How to Give Effective Commands to Children: 10 Steps
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When your commands are effective, your children will probably listen to you.

Parents aren't dictators, but we do expect our kids to obey when we give a command. Sometimes you'll want your child to obey because you're in a public place, and you're mortified to be ignored by your normally sweet angel while strangers stare both of you. At other times, you might be giving a command for safety reasons when instant obedience is essential. Learning how to give effective commands increases the chance that your little darling will do you proud and give you the response you desire.


  1. 1
    Get your child's attention before you begin speaking. Stand close to him. Kneel down to his level and stare into his big eyes. Use your child's name at the beginning of your command.
  2. 2
    Don't use the word "we" in your command. Don't say, "We must start getting ready for bed now." This is no time for the team approach. Make it clear that you are the boss and that the child is the one who must act.
  3. 3
    State your command clearly. Be precise and concise. Keep the directive simple. Don't give reasons, explanations or justifications. Just give the command. For example, if you are telling the child it's time for bed, don't tell her how tired she'll be in the morning if she doesn't get enough sleep or that she needs sleep to help her grow. Just say, "Maya, put your toys away now."
  4. 4
    Give only one instruction at a time. Kids have short attention spans, especially for the things they don't like to hear. Don't give a long list that you want your child to do all in the same command. Wait until your child completes the first instruction and then give the next command. For example, first say, "Maya, get your pajamas on now." When she has done that say, "Maya, now brush your teeth."
  5. 5
    Do not include the word, "please" in your command. Although you would normally want to model politeness for your child, this is not the time to do so. Adding the word, "please" makes your command sound more like a request or suggestion that your child might choose to refuse, according to Now's the time to assume the role of supreme ruler and make your command sound commanding.
  6. 6
    Modulate your voice so the tone is it firm and authoritative. Don't shout angrily, even when your nerves are frayed and you're tempted to do so, because that's likely to upset your child and could make him feel defiant. And don't let your voice rise at the end of the sentence or your command will sound like a question. If you sound uncertain, your smart little kid will surely pick up on it and take advantage of what sounds like weakness?
  7. 7
    Be confident. Decide what you will do if he ignores or disobeys you. Consider taking away a treat or a toy if he doesn't obey your command. Tell him what the consequences of his disobedience will be. Just knowing what your strategies are will help you project confidence.
  8. 8
    Have fair and reasonable consequence ready if your child disobeys. Be consistent and don't make threats that you can't or won't follow through with.
  9. 9
    Allow a reasonable amount of time for the child to comply. If, for example, you want your child to pack up her toys, give her about five minutes to get started. It's helpful to give her advance notice. Tell her, "Maya, in five minutes you must put your toys away."
  10. 10
    Phrase your commands in the positive whenever possible. (Kids don't like hearing "no" and "don't" any more than we do. For example, rather than saying, "Don't stand on the couch," take out the negative and say, "Sit down."


  • If your child remains defiant, even when you issue effective commands, he might have some emotional issues that need to be addressed. Consult your pediatrician if you feel that your child's behavior is not improving no matter what you try.

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Categories: Education and Communications

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