Sweat the Small Stuff

Source: northtexaskids.com

Yes, you read that right. Typically, this phrase is preceded by the word “don’t” but I think in parenting, it’s perfectly fine and good to sweat the small stuff. As parents, our job is to train our children, in all things, big and small.

You probably know what I’m talking about, too. There are little habits that don’t spell doom for the rest of the child’s life, but they simply drive us crazy. They look something like this:

• Your child uses a ton of soap but still doesn’t manage to get his hands fully clean.

• He holds his fork horribly wrong.

• He fails to wipe his feet on the mat when walking through the door.

• She takes her shoes off the instant you get in the car.

• He turns his nose up at anything green on his plate.

• She forgets to flush the toilet.

• He eats with his mouth open and makes a ton of noise while eating.

• Every time he eats, he ends up with food all over his face.

• She doesn’t do a thorough job with anything (showering, sweeping, homework, picking up toys).

None of these examples will ruin a child. Yes, she will eventually flush the toilet every time she goes. Yes, he will eventually eat his vegetables. But the issue is whether these things drive you crazy and whether they’re important to you. If good manners are important to you, then by all means, teach him to hold his fork correctly and chew quietly. If you hate putting your child’s shoes on (again) every time you arrive somewhere, then train her to keep them on. If you want to teach your child that excellence lies in the details, then work with her to learn how to do every job carefully and thoroughly.

The next time something your child does nags at you, rather than letting it go, stop and decide whether it is something you want to train your child in. Decide whether it’s important to you, and if so, come up with a plan. It’s beyond the scope of this post to explain HOW to train a child in these things. The point is just that, as a parent, you have the power to train your child. Your job is to pass on your values. If something is important to you — even the small stuff — then make sure you are instilling that value in your child.

 

Fold your hands

Source: Susan Johnson via Flickr

In the past, I’ve talked about how having a child ask for permission can prevent behavior problems before they happen. Another tool in our prevention toolbox is to have our children fold their hands. Have this technique in the back of your mind when you are headed to an important dinner or any other place where you need to quiet the wiggles.

“When you begin to see those early signs that your kids are going to lose it physically or verbally, instruct them to fold their hands and work on getting some self-control,” (On Becoming Preschoolwise, p. 174).

The authors provide a scenario in which this technique was used very effectively:

“Louise began the training immediately. She and her family [met] the Ezzos that Saturday for breakfast. Toward the end of the meal, a little wandering leg propped itself up on sister’s chair. That would normally be enough of a catalyst to energize the two-and-a-half-year-old and four-year-old into all-out playtime right there in the restaurant–but Mom had another plan. Instead of the classic begs, bribes, and threats, she simply said, ‘Girls, we’re not quite ready to go yet. I want you to fold your hands and get some self-control.’

“Would you believe that in less than a minute those two little girls sat still, with their hands folded in their laps, subduing their impulsive behavior?” (On Becoming Preschoolwise, p. 174).

I’ve seen this play out with my kids. Just a few minutes with their hands folded (in the car, in a restaurant, etc.) is enough to get them to gain self-control. Without it, they snowball into playtime and I am left feeling powerless. If we’re in a place where this technique is useful it also means that my typical discipline measures (timeouts and logical consequences) aren’t appropriate or even feasible (like in the car). And since I have trained them to obey my word, they will fold their hands when I say so.

The reason folding hands works so well is that it channels the child’s energy somewhere. Simply telling a child to be quiet or to settle down doesn’t give them any way to channel their energy.

“When a young child folds his hands to get self-control, it handles all the excessive body energy that makes self-control so difficult. After all, if you want your child to settle down, his energy has to go somewhere. Now, instead of it going into squabbling, cartwheeling, or whispering, it can go into the hands,” (On Becoming Preschoolwise, p. 175).

One more trick to using this technique is to train your children before you actually need to use it.

“It is important to teach this technique to your child when things are calm. If you’re already in the conflict, your children are not going to be especially attentive pupils. You may have your child practice this at the table while you finish up last-minute mealtime preparations. Make it a fun game in the beginning. Demonstrate how to achieve self-control during a peaceful time so that when things begin to get out-of-hand, you’ve got the cure in place,” (On Becoming Preschoolwise, p. 175).

Have you ever had success with this technique? Try it out and let me know how it works for you!

Are French parents better?

