As parents we are constantly on top of our kids, telling them what to do and when. When we tell them to do something we expect that they do it. If we struggle with consistency though, the child will pick up on it quick. Our words will have less value associated with them. Think about the simple act of calling your child's name. Let's call him "Joe".
When trying to get Joe's attention, we might say over and over... "Joe...Joseph...Hey Joe! ...Listen up, Joe!" Joe's name has lost value coming out of our mouth because we're having to say it multiple times. When we give an instruction, we should say it one time and if the kid doesn't comply then we help them comply. They learn that we are incredibly consistent and that our words have meaning. So for Joe, if he doesn't respond after the first "Joe" then we help him respond. We go right over to him and get in his line of sight and say it again and this time he'll look. We can give him Behavior Specific Praise "Thanks for looking when I called your name!" or we can just move on with whatever we needed his attention for "I need your help with..." Over time, Joe will understand that when we call his name that he is expected to react promptly and accordingly.
Another example of how consistency over time pays off is how we taught our older daughter how to take turns. We did this when she was maybe around 15-16 months. My wife and I took our daughter for a walk on a nice day to get some Boba tea. My daughter had never had this tea before and we didn't want her to have too much because of all the sugar, plus we wanted some for ourselves. ;)
On our walk home we gave her a sip of the drink and she was hooked! When we would take it away from her for our turn to drink she would scream and throw her arms up reaching for the cup. What should we do!? Just give her the cup back so she stops screaming and making a scene? We instead taught her how to ask for a turn. This simple video shows the sign language for "your turn" and "my turn."
My daughter wasn't having it! She kept screaming each time we took the cup. In my head I'm thinking "consistency...we need to show her an alternative that will get her the cup without having to scream and cry, and stick with it!" She's young and it was her first time learning this skill so we were very patient. In order for her to get the cup back she had to sign "my turn." We of course helped her sign the words and she would get the cup even though we used a hand-over-hand prompting technique to get a response. After only a few back-and-forths she was asking for "my turn" without prompting.
We made crying and reaching an inefficient and ineffective way of getting what she wanted. She would have to work really hard to get her item., rather we gave her an alternative that was extremely efficient, effective, and easy. She could use this skill all day long...when she wanted a toy, when she wanted to hold her book, when she wanted to feed herself with a spoon. She now had a communication tool! The next time we went for Boba tea there was no screaming or whining. She would both ask for a turn and gave up a turn when someone else requested...two valuable skills for young children! If we hadn't been consistent, she'd have gone on for many more months with whining and crying for items.
Here are a list of other skills that are great for teaching young children ages 1-3, They can be taught just like the "My Turn" example. With consistency these, words in sign language are so powerful for children!
Previously, I wrote about things to do when you're kid is doing something appropriate. There's one more I'd like to include. This one may give you pause, you might squint your eyes to make sure you're reading it correctly. Here it is...