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Seven-year-old does not follow instructions


My 7-year-old daughter does not recognize my authority as her mother. She argues constantly, does not obey and makes demands rather than asking permission. It starts with teeth-brushing first thing in the morning and goes until bedtime. I have to repeat my requests often. I need help disciplining her.



First identify what your daughter is struggling with the most so you can focus on teaching and practicing one behavior at a time with her. If you try to tackle too many behaviors at once, you and your daughter will become overwhelmed.  

It sounds like your daughter is struggling with following instructions. Work with her on learning and using this skill first.

Make sure your daughter ​understands what following instructions entails and how she should demonstrate it. Begin by explaining to her that you understand that she is having a difficult time with this important skill and that you are going to work on this together. Break the skill up, giving her specific and simple steps.  

Give her a kid-friendly and age-appropriate reason for why she needs to learn how to follow instructions. How will she benefit from learning this skill? Have her list a few places where she will need to use the skill of following instructions and why.

Next, go over the steps to following instructions with her. Make it detailed, as in the following:

  1. Say “OK” immediately so I know you heard me.
  2. Then do the instruction right away.
  3. When you are done, check back with me so I know you completed the task.

Now you need to practice to see if she understands your expectations. Give her a simple instruction like, “Hand me the pillow on the couch.” Then have her look at you, say “OK,” hand you the pillow and tell you she is finished. Praise her if she does it correctly.  

Once you know that she understands the skill, practice it every day. Make it fun, such as playing a game of Simon Says or baking cookies together. This way she is practicing receiving and then following instructions in a fun environment.  

When your daughter chooses not to use this skill, remind her that it is in her best interest to follow instructions by giving her a negative consequence. Do not repeat your request. Do not yell. Just calmly issue the negative consequence.  When she does use the skill, do not forget to praise her and issue a positive consequence to reinforce the desired behavior.