Giving commands to increase compliance


Does anyone else struggle with getting their children to comply? I’ve talked to many parents and this frustration is definitely on the top of their list!!

I was talking to a parent the other day and we got onto the topic of compliance. This conversation reminded of the BE DIRECT tool we used in PCIT when teaching parents how to give commands to young children. It gave me the idea to share this super helpful and easy method you can use to tweak your language and increase compliance in your children. And who doesn’t want that?

First things first, I want you to identify something that you want your child to start doing.

For example, if sitting at the table during dinner is something that she’s struggling with, then sitting in her chair would be what you want to see.

First, catch her every time she’s sitting in her chair and praise her! Even if it’s not at dinner time. Maybe it’s in the middle of the day.

“I love the way you’re sitting properly in your chair. I also love it when you sit in your chair at dinner.” (If it’s at different time of the day)

“You are being such a big girl sitting in your chair.”

“When you sit in your chair, then we can have so much fun eating dinner together!”

“You are setting such a great example for your little brother by sitting in your chair.”

These are examples, however you choose to praise him or her can be all yours! The only thing I’m going to warn against is sarcastic praise. Avoid praising him/her if they are NOT doing what you ask. Sarcasm is confusing to young children and will not get them to comply.

Now that we know what we want to see, we’re going to talk about direct commands. When talking with your kids, always use direct commands. Avoid indirect commands such as: “Can you put on your shoes?” An indirect commands gives them a clear space to say “no” and then begins the power struggle!

These direct commands are going to increase the chances of compliance. They will also always be followed up with praise after they comply! Even it’s something you expect them to do. There’s nothing wrong with praise! Don’t you love it when your partner thanks you for what you do? I sure do!

Parent Child Interaction Therapy or (PCIT)[1] teaches us the BE DIRECT Acronym to remember what a direct command is. I’m going to breakdown the acronym for you below so you can start using direct commands today!

Be Specific

Tell them exactly what you expect from them. The more specific you are, the more likely they are to comply. Telling thing to “behave” can be unclear, and not measurable!

“Please sit in your dinner chair”

Every command positively stated

When giving a command, Avoid words such as: No, Don’t, Stop, Quit, or Not. This can make the child do the exact thing you’re telling them not to do! This way, the command tells them what to do, rather than what they’re not supposed to do.

Developmentally appropriate

Chose a command that your child can do. We probably wouldn’t have a 3 year old fold and put away their clothes. They could, however put their socks in their drawer.

“Please put your socks in your bottom drawer”

Individual rather than compound

One command at a time. Young children as well as children struggling with attention difficulties will not be able to remember the list of commands you give them. That’s why I often hear, that your children aren’t complying because they don’t follow all the steps. Give one command, follow up with praise when it’s done, and then give the next command.

“Please brush your teeth.”

“Great job brushing your teeth!”

“Please put your shoes on.”

“Thank you for getting your shoes on!”

You get the idea!

Respectful and Polite.

You’ll notice all the commands say please. We are always modeling even when giving commands. We’re modeling manners, and social skills. Kids will be more likely to comply when please is involved!

Essential Commands only

Often kids are bogged down with so many commands that they stop listening. Use commands when it’s essential for them to comply.

Carefully timed explanations

It’s hard for a child to understand why they need to do something way before an event so make give a rationale for the command.

“It’s time to leave for school. Please put on your shoes.”

Tone of voice is neutral

I hear a lot that parents have to yell in order to get their children to listen which then causes the frustration and anger to rise. Given commands in a neutral, matter of fact tone to let them know you mean business without having to yell. You are in charge!

Make sure that when you give these commands, that you follow up with a praise when they comply!! The more they know what to expect when you give them a command, the more likely they’re going to comply.

Use these commands this week, and tell me how it goes!

There are definitely going to be times when your child does not comply, and those times are complicated. When working with non-compliance, I suggest an in person session where we can come up with a plan specific for your child to deal with non-compliance. Feel free to send me an email and we can set up a time to meet.

[1] Urquiza, A., Zebell, N., Timmer, S., McGrath, J., & Whitten, L. (2011) Course of Treatment Manual for PCIT-TC. Unpublished Manuscript.


