Is It Obedience or Controlling?


Many people outside Babywise circles hear the term “first-time obedience” and immediately (and wrongly) think that we are teaching our children to obey because we want to control them. They think we want them to act like little robots doing everything we say, simply because it’s convenient for us.

I’ll be the first to say that my life would be easier and much more convenient if my kids were robots and did every little thing I said. But I didn’t go into parenting expecting easy or convenient. Parenting is hard work! And that’s exactly as it should be.

There is nothing about obedience training that is convenient. In fact, I feel like if our first-time obedience slips, it’s more likely than not that it’s my fault, not theirs. If I forget to call their names before giving an instruction, then they will forget to obey me the first time. If I forget to get eye contact while giving an instruction, they will assume that I’m talking to somebody else. And if I don’t take the time to cultivate a loving relationship with my kids, they won’t have motivation to obey. There is SO MUCH that goes into training our kids — and ourselves — in first-time obedience. I could write a whole book about it! Oh, wait, I did! Haha.

I do not simply spout out my instructions to my kids and then discipline with a heavy hand if they refuse to comply. That, my friends, is controlling.

The line between obedience training and controlling is very fuzzy. It’s easy to slip from one to the other. You tell yourself that you have reason to believe that your kids are capable of obeying your every word. You believe in setting high standards for your kids, and so you set out to have them obey every instruction you give — without thinking whether it’s age-appropriate, developmentally appropriate, or just plain fair. This is where we set ourselves up for failure. It’s these tricky little expectations that fool us into believing that we could create robots out of our children.

And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want robots. I want children. I want my kids to be the unique individuals that they are. If that means that Lucas likes to sit in his chair with one leg hanging off the side, then so be it. If that means that William likes to chew on his sleeves, then so be it. They are not disobeying me when they do these things. Do these things sometimes bug me? Yes, absolutely. But I wouldn’t trade these quirks of theirs for a child guided by fear. I want my kids to love me and cherish our relationship. I don’t want them to fear me. If that means that I have to put up with their little quirks, that’s fine. Oh, and by the way, when they do these little things, they aren’t disobeying me.

I suppose that’s our litmus test for whether we are requiring obedience or trying to control our kids. Are we trying to train their little quirks right out of them? What is our motivation in our obedience training? If you’re like me, your main motivation in obedience training is to work on the big stuff. We want to create good, moral people, not people who sit straight in their chairs or don’t chew on sleeves. The little stuff doesn’t matter.

But maybe, on the other hand, it does matter. Because if your parenting is guided by training the little stuff, then your relationship will suffer. When you harp on their little quirks — the qualities that define who they are as people — you’re telling them that you don’t accept your children for who they are. You’re telling them that anything less than perfect is unacceptable. I find that utterly terrifying, both as a parent and as I look at it from my child’s perspective. I want my children to accept and adopt my values because they’re important, not because I’m trying to control their every move.

And you know what happens when we try to control their every move? They rebel, big time.

Think about the following quote when you ponder your reasoning behind obedience:

“Obedience teaches children to have self-control in all matters of life. Obedience moves children from extrinsic [external] motivation to intrinsic [internal] control. Eventually, a child will no longer need a fence on the outside for his own protection, because his parents have helped him a moral and ethical fence on the inside,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 96).

So do your work to build that “fence” inside of them, but stop there. Accept and embrace their little quirks!

How long is your leash?


As wrong as it seems to compare our children to dogs, I see so many parallels. Children need to be trained just as much as dogs do. And we can compare the freedom we give our children to the leash we use with dogs. Yes, I mean leash in the figurative sense. The thought of putting my child 0n a leash brings up so many images, including a hilarious episode of Modern Family. But think of the leash as a measure of your child’s freedoms.

When my kids are being uncharacteristically disobedient, I tell them and my husband that they are going to be on a short leash. This is my short way of saying that I will:

  • Limit their choices
  • Make most of their decisions for them
  • Require that they hold my hand everywhere we go
  • Call their names and require a “yes, mommy” and eye contact at every turn
  • Require that they ask permission for almost everything
  • Give no leniency when they act up

They don’t need to be on a short leash for long. It works very well in reigning in their behavior. They quickly go back to the obedient kids they are. As with most everything in parenting, they will be as obedient as I expect them to be. If I actively train (or retrain) them, they will be obedient. If I slack off, they will too.

