How can I get my child to do what I ask?
Clear instructions and boundaries help children learn how to behave. These tips can help.
- Get your child’s attention and make eye contact. Try not to yell instructions from another room – if you’re busy, ask them to come to you first.
- Have a clear idea what you want them to do, then explain it simply. Remember to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, if that’s what you’d like your child to do, too.
- Give one task or request at a time, and let them finish it before giving further instructions.
- Give your child time to process instructions – this can be up to 10-15 seconds or longer.
- Check they’ve heard and understood what you want them to do: ask them to repeat the request back to you.
- Praise your child while they’re doing the task and let them know how pleased you are when they’re finished.
- It’s quite normal for children to refuse to do what they’re asked. Give a warning, and let them know there’ll be a consequence. Remember to follow through with the consequence if you need to!
Why is my child always say “no”?
‘No’ is an easy word to say, so it’s not surprising it’s one of the first that children learn. It’s a word that brings a lot of joy, as they realise they can choose whether or not to do what you say – but can get very tiring when it’s all you hear from them!
Try to offer limited choices between two options. That way, you allow them to feel a sense of control without giving them a clear opportunity to say “no”. For example, “would you like to eat pasta or rice?” Similarly, “do you want to go outside now or play for two minutes and go outside then?” Either way, they’re going outside! Just make sure that if you have offered them the choice, you follow their decision.
Sometimes, saying “no” is a learned behaviour. If you find yourself often saying “no” to their requests, ask yourself why. Could you change your surroundings or timings so it’s safe or reasonable for you to say “yes” to what they ask you?
Want more advice or support?
You can talk via online chat to our family support workers and get advice specific to your situation and your family.