Q: Tina, do you have any suggestions for getting my daughter to do what I ask the first time or to help me not have to repeat myself over and over? A: The best suggestion I have for not having to repeat yourself so much is to stop what you’re doing and focus on the situation. I usually find that the reason I’m repeating myself is because I’m preoccupied with other things and not following through immediately when one of my sons doesn’t do what I’ve asked right away. By the time I notice that he hasn’t done what I asked, I get even more frustrated because now it’s been so long since I first told him what to do.
Of course you wish your daughter would just do what you say, but one way to at least cut down on the nagging and frustration is to stop what you’re doing, kneel down, make eye contact and put your hand on her arm or shoulder. Then turn your voice way down, almost to a whisper. Ask her to repeat what you’ve said. Say, “Maybe you didn’t understand what I wanted you to do, or maybe you’ve forgotten, so I am going to say it again. Then I want you to jump up two times to let me know you know what to do, and then go do it!” You can also try something funny: “Hmm. I think I told you to do something, but I don’t know what it was. Maybe you can go do it and then surprise me!”
Small children easily forget and become distracted. So give simple instructions, and only one or two in a row. Also, stay focused yourself, so you don’t become distracted and then discover ten minutes later, when it’s time to leave for school, that your daughter still hasn’t put her shoes on.
To some extent, this will always be a battle you’ll fight with your kids. But focus on helping them execute your instructions, and before long you’ll see real improvement, which will at least decrease the amount of daily frustration you feel.