In addition to keeping our children on a short leash, we also need to recognize when to lengthen their leash. When our kids are characteristically obedient, they have earned the freedom to be on a long leash. They are kids, so they can’t be free of the leash completely, but the leash can be long. If we give the freedom and flexibility to explore their world–with the trust that they will treat it well–we can give them that freedom.

The untrained parent

As many seasoned parents know, more than half the battle in parenting is training ourselves in what to say and what not to say to our children. This applies to everything from training in first-time obedience to getting a child to stay in his room during roomtime. Here I’ll present a few examples of the differences you might see between the trained and the untrained parent.

The untrained parent: freedoms

Mom: “Johnny, do you want ham or turkey on your sandwich today?
Johnny: “I don’t want those. I want peanut butter and jelly.”
Mom: “Johnny, we don’t have any peanut butter. Do you want ham or turkey today?”
Johnny: “I want peanut butter and jelly!!!”

The conversation ends with mom loading Johnny into the car to buy peanut butter or with Johnny throwing a giant tantrum (or both).

The trained parent: freedoms

Mom: “Johnny, it’s lunch time. Go wash your hands and sit down to eat.”
Johnny: “Yes, mommy!”

Notice that Johnny is not given a choice as to what is served for lunch.

The untrained parent: clean-up time

Mom: “Johnny, will you clean up your toys please? It’s almost time for your nap, and we like to keep the house clean. So do mommy a favor, and clean up your toys.”
Johnny: “No! I don’t want to!”
Mom: “Please, Johnny. It would mean so much to mommy. You like to make mommy happy, don’t you?!
Johnny: “No!”
Mom: “Johnny, you’re making mommy angry. You don’t want to make me angry, do you? Now I’m going to count to 3 and you’re going to clean up your toys. 1…2…2.5…, Johnny, you better start before I get to 3. Okay… 3.”
Johnny: Spits raspberries at mom.

Mom gets so angry and frustrated that she just puts Johnny down for his nap–and cleans up the toys herself.

The trained parent: clean-up time

Mom: “Johnny?”
Johnny: “Yes, mommy?”
Mom: After making sure Johnny looks her in the eye, “It’s time to clean up your toys now.”
Johnny: “Yes, mommy!”

Johnny picks up his toys.

Those of you with little ones should pay attention to this. It’s when they are babies and young toddlers that you need to start training yourself. Very soon, the day will come when your little one decides to assert some independence. He will realize that he has free will, and, if untrained, he will realize that he doesn’t always have to do what you tell him.

There’s one little–but so important–action that happens in the life of almost every toddler I know. Mom calls the child’s name as she always does. And one day, the child gets a twinkle in his eye and runs in the other direction. After suppressing a laugh, mom will have to decide what she’s going to do about it. This simple little act signifies the end of your training time. Once this happens, the game is on!

If you’ve done little reading or planning, you won’t know what to do with the child when he runs away from you. And if there’s anything I can tell you when it comes to parenting, you don’t want to wing it. Do your reading, have a plan and train yourself to follow that plan!

If you haven’t ready my eBook, Live in Harmony with First-Time Obedience, now is the time! Whether you have a little one who has yet to assert his independence or if you’ve been winging it for a while, this book will set you on the right path to training yourself to achieve obedience and ultimately a life of peace and harmony with your child. It takes some work to train ourselves and the child in first-time obedience, but the payoff is huge and so worth it!



Childishness vs. defiance


When your child misbehaves, does he do it out of willful defiance? Or is it that he just doesn’t know any better? The Ezzos make the distinction between childishness and defiance in the chapter titled “Five Laws of Correction” in On Becoming Childwise.

“If parenting were all about drawing lines, we would quickly run out of chalk. Fortunately, a thick black line has already been drawn for us in permanent ink. It marks the border between two totally separate realms of behavior. On one side is the land of Childish Mistakes. On the other is the land of Defiant Misdeeds…. The first speaks of rebellious acts, the second speaks of acts committed with malicious intent. Both require correction, but of different kinds,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 131).

Understanding the difference between the childishness and defiance makes perfect sense when you’re reading a book (or a blog). But when you’re in the throes of parenting a young child, it can be easy to forget that sometimes they just don’t know any better. We often think that they should already know better. But we need to ask ourselves whether we’ve really taken the time to teach the child in whatever behavior it is that we expect.

