How to Get Your Child to Do What You Ask—The First Time

9 Steps for Parents to Use to Get Action

authoritative parenting - mother talking to daughter
Authoritative parenting is an excellent way to raise and discipline children. Stephanie Rausser/Getty Images

Do you find yourself saying over and over to your child, "brush your teeth," "get started on your homework," "clean up your room," or other requests? This is such an energy burner for parents. You get into the pattern of telling your child to do something, then telling her again 10 minutes later, and again 30 minutes later when you notice that she still hasn't done what you asked.

Your child has probably developed several strategies to put things off as long as possible. She has learned to distract you by whining, bringing up something else she has to do right now, starting an argument, or just downright ignoring you. Since you are probably busy doing something, it's easy to forget for a moment that she has not done what you asked. When you have to ask her again, you are just a little bit frustrated. The third time—you are angry, and a simple request becomes a source of tension and conflict.

9 Steps to Get Your Child's Action on Your First Request

It's not too late to change this pattern. Use these simple steps each time you ask your child to do something. They take just a little bit more time and attention at the first request but will save time and frustration in the long run. With practice, they will become a habit. The results will be less frustration, anger, and stress for you and more respect, compliance, and self-discipline from your child.

  1. Set a Time Frame: Decide in your own mind what you want the child to do and the time frame you will accept for her compliance—immediately, within 15 minutes, etc.
  2. Get Her Attention: That means making eye contact at the very least. Don't yell it from the kitchen. If you are busy in another room, ask the child to come to you before you make the request.
  3. Be Specific: Tell her specifically what you want her to do. "Go brush your teeth right this minute so you can get to school on time."
  4. Watch for Compliance: Watch to make sure she starts to do what you asked. Don't go back to what you were doing and then realize later you should see if your request was fulfilled.
  5. Praise Success: Praise her for doing what you asked. Don't leave this out.
  6. Check for Understanding If She's Non-compliant: If she does not begin doing what you asked or does not complete the task, ask her "What did I ask you to do?"
  7. Re-iterate the Request: If she correctly tells you what you asked her to do, say, "That's good, now do it."
  1. Repeated the Request Once and Still No Compliance? If she does not do what you asked after this second request, then it's time to stop the world. The child does not do another thing until she does what you asked.
  2. Time for a Time-Out: If the child begins to throw a temper tantrum or continues to avoid doing what you asked, put her in a short time-out. When she comes out tell her to do what you asked. Don't let it go or she will learn to avoid responsibility by causing an uproar.
Was this page helpful?