Aye aye cap’n Part 2


So this week we’re going to talk a bit more about co-operation and commands. I promise to keep it short this week! While I’m a big fan of the indirect approach of using statements rather than direct commands, I think it’s impossible to avoid commands altogether. So here are some ways to at least make commands clear and easier to follow.


#1 Tell them what you want them to do

This sounds obvious but I find myself telling my little girl what I don’t want.  For example: Don’t wipe your snot on my clothes or Stop pulling my top. Focusing on the positive instead and what you actually want them to do makes the message clearer. If you focus on what you want them to stop doing then that puts the undesired behaviour at the forefront of their minds. So instead, you state what you want them to do. For example Tidy up the Lego, or put the wrapper in the black bin, or put the lids on the markers, or keep the water in the sink.


#2 Keep your tone neutral

The tone of voice we use is really important too as non-verbal communication is very powerful and our children can sense the underlying tone of irritation or frustration which can provoke resistance or a feeling of being criticised. So it’s important to keep it polite and respectful- not always easy!


#3 Warnings and Reminders

Depending on the situation and how old your child is, you can alert them to a command that’s coming. For example: When the big hand is at 5 it’ll be time to put away the Play Doh. We do this at the playground sometimes. I set the alarm on my phone (for a million ninety nine minutes- the usual request!) and say When the alarm goes off, then it’s time to go home. Sometimes we negotiate an extra bit of time – most of the time, this has worked a treat and we can make a civilised exit! Not always though…


 #4 When-then commands

These type of commands spell out clear consequences of behaviour. And they’re useful when you can give your child a choice to comply or not. For example, when you’ve brushed teeth, then we’ll have stories or when you put the Lego in the box, then you can take out the paints.

I’d love to know how you get on with these suggestions so please be sure and leave a comment below.

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Let’s get talking!






  1. Hi Ailbhe- thanks so much for taking the time to comment- I’ll email you from marypat@talknua.com about your choice of book or game etc so watch your inbox! Choice is an interesting one- sometimes it’s good to give a choice so children learn to know what they want and then other times, like in a therapy activity, limiting choices may be appropriate- it’s all about the context isn’t it? And if you give a choice, are you prepared to accept the child’s no?!

  2. Hi Mary-Pat,
    Really enjoying reading your regular posts! I too prefer the more indirect use of commands in therapy sessions. There can be so many ‘commands’ in therapy sessions, which I imagine gets very demanding and frustrating for children. I try to make a game out of these therapy commands as much as possible to take the pressure off. I guess as SLTs we get good at making a game out of everything! Thanks for your very informative and useful blog!

    • Hi Gwen- thanks a mil for commenting- I’m sure children do get fed up being told what to do – I know have an allergy to it myself! Be sure to check your inbox for an email from marypat@talknua.com so you can pick if you’d like a book or game/toy.

  3. Thanks this is great!

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