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Kiki M

Eight year old won't follow instructions

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Kiki M

Posting out of desperation and hoping to find some strategies that worked for other parents.

 

My DD will be eight next month. We have an enormous amount of difficulty getting her to follow instructions. I don't mean that she doesn't understand them. She has no learning or developmental issues. I mean that she simply decides not to do as asked, or gets distracted by things she thinks are more interesting or important (toys, dog, etc).

 

It is causing a great deal of tension in my house, especially with my husband. This morning, for example, she was asked three times by her dad to complete a checklist of items we have for her to do before school. They are simple things - make her bed, put her pyjamas away, make sure the dog has water in his bowl. After telling her 3 times and giving her ample warning, he walks in to her room to find her sitting on the bed playing with toys, checklist uncompleted.

 

He yells, threatens punishments, she cries, and basically this pattern is repeated several times a week.

 

In calmer moments, I've tried to understand and rationalize with her, but she cannot articulate why she is incapable or unwilling to do as we have asked.

 

If you've faced a similar problem and found something that worked, please share. I am really disliking parenting my child at the moment, and this issue is making our house a miserable place to be.

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FiveAus

You are asking too much of her at once. Give her one simple task, help her complete it, then give her another simple task.

It sounds like you are overwhelming her by giving her a list. She's just a little girl, not an employee and she needs help to learn how to follow instructions.

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Mister Mum

Sounds like me as a kid OP. Classic ADHD - parents would give me a task and shame me for getting distracted which would p!ss me off and do nothing for my behaviour.

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Moonl!ght

All sounds very normal to me. I regularly have to ask my children more than three times to do simple tasks like clean their teeth or get in the shower. I'm not sure how well they would go if I added AND make their bed and put water in the dogs bowl to a request!

 

I told them recently from now on I would ask them to do something two times only and if I need to ask a third time there would be an instance consequence. So now I have started saying "I have asked you twice to do xyz. Do you need me to ask a third time?" Or if I find myself shouting I say "I don't want to shout, I have asked you twice already to get in the shower."

 

Ultimatley there is nothing unusual about her getting distracted by toys and not doing tasks - especially if it is a list of tasks. How about setting her up for success by reducing the number of items on her list before school? Perhaps limit the items to put PJ's away and make bed and drop fill the dogs water bowl. You can add more to the list as she gets older.

Edited by Moonl!ght
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seayork2002

I am not waying what is right or wrong but I am not sure if your list of things are real or just an example but with my son there is no way he would be able to do everything on your list,

 

In the mornings for example he gets up, eats breakfast, brushes his teeth and gets dressed. if we added making beds and putting clothes away etc. he would be overloaded and nothing would get done.

 

When he does have times when he won't do as asked I just keep on repeating and make sure I have his full attention

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annodam

One task at a time, simple instructions, maybe get her checked for Auditory Processing.

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CrankyM

As others said you need to break it down to her. You say she understands but are you actually sure of this? I mean when it comes down to it, make the bed and put away PJs actually involves a lot of planning steps and it’s easy at that age for it to become overwhelming. Especially if you have a child who takes a while to wake up in the morning.

 

Have you actually worked with her before to make the bed? Make the bed is a very general request. Kinda like clean your room. And some kids fall apart if they haven’t needs showed specifically what that means. Rather then punishing her, go and help her. Work with her to get it done and gradually get her to take ownership for it. Does she know where to put her PJs? Rather then say put away your PJs, says something like. Make your your PJs have been put under you pillow.

 

Is she like this with other things or is it just the morning? It could be she lacks executive functioning skills and is struggling. This is the ability to take and instruction and break it down to steps and plan it out. It’s something that develops over time. And if there is anything like adhd going on, there is a much bigger deficit in executive functioning skills. I’m not saying she had adhd, but there may be one aspect of it going on with her. I live in a household of children who struggle with this. You have to think about how you are communicating rather then just assuming they know what you need. Tell my almost 10 yr old to make the bed and he’d be wondering if you mean take the sheets off and replace them, do you just want it to look tidy, why does the bed have to be made, where do you start? Etc.

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Expelliarmus

How was the checklist introduced? Is it a visual list? Can she physically check it off? How many items are on it?

 

At 8 she will still need supervision to do those things. She’s not developmentally capable of following a checklist with multiple items on it unless she has been specifically and explicitly trained. Each item on the list is actually multiple steps, so having a list of multiple step items is a lot of steps.