This is the question posed in a recent Wall Street Journal article discussing a new book, Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman. In the book, the author discusses French parenting and contends that American parents are much more lenient, yet also overly focused on child discipline.

The author’s basis for the book? She lives in Paris with her (British) husband and three children:

“A few years ago, while enduring nightmarish restaurant meals with her then-18-month-old daughter on a French seaside vacation, it struck Druckerman that the French children around them were all perfectly well-behaved. Thinking further, she realized she’d seen the same on French playgrounds and in her French friends’ homes,” (Wall Street Journal, “Are French Parents Better?”)

The book’s description notes that:

“The French children Druckerman knows sleep through the night at two or three months old while those of her American friends take a year or more. French kids eat well-rounded meals that are more likely to include braised leeks than chicken nuggets. And while her American friends spend their visits resolving spats between their kids, her French friends sip coffee while the kids play,” (Bringing Up Bebe).

Sound familiar? This is exactly the type of parenting the Ezzos have been espousing for decades. But what exactly is the difference between American and French parenting?

They call it the French parenting “secret” but it’s no secret at all. It’s the ability to set clear, firm boundaries for children from their earliest days.

According to the book, French parents also avoid child-centered parenting (again an Ezzo idea):

“[T]he French have managed to be involved with their families without becoming obsessive,” Druckerman writes. “They assume that even good parents aren’t at the constant service of their children, and that there is no need to feel guilty about this. ‘For me, the evenings are for the parents,’ one Parisian mother told me. ‘My daughter can be with us if she wants, but it’s adult time,’ ” (Wall Street Journal, “Are French Parents Better?”).

I’m intrigued by the author’s contention that French parents rarely discipline their children. Their consistent modeling of patience and obedience teaches children to do the same. In fact, French parents are puzzled by the American emphasis on discipline.

Druckerman says, “Instead they stress ‘educating’ their kids, meaning not schoolwork but a holistic way of showing and telling them what is and isn’t allowed. This means infractions that require American-style punishments are rare,” (Wall Street Journal, “Are French Parents Better?”).

This reminds me of the Ezzos’ approach to non-conflict training.

This quote from the book’s description sums it up nicely:

“Of course, French parenting wouldn’t be worth talking about if it produced robotic, joyless children. In fact, French kids are just as boisterous, curious, and creative as Americans. They’re just far better behaved and more in command of themselves,” (Bringing Up Bebe).

I love it!

Correct in private; praise in public

Source: celebritypregnancy.sheknows.com

The infamous mom of 19 (now pregnant with her 20th), Michelle Duggar, has been heard advising parents to “correct in private; praise in public.” I have seen the Duggars’ show and I am so impressed by how sweet and patient Michelle is, so I love this phrase.

We have all been caught in spots in public where our children’s behavior embarrasses us. They sometimes disturb those around us, refuse to share on play dates, or even get themselves into dangerous predicaments.

As with everything the Ezzos teach us, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of correction! Correcting in private and praising in public certainly applies to this. If you are in a public spot, praise your child for every good deed.

Before you go out, make special note of your child’s most troublesome behaviors. After you leave the house but before your child exhibits the misbehavior, be on the lookout for opportunities to praise him. Do your best to catch him doing something good, especially if it’s related to one of his worst behaviors.

Say you’re at a play date and your child sits nicely to play with others. Before he has time to get too interested in the toys to get greedy with them, say, “Nice sharing! I like how you are thinking about your friends.”

While shopping, praise him for walking quietly next to you even if he only does it for a minute. In restaurants, praise him multiple times for sitting still and using his inside voice.

Focus on the positive

When we praise our kids, we want to keep everything positive. So keep your language positive as well.

  • Don’t: Good job not running in the store and disturbing others.
  • Do: You are walking so nicely in the store. Thank for considering those around you.
  • Don’t: You’re doing pretty well not bouncing in your seat at this restaurant.
  • Do: I like how you are sitting so quietly and using your best restaurant manners.
  • Don’t: I see that you’re not making your friends upset by snatching toys.
  • Do: You are sharing so nicely. It makes your friends so happy when you can all play with the toys.

Be real with praise

If praise is to be at all effective, it must be real. Don’t praise a child for being quiet 10 seconds after he was shouting. Our children see right through false praise. They know it is meaningless. The key to praising in public is to get to them before they have the chance to misbehave.

