Giving Verbal Instructions to Children

“The manner and quality with which adults give directives and verbally interact with young children can make a big difference in the kinds of behaviors exhibited by those children,” writes Tom Udell and Gary Glasenapp in their article “Managing Challenging Behaviors:  Adult Communication as a Prevention and a Teaching Tool,” in Behavior: A Beginnings Workshop Book.  They provide the following guidelines:

Be specific and clear when giving directives.  Children need to know precisely what is expected.  They are more likely to respond appropriately to ‘Keep your feet on the floor’ than ‘Be careful.'”

Avoid using questions you do not mean to ask.  Use question statements only when you truly intend to provide a choice.  A direct request, such as ‘Jason, please wash your hands,’ is preferable to ‘Jason, will you wash your hands before snacks?”’

“State requests and directions in a positive manner.  Asking a child to ‘Walk in the classroom’ is more positive and more clearly understood than ‘Don’t run.'”

Avoid repeating requests and directives.  Repeating directives can become troublesome because children quickly learn that they are not expected to respond the first time they are given a direction.  Adults do not want to inadvertently teach children that it is okay to ignore requests that are made of them.”

Courtesy of The Child Care Exchange

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