TRANSLATED BY: CLARE COTTER
I often here in consultation: “I tell him the instructions 3 times and he doesn’t listen to me”, “he doesn’t seem to understand me”, “he ends up doing things, but not in time and form”, “I ask him why he doesn’t obey and he says he doesn’t know”, “he’s challenging me. “
“I didn’t understand you” …so Mom screams louder but the child still doesn’t perform the requested task. When we give the same message twice and get the same result of misunderstanding, we are probably not being clear. Talking louder is not making yourself understood, it is just changing the volume. Explaining it in another way, one that is more appropriate to the age of the children, would be to be understood. Let’s consider three basic developmental factors in children under the age of 7.
- Literal thinking (0-6 years). The world is perceived with the senses, the need for direct and concrete experiences to acquire concepts. “When I ask you for my black bag, I mean this one” (while being pointed at) connected to observation, perception and identification. Giving instructions verbally, without carrying it out, would imply the use of abstract thinking, corresponding to the next stage. When I say “put your cars away”, I mean “put them in this box” (while doing it together with him).
- Temporality (Consolidated at up to 10 years). At 7 years, the concept of duration, past and future time is not perceived by the child as in adults. Verbalizations like “You have two hours to play”, “You will get your prize on your birthday”, “Next week we will see your aunt”, indicate misunderstanding about the child’s development. Using literal thinking, the concrete material to refer to time, will be your best ally: “We will put away the toys while we listen to Baby Shark”, We will talk to your grandmother after two nights”,“ We will buy candy in the store on the days we go to mass ”.
- Pre-operational stage (2 – 7 years). Piaget indicates that, through repetitions, children organize their thinking and behavior as they go understanding the use and function of goals or situations. Therefore, explaining the instruction once is not enough as they incorporate it little by little. Narrating the activity to them while doing it together helps them know what to do. “We pick up the shoes off the floor, open the closet and put them in their place”, the visual agendas will also be of help to you “let’s see what is going on in your work” and congratulate him on the small achievements in a process “You already know how to stretch the sheet, now you will learn to fold it “will motivate the child and allow him to understand that everything is part of a process.
These would be the criteria to consider when giving an instruction. Other complementary tools are eye contact, neutral tone, one command at a time, having previously taught them, verbally indicating what they are doing properly, teaching them in a calm way.
I have attached a guide so you can adapt your instructions with the 3 elements. Please contact me with any questions.