Ask the Mom Squad: Get Your Kids to Do What You Ask

Kim asks:

I have been having such a hard time getting my children to follow through with what I ask them to do. I get so frustrated and I end up yelling. Do you have any strategies to suggest?

Our Family Life and Parenting expert (and we use that term loosely-wink) Sarah says:

We’ve all heard the suggestions of reward charts, punishments, routines, etc. And many of those things will get the results you’re after: Your kids following through with assigned tasks. However, I’m going to suggest an “out of the box” approach. I’m going to suggest that maybe your child isn’t retaining the information you give him/her. Each child learns differently, and as parents, we need to tap into the uniqueness of each of our children.

Get to know your child’s learning style, and use it help them internalize their tasks. The three most common learning styles are:

1. Visual Learners learn through seeing. They like diagrams visual aids. They might look directly at your face when you talk, since they can see your lips moving. The Visual Learner wants to look at pictures when reading a book, and might often exclaim, “I can’t see!”

If you have a visual learner:

  • Hang charts and checklists with pictures on the wall with the tasks assigned to the child. Here is a good example that I created with Microsoft Word and some clip art.
  • When saying something really important, start with something like,”Read my lips…” Chances are, they will!
  • For older children, have them write things down in a planner or wall calendar.


2. Aural Learners learn through hearing. These kids are a classroom teacher’s dream, because they love listening to presentations, and absorb information as the teacher talks. You can usually ask your Aural-Learning child to do something, they remember it, and do it. But these children don’t necessarily follow through on charts, and when they read, they like to do it aloud… or better yet, have a parent read to them!

If you have an aural learner:

  • Try singing your instructions or saying them in a funny voice to get the child’s attention. Say it slow then fast, or in rhythm.
  • Make up a different “instrument” for each task: “When it’s time to take your bath, I’m going to bang this pot with a spoon!” When it’s time to brush your teeth, I’ll rub this sandpaper together”
  • Have each member of the family repeat the tasks individually. The aural learner will hear it several times and internalize. (this also helps for the Verbal Processor, later in the article)


3. Kinesthetic Learners learn by doing and touching. These kids are the ones whose parents follow them around a store, saying, “Stop touching that! Put that down!” I know, because I have one! A kinesthetic learner doesn’t always fit into the mold of the traditional classroom, and sometimes need a creative approach to truly reach them. If they are forced to sit still and listen, chances are they are thinking,”i’m trapped i can’t move she’s making me sit here but all i wanna do is move…” And they will not hear you!

If you have a kinesthetic learner:

  • Have them pantomime the task before they do it. Make it fun by miming it slow, then fast, then say, GO!”
  • If you really need to talk for a while with your child, let them squeeze a stress ball, sit on an exercise ball, or jump on an exercise trampoline while listening. Explain their task while marching around the kitchen.


4. Verbal Processors are sort of a combination between Aural and Kinesthetic. I don’t know if it’s hearing themselves talk, or the actual moving of the muscles, but I know they talk- a lot. My middle daughter- while sitting in group, listening to the teacher- will instantly turn to her neighbor, and begin talking about the lesson. Yes, this is while the teacher is still talking! She really wants to process what she’s hearing verbally. Just ride in the car with her for a while, and you’ll see!

If you have a verbal processor:

  • You can probably guess: Have them repeat the directions back to you! Sing it! Shout it! Whisper it! Whatever works!

What types of learners do you have in your household? What works for you when you’re trying to get your kids to retain information?



  1. Karen Kimbro says

    I’ve run across a great book called How To Have A New Kid By Friday, by Kevin Leman. This a simple nuts and bolts book on child training. It’s not the child’s fault, it is the parents fault. You have to remember this is called “child training”. So I agree with Sarah in that we have to be sure our children hear us, but also we should follow through with what we have told our children.

  2. Very interesting, Sarah!

  3. Oh, yes, Karen! Follow through is key! If they know you don’t have anything to back up your requests, they won’t do it!