a problem instead of just getting mad about it each time.

As Dr. Phil says, everybody has a currency, and you have to figure out what currency Big Sis uses. Is it toys, movies, time on the computer, playing with friends, time with you, praise, special privileges or what? If you can find that currency, it might give you more ideas. Every minute of time she wastes by not following directions can be repaid by her in her currency.

Let me know what you find out with your experimentation. I'm working on Kallie's habit of screaming when she doesn't get her way. It can be frustrating at times!

bythelbs said...

I can't really help you here. I would just second what everyone else said--consistency with consequences (good or bad) is probably the key. You just have to figure out what kind of consequences will push the right buttons for her.

flip flop mama said...

Thanks for all your tips! I really appreciate them. Later that day I got really tired of nagging and hearing her constant lip so I put a drop of hot sauce on my finger and stuck it in her mouth. She was so surprised and I think it really made an impression. Timeouts haven't really worked change her behavior but I think this will. She really didn't like it. All the next day she kept saying "I just want timeouts not hot sauce, Mom" so it gave us a good opportunity to talk about making choices about what we do and the consequences of our actions. I haven't gotten to "2" when counting to three because she really doesn't want that hot sauce again. I think i found something that works--at least for now.

Jen said...

At school I do a couple of things in a situation like this. I always try the "please" and then "need" statements. For example, first I would say, "Put your jumprope away please". I make it as simple as possible. I don't ask, "Will you put your jumprope away please?" I put it as a command. If this doesn't work then I change it to a need sentence. For example I say, "I need you to put your jumprope away." I know it sounds stupid, but it almost always works.

Another thing I use is a love and logic thing. I LOVE love and logic (books by Jim Faye). There are few kids it won't work on. You give two choice (both of which are acceptable). For example, "Do you want to run to put away the jumprope, or do you want to skip to put the jumprope away?" Whatever situation you use make it clear that there are consequences.

I might tell the child if they can't put them jumprope away when they are suppose to next time around they won't be able to use the jumprope.