#65: Rewarding kids when they Follow Instructions

by | Feb 3, 2020 | ADHD, ADHD Podcasts, Effective Positive Rewards, Featured Podcasts, Podcasts

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When parents reward kids when the Follow Instructions, they encourage their child to repeat the behavior. 

Rewarding a child doesn’t have to be costly or involved. Sometimes the most effective rewards are one-on-one time with mom or dad, getting a hug or high five, or choosing a family activity.

Different rewards will motivate different kids, and those rewards will change as the child gets older. 

We always recommend involving kids in rewards as it allows them to know you’re focused on building the relationship sometimes though kids can ask for rewards that don’t match the behavior or aren’t things that parents can do. 

As a parent, you can help guide them to rewards that would work. Have them write out a list of rewards they would like. Then decided what rewards you think are doable. It may take a bunch of back and forth to get to rewards that both you and your child think are fair. 

Different kids may want a different reward on different days for the same behavior. Having a list of three or four rewards they can choose from is helpful as it reduces discussion and makes it easier to follow through.

Teaching kids to Follow Instructions is such an important part of helping children learn to navigate the world. 

To learn more about Following Instructions visit: https://www.smarterparenting.com/skills/following-instructions/

To learn more about the agencies worldwide that are using the Teaching-Family Model visit: https://www.teaching-family.org/

For more information about how Smarter Parenting uses the Teaching-Family Model, visit the episode podcast page on SmarterParenting.com


Episode Transcript

This is episode 65. Let’s get started.

Smarter Parenting welcomes you to our podcast series, The Parenting Coach for ADHD. Here to heal and elevate lives is your Parenting Coach, Siope Kinikini.

Siope Kinikini: Hey everybody. I hope everybody is doing great. We are actually here in Cincinnati at a conference and this is for the Teaching-Family Model which is The Model that we use in Smarter Parenting. And so, we are gathered with practitioners from all around the country and in fact, all around the world. We have people who are visiting us from outside the United States who also use The Model in their agencies. 

Siope Kinikini: Today, I am joined with Hawa  Dogbey who is from Ghana and she is working in Tennessee at Tennessee Family Solutions. Now the population that she works with is different than what most parents are thinking of when we’re talking about children, obviously on Smarter Parenting, but she works with adults who have disabilities and she is still using the skills. And they use the skills of the Teaching-Family Model there and it’s been effective, would you say that?

Hawa  Dogbey: Yes, very.

Siope Kinikini: Very, very effective.

Hawa  Dogbey: Yes.

Siope Kinikini: So tell me about your work with the people that you work with as far as your clients.

Hawa  Dogbey: I have two adult males. Basically it’s two males in my home.

Siope Kinikini: I’m curious, do you use the Teaching-Family Model with people outside of work?

Hawa  Dogbey: Yes, I use it with my kid.

Siope Kinikini: Yeah, so tell me about that.

Hawa  Dogbey: I use it with my two-year-old. Recently I was trying to get him to use the potty. His main motivator was stickers. So I use that to motivate him whenever he will sit but he wouldn’t go. So whenever he goes, he gets a sticker. So anytime I put him on, he tries to go in order to get his sticker. So I use that on a day-to-day basis with my kids too.

Siope Kinikini: That’s wonderful. So the Teaching-Family Model is something you use in your own family.

Hawa  Dogbey: Yes.

Siope Kinikini: Yes and so that Following Instructions you’ve actually used kind of this reward system with it. So if he follows the instruction, he gets a reward for it.

Hawa  Dogbey: Yes.

Siope Kinikini: Okay and in Following Instructions then with your child, are there other things you ask your child to do? Like instructions that you give him other than going to the potty? Like do you have him clean his room like that?

Hawa  Dogbey: Yes, I have an adult who loves his video games, so yes, I use that with him as well. Ask to cleaning his room and doing his homework and sometimes even cleaning the living room. Yes, getting him to do different tasks knowing that after that he gets to play his video games or he gets to go out to a place he really. He likes the movies so I use that with him as well.

Siope Kinikini: What I like about that is that you can actually give a reward for Following Instructions.

Hawa  Dogbey: Yes.

Siope Kinikini: And actually that makes it more effective for them to continually do it, you know? But you got to also be sure that you’re giving a reward that fit. Because with your younger child, that was with stickers and that was motivating. With your older child, it’s time playing a video game.

Hawa  Dogbey: Yes, that’s what he wants to do so it always has to be what the individual wants to do. And sometimes with that, if they have a couple of activities or some rewards, you can ask them to pick what they would want at the end of that activity and that makes them do it. Rather than you just choosing for them, “Oh, I’ll take you to the movie,” maybe that day he just wants to play his video game. So you give them the opportunity to pick what reward they want for that particular activity and that helps.

Siope Kinikini: You know what I think is fantastic about that is that you’re allowing a child to participate in Following Instructions and then in their reward.

Hawa  Dogbey: Yes.

Siope Kinikini: And the other part is it’s so motivating for children and this is something I really hope parents pay attention to, is to allow them to choose what the reward will be.

Hawa  Dogbey: Yes, very important.

Siope Kinikini: Yeah, parents have the right to say, “That’s too big or that’s too small,” but allowing them to have some input actually gets some buy-in from the children. That’s fantastic.

Hawa  Dogbey: And then if you think something is too big or too small, you can have a set or maybe three options where they can choose from which is something they know they want and it’s not too big for you because you have to be able to follow through with it.

Siope Kinikini: Yeah.

