How to Help Your Kid Follow Instructions

by Rachel Esco February 06, 2018

 follow instructions

Calling all space cadets! As much as we adore you (and your wild imaginations), you need to pay more attention! Little do you realize, if you simply spend that extra ten minutes reviewing instructions, you'd likely score 10% higher on assignments. Let's stop these silly mistakes-- here's how to help your kid follow instructions.


1. Highlight steps

Kids should highlight each step in the instructions. This strategy forces them to internalize the information more precisely.

By highlighting each step, they can zero-in on the requirements. This technique also makes kids more liable to finish the task properly. Since they've accounted for each step, they can't make the excuse later on that they didn't remember it.

Well technically they can, but we dearly hope this strategy prohibits them from doing so (eyes rolling...).


2. Repeat and rephrase

With a tutor or teacher, have your child repeat the instructions.

Repetition can help kids reinforce the steps so they understand and remember them. It's also possible that if they have questions-- ones they forgot to ask-- repeating the instructions reminds them to clarify any leftover gaps.

Then, they should rephrase and re-explain the instructions in their own words. This approach demonstrates that they truly know what to do.


3. Take away their electronics

Does your kid space out?

If they're listening to iTunes while Snapchatting in class, they are 100% missing out on details when the teacher's explaining an assignment. So take away any source of distraction that may thwart their focus. This would be their headphones and uh, dare I say it, their cell phones-- ya, I said it! If they make a fuss, too bad-- in your day, you had no internet-- they'll live!

Otherwise, here's what happens. When they don't hear instructions the first time, they panic and then feel too ashamed to return to their teacher for re-explanation. Then what? They go ask their friends or refer to their classroom's Facebook group-- and who knows if these goofballs even have valid answers? Ever hear the phrase, "blind leading the blind?"-- yup, exactly!

This habit of relying on others hinders a child's sense of personal responsibility. Over time, they'll become less self-reliant when getting information! Also, this habit waters down the instructions because they're being retold by their peers and not directly from their teacher (the wise one).


4.Create a checklist

A student's assignment sheet can be turned into a checklist (#multitasking). Clever, right?

If each step is already numbered, they can proactively check off each one to confirm they're done. This strategy allows them to regard how many more steps remain in the assignment, reminding them to plan their time accordingly and stay on task.

If the steps aren't numbered, they can number each one themselves. This trick improves their organizational skills because they're translating the instructions into goals or checkpoints.

By acclimating to this routine, they'll become more responsible for completing tasks.


5. Look for improvement

How do we know they're getting better? It's time to play grade detective!

When your child receives their rubric, ask to see it. In the section called, "Thinking & Inquiry", the teacher grades the student's planning process and deducts marks if any steps from the instructions were missed. Check this section very carefully and see if your child made mistakes such as failing to edit their work or include a bibliography for their research. These two errors are the most common culprits of foolishly lost marks.

And for the record, there's no such thing as "I forgot to do it".

What they really mean is "whenever I remembered to do it, I didn't feel like doing it, and then the thought faded away into space, along with all the other uncool things I don't care about, like global warming... I'm hungry."


And that's the truth, folks!


Rachel Esco
Rachel Esco


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