Correct in private

If all of your attempts to praise your child have no effect, do what you can to correct in private. Be proactively examining and addressing your child’s worst behaviors while you’re at home. Remove him from the situation when necessary. If you’re out shopping and cannot address the child’s behaviors, you may just need to leave.

Correcting in public

If we are honest with ourselves, sometimes life just doesn’t allow us to not correct our children’s misdeeds in private. Think about the times your child has misbehaved in public. Sure, it’s difficult to call attention to ourselves and the child by disciplining right then and there. But also, sometimes people judge us more if we don’t correct the behaviors.

Many parents may tell themselves that they have the strength to get up and leave if necessary, and they take pride in not correcting in public, but when push comes to shove, they may end up doing nothing at all. When it’s plainly obvious that the child is misbehaving and disturbing others and you don’t have the strength to leave, then by all means, correct him! It’s more respectful to let others see that you value their peace and quiet.

In my next post, I’ll discuss how to do timeouts in public.

Moral precept #4: Provide the why of practical training

As with providing an explanation for the moral behavior we expect of our children, we must also do so in practical matters. While it is good that our children simply obey our word, it is reasonable to provide them with an explanation as to why we expect a certain behavior.

If a child asks for an explanation in a way that questions your authority, it is best not to provide it. A power struggle may certainly ensue if you do. But if he is simply curious and wants to know more (you are the teacher; he is your student), then by all means explain.

Sometimes the line between moral training and practical training is a little fuzzy. When in doubt, provide the explanation. The book gives us this example:

“Shayla’s dad was working on a weed problem near the fruit tree. His busyness attracted her curiosity. Seeing his daughter draw near, he warned, ‘Shayla, move away from the tree. I just sprayed poison around the trunk, and it’s not safe,’” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 82).

This was a very practical scenario with a very practical reason (health and safety). Since Shayla’s father explained to her why she should avoid the tree, her curiosity was satisfied. The simple explanation minimized the tension between Shayla’s need for obedience and her natural curiosity.

Don’t allow yourself to get into a power struggle with your child simply because you can’t or don’t want to provide your reasoning behind a request. Don’t incite a power struggle.

As I said above, unless your child is questioning your authority, give him the explanation. This of course requires that you be able to discern your child’s motives. Is he just curious or does he think he shouldn’t have to follow your instruction? You can often hear it in his tone. When you’re not sure, give him the benefit of the doubt.

Moral precept #3: Know the why of moral training

In my last post, I talked about how parents must lead by example when showing their children the way of moral maturity. In this post, I explained how we must use positive words when teaching the way of virtue.

But beyond leading by example and telling our children what behaviors we expect, we must teach them the reasons behind our moral values.

“Many children know how to apply moral law but not as many know why it’s correct. Knowing how to do right and why they should do it are two distinct entities,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 79).

You certainly want your children to exhibit character traits in their behavior, but if they are going to be able to apply these same character traits in different scenarios, they must know the reason why.

Imagine that for years you have told your child to share his toys with his friends. Every time he is at a play date, you are there to tell him what and when to share. You never explain to him why he must share. A couple years later, he enters Kindergarten and is at school for several hours a day without you. Will he know to share with his classmates without you there to tell him to do so?

“Often children are taught what they should not do (e.g., do not steal) or should do (e.g., share your toys with your sister). However, parents in our society consistently fail to teach the moral or practical why of behavior. This results in children who are outwardly moral but not inwardly. They know how to respond in different circumstances because they have been trained, but they cannot adapt to unforeseen situations because they do not grasp the underlying moral principle,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 80).

This point is so important that the Ezzos made it one of the main Childwise principles:

Childwise Principle #7: It is not enough to teach your children how to act morally; they must learn how to think morally.

By the time your child is three years old, every instruction that is tied to a moral behavior should include the moral explanation.

Surviving the holidays

If you’re like me, you may already be traveling to stay with friends and family for the holidays. The season is full of joy and excitement, especially for the kids, but it can also be chaotic since it often requires us to stray from our usual routine. Here are a few tips to get you through what’s left of the holidays.

Explain your expectations
Whether you’re visiting the usual family members or just having dinner at a friend’s house, clearly tell your child what you expect of him. Tell him what he can and cannot touch. Practice the interrupt rule. Tell your child he is to give you a “yes mommy” and eye contact when you call his name. Give him any special instructions so that he is fully prepared for the situations you will encounter.

