It’s Babywise Blog Network Week again! All week, we’ll be featuring blog posts from other Babywise-friendly blogs. The schedule is as follows:
· Monday: Valerie Plowman, Chronicles of a Babywise Mom
· Tuesday: Maureen Monfore, Childwise Chat
· Wednesday: Bethany Lynch, The Graceful Mom
· Thursday: Hank Osborne, Daddy Life
· Friday: Surprