Correcting Disobedience


If there’s anything that we Babywise parents know, it’s that disobedience needs correction. When our children are blatantly and intentionally disobedient, our correction serves to teach them that their behavior is unacceptable. There’s little doubt that our role as parents is to correct our children’s misbehaviors.

Having said that, it’s this very fundamental idea that trips us up. It’s difficult to answer the what, when, how, why, and to what degree questions that we must grapple with. Even the Ezzos cannot offer specific advice that says, if the child misbehaves in X way, give Y consequence. Why? Our children are human. We are human. And context changes everything.

Plus, we all tend to lean a certain way in our parenting. I most decidedly have a permissive bent. For example, when William doesn’t clean up his Legos when asked, I’ll convince myself that he didn’t hear me. If I could let my kids get away with everything, and stay sane while still raising morally responsible children, I would do it in a heartbeat. But I know it’s unlikely that that’s possible, so I must encourage myself to correct disobedience.

So what do we do about it? The Ezzos offer a few parameters by which we can determine how to correct our children.

“Where should parents begin when considering correction for their children’s intentional disobedience? Disobedient behavior needs correction, but parents should not correct all disobedience the same way or with the same strength of consequence,” (On Becoming Childwise).

There are five factors we can use to determine the appropriate correction:

  1. The age of the child
  2. The frequency of the offense
  3. The context of the moment
  4. The overall characterization of the behavior
  5. The need for balance

And of course, it’s always in the heat of the moment that we struggle with this correction question. Try to memorize these five factors. Then when your child misbehaves, you can run through the list to determine how to correct the child. If memorization isn’t your thing, or you can’t trust yourself to remember, perhaps write these out and post them in a prominent spot in the house.

One important thing to remember is that even if you afford the child leniency due to one of these factors, it doesn’t mean you forget the disobedience altogether. If you see your child blatantly break your park rules because a friend cajoled him to, you might not correct harshly because you realize your child wasn’t the ringleader. Nonetheless, you would take note of your child’s willingness to follow others to disobedience. You might not correct, but you can still use it as a teaching opportunity. Also make a mental note of the scenario so that if it does happen again, you can correct without as much leniency.

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