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My child just doesn’t listen to me…
Jan 22nd, 2016

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My child listens to you, but doesn’t listen to me. This sentence, or a statement similar to it, has been stated at some point by most parents and caregivers. There are those situations when it appears that your children are just “not listening.” They do hear you though. You may just have limited instructional control.

Instructional control is a term used to describe our ability to motivate a child to comply with the instructions that we present them with.

Here are a few things to remember every day to help you develop and maintain instructional control:

  • Control access to reinforcement—Limiting access to preferred items and/or activities allows you as the parent to have control over when your child can get access to them. Being the person who provides access to the motivating activities will help your child know that good things come from appropriate engagement with you. It is a good idea to determine what your child is motivated by, but still have control over when they can access it.
  • Reinforce appropriate behaviors—To create enjoyable interactions between you and your child, it is important to notice and acknowledge the appropriate behaviors that they are engaging in. Often, these behaviors are overlooked because they “should be” happening and we only attend to the inappropriate behaviors.
  • Set clear expectations—It is recommended to first start off with providing lots of positive reinforcement for appropriate behaviors and then begin to place any kind of expectations on them. Be aware of what your child is doing. Using first-then language helps your child understand that once they have completed an expectation that you placed on them (which may be less preferred than what they want to do) they will be able to engage in a more preferred activity.
  • Follow through—Say what you mean and mean what you say. After you place any expectation on your child, require follow through even if that means that you need to prompt your child through that process. Avoid discussion or negotiation as this delays follow through. When your child learns that when you as a parent say something, you mean it, he or she will be more likely to follow your directions the first time.
  • Provide immediate consequences—The more immediate that any consequence is following a behavior, the likelihood that the child understands the connection is increased.
  • All adults should be on the same page—It is important for all parents and caregivers to be on the same page regarding behavioral expectations. Children will learn quickly who will respond in what way to the different behaviors that they engage in.

Resources:

The Seven Steps to Earning Instructional Control with your Child by Robert Schramm, MA, BCBA http://www.autismbehaviorconsulting.com/pdf/InstructionalControl_7steps.pdf

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