Do you give your child enough of a motivation to obey? I’m not talking about reward charts and potty training incentives. I’m talking about your relationship.
Yes, our children should obey (the first time) because we expect them to. We expect them to obey our word. But when that obedience isn’t happening, we should ask ourselves whether the child has enough motivation.
When you spend your days angry and frustrated by your child’s behavior, imagine how he feels. He spends his days with an angry, frustrated mom who does nothing to encourage or show love for him. He spends more time in timeout than playing, being silly, or being loved. Sometimes, in these times of frustration, mom’s expectations are unreasonable and unfair. Mom’s inconsistency complicates the matter.
Our children will rise to whatever expectation we set for them. But they must have motivation to do so. If they’re not feeling loved or encouraged, they’re not going to go out of their way to please us. If they expect that we’ll be disappointed, they figure they may as well not even try.
It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The child misbehaves. You’re disappointed. He misbehaves some more. You’re all the more disappointed. You try to buckle down, eventually setting inconsistent, unrealistic expectations. The child is exacerbated and misbehaves more. Weeks or months go on like this, and the child loses all motivation.
Who will be the first to break the cycle? The parent, I hope. The child is a child and is only following the path you set for him. If you find yourself in a cycle like this, consider tossing aside all of your discipline for a day or two. Cancel all meetings, play dates, etc. Just be in the moment with your child and do all you can to show your love. Be silly. Go on walks. Let him stop at every twig and leaf that interests him. Go out for ice cream. Snuggle while reading books.
Don’t think of these things as rewards for his misbehavior. Think of them as the necessary lifeblood for your relationship. Inject life and love back into your relationship. Lay that foundation of love and encouragement, and then if he continues to misbehave you can correct in love, not frustration.
Always remember that our ultimate goal is not perfect obedience, but a loving relationship between parent and child. Parenting is nothing without a child who wants to please us. Lose that and you lose everything. So do all you can to encourage obedience, but always make sure your child is motivated to please you.