How to help your child during a meltdown?


How do I help my child when they are in the middle of a meltdown?

To answer this question, I want to share with you a little about the brain. If you haven’t gotten ‘The Whole-Brain Child’ yet, and you are asking this question, buy it or borrow it from your library! It contains tangible strategies to support your child.

In the book Siegel and Bryson talk about not only surviving through these meltdowns, but being able to make them moments to thrive. We can take these opportunities to help our children better organize their feelings so they’re able to not only get through the tragedy of not playing with the red truck, but they are able to cope with life’s stressors in the future. Isn’t that what we all want for our children?

You might have heard, but if not, I’ll break it down. There are two sides to the brain, the left side and the right side. The left side likes words, to put things in order, and to make lists; whereas the right side is more “holistic and nonverbal”, caring about facial expressions, eye contact, tone of voice, posture, and gestures.[1] The right side of our brain cares about images, emotions, memories, and is more intuitive and emotional. Another helpful thing to remember is that the right brain is more influenced by the body and lower brain areas (like our fight or flight responses).[2]


It’s important to know the differences between each side because when your child is having a meltdown, their right brain is the one “doing the talking”. They have very little access to their left-brain in this moment.

This is why many times when you say “ If you don’t stop crying…” it doesn’t usually work. It’s nearly impossible for them to have logical thoughts while they are fully in their right brain emotion. Very young children are right brain dominant because they haven’t fully developed their language making is difficult to describe their emotions! Our job as parents is to help our children integrate the right and the left-brain. These meltdown moments are the times where the brain needs support to horizontally integrate the right and the left-brain.

One strategy Siegel and Bryson like to call “Connect and Re-direct”. Since you know that your child is in their right brain at the moment, it’s important to connect with them on a right brain level first.

I’ll give an example that happened with my daughter yesterday. She was in a pushcart with a box and both her and the box couldn’t fit. She started whining and I saw her trying to push the box to squeeze it to fit. I looked at her and matched her facial expression, and said, “You’re trying to fit the box in the cart but it won’t fit. You’re really frustrated” and I nodded my head.” She looked at me and then put the box on the ground. I then said “why don’t you play with the box on the ground?” She climbed out of the cart and she continued playing. This is what we would call connect and redirect. I had to first connect with the emotion of her right brain: frustrated. Then, I could re-direct her, which is processed in the left-brain. If I gave her an example of something else to do while she was still whining and frustrated, she would not have been able to hear it, and would have probably been more frustrated.

I also want stress that this little moment is not going to happen so effectively every time. It is going to take some trial and error on what works best for you and your child. It’s like a muscle that needs to be strengthened. Practicing this daily with our little ones is how they begin to organize their feelings and guide them with new ways to cope with their big emotions while integrating the left and right brains.

Remember, these emotional moments are not the best for a lecture about consequences. That is a left-brain conversation that can be done at a time when your child is in a calmer state. This doesn’t mean that consequences go out the window! It just means there is a time and place to have them, and while your child is experiences big emotions out of their right brain, it is not the time.

Try this strategy and share how this worked with your child! Feel free to throw any questions or scenario at me, and I’ll share some helpful tips on my insta story!

[1] (Siegel, 2011).

[2] (Siegel, 2011)

Bedtime Routine help from a Sleep coach!


Anyone else struggle with bedtime with their little ones?

We struggled to get Charlotte to sleep through the night, and the sleep training methods we kept finding didn’t fall in line with our parenting. We ended up functioning on little sleep for over a year until one day she decided to sleep through the night. I have to be honest, it was not a fun time for any of us and definitely not great for our marriage. Dave and I would pray that she’d sleep through the night, and then when she’d wake up we’d argue about what to do, and how to get her back down. My “go-to” was to nurse her to sleep but sometimes it wouldn’t work so she’d be wide awake and not ready to go back down. I wish I had met Meredith during this time and learned about her compassionate sleep coaching. We definitely would have been more joyful parents and we would have all gotten more sleep!

I am often asked questions about sleep and difficulty with bedtime routines and since I am not a sleep expert, I went out to find someone that could help. I am leaning on the expertise of someone who has literally worked with over 100 families to help their children sleep through the night.