 

It wouldn’t hurt to have her assessed for ADHD.

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QuirkyMum

ADHD?

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Jennifaraway

It does sound like a lot to remember at once for a kid. And then add in being distracted and not knowing why she doesn't do what she's asked, I'd be looking at ADHD too. Girls often go undiagnosed because they often don't show they hyperactive symptoms, but the are "off in the clouds" instead. I was that girl! In fact, I still am, just not quite as bad...

 

My 6yo DS has both hyperactive and inattentive ADHD, and without medication he can barely (if at all) do one task at a time - with medication it's a bit better, but he still needs help. His executive function skills aren't brilliant. His 3yo sister is better than him! (but she's the most alert one in the family).

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marple

I don't make my own bed so I've got nothing. Sorry OP.

She is still very little. It's a bit sad to be starting off every day crying because you haven't made your bed.

 

With the dogs bowl - just do it together. "come on darling it's time to give Timmy his water and you can pour it in" That sort of thing.

 

I don't know , I'm a big softie so probably best you ignore me if you are after a more regimented style of upbringing.

Edited by marple
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EsmeLennox

I think Dad needs to check his behaviour. She’s 8.

When you say ‘given a checklist’ is it a physical checklist or verbal instructions? Because multiple verbal instructions are unlikely to work and actually quite unfair on an 8 year old, who’s not developmentally ready for that yet.

 

What others have said...work with her to do the jobs, for independent tasks, one at a time. And seriously, a good dose of ‘chill out’ wouldn’t go astray. If she hasn’t done a task...don’t yell about it, either help her to achieve the task or let it go.

 

I think for an 8 year old basic independent getting ready for school and perhaps making the bed, if that’s important to you, is enough. Other jobs are best left until the afternoon.

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TheGreenSheep

Sounds like me as a kid OP. Classic ADHD - parents would give me a task and shame me for getting distracted which would p!ss me off and do nothing for my behaviour.

One task at a time, simple instructions, maybe get her checked for Auditory Processing.

 

Id be getting her assessed.

 

Go easy, ask her one task, and ask her what she needs to do, as a way of her hearing the info, processing it, saying it so she hears and it and then does the task.

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twinklestars

I think both you and your DH are placing unrealistic expectations on your DD on school mornings. To be really disliking parenting your child because she can't follow a checklist at 8 years old is pretty harsh.

 

I like to keep things simple on school mornings. Get up, have breakfast, brush teeth and get dressed, pack school bag...really it's enough for most children. Especially when they're thinking whether they need their library bag/homework folder etc as well. Often kids are already thinking ahead to their school day and friends.

 

Perhaps say she has to make her bed, but other jobs are a bit much on mornings where you're all rushing to get out the door for work and school. She may be feeling overwhelmed and so detaches by playing with toys or doing something calming or enjoyable instead.

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Contrebasse

My DD is 6.5. Half the time when I ask her to put shoes and socks on, she goes into her room and 10 minutes later is reading a book or playing.

 

No concerns here about attention or focus at school, she’s just not motivated to rush through getting ready and get out the door.

 

It’s frustrating but I just accept she needs supervision (as opposed to DH who lets her watch YouTube while he does hair, teeth and shoes for her - gets them out the door faster but not really setting her up for life skills!)

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Kiki M

Some interesting perspectives. Thank you for the responses.

 

I think I should look into having her assessed for ADHD.

 

In the interests of brevity, there were some things I left out of the OP. My mum (DD's nan) picks her up from school twice a week. My mum is also the soul of patience and kindness, very much a softie who never made my brother or I lift a finger around the house. I asked her if she ever gets frustrated with DD's behaviour. And to my surprise, she said yes, because she doesn't listen or follow instructions. The example she gave was when they are walking somewhere after school, DD may run ahead and attempt to cross a road by herself or with a friend, when she has been explicitly told not to.

 

For those who asked, the checklist is a written, laminated document that DD can use a marker to cross items off. When we first trialled it several months ago, she had no problem completing the items - it was a novelty. She knows how to do all of the tasks, has proven she can. It's just that the novelty has clearly worn off.

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rainycat

Sounds pretty normal to me, my kids are the same age and some days I am asking them to do something multiple times before it gets done.

Perhaps break it down and remind her to do one thing at at a time.

 

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Ozquoll

PPs have made excellent points which you should consider.