And we can’t expect that a lesson in one area will carry over to another. Kids are so black and white and don’t always make the connections that we adults do. Maybe you’ve told the child that he must stay in his chair while eating lunch, but will he know that the rule also applies to breakfast and dinner? Or maybe you’ve taught your older child never to walk on the carpet with his shoes on, and just assumed that your younger child learned through osmosis.

So much about parenting involves teaching our children. It applies just as much to behavior issues as it does to moral ones.

The next time you’re frustrated with your child and ready to correct him, stop yourself and make sure that it is an act of willful defiance and not just childishness. This should help you remember:

“Childishness is usually a head problem–a lack of knowledge. Defiance is usually a heart problem–the child does not what to do right,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 133).

If you tend toward leniency, the above quote will help you as well. If you’re faced with defiance and try to make excuses for the child, thinking he doesn’t know any better, think about the child’s motive behind his actions.

“When instructions have been given and received about something, there is little room for ‘innocent mistakes’ regarding that behavior. If the wrong thing is intentionally done, it’s disobedience–outright defiance–pure and simple,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 133).

This is where getting your “yes, mommy” and eye contact play a huge role. When the child is looking you in the eye and has acknowledged you with a verbal response, you have little doubt that he heard your instruction. If he fails to comply, he’s being defiant.

If you are new to my blog and the idea of “yes, mommy” and eye contact, read more at those links. You might also benefit from reading my eBook, Live in Harmony with First-Time Obedience, which lays out how to use these tools to get your child to obey immediately and consistently.

Give instructions only once


The Ezzos continually remind us to never repeat instructions to our children. There’s a fine line between reminding children of our expectations and nagging. When we nag, our children learn to ignore our word. And this is potentially one of the worst things that could happen to a parent.

The idea is so important, it is called out as Childwise Principle #12.

“Constantly reminding a child to do what is expected only means you have no expectation,” (On Becoming Childwise).

This is so true! Why shouldn’t our children obey the first time we give an instruction? When we set the expectation that they obey the first time, they are more likely to do so. This is especially true when we take the time to train our children in first-time obedience. Training them to say “yes, mommy” and give us eye contact are two very important steps in eliminating the need to constantly remind our children.

The effects of long-term reminders are far-reaching:

“What happens when the reminders aren’t repeated in successive sentences but over a period of hours, days, or weeks? No wonder the child doesn’t appropriate your instructions: there are no consequences for neglecting them, and anyway they’ll be repeated tomorrow so why remember today? At what point will you stop reminding?” (On Becoming Childwise).

It all comes down to accountability.

“When parents continue to instruct and remind their children how to behave after accountability training has been achieved, they are taking back ownership of a behavior that should no longer belong to them,” (On Becoming Childwise).

There are three very important ways you can eliminate the need to remind your child:

  1. Simply expect that your child will comply. Set the bar high, and he will rise to it.
  2. Get your “yes, mommy” and eye contact before giving an instruction.
  3. Maintain eye contact, even if you need to gently hold his chin, while you give an instruction.

If you do these three things, you will have no doubt that your child heard your instruction. And you can move on to appropriate consequences if he chooses to disobey.

Live in Harmony with First-Time Obedience. New eBook!

Have you always wanted to teach your children first-time obedience but you’ve never been sure where to begin? Let my new eBook, Live in Harmony with First-Time Obedienceteach you how.

I am very proud to announce the release of my new eBook! Several months ago, I realized that it might help parents to have one easy-to-read, digital source for advice on teaching first-time obedience. After many hours and late nights, it’s now a reality!

After reading through my own posts on the topic of first-time obedience, I decided that there were several holes in my teaching that needed to be filled. So I am excited to offer this eBook, which covers just about every idea I’ve had about training children in first-time obedience. The 112-page eBook serves as a great complement to the Parent Wise books from Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo.