Hawa  Dogbey: So if you have a set of three rewards that they can choose from, that really helps. Four, five, that is within your means. You don’t have to stretch to do it, that helps too so they don’t pick something you cannot afford.

Siope Kinikini: Yeah, I hope parents. So this a key element in choosing a reward for Following Instructions. And that is you do want your children to make a choice but sometimes you can guide that choice by creating the choices.

Hawa  Dogbey: Right.

Siope Kinikini: Right? So parents know what funds they have. They know how much money they have. They know what resources are available. And so sometimes you can actually write down three choices and then present it to your child. But parents need to be sure that they can follow through.

Hawa  Dogbey: Yes.

Siope Kinikini: Right?

Hawa  Dogbey: Yes, you have to.

Siope Kinikini: That’s such a powerful way to like increase children’s ability to follow the instructions, right?

Hawa  Dogbey: Yes, you have to be able to follow through because they look forward to it. If at the end of the day they don’t get it, next time they don’t take you serious. So, you have to be able to follow through with it, something they choose. One time I had my son just list what he wants and then I knew the ones I could follow through, the ones I couldn’t. And so it’s something from him but I give him the options of what I can follow through with it.

Siope Kinikini: That’s great. One of the wonderful things about what you’re telling me is that you can set boundaries around the reward.

Hawa  Dogbey: Yes.

Siope Kinikini: So parents out there, pay attention. It doesn’t have to be something huge, you can actually have your child like you did, write down a list of things and then you as a parent go through and say, “I can do this, I can do this, I can’t do that, I can’t do that,” and then go back and present it to your child and say, “Choose from this list, this new list.” That teaches cooperation, that teaches, “Hey, I’m on board and I want to help you and I want you to be successful,” but it’s all part of you working together and building that relationship with your child. I absolutely love that idea. I think it’s a great idea and it’s something I think parents with children who have ADHD, it will be very effective for them to get them to Follow Instructions even more than just saying, “You need to follow my instruction.”

Hawa  Dogbey: Yes.

Siope Kinikini: Right? That’s fantastic. That is fantastic. So that is wonderful. I’m glad you’re using it with your children.

Hawa  Dogbey: It’s awesome. It was a good thing to learn the first time I got to know it and it’s been phenomenal in my work and in my personal life. The Teaching-Family Model has been very, very phenomenal. And the fact that it can be person-centered, people have different interests and so you can tailor it to a person in particular and then help the person achieve the goals they want to achieve in life is one great thing.

Siope Kinikini: Yeah.

Hawa  Dogbey: It’s helping in every area of my life.

Siope Kinikini: That is wonderful. You know what, thank you Hawa for being here. I super, super appreciate you. She again works in Tennessee with a population that is different but I just want parents to understand how powerful the Teaching-Family Model is and what it can do for your family. And she’s given great tips on how she’s used it with her own children in getting them to Follow Instructions by coupling it with rewards. So great, great, great suggestions on how to do that.

Siope Kinikini: Now, of course, that’s it from me for now. Be sure to leave us a five-star rating and share this podcast with friends and people you think it will be helpful with. You can find the skill of Following Instruction on the Smarter Parenting website. There is a video there, it has explanations on how to do it with the steps and you can see examples of how a parent does it with a young child and how a parent does it with an older child. So jump over there, you can find all the resources that you need to teach this skill to your family. And again, thanks Hawa for being here all the way from Ghana.

Hawa  Dogbey: Thank you for having me.

Siope Kinikini: Yeah. How do you say hello in Ghana?

Hawa  Dogbey: Ete sen.

Siope Kinikini: Ete sen. How do you say goodbye? I guess.

Hawa  Dogbey: It’s the same.

Siope Kinikini: Oh is it?

Hawa  Dogbey: Bye.

Siope Kinikini: It’s kind of like Hawaiian, wherewith Aloha, it’s like Aloha. So I will say Aloha and you say…

Hawa  Dogbey: Bye-Bye.



Behavior skill: Following Instructions

Ep #53: The importance of Following Instructions

Ep #61: Using Following Instructions in daily routines 

Blog post: How I made Following Instructions work with toddlers

Blog post: How to teach your children Following Instructions

Blog post: Getting ADHD children to Follow Instructions


Teaching-Family Association

Teaching-Family Association site: Tennessee Family Solutions

Ep #11: What is the Teaching-Family Model?

Ep #36: Relationships–the why of the Teaching-Family Model

Ep #56: Reinforcing good behavior using Effective Positive Rewards


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  1. John

    My mother always tells me to do something for her, and that’s okay, normally I don’t pay attention, so I have to ask her what was it again, the problem is she doesn’t give me only one instruction, she tells me to do 3 different things at the same time, that makes it harder for me to follow them, I always forget about one because I’m too focused on deciphering what the other 2 instructions were, and when I do it wrong, she calls me dumb, which only makes me more afraid of doing things wrong.

    • Amy Lund

      Most adults tend to give multiple instructions at once when talking to kids because we forget they don’t have the same capability as them. You are not dumb for not being able to remember multiple instructions at once–most kids can’t. We would recommend talking to your mom at a time when you are both calm and explaining to her that you want to follow all of her instructions, but when she gives so many at a time it’s difficult. (You could even show her the Following Instructions skill video). Ask if she could focus on giving you one instruction at a time and when that one is completed then give you another as that would allow you to get everything done without causing both of you to become frustrated. If she starts giving too many instructions at a time, just remind her kindly that it’s too many instructions and ask for her to give you one at a time. Let us know how it goes.


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Specific DiagnosisADHD#65: Rewarding kids when they Follow Instructions