How can I get my child to do what I ask?

It’s common for children to misbehave. Giving clear instructions and boundaries can help.

For these to be effective, introduce them alongside positive reinforcement. Spend time with your child, give lots of praise, and keep rewarding the behaviours you want to see more of.

Dad with baby girl on his shoulders whilst mother high fives her

Tips for all ages

Get your child’s attention and make eye contact. Try not to yell instructions from another room – go to where they are. It may help to:

  • Have a clear idea what you want them to do, then give simple instructions.
  • Give one task or make one request at a time.
  • Be polite and respectful.
  • Check they’ve heard and understood what you want them to do – ask them to repeat the request back to you.

Give your child time to process instructions. This can take 10-15 seconds or longer if they’re in the middle of something. They may also need a lead-in to the request. For example, “Dinner is in 10 minutes. Please pack your things away before we eat.” You can follow this with the request, such as, “Please pack away your toys. It’s time for dinner.”

    Praise your child while they’re doing the task and let them know how pleased you are when they’re finished. You may need to use a consequence if your child won’t do as asked. But give a warning first so they have a chance to try.

      Tips for teenagers

      Teenagers are developing their independence. Let them take responsibility for carrying out tasks. Give them tasks to do in their own time, perhaps with a deadline. For example, ask them to tidy their room once a week, but let them pick which day.

      They need positive attention and praise just as much as younger children – give them lots of it. You can also talk to them about what rewards they’d like. For instance, pocket money or phone credit as a reward for sticking to the house rules.

      Pick your battles. Decide what’s most important and focus on that. If getting up and going to school is the priority, you may decide not to argue over what they have for breakfast.

      Read our advice on setting house rules for teenagers. 

      Go back

      How can I reward good behaviour?

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      How do I set house rules for my teenager?

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      How can my child’s behaviour affect me?

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      Understanding and managing my child’s behaviour

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