Sleep and meals
Most of us will find ourselves operating on other people’s schedules over the holidays. Do your best to keep your child on his normal routine. Explain to family members how important it is that your child gets the sleep he needs to grow and be well behaved. The same goes for meals. Try to eat at normal times and limit sugar. If your mother-in-law is known for putting dinner on the table two hours late, bring a can of soup or something else to tide your child over or so you can feed him early and put him to bed.

Giving and receiving
With retailers starting their holiday sales before Halloween, gifts often become the focus of Christmas. Be sure to explain to your child what Christmas means and why you exchange gifts. Explain that giving and receiving gifts is a way to show our family members that we love them. When you put it in these terms, showing appreciation means more than just being polite. It impresses upon your child the importance of being thankful and receiving gifts graciously.

Also, teach your child the mechanics of opening presents. I sat down with my five-year-old today and we practiced opening gifts. I “wrapped” an old toy and gave it to him, pretending I was grandma. I told him to open it then look in my eyes and say thank you and something like “I love it” or “I’ve always wanted something like this”. I also told him he is not to toss it aside and greedily open gift after gift without stopping to show his appreciation to every giver. I also prepared him for receiving a gift that he doesn’t necessarily like. I asked him what he would say and he said “no thank you”. While this is polite, I told him that to show his love for the giver, he still has to say “thank you” and even pretend that he likes it.

A couple years ago, when my nephew was four or five years old, he opened one of our gifts and said, “I didn’t want this.” It was a purely innocent comment, possibly related to a list he had made or what he had told Santa he wanted. But it caught me a little off guard. Of course, I laughed it off, but it also made me realize the importance of teaching my kids how to receive graciously.

Discipline
There will undoubtedly be times when you will need to discipline your child when you’re away from home. This may be at grandma’s house or even in the store for last-minute shopping. Wherever it may be, scope out your location to look for a place to isolate your child when a timeout is needed. If grandparents disapprove of discipline, politely stand your ground and explain to them the importance of teaching your child (through your actions) what is and is not acceptable behavior. If you slack off on discipline, your child’s behaviors may snowball out of control and nobody will be happy.

Allow your child to take a break
We all get overwhelmed with all the people, food and chatter that happens during the holidays. Allow your child to escape it if he wants to. Find a spot in the home you’re visiting where he can sit and read books or even watch a video. If your child is acting up it could be that all he needs is a little peace and quiet.

No matter how you celebrate the holidays, be sure to prepare your child for what’s expected and do your best to stick with your usual routine and disciplinary methods. Happy holidays!

Where’s the discipline?

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you may be wondering why I haven’t discussed discipline or correction ideas. Until now, most of my posts have been about the theoretical fundamentals that make up the Ezzo parenting series.

So why has it taken me so long to discuss discipline and correction methods? Well, aside from the fact that I don’t post as often as I’d like to, true followers of the Ezzo principles must have the basics under their belts before they can correct their children in good conscience.

Train yourself first
If you are new to the Ezzos or are starting with older children, you may have skipped straight to the discipline chapters in the books. I know I did! I felt like I needed to get my son’s behaviors in line and I needed to do it ASAP. I figured all the rest could wait until later.

But it doesn’t work that way. If you believe in the Ezzos’ teachings, you must work on yourself first. You need to change your habits. You need to change your perception of your child’s misbehaviors. You need to formulate a plan.

Prevention is key
You may have clued into the fact that the Ezzo principles are all about prevention. All of the work you put into your parenting and your marriage will prevent misbehavior from your child. Before learning about the Ezzos, our life looked something like this: 80% frustration, 15% discipline (mostly in the form of yelling, threatening and repeating) and 5% prevention. Today, it looks like this: 90% prevention, 9% discipline and 1% frustration. (I think even the most perfect parents get frustrated with their children at some point.)

Fundamentals
To recap my earlier posts, here is how you go about preventing misbehavior:

  • Put your marriage first. Do couch time, go out on dates, and make time for yourselves.
  • Make sure your child knows he is not the center of the universe. See my posts on child-centered parenting.
  • Create and follow a schedule. Do this even if your child is in school six hours a day.
  • Do non-conflict training. Make sure your child knows what is expected of him and don’t confuse him. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
  • Don’t repeat yourself. Don’t allow yourself to become a threatening, repeating parent. It happens to the best of us, so make a conscious effort to avoid it.
  • Make sure you have your child’s attention when you are talking and especially when you are giving an instruction. Getting eye contact and having him say “yes, mommy” are crucial.
  • And most of all, love, encourage and praise your child.