I’ve teamed up with sleep coach, Meredith Brough to bring you a ton of helpful, evidence-based information on bedtime routines. She is a Mother of 5, and all born within 8 years!! She developed her techniques through hands on experience and followed it up with extensive research to create her compassionate sleep coaching program.

She is giving us this information that she gives to her clients! So, grab a cup of coffee because there is so much here.

Here’s what she has to say about bedtime routines:

What is the best bedtime routine for your child? There are only a few guidelines that are one-size-fits-all, and the rest is up to you! As a mother of five, a previous daycare owner, and a children’s sleep coach, can I offer you some ideas and information to help you decide? Here is a sneak peek of the advice I give to my clients!

Family dynamics and parenting styles create unique daily routines and systems in each of our homes. On top of that, children are different in personality type, physical needs, development, and sleep requirements. It makes perfect sense that bedtime routines are about as diverse as our families are! Numberless parents wonder every day, “what should our bedtime routine be?” “Are we doing this right?” It is common to look around at your friends and family and feel inadequate, confused, and unsure. Are you ready to relieve your mind?

Here’s a newsflash: newborn babies simply fall asleep... Check that one off your list! Bedtime routines are unnecessary at this stage. It doesn’t matter how new babies fall asleep or where or when. I do have some advice on how they learn to fall asleep and how to create a predictable schedule starting young, but that is another topic.

Once your child is 2-3 months old, pick a bedtime that works, and commit to it. It may change as your child grows, so take note of emerging patterns of hyper activity, crankiness or lengthy bedtime efforts and adjust the time earlier or later by 15-minute increments. It’s natural for the activities to evolve, too, according to the child’s needs and attention span, but should be fairly set once the child is 18-24 months old.

There are studies on the effectiveness of set bedtimes each night (experts say to keep them within 30 minutes of the same time from day to day). These times can be adjusted 15-30 minutes earlier when a child is tired or has missed some sleep during the day or can be 15-30 minutes later, if a child has a late nap. In my experience, 15 minutes is the safest route when it comes to schedule adjustments. Kids will fall asleep faster and have fewer interruptions at night when they have the same bed time. In contrast, they may have rough bedtimes, frequent awakenings, and early morning beginnings, if you miss the optimal sleepy window. (Sarah N. Biggs, 2011)

Have you ever kept your child up late to have an evening away? These occasions don’t usually end well in public places! Putting embarrassment aside, weigh your options when tempted by the idea of a night out. If the experience is important to you and worth the consequences that come from a late bedtime, accept the price-tag. It may be a rough night. Decide ahead of time that you are up for the challenge. Maybe this time will influence your decision for the next time, and that’s part of learning and going forward. (Be good to your child and don’t do this more than 1-2 times in a week to keep the circadian rhythm intact and prevent overtiredness.)

Routines are very important. There is ample support showing the benefits of consistent bedtime routines. In studies, children fell asleep faster, slept longer, and their mothers’ moods improved when routines were followed regularly. Is it bad that I laughed about moms’ improved moods? (In the studies, the routines were not the same.) (Science Daily, 2014) (Medicine, 2009) In my work, on a daily basis, I witness improvements in quality of sleep, smoother bedtimes, and increased cooperation from children as parents implement predictable bedtime patterns.

Keep in mind that children have different needs according to their personalities and the amount of energy they have. For example, energetic children have smaller windows of sleepiness and need more time to wind down. Many little ones fall asleep in just a few minutes. Know your child’s needs and give them time to become tired. (It can make a big difference to allow some time for this before naps and bedtime.) Track your bedtimes for a week, writing down how long the routines took, what time you started them, the times your child fell asleep, and how long the sleep stretches were. Be prepared with extra material (books and songs) in case you need them. At approximately a week, you will be able to pinpoint the best window of sleepiness and plan the amount of time your child needs to fall asleep. The process of falling asleep, including the routine, is between 5-20 minutes for most children.

There are children who are not predictable, and for these children, flexibility in expectations and planning the routine are a must! Predict a thirty-minute process but prepare your child to fall asleep sooner. Make sure the lights are low and movement is slow so that the melatonin hormone releases and does its magic. These kids can take anywhere from 5-45 minutes. It’s challenging!

