24 Genius Tricks to Try When Your Kids Won’t Follow Directions and Instructions

Are you looking for strategies to help students who won’t follow directions? If so, keep reading.

1. Practice directions/instructions on nonacademic tasks.

2. Create classroom rules: • Remain on-task. • Complete assignments quietly. • Remain in your seat. • Finish tasks. • Meet task expectations. Examine rules often. Praise students for following the rules.

3. Talk with the student to explain (a) what they are doing wrong (e.g., not following instructions when performing academic tasks) and (b) what they must be doing (e.g., listening to instructions, asking for clarification if not grasped, taking notes, following one step at a time, etc.).

4. Follow up a less desirable task with a highly desirable task. Make the conclusion of the first task appropriate to perform the second task.

5. Rewrite instructions for the student at a lower reading level.

6. Clarify instructions, and expectations before assigning a task.

7. Get the student to keep a record (e.g., chart or graph) of performance when trying new tasks/learning activities.

8. Display needed information in a readily accessible place (e.g., bulletin board, desktop, dictation slide, etc.).

9. Minimize the emphasis on competition. Competitive learning activities may cause the student to hurry to begin the task without following the instructions.

10. Get the student to time their learning activities to monitor personal behavior and accept time limits.

11. Begin with a single problem and add more problems to the task over time.

12. Praise the student for beginning tasks after receiving instructions: (a) give the student a concrete reward (e.g., classroom privileges, passing out learning materials, 10 minutes of free time, etc.) or (b) give the student an informal reward (e.g., praise, handshake, smile, etc.).

13. Connect with the student’s parents to disseminate information about the student’s progress. The parents may reinforce the student at home for beginning tasks after receiving instructions at school.

14. Correlate the importance of waiting for and following instructions as skills required for success on the job site.

15. Assess the clarity and quality of directions, explanations, and instructions given to the student.

16. Require that tasks done incorrectly, for any reason, be redone.

17. Make the student begin each task within a specific duration of time (e.g., three minutes, five minutes, etc.).

18. Get the student to attempt the new task/learning experience in a private space (e.g., table, “office,” quiet study area, etc.) to lessen the fear of public failure.

19. Get the student to create a flowchart of the steps necessary to finish a task.

20. Let the student perform new tasks/learning activities in an assortment of places in the school building (e.g., resource room, library, learning center, etc.).

21. Consider using a classroom management app to help the student learn to follow directions and instructions. Click here to view a list of apps that we recommend.

22. Consider using an adaptive behavior management app to help the student learn to follow directions and instructions. Click here to view a list of apps that we recommend.

23. Consider using Alexa to help the student learn to follow directions and instructions. Click here to read an article that we wrote on the subject.

24. Click here to learn about six bonus strategies for challenging problem behaviors and mastering classroom management.

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