In Live in Harmony with First-Time Obedience, you’ll learn how to:

  • Rid your home of tantrums, whining, complaining and negotiating
  • Train your children to be respectful and obedient
  • Create peace and harmony in your home so you can enjoy your children again
  • Work on obedience while they’re young and the stakes are low
  • Reduce the stress that comes with parenting young children
  • Achieve a balanced life of love and learning with your children

Gary Ezzo himself has endorsed the eBook:

One of the most important parenting tasks is helping children learn to obey. This eBook offers practical advice for parents in the throes of obedience training and is high on my recommended reading list. ~ Gary Ezzo

Get your copy of Live in Harmony with First-Time Obedience while it’s on sale! Until January 9, 2012, it will be available for just $6.99! That’s 30% off the original price!

Click on the graphic below to learn more about the eBook and to download a sample of the eBook. Have a look before you buy.

If you like what you see, consider becoming an affiliate. Earn 30% of the purchase price for every buyer you refer. Read more.


Keep your child near you


The following is an excerpt from my soon-to-be released eBook, Live in Harmony with First-Time Obedience: How to Use Love, Authority and Consistency to Teach your Child to Obey the First Time, Every Time. Check back later this week to get your copy of the eBook. It will be available at a fraction of its regular cost just for the holidays!

An important step in training your child in first-time obedience is to keep her near you. This is especially important when your child is little and hasn’t yet learned to obey. If you’re doing dishes or preparing a meal, have your child play in the kitchen or the very next room. If you are folding laundry, have her sit right with you and even have her help. If you are reading, have her read on a blanket right next to you.

Don’t let your child roam the house at will. Not only is this a freedom a young child shouldn’t have earned (remember the funnel), but also it will make your obedience training much more difficult. If your child is roaming the house, you don’t have the constant visibility over her actions that will prevent misbehavior in the first place.

Imagine that your child is in another room of the house, upstairs even, while you’re downstairs. You probably have no idea what she’s doing or whether she will hear you when you call her name. If she does hear you, she’s much less likely to immediately stop what she’s doing, come to you, and give you eye contact while awaiting your instruction.

If your child is playing near you, you can accurately discern when to give an instruction (choosing not to when you see that she’s engrossed in a learning task). And when you call her name and expect her to say “yes, mommy” while giving you eye contact, you are much more likely to get compliance. If all she has to do is lift her head from her activity and look at you while she says “yes, mommy” then it will be easy for her to do so.

Now, don’t take this to mean that you must entertain your child every minute of the day. Teaching independence is a valuable skill, but you must do this at designated times. Room time, sibling play time, blanket time and quiet book time are the tools you will use to encourage independent play. But at every other time of day, keep her near you.

When you keep your child near you during the day, you’ll have much greater success in accomplishing the next steps of first-time obedience training.

Come back later this week for your copy of the eBook!

First-time obedience: first things first


First-time obedience (FTO) is a phrase you commonly hear in Babywise parenting circles. But what exactly does it mean? It’s really quite simple to understand. First-time obedience means your child obeys your instruction the first time, no questions asked.

First-time obedience is important for many reasons including:

  • It sets clear expectations for the child.
  • If you teach obedience, you don’t have to teach anything else.
  • It helps you decide when a correction is necessary; disobedience is disobedience.
  • It teaches your child to obey your word and not rely on bribes or rewards for motivation.
  • It teaches your child to submit to your authority and adopt an attitude of submission when obedience is required.
  • When your life is not fraught with disobedience, your days are happier and your relationship with your child grows stronger.
  • If you teach moral values (through obedience) when he’s little, you give yourselves many years of a trusting, loving relationship.

What does first-time obedience look like?

First-time obedience is a fairly simple to identify. Here’s what it looks like:

  • Your child responds to the call of his name with “yes, mommy”.
  • Your child gives you eye contact when you call his name.
  • Your child immediately complies with any instruction you give, whether it’s putting his shoes on or cleaning his room.
  • Your child obeys with an attitude of submission and a happy heart.

What does first-time obedience NOT look like?

Would your child be characterized by first-time obedience? Be honest with yourself. Do any of the following go on in your home?

  • Your child ignores you when you call his name. Or worse, he runs away when you call.
  • You repeat your instruction 50 times before he complies. (This is 50th-time obedience!)
  • Your child counts on your inconsistency and will keep pushing the envelope to find out how serious you are.
  • Your child whines or talks back when you give an instruction. If it worked once before, it might just work again.
  • You offer threat after threat to get your child to comply.
  • You count to three in a threatening tone when your child doesn’t comply.
  • You bribe your child with stickers, marbles, pennies, or promises for ice cream to get him to obey.
  • You guilt your child into complying with your instructions.
  • You beg your child to obey.
  • You and your child end the day frustrated and stressed out.