 

I wonder if your husband is acting in a way which is almost setting your daughter up to fail? My father used to act in quite a similar way to try to get me to clean my room - he was very overbearing and I felt (subconsciously) that to acquiesce would mean I was just a “thing” that he could order around. Of course a parent has a perfect right to request their child do basic cleaning, but he did it in a way that totally disrespected my independence and will. I would strongly encourage you to use a more positive approach to requesting your daughter do her chores.

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Ellie bean

Yelling does no good, threatening punishment also does no good especially if you don’t follow through. One thing at a time works best in our house. I do get your frustration though.

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Future-self

Your DD ending up in tears and you feeling like you’re over it across the board really just show that they whole thing isn’t working. So it all - her you and your DH need to stop. I read a great quote about how increased pressure causes resistance. It’s science but it’s also parenting.

 

You feel that she can but won’t but there is a very good chance that she can’t. How are you so sure that she doesn’t have something going on when she’s displaying signs that often indicate something else going on? If even your Mum is reporting her distraction and inability to remember rules and instructions then maybe it is worth exploring?

 

Either way, I’d strip it all back and start again. What definitely needs to be done - clothes teeth eat and maybe making bed. That’s it. Leave everything else. And just go through it all again with help and supervision.

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Caribou

We have a check list too. Taped to the wall. Everything in order DD is 7. Even then I have to call out the next step onchecklist to her. I even have a shower timer bc she gets that distracted or starts doing everything she’s not meant to do.

 

Try a timer. Each task should take no more than 5-10mins. Break it down for her rather than giving a list.

 

I get it though. We went through months of frustration, I’d try rationalising. Reasoning. Yelling. Drove me mad. DD does have ADHD charactistics. But pedictricsn wanted to wait until she was older to diagnose it. At the moment school is very good and redirecting her back on task. They use a timer to get her to focus. So i set a timer for her and me. It’s effective and jobs are smaller. Could that be an option for you?

Edited by Caribou

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CallMeFeral

I'm also thinking maybe inattentive ADHD, assuming you have age appropriate expectations for her and she's not meeting them. Even if it's not at a diagnostic level, the techniques and things used for ADHD might be helpful for her, perhaps read up on those.

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3babygirls

The checklist sounds reasonable, but I guess you are going to have to remind her step by step.

 

What about putting it as a priority list. So obviously giving the dog water is the most important. If she ticks that off but doesn't make her bed or put her pyjamas away then she needs to do it when she gets home in the afternoon, before she can play with any of her toys?

 

My mum started us with a very routine quite early on for the mornings and we picked it up very quickly (I know not all kids will), but one of the consequences was that if we hadn't made our bed, or done our music practise before school, then in the afternoons we had to do it before anything else.

She'd remind us in the mornings once, and then if we didn't do it, it would be on us for the afternoon. Didn't take me long to realise that actually doing my practise in the morning was so much better than missing out on playing with my friends in the afternoon!

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Prancer is coming

My kid has ADHD and my goal is just to get him out the door on time and have him unpack the dishwasher every morning. This is a marathon event without adding any more tasks!

 

DS gets distracted. If I sent him off to do a task (get dressed), I know I need to check on him or else he will be reading, playing or whatever. If he gets engrossed in something else he is even harder to shift. So every few minutes I will remind him to continue to get dressed, and count him down to do it.

 

It would be nice if kids did as they are told, but it isn’t always that simple. And not as if I have not tried. At the end of the day, having a strong connection with my kids is the most important thing, so I need to find a way that does not get me frustrated and DS upset, and means I often end up picking up he’s dressing gown from wherever he left it (and there will be hysterics later on if he can’t find it).

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halcyondays

What does the school say? Can she stay on task and follow instructions there? If so, you might want to follow how the teachers get the whole class doing what is necessary.

 

I find that if either myself or my almost 8 year old's brother is also doing the same task (getting dressed/packing bag) etc, that the 8 year old is more likely to stay on task. However if I'm unloading dishwasher, expecting 8 year old to get dressed while I'm doing it, I'll find 8 year old playing with his toys.

 

With regards to expectations, I find that I have very low ones in the morning- my aim is to get out of the house with everyone being in a relatively good mood so we can get on with our day. I do sometimes even dress my 7 year old. He's not a morning person, usually dresses himself, but sometimes needs the close contact and touch in the morning. However, after dinner, he is on fire, and can really follow directions well.

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