Follow the tags on the right or do a search to review my posts on these principles.

Funnel Pitfall #3: You don’t require your child to ask for permission

One of the most important things you can do to keep your child inside the funnel is to require him to ask for permission. If you’re ever unsure as to whether your child should be engaging in a particular activity, have him ask for your permission first.

My contact mom taught me this concept when we first started implementing the Ezzo principles. We were on the phone talking about William’s behaviors and I mentioned that he was putting on his rain boots to go outside. By then, he could open the sliding glass door by himself and before I knew it, he was outside playing on the deck. I asked her if she thought it was okay that he go outside on the deck by himself, and she asked if he had asked for permission first. Of course, he hadn’t, and I couldn’t believe I had skipped such an important step in my parenting.

Here are some signs you need to have your child ask for permission:

  • It’s very quiet in the other room and you discover your child elbow-deep in playdough…on the carpet!
  • Your child goes out back (or front!) by himself.
  • Your child pulls out bubbles and other messy crafts at will.
  • You’re playing outside and he pulls out his bike, scooter, soccer ball and tennis racket. By the time he’s done, the entire neighborhood is scattered with your belongings.
  • Whenever the mood strikes, your child rummages through the pantry or refrigerator for a snack.
  • Your child acts like the house is his playground. He is allowed free access to any room.

Think about the things your child does that nag at you a bit. If that little voice of intuition is speaking to you, it means something. Take note of that feeling and make a list of activities your child will need to ask for permission first. These will often be activities that he is allowed to do (like the playdough) but on a limited basis (not on the carpet!) or only under your supervision.

Sit down with your child at a time of non-conflict and explain to him what asking for permission means. Show him the importance of getting your eye contact when asking for permission and waiting patiently for an answer before he moves forward.

The great thing about having your child ask you for permission is that it gives you time to decide whether you should allow a particular freedom. Rather than letting something go because he didn’t ask or disciplining after he has already started, having him ask for permission will allow you to think through whether it is an activity you want to allow. It prevents any problems or frustrations before they arise.

The other nice thing about this concept is that you don’t have to make everything 100% off limits. There should be certain things that are completely off-limits, but if there is something you think your child will grow into or if there are activities that take more time than others, having your child ask for permission first will give you the opportunity to allow those freedoms at some times and not others. It allows you to maintain control over your child’s activities.

After working on this for almost two years, William does a good job of asking for permission. Our problem now is that he will often tell me he is going upstairs or whatever it is rather than asking me. I will stop him and say, “Are you asking me or telling me?” It’s my little reminder that he needs to ask for permission before he goes.

Even your non-verbal toddler can ask for permission. Teach him the sign for please and have him look at you and point to the activity or toy he wants while signing please. Now that Lucas is walking, I will start reinforcing this idea. I might even teach him to come get me and bring me to the toy if I’m in another room.

Having your child ask for permission is one of those key concepts that prevents disobedience from your child. Use it often!

Achieving first-time obedience

In my last post, I described what first-time obedience looks like. Now we’ll get into the details of how you can help your child obey the first time. It’s not easy but so worth it!

Lay the groundwork. It’s all about your tone.
Before you start requiring first-time obedience, you need to ensure your own attitude is in the right place. For those of you unsure of your ability to command authority, reach down within yourself and find your courage. Do not fear your child. Do not let him make the choices for the family. If you have read one or two of the Ezzo books, you are no stranger to the idea that the marriage takes priority in the family. Your child is a welcome member of the family but is not the center of it. Let that attitude carry you through your daily interactions with your child.

Some of you may have a strong handle on your authority but might take it too far. Don’t expect that he will disobey or he will. Don’t think that having authority over your child means that he’ll comply with unreasonable expectations when he’s tired and hungry. Don’t equate authority with anger and power. We want wise parenting, not power parenting.

If you have found the right attitude, you are likely at a place where you want to set your child up to succeed but will maintain a matter-of-fact tone if he doesn’t. When your child disobeys, you don’t accept it or get angry. You say to him, “Oops, I see you’ve made the wrong choice. Too bad. Here is what your consequence will be.”

Be consistent!

One of the most important things you need to require of yourself is consistency. If you want first-time obedience from your child, you must be 100% consistent. If you slip, he will too. But if you require it, he will meet your expectation. Your child will only rise to the expectation you set for him. Set the bar high but keep in mind you need to do the work to help him get there.

