Teaching vs. Telling: PPT’s Kathy Salazar Teaches 4 Steps toward End-Result Success

I’m back with more wonderful tips from Practical Parent Talk’s Kathy Salazar! I’ve already written a few other posts from our parent group’s introductory class with Kathy on March 8, 2013. We covered a lot of ground in just one hour, too much for a single post; this is the fourth and final post from our morning together.

Today’s Topic: “Instruct Instead of Tell”
From Kathy Salazar’s “A Taste of Parent Talk” class with Coastal Cuties on Friday, March 8, 2013

Which sounds better to you, RMT’ers?

“Clean up your dishes!” OR “After we’re done eating, dishes go into the sink.”

“Pick up those clothes!” OR “Clothes go into the hamper when we take them off.”

“Buckle your seat belt!” OR “Please remember: Safety first. Seat belts help keep us all safe in the car.”

See (and hear) the difference?

Kathy Salazar referenced a statistic on how many times in an average day that parents tell preschoolers what to do. Have any guesses? 50? 100? No: 250. WOW. No wonder our kids are so pissed off at and/or ignore us all the time; I’d be pretty annoyed myself really if someone was barking at me at that clip on a daily basis and without any solid reasoning behind it either!

Of course, Salazar sees the difference in dialogue above, too. She refers to it as “teaching versus telling.” In the first of each of the three examples, we’re basically telling our kids what to do without any explanation. In the alternate examples, notice how we’re not just telling but instructing or teaching why we want something done.

Yes, it takes a few more words upfront to teach rather than tell, but how many words does it take when you eventually wind up arguing over something as banal as putting dishes into the sink? Also which of the above approaches do you think garners a better end-result? Yep, it’s that whole “beginning with the end in mind” framework again. It seems so easy from the outside looking in, doesn’t it?

Here are some tips on how to instruct our kids how to do things rather than tell them what to do:

1. What do you want your kids doing (i.e., your end-result)? These kids just need to get things done, no doubt. Beds need to be made and toys need to be picked up. So first think about what end-result you want to see.

2. Choose directions and instructions. Think of a productive way to phrase what it is that needs to be done. This can help the child receive clear direction and instruction all at the same time. I interpret it this way: Directions+Instruction=Production (or that much sought-after end-result).

3. Production also equals independence, self-confidence, and responsibility. Think of whenever your child exclaims, “Look what I did!” They feel accomplished. They did it all by themselves. It is a big deal for a child the first time they do… well, pretty much anything really. Let’s celebrate that with a, “You did it!” or “Thank you!” Remember, no judgment; try not to “good job” the kid ad nauseam as those can get tuned out after a while also.

4. What if a child is having trouble executing the full task? Can the child pick up the toys but not reach the high shelf? Are dishes in the cupboard out of reach physically for the child? Is that bin that they’ve filled now too heavy? A helpful add-on here by you, the parent, would be: “Please let me show you how.” This takes away the fact that something is literally impossible because the child is too young, too small, or too immature to handle a portion of the task; it also helps to head off and/or alleviate frustrations. It also teaches them how the task is done once they reach the ability level(s) to do it.

Parent Talk's 4-D Model. Kathy Salazar teaches parents how to teach their own kids.

“If you want a behavior, you have to teach that behavior,” says Chick Moorman, author of the “Parent Talk” system. Kathy Salazar uses the 4-D Model above and several other Parent Talk tools in her own courses known as “Practical Parent Talk.”

Salazar also touched on how children best learn “please” and “thank you.” Very much like the previously mentioned “tell him you’re sorry” example, words like these are best learned through our modeling their usage. That means we parents need to be using them, too, so “check yourself” before expecting this of your kids! Then once it comes time to start teaching our kids the use of these words themselves, each time we hand them something, follow with something simple like, “It’s good manners to say thank you when someone hands you something.” This is modeling both the action and the meaning behind the words. Again, Directions+Instruction=Production.

Finally, Salazar acknowledges that some of these more pleasant phrases tend to lean toward wordy rather than succinct. She advises that we should keep things age-appropriate yet as brief as possible. Use just enough words to get the message out, yet not too few that you are being sarcastic and not so many that the kids just look at you like stop talking already! You will learn your balance here over time and depending on you and your child(ren)’s personality. Also, for the instances that you know the kid(s) already know what to do, keyword it. You could say, “Dishes, please,” rather than, “Where do our dishes go after a meal?” for the umpteenth time. TONE is also important here; make sure your speech is more of a sing-song, light mood rather than an abrupt order.


RMT’ers, don’t fret! While this was my final post about my introductory class experience with Kathy Salazar, I’m hardly done! After our enlightening, helpful morning together, Coastal Cuties of Long Beach decided to hire Kathy to hold a full, six-week Practical Parent Talk series for interested members starting later this spring! I’ll return again starting in another month or so with a few more PPT tips and tools. Stay tuned!

One response to “Teaching vs. Telling: PPT’s Kathy Salazar Teaches 4 Steps toward End-Result Success

  1. Pingback: Tattling vs. Reporting: Taking Control of (and Empowering) Our Littlest Eyewitnesses | Real Mom Time (RMT)

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