GO VISUAL: Using Teachers’ Tricks for Your Own Household

go visual

I had planned on writing this post this summer as a way to improve your child’s independence through visuals and, at the same time, decrease arguments and power struggles. But it is likely that during this quarantine you will spend more uninterrupted time with your children than ever before, or ever again. As posted at LetGrow.org, you do not need to entertain them.

Empower your children to be creative and curious on their own. Enjoy this time with your kids, and don’t spend it fighting and arguing.  

I am a traveling educator (physical therapist). When I walk into a classroom, I often don’t have to ask, “What are the students doing?” The teacher has provided a visual to answer that question somewhere in the room; a visual that any child can look at and know what is happening now and next. If children were dependent on their teacher to tell them every last thing they needed to do, the classrooms would be very loud and very verbal. Many schools recognize that relationship is at the heart of classroom management, with many learning and following non-verbal communication techniques through ENVoy principles.  

As a clinical instructor, mentor, and parent coach, I often find myself making the same recommendation for new teachers, student physical therapists, and parents:


Much like Aaron Burr’s advice to “talk less, smile more“, when dealing with kids it is GREAT advice! The use of visuals will allow you to talk even less. 

So parents, let’s try the same as those smarty-pants teachers! Let’s avoid creating cue-dependent children to send back to those teachers when school is back in session.

How many times do you find yourself saying,

“Why can’t you listen?!”

“How many times do you I have to tell you?”

“For the 10th time, I said….”

No matter your child’s intelligence, the fact is that 65 percent of the population consists of visual learners; therefore, when teachers lecture, they are reaching less than half of the class unless they use visuals well.

I’ll admit, I spent the first 3-4 days of quarantine being over-verbal in my directions for my four kids, ages 10-16. I wasn’t exactly sure what I should expect of them or myself, and my “tricky-fellow” could sense the uncertainty and was challenging me. “No! Why? Not gonna!” were some of his favorite replies. I threw out dumb threats like, “If you don’tLISTEN I’m gonna take away X, Y, and Z (and then we’re all gonna pay, mostly me).” 

Once I created this visual for expectations, it was like Moses himself had written them in stone and he could now be compliant. Even his teeth are happy for this visual.

Outside time, reading, and creativity are the minimal expectations I have chosen. But you do what works for YOUR family! If you have smaller kids, creativity time should probably be larger and include lots of free-play. I don’t want to say the same thing over and over again. These visuals make it so that I don’t have to.  

Why I am starting with the bar so low? Could I have LESS expectations? Is 2 hours a day enough? What about the other 14-16 waking hours? I want SUCCESS. I don’t want this to be a struggle, and I don’t want it to require hand-holding from me.

Empower your kid. This is on them, not you. I have my own 2 hours to get done each day!  I will simply check-in mid-afternoon. If parents create too many expectations, you will likely have 50-75% compliance. So, decrease the expectations and pick the 50-75% of things that are the most important to you. This doesn’t mean that the other 14-16 hours are spent on a screen either, but implementing these basic expectations allows the screen time to naturally fade a bit without much verbal direction required.  

Give them some routine. Give them some control. Empower your kids.    

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Erika has worked in the educational setting as a physical therapist for 17 years, after attending UND and NDSU. After recognizing difficult behaviors in her third child, she became an advanced trainer of the Nurtured Heart Approach®. Professionally, Erika is also a mentor, course-captain, and clinical instructor, and has served students in the Autism magnet program for 10 years. She recently served on the Pediatric Advisory Board for Curriculum Development at UND, and on a task force with the Department of Instruction to create the first school-based PT/OT guidelines in the state. She also is a mentor with BioGirls, leads a group of teenage boys at confirmation, leads a Girl Scout troop, and has coached baseball. For the past two Mother’s Days, Erika has hosted a Neighborhood Chalk Party, an event designed to further build relationships in neighborhoods on the principle of “it takes a village to raise a child.” She was born and raised in Hankinson, ND, and has lived in the Fargo area for over 25 years with her husband (who you may know as the radio DJ on Bob 95 FM: "Chris, John and Cori in the Morning"). Together they have four children: girl-boy-boy-girl, ages 10-16. Erika is passionate about empowering kids, preventative health, hiking, and national parks.


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