Social Skills Series: Teach Kids To Follow Directions

As a parent, you might have noticed that your child has difficulty following directions. This may be because your child is not determined enough or does not know what to do when they get instruction from you. This article will explore teaching children to follow directions through applied behavior analysis.

What is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, and what does it do?

Applied Behavior Analysis is a type of therapy that analyzes people’s behavior with different disorders, such as autism, to teach these persons to change their behavior. Focusing on specific behaviors and their antecedents, consequences, or facilitators can help patients identify the cause for their behaviors. From there, therapists will give the patient opportunities for reinforcement after engaging in more desirable behaviors.

How to use ABA to teach kids to follow directions

Applied behavioral analysis is a systematic process of analyzing the behavior of people. The goal is to change their behavior by changing the environment. This technique teaches kids to do tasks by providing step-by-step instructions. The steps are broken down into smaller, more easily accomplished pieces. This helps the person feel that what they are doing is a manageable task and realize that they can do it. For instance, if a child misbehaves when you tell them to do something, they might not remember what you told them or figure out how to do it. In these cases, the program may have a parent prompt their child with instructions at certain times. This technique will help your children understand what they need to do so they don’t forget.  

Ways parents can implement the technique at home.

Behavior Analysis is a technique that focuses on improving or changing observable behaviors. Parents can use Behavior Analysis to teach kids to follow directions. The first step is identifying the behavior to be changed, like not taking care of their toys after playing with them. The next step is coming up with an antecedent – what happens before the undesirable behavior? For example, if the child only cleans up after playing when told, “getting out of bed” would be the antecedent. Next, parents identify the consequence for the desirable behaviors (e.g., what follows “getting out of bed?”) and implement that consequence when the desired behavior occurs. If the child quickly cleans up after playing with their toys, praise and a five-minute video game break will follow. If they don’t clean up, the parent will have to remind and assist them in cleaning up. If they still do not clean up, then the consequence is that they will be required to pick up all their toys before they are allowed to play with them again. This is a behavioral approach because it relies on shaping. 


Behavior analysis is a great way to teach kids to follow directions, but they must be introduced correctly. First, ask the child to repeat what they are supposed to do after being given a direction. If they have not followed the directions, have them do so individually. Next, ask the child if they know what you are asking them to do or if they need assistance with anything before proceeding. Lastly, reinforce positive behavior with praise and rewards for following directions.

I hope you found this blog informative and the information helpful. If you are interested in learning more about Applied Behavior Analysis and the services Behavior Matters, LLC provides, please email