Get your “yes, mommy” and eye contact
I cannot stress enough how important it is to have your child respond to the call of his name with a “yes, mommy” and eye contact. Before you give any task, especially one that he won’t want to do, you need to get his attention and know that he is listening. Maintaining eye contact while you give the instruction is key. Refer back to these posts for more.

Don’t repeat yourself
One sure-fire way to not get first-time obedience is to repeat yourself. How can he achieve first-time obedience if you’ve already given your instruction 5 times? Give him your instruction clearly and while maintaining eye contact and you have no excuse to repeat yourself. You know he has heard you loud and clear.

So what do you do if your child doesn’t respond after you’ve given your one instruction? Wait. Don’t wait 20 minutes, but do give him a chance to comply. If he still doesn’t respond, don’t say another word. Simply take him by the hand and physically help him complete the task. If you’ve asked him to put his Legos away and he ignores you, take his hand and bring him over to the Legos. Then take his hands in your own and start picking them up together. Be sure to do this with a very calm demeanor or he will strongly resist you.

After you have completed the task together, explain to him that you had to help him this time and that next time, you want him to obey you the first time you ask him to do something. After you have given it a few days of helping him obey you, move on to expecting him to obey you on his own. If he chooses not to, then you move on to your consequence.

Decide ahead of time what your consequences will be
Spend some time with your spouse thinking through your child’s most troublesome behaviors. Then decide on a logical or natural consequence for each of those behaviors. Write them down and post them in the kitchen so you can refer to them often. Perhaps picking up his toys is where he struggles the most. You might decide to take those toys away for a day. Let the punishment fit the crime, and make sure your consequences are ones that you can follow through on, even at your own weakest moments.

The key here is that you plan ahead so that when you’re faced with disobedience, you’re not scrambling to come up with a consequence. You want to respond swiftly, especially as you’re just beginning. Refer to my post on intentional parenting for more.

Do non-conflict training
Whether he’s 2 or 12, take the time to explain to him your new standard of obedience. He needs to know that you are changing the rules of the game and that you will be giving consequences the first time he disobeys. Clearly explain to him that you expect him to respond to your instructions the first time you give them. Be specific. Tell him that if he runs away from you at the park, you will go home the first time. Tell him that if he speaks to you with disrespect just one time, he will lose his TV privileges. Remind him often, several times a day every day.

Follow through
This is where you make or break the deal. You can do all of the work I describe above, but if you don’t follow through when your child disobeys the first time, all of your work will be for nothing. Not only will it have been a waste of time, but now your child won’t believe you when you say you will require first-time obedience. If your child disobeys just one time, issue the consequence, no questions asked. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Don’t repeat yourself. Don’t threaten. Don’t get angry. Keep a calm demeanor and follow through.

Now, don’t kick yourself if you slip once or twice. You are both acquiring a new skill, but do make it a priority. Even set aside a few days when you can stay home and work on it.

Set your child up for success
You want your child to achieve first-time obedience, right? So set him up to succeed. Don’t start your work on first-time obedience by asking your 4-year-old to mow the lawn. Take baby steps. Start by giving him a task you know he’ll do willingly. If he does it the first time, praise him! Expect that he will succeed. Make it so that he wants to give you first-time obedience. Then once he is doing well with simple tasks, move on to more difficult ones.

Be fair
You cannot expect your child to give you first-time obedience if you haven’t done all your work first. You can’t issue a consequence the first time if you haven’t told him what you expect. For all he knows, you’ll repeat yourself 20 times like you usually do. And consider context. Don’t start expecting first-time obedience when your fuse is short and your child is tired and hungry.

Require a happy heart

I started this post by asking you to work on your own attitude, and I’ll end by saying you need to ensure your child has the right attitude as well. A big component of first-time obedience is doing it with an attitude of submission. You might want to spend a week or two working on the mechanics of first-time obedience before you move on to changing his attitude. But once you are ready to do so, explain to him at a time of non-conflict, what you expect of him. Then if he gives you first-time obedience but sulks off after complying or whines about doing the task, start requiring him to respond with a happy heart. One of the best ways to do so is requiring him to do the task over with a better attitude. If he needs a few minutes in isolation to find his happy heart, let him go to his room and then come back to you when he’s ready to comply with a better attitude.

This was a long post full of weighty ideas. Refer back to it often. Good luck!