Who is in charge in your home? The kids or the parents? There’s a cute meme about I live in a house run by tiny dictators that I created myself. The first time I saw it, I laughed. Then I thought about it. Man, that’s true for so many people, isn’t it? Parents spend their days doing whatever they can to please their demanding children. How exhausting!

In the behavior world, we talk about instructional control. What is instructional control? It’s been referred to as a positive working relationship, earning your child’s respect, and building cooperation with your child. It means when you give an instruction, it is followed (most of the time at least).

Without instructional control, many unwanted things can happen:

  • tantrums
  • non-compliance
  • parents giving in all the time
  • frustration
  • child not gaining new skills

“Instructional control can be defined as the likelihood that a given instruction or designated environmental stimulus will consistently evoke a desired behavior.”

Robert Schramm, BCBA

How do we get them to follow our instructions? We start by pairing ourselves with reinforcement. I’ve written about pairing before here and here and have a video here.

Quick pairing refresher:

Pairing means that we pair something reinforcing (in this video, they call it fun) with something that is not so reinforcing or fun. We are trying to transfer the reinforcing properties of the fun thing to whatever is less desirable. In this case- we are the less desirable thing, and our instructions are in need of some super pairing to make our kids more likely to listen!

So we pair ourselves with fun. That means we are the bringers of the fun, the providers of the fun for our kids!


Wait? We just make things more fun? I thought we were talking about getting control in our homes here….YES! Start with the fun! Make yourself more reinforcing. Make listening to you more reinforcing. Want access to ALL the fun stuff? Hang out with mom. She’s got it. Listen to mom. She’s got all the fun stuff and she gives it freely!

After we’ve got a good level of interaction and your child sees that you are the giver of the FUN, then we start adding in more instruction following. It’s not all fun and games forever, but it does start with that and we pair ourselves with the fun regularly to keep yourself reinforcing to your child.


So how do we get our kids to follow our instructions? We start with pairing ourselves with reinforcement. Try it today!

Ready to do more to get your kids to actually listen to you? We’ve got covered! Check out our Quick Wins mini-courses for busy parents!