Use the SCOOPER Instruction Technique – No, this is not another summer job for your kids. The SCOOPER technique is an acronym for how to give instructions to increase your chances of getting the tasks you need accomplished done.
- S – Same Place (don’t shout across the house; make eye contact)
- C – Clear instructions (know what you want BEFORE you give directions)
- O – One more time (have your kid repeat the direction)
- O – On time (set a time limit, sooner the better)
- P – Perform the task
- E – Evaluate (if good, go on; if poor, fix)
- R – Reward!
Think about the last time that you tried to get your kids to do something. It didn’t go well, right? Lots of yelling back and forth. (“What? What? What!?!”). Lots of negotiating. Lots of “Well, you didn’t SAY to do it THAT way!” etc. These interactions are so demoralizing, frustrating, and set up negative interaction feedback loops between you and your kids. All because you needed the garbage taken outside.
The SCOOPER method of giving instruction is a framework to use to increase the chances of your interactions going well. It requires more work from the parent up-front, but I am confident that you will find that the results are worth it and, since they happen faster, you end up spending less time on the task anyway. The SCOOPER method is based on best practices designed to effectively work with kids with Executive Functioning deficits. We know that gifted kids tend to have a relatively weaker Pre-Frontal Cortex anyway, without even addressing concerns of ADHD or Autism from twice-exceptionality, so the techniques here easily generalize.
A few notes, without belaboring the individual points. The most important aspect of the SCOOPER method is how you start the interaction: have a plan before you start the conversation. What do you want done, when does it need to be done by, and what does the kid need to do it? Have those ideas in mind before you venture into your basement and interrupt the “super important” raid in Overwatch. That way you can deliver the task and the parameters clearly and concisely without inviting debate or negotiation. The rules of engagement are set and you are empowered by this technique to set (and hold!) them.
Think about the exact nature of the task as well. Gifted kids LOVE to argue, and they are good at it. They will also find loopholes in your argument if you let them engage with your content in that way. Instead, leave a clear path of what exactly needs to be done. Instead of “clean your room,” you can delineate that the 1) clothes must be folded and put away in the drawers, 2) garbage taken outside to the cans, 3) laundry put in the hamper, 4) dishes taken to the kitchen and put in the dishwasher, and 5) all standing fires extinguished. It is much harder to argue with those points, as you have given endpoints for all tasks. You’re much more likely to run into trouble when you give the “clean the room” instruction and come back two hours later to find that your kid has either lazily put three shirts in a pile and stopped working (me as a kid) or done some small task so they can say, “What? It’s clean.” (um, also me as a kid; sorry mom and dad).
And, lastly, let’s talk rewards! Please try not to fall into the trap of “they should just DO these things.” You are about to find out in the next section how I feel about the word “should.” It is OK to need some motivation to do things that aren’t fun. Remember, chores aren’t fun. Your kids have things that they would much rather do (just as you had things you would have much rather done with your free time when you were a kid). Work with your kids to make at least the endpoint exciting. I’m not saying that every time your kids take out the recycling, they get a pony. (Though if that’s your thing, more power to you. And also, um, can I come live at your house?). But an extra 15 minutes of screen time? A preferred dessert? A dollar? A genuine “thank you?” Whatever rewards fit your family’s values will motivate you and your kids towards better behavior.