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When Giving Instructions, Consider the Timing

Posted in Parenting Corner

An important step in a good instruction routine is to consider timing. Parents who realize that a child needs an instruction must stop and think of the best way to present it. Ask yourself, "How can I communicate this problem to my child in the most effective way?" Pausing for just a moment, or in some cases, waiting a few hours, may prove to be the most productive way to deal with a situation.


For instance, it's tempting to greet Jenny when she arrives home from school, "Jenny, you didn't take out the trash this morning and your bedroom's a mess."  This kind of ambush focuses more on the issue than on the relationship.

Instead, a dad might say to his daughter, "Hi Jenny, I'm glad you're home" and then engage Jenny in dialogue about her day for a few minutes. After relationship has been reestablished, he could then say, "After you put your books away and get a snack, would you please come and see me? I have a couple of things to talk to you about." In this way Dad is trying to be sensitive to the timing of his instructions.

Considering the timing is a small way of saying, "I love you" to a child even in the midst of the work of family life. You'll want to make different adjustments in this area depending on the age of your child. Young children need to learn obedience, so we may give less warning and expect a prompt response. Older children, and certainly teenagers, need more time to prepare themselves. Teens will need to adjust their own expectations or agendas. This takes some work for the teen and patience for the parent. But working together goes a long way to build cooperation and responsibility in the heart of a child.