Avoid tv and screen time for 30-60 minutes before the routine and bedtime. Each child is different in how he/she reacts to blue screen light, but a good rule of thumb is to avoid them for 30 minutes. Studies also show that thinking and brain stimulation from electronics will keep children awake. (Boyle, 2016) Lights that emulate sunlight such as LED, white and yellow lights, all trigger the brain to wake up. Even when families use small night lights or there are small streams of light around the blinds/curtains, a child can be woken from 20 feet away. (Sleep: Darkness Matters-How Light Affects Sleep, 2015)

Watch your child’s sleep cues before your bedtime routine. You might be surprised to find that your child is yawning, rubbing his/her eyes, and staring into space before your planned bedtime. If fussiness or hyper activity sets in, bedtime is too late. Most experts recommend a bedtime between 7-8:30 PM. What matters most, is that you are allowing enough time for your child to get adequate sleep at night.

Follow these guidelines for recommended sleep: Sleep Foundation Guidelines

These numbers are sometimes higher than the American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidelines. I like the Sleep Foundation recommendations because their standards are higher. Sleep is too important to skimp on for little ones’ health and development.

To encourage proper sleep associations and clear sleep cues, I recommend doing the routine in the room your child will be sleeping in. It is also less disruptive to the process to be in one room.

The routine can begin with a feeding, bath or another quiet activity. Have you thought of the benefits of giving your child a bath every night? When my children were young, 10 to 20 years ago, I had a hard time finding gentle or sensitive soaps for my children. Our doctor said not to give our children baths every day to prevent eczema. Today there are gentle products, so it isn’t as much of a concern. But, guess what?! This is genius. You can give your child a bath without soap. Let your child take a bath every night as part of the predictable routine and then use soap every 2 to 3 days. As a child nears 18 months-2 years, he/she may become irritable when it’s time to wash. (I find this tendency in energetic or sensitive children). Not using soap every night can help you get through bath time so there is less resistance. Did you know that some doctors recommend a bath before bedtime to lower the body temperature? (Melatonin does this too!) It helps grown-ups sleep better, too! The thing I like about giving children a bath every day is the consistency. Research underscores the importance of consistency in helping children sleep better and longer at night.

Make sure the bedroom is ready for you when you go in! Have the lights turned down low (I recommend a Himalayan Salt lamp with a dimmer switch or Himalayan Salt night light behind a curtain-they can still be bright. Make sure you get one that has an orange or pink glow. Another approved light source is a red bulb. They don’t stimulate the brain the way other colors do). You can wait to turn the white noise on (which I highly recommend-it’s good for memory, and studies show that kids fall asleep faster, sleep longer and deeper when it is on continuously. Keep the volume level at medium (less than 50 decibels) or lower to protect your little one’s hearing. (Andriate, 2018) (Carney, 2016)

If you want to have a successful routine, monitor your child’s pathway to the bedroom, or carry your child from the bath to the bedroom. Many parents find improvements to their routine because of this tip. Children frequently wake themselves up to resist going to sleep. If your child’s routine is interrupted by running around, jumping, kicking, screaming, crawling, bouncing or standing, you are going to have a harder time getting your child to go to sleep. It’s important to keep things slow and calm. Bring the clothing to the changing table or the bathroom or carry your child to the room and put lotion on (massage is another great way to help your child relax-with or without lavender lotion). Get baby diapered and dressed right away (put on the sleep sack or swaddle if they wear one) and choose a place to sit comfortably.

Next, sit next to your child on the bed, or hold your baby/toddler in your lap for safe-keeping and watch his/her energy level. A good way to avoid a wrestling match or a battle with toddlers that get wiggly or try to get down to play, is to put them in their crib for a short time (30 seconds). Every time they fight you, put your little one in there and pick him/her up to sit again. Toddlers usually learn pretty quickly what the options are.

Finally, sit quietly with your child and look at or read books, sing songs, tell stories, make shadows on the wall, snuggle, and activate the imagination. This is the time to help your child let go, relax and enter “Sleepy Land.” Reading out loud to young children forms unique bonds and nostalgic memories for the entire family. Studies prove that there are several benefits of reading out loud to children 0-3 years and older: it broadens their vocabulary, which helps them learn to express themselves and their feelings, teaches empathy, helps children learn to control themselves and their behavior, and helps them transition from picture books to reading words. If you weren’t motivated to read with your children before, I hope you are now! (Perri Klass, 2015) (Klass, 2018)

There are three stages of falling to sleep for babies: the first one is when your child begins yawning, rubbing his/her eyes or nuzzling into your shoulder. This is when it is important to be actively preparing for sleep and watching the child closely. Most experts say to hurry to begin the routine at the 2nd/3rd yawn. But, some children don’t yawn until after the routine begins. Implementing a consistent bedtime means that your child will be winding down at the same time every evening, which regulates the natural rhythms of the body, helping the sleep cues begin naturally, and most importantly, helping you avoid overtiredness and fussing.

The second stage of sleep for babies and children is when they slow down movement and stare. Help your child lay down as this stage begins. If you wait any longer, you might reach the 3rd stage, which could either teach your child to rely on you to fall asleep or cause a new problem.

During the 3rd stage, your child is nodding off, eyes are beginning to close, and he/she is falling asleep (sometimes his/her body jolts). Small children and babies will begin to fall asleep in your arms or lap and wake themselves back up. Bedtime can be very challenging if this happens. Instead, while you’re singing, talking or reading to your child, watch for sleep cues. It will help you move at the right time and figure out how long it takes for your child to wind down. It shouldn’t take more than a few days to see what works best-but be prepared to help your child get to bed, before the eye drooping begins! Your timing will help him/her fade into a restful sleep.

Choosing a consistent bedtime and routine will be beneficial to your child and make your nights a dream. I hope that you feel equipped with powerful information to implement a plan. Trust that you have the tools to create the right routine for your child. You have the best perspective and insight to make this decision for him/her. Follow what feels right and fits your family, then enjoy creating bedtime memories!

All of this information is so helpful even for us now that she’s sleeping through the night! Feel free to leave questions in the comments or contact Meredith directly at her information below. She offers a free 30-60 minute consultation to ask questions and find out the best fit for you and your family!

Meredith Brough, Compassionate Sleep Coach

Member/Owner Sweet Slumber LLC



How to help your child transition to school


A frequent question I’ve been asked is how to help children with the transition back to school. Since school started, and many folks have been sharing their struggles with the morning meltdowns, I’m going to share some ideas here. I want to start off by saying meltdowns usually happen during periods of transition.

When it comes to transitions there is a fear of the unknown. Children might be worried about connecting with their teacher, meeting new friends, or even what their new school routine will be.

A helpful thing to support their transition is something called front loading. Front loading is a way to prepare children for what they’re about to experience and can be extremely helpful for children exhibiting feelings of worry.

An example of this would be having a conversation regarding what the following day or week will look like. Use as much detail as you’d like keeping it developmentally appropriate for your child. You can also add the things they’ll be doing at school. This is why they have meet the teacher nights! It helps the children adjust to their new teacher and school.

For many children, visuals are extremely helpful reminders. I’ve had parents create visual schedules that have pictures of breakfast, a toothbrush, and a car to represent each step in the routine. This empowers children to know what’s coming next. It also gives them a tool to look at when you’re not around. A conversation will need to happen frequently until your child is comfortable and builds trust in the routine. It may feel like you are constantly repeating yourself (because you are!). This is solidifying the routine and creating calmness in your child’s brain. You are rewiring your child’s brain to feel calm and peace about their routine opposed to worry.

A conversation with your 4 year old might sound something like this:

Mom: “Tomorrow, after you wake up we’re going to eat breakfast, brush your teeth, get dressed and then get in the car to drive to school.”

Child: “And see Mrs. Green?”

Mom: “Yes, and see Mrs. Green. When we drive up to your school, she’s going to be there to get you out of the car.”

Child: “And then we’re going to have our morning meeting! I sit next to Abby in morning meeting.”

Mom: “That’s right. You will have your morning meeting and sit next to Abby!”

This is extremely important for children that don’t have the same schedule every day of the week. Let’s say they have preschool twice a week and are home the other three days. It’s important to let them know the schedule for the following day. This is when visual schedules are extremely helpful to remind them “Tomorrow is a school day!” or “Tomorrow is a home day!” This should start early because it gets you both in the habit of planning the day ahead.

Remember to give both you and your child a grace period in learning this new skill. With anything parenting, you probably already know that very little changes overnight. Extend grace to this process and remember this is a process. You are both learning.

Try this out with your children and let me know how it goes! I want to hear your stories !!


5 ways to encourage more positive behaviors in your children


I get this question a lot: “How do I get my child to stop…” It’s a valid question. Our kids do a million things that are inappropriate, annoying, dangerous, and down right embarrassing. I’m going to answer the question I think you’re trying to ask when you say that with these five things.

1. Catch them behaving well!! If sitting in their chairs is something that is difficult for them, Praise them when they are doing it!! Some examples: “Great job sitting in your seat!” “I love the way you’re sitting in your chair like a big kid!” “When you sit at the table, then we can have fun together!” “When you sit at the table, then we can enjoy dinner together”. They will start noticing that you are praising them when they are sitting, and they will want to do more of it! Kids love attention. They don’t, however, have the ability to differentiate between negative and positive attention. The goal is to give them more attention to the positive behaviors, and with consistency, over time the negative behaviors will diminish.

2. Ignore the annoying stuff!! Okay, so some of you may be rolling your eyes at this one and saying “But they just keep getting louder!!” or “ Then, they escalate the behavior.” Yes. That’s true initially. BUT, if you are consistent. And I mean consistent. Every time. The behavior will extinguish once they know they will not get your attention for it. When I say annoying stuff, I mean the noises, the tapping, the using a toy in the wrong way, and anything else “annoying” or unwanted your kids might be doing. I know they can come up with some creative things! I do not, and I repeat, do not, mean for you to ignore dangerous behaviors. Those cannot be ignored! These are just the little things you find yourself repeating to stop over and over.

3. Model doing it yourself! Monkey See, Monkey Do, right? Do the thing you want your kids to do! They learn everything from you anyways. Why not teach them some positive things! (I’m kidding, everything you do is great!) If you want them to sit in their seat at dinner, then you must sit down and say what you’re doing. “I’m sitting at the dinner table so I can enjoy my dinner.” “I’m using my gentle hands when I hold your baby sister”, “I’m using my indoor voice because we are inside and baby sister is sleeping”. Things like that. It sounds silly to just say what you are doing, but it works. What you are doing is bringing awareness and words to your behavior and you’re also showing your child what you’d like them to do!

4. Listen to them. What do you mean?? Listen to what your child is saying to you. If they’re having a rough day, get on their level and ask them what’s going on. Abstain from demanding an answer if they’re not ready to talk. You might say something when they are calm like: “ I noticed you throwing your toys earlier, what’s up?” This might lead to an interesting conversation about their frustration where you can empathize with their feelings and help problem solve. This is also not the time for lecturing! Listening is our goal here, and it will ultimately lead us to number 5! What if they don’t talk yet? See number 5!

5. Find out their need. Again, what? I’ll break it down. Pay attention to the behaviors they’re displaying. What time a day is it? What happened before, or what’s coming up soon? Are they hot, cold, hungry, tired, or angry? Do they need to explore the world around them? Do they need comfort? This one is tricky and definitely takes some time to get to know your child’s cues. In the end, you are the expert on your children, so really only you can answer this one. Boiling it down to the root of the issue helps to begin the problem-solving journey. Kid’s behaviors are like fire alarms. If our kitchen is on fire, we’re not going to spray the fire extinguisher at the fire alarm. We’re going to spray the bottom of the fire to put it out. It’s the same with our children’s behaviors, if we just deal with the behavior they are showing, it’s going to keep coming up and we’re never going really “put out the fire”.

If you’ve found these tips helpful, but you’d like more, I offer 8 week Circle of Security groups, as well as work with parents to strengthen relationships with their children. Send me an email and we will figure out what works best for you and your family.