Don’t worry if you recognize any of these scenarios. I’ve been there and I’m here to help!

First things first: Ezzo fundamentals

By now you’re probably convinced of the value of first-time obedience. It’s so very promising for us as parents and for the moral and ethical health of our children. Now, are you ready to put in the effort to make it a reality?

The first thing you need to do as you attempt to instill first-time obedience in your child is forget the idea altogether. Yes, you heard me right. Set it aside for now. There is a much bigger foundation you must lay before your FTO work can even begin. I realize that it’s tempting to jump into first-time obedience training with both feet, but I promise that it will be much more difficult if you don’t implement the Ezzo fundamentals first.

Make your marriage a priority

What does your marriage have to do with parenting? Everything. If you have read any of the Ezzos’ books, then you are no stranger to the idea that the marriage must come first. As Ezzo says in On Becoming Childwise, “Great marriages make great parents,” (page 43). Your marriage is the ground upon which your child stands. Practice couch time to proactively show your child that you value your marriage. Also be sure to maintain your roles as husband and wife, not just mom and dad.

Avoid child-centered parenting

Too often, once a child is brought into the marriage, parents focus extensively on the child. Though it is often done in the name of good parenting, child-centered parenting actually does more harm than good. Instead of integrating the child into the family as a welcome member of the family, they make the child the center of their world. This creates within the child a false sense of self-reliance. The child becomes wise in his own eyes and attitude issues run rampant.

Schedule your child’s day

When you direct your child’s activities, you drastically reduce the risk that he will be bored and stir up trouble. Create a daily schedule that includes activities like nap time, quiet reading time, independent play time (room time or playpen time), sibling play time, outside time, and more.

Establish your funnel

Envision a funnel or inverted cone. At the bottom, the opening is narrow. This represents the freedoms you allow your child when he is young. As he grows (in maturity and chronologically), you increase those freedoms. Keep your child in that funnel. Don’t allow your two-year-old to roam the house at will or require your 12-year-old to keep his hand on the cart at the grocery store. Make sure freedoms are age-appropriate and award new freedoms based on responsibility, not age.

Say what you mean; mean what you say

Trite as they may be, these eight simple words have great power over your first-time obedience training. The underlying principle of “say what you mean; mean what you say” is that you clearly communicate to your child what you expect of him and follow through on every word you say. Take your time before you speak and be sure that whatever you say are words you can stand by. The Ezzos say, “Never give a command unless you intend for it to be obeyed,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 126.)

Teach your child to ask for permission

If you have a child who roams the house or goes into the backyard at will, you will greatly benefit from this simple technique. Having your child ask for permission stops behavior problems in their tracks! You can even teach a non-verbal child to do the sign for “please” to ask for permission.

Encourage and love your child

There are parents who feel that they desperately need first-time obedience because they spend their days yelling at and barking orders at their children. Frustration is the name of the game. These parents often skip to the discipline section of the book in an attempt to nip behavior problems in the bud. But let me be clear: love and encouragement go a LONG way toward improving your child’s behavior. So be sure to encourage through praise, spontaneous rewards, physical affection, and goal incentives; and speak your child’s love language to make sure he is receiving your love. Most important, enjoy and have fun with your child!

Be intentional in your parenting

Planning and intent are key to establishing first-time obedience:

  • Start as you mean to go on. Don’t start a habit you won’t want to continue.
  • Read, read, read!
  • Understand why you do what you do. Ignore parenting experts whose theories don’t make sense to you. (Many of them offer only short-term fixes anyway.)
  • Create a discipline plan and decide on consequences ahead of time.
  • Work with your spouse to identify the values you wish to instill in your children.
  • Identify the behaviors you’d like to see in your children. Set the bar high but also be realistic in your expectations!
  • Keep your attitude in check. Find a tone that communicates that you want your child to succeed in first-time obedience, but that you hold authority over him if he doesn’t.
  • Be sure you understand the difference between childishness and foolishness. Always give your child the benefit of the doubt if you’re unsure.
  • Model for your child what you expect from him. Avoid hypocrisy at all costs.
  • You are your child’s teacher. Never forget that all discipline takes place to teach a lesson.

