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Precious Beginnings - Communication

Q. I ask my son a thousand times to do something, and he still never gets it done. What's the problem?

A. Sometimes our instructions to kids are not very clear. It's possible he doesn't think you're being serious. Try to be very specific about the behavior you expect. If you ask him to do something, but he ignores you, describe what he's doing. For example, you might say, "You're playing with your toy instead of looking at me. Please put the toy down, look at me and listen." When you have his attention, ask him again and be specific.

Q. Can my 4-year-old really understand everything I say?

A. Young children are capable of understanding many concepts. However, they understand simple, concrete words and phrases best. That's important to remember when you want to correct a bad behavior or encourage a good one. Use words to describe the action or behavior you want, and show your child what you mean. Understanding will come from the child frequently using the behavior and seeing its results.

Q. I have five children. Should I talk to them all together or separately when I'm trying to correct their behavior?

A. It really depends on how comfortable you feel talking to them in a group and how well they listen to you when they are together. If things get too hectic when they're all together, talk to them one-on-one.

Q. My son is easily distracted and can hardly sit still for any instructions. What should I do?

A. Before you start talking, eliminate any distractions such as toys or TV. Kneel down to his eye level, and use words he will understand. Because he has difficulty sitting still, keep whatever you say simple and brief.

Q. My son doesn't take anything I say seriously. What should I do?

A. Let your son know when you are serious and when you are joking. Young children don't always know the difference. When you are serious, mean what you say and say what you mean. Young children respond to actions more than words. Make sure you follow through on what you tell him. Your vocal tone, facial expressions and body language should reinforce the words you say.

Q. When is it okay to let my toddler make his own choices?

A. Choices are the decisions you allow your child to make that will help him become more responsible and independent. One example is letting your toddler choose which outfit to wear. It's best if you give your child a choice between two options. Too many choices can cause confusion and create power struggles, especially if you're trying to get your child to follow a routine.

For more information on this topic, check out the following books from the Boys Town Press: