Simple Steps to Help Your Child Follow Through on Tasks

By AANE Staff

Many parents find that their children resist doing jobs at home especially when tasks have multiple steps that are not explicit. Daily requests like; ”Clean your room,” or “Take the trash out”, or “We’re leaving, get ready,” or  “Play with your sister,” may seem to be ignored or result in a meltdown. But there are strategies that can help your child follow through on your requests without starting World War III. Try some of these next time you want your child to take on a responsibility at home:

Check your child’s understanding of the task: Don’t assume that your child is choosing to be resistant. He or she may not understand the steps to get the job done.
Break tasks down into manageable steps: Kids may not know how to start, what steps need to be completed and in what order, become overwhelmed thinking there are never-ending steps, or need to be shown how one step flows into another.
Use visuals: Use pictures and words to show your child all the steps. You can make a short YouTube video where you list the steps or have pictures and then show the video to your child. Or just use markers and paper to write out the steps with pictures. Some parents like to take pictures of what each step looks like and then print these out or share them with their child. Use whatever your child will be likely to use.
Stay patient: This may seem like it’s not necessary-but most children with Asperger profiles don’t intuit the steps of any given task and need to be taught it explicitly. It takes time for the parent to teach these steps but it’s well worth the effort.

But what if breaking the task down into steps doesn’t work? What’s your next step?
Consider what you’ve learned:  At what step does it break down? Does that single step need to be broken down into two separate steps?
Consider emotional regulation: Does the child have the ability to stay calm when frustrated with any part of the task? Would a break help?
Consider how to help by providing information and structure: If you are asking your child to play with his sister. You may need to clarify any of the following to help this go smoothly:

  • What do I need to say to her?
  • How long do I need to do this?
  • What do I do if I want to stop?
  • How do I ask for help if I am frustrated?

You can see that our children are helped at first with knowing what to do and then being supported through the learning of the steps. This pattern of breaking tasks down into parts will help them all their lives.