Don’t forget attitude

External compliance is great but it’s not our ultimate goal. Compliance with a happy, submissive heart is our ultimate goal. If your child complies with your instruction but sulks off after, make him do it over. Discipline for attitude just as much as you would for behavior problems.

Begin first-time obedience training

Once this all-important foundation has been laid, you can move on to your first-time obedience training. Understand that first-time obedience is a skill your child needs to learn. It will be difficult at first, especially if your child is used to ignoring you, but the payoff will be so rewarding.

Stay tuned for specifics on first-time obedience training. In the meantime, explore the links above to learn more about each layer of your parenting foundation.


Regularly evaluate first-time obedience

Have you ever been blindsided by your child’s disobedience? It goes something like this. You are moving along contentedly, going through the motions of daily life. Most of the time, your daily life can be fairly child-centric without necessarily harming anything. But then suddenly you encounter an adult situation during which your child disobeys miserably, causing huge amounts of frustration and embarrassment for you, your spouse and everyone else involved. You leave the event vowing to your spouse that you will get your child’s obedience under control immediately.

There are two problems with this. First, of course, is that you had to experience the frustration and embarrassment in the first place. Second, your poor child is suddenly faced with super strict parents who have given the child no warning that things are going to change. His likely response will be to rebel even more, which only compounds the problem.

The million dollar question then becomes, How do you avoid being blindsided in the first place? The answer: evaluate your child’s level of first-time obedience (FTO) regularly. Think of the events that happen on a weekly, monthly or bi-annual basis, and set a reminder to yourself to evaluate your child’s FTO. Maybe you decide to do it every Sunday afternoon after church. Or you schedule it once a month when you pay bills. Perhaps you evaluate FTO every six months when you change the batteries in your smoke detectors. Associate it with some other event and jot it down on your calendar so you won’t forget.

Actually evaluating your child’s first-time obedience is quite simple. Just call your child’s name several times in the day and see how well he responds with “yes, mommy” and eye contact. At the end of the day, decide on a general percentage of how well he did. If you are the analytical type and need an exact percentage, count the number of times you called his name and the number of times he responded appropriately. Divide one by the other and you’ll get your percentage.

What percentage is acceptable? This of course depends on how old your child is and how long you have been working on it. If you have a two-year-old who has only been learning how to respond for two weeks, then 20 percent is probably acceptable (as long as you keep working at it). If you have a ten-year-old who has had a high level of FTO in the past, you might only accept 90 percent.

As you proceed through this process, always keep your goal in mind. The percentage does you no good unless you do something with it. If it’s lower than you’d like, that’s your cue that you need to work on FTO before you encounter a situation that will require greater obedience. Save yourselves the frustration and heartache by evaluating and working on first-time obedience before you really need it.

Give individual instruction

Credit: kiwinz via Flickr

Do you have two or more children? If so, this is for you. Have you ever given an instruction that applies to both children and gotten zero response? Doesn’t it seem logical to give an instruction to two or more kids at the same time than to get their attention individually? We should be able to do so, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work.

If you’ve been following this blog, you’re no stranger to the idea that we need to call our kids’ names and get a “yes, mommy” and eye contact before we give an instruction. It makes perfect sense and works very well when you’re working with one child.

But what do you do when you have an instruction for two or more children? Should you:

  • Option #1: Skip the process and just give your instruction?
  • Option #2: Call both children’s names at the same time?
  • Option #3: Call each name individually and go through the process as you would with one child?

I speak from experience when I suggest that you do the latter. Yes, it sounds very inefficient and like over-kill, but it works. Here’s how these scenarios play out in my home:

Option #1

Me: Boys, go wash your hands for dinner!

Them: Silence and inaction.

Option #2

Me: William and Lucas?

Them: Silence as they each wait for the other to respond.

Option #3

Me: William?

William: Yes, mommy?

Me: Go wash your hands for dinner.

William: Yes, mommy (as he goes to wash up).

Me: Lucas?

Lucas: Yes, mommy?

Me: Go wash your hands for dinner.

Lucas: Yes, mommy (as he goes to wash up).

When you do this, it’s always wise to call the older child first (assuming your older child has a better level of first-time obedience). You want the child who has better first-time obedience to set the example for the younger child. That way, the younger child will easily follow suit.