A major mistaken assumption many parents make is that a youngster knows how to do something without the parent’s first modeling, teaching, practicing, and sometimes reinforcing the activity or procedure. A simple example is requesting a youngster to put dirty dishes in the sink. Taking the time to teach the youngster a procedure for how to rinse the dishes and utensils and where to place them can prevent future frustrations.
Another common example is that children often need to take certain items to school each day. To help a child, the parent might typically say, “Remember to take your lunch,” or “Remember to take your key.” But rather than the parent’s having the responsibility of reminding the child, the family could put in place the procedure of making a list. By simply inquiring, “Did you check your list?” the parent puts responsibility on the youngster. Lists can be made for school assignments, special clothing and equipment for sports, or other items that the child might need on a regular basis.
Using this approach requires the youngster, rather than the parent, to go through the conscious thought process of checking the list. Creating and teaching procedures not only prevents nagging, it also eliminates the negative feelings and stress that accompany such an unpleasant approach while simultaneously promoting responsibility.
If you think about it, you will realize that we run our lives on procedures. Especially with youngsters who have poor impulse control or act randomly and spontaneously, having structure in the form of procedures can be of great assistance to them—as well as to the parents. Each time your child does something you are dissatisfied with—or does not do something you expect of your youngster —ask yourself, “Does the child have a procedure?” In fact, anytime your youngster does anything that bothers you, this should be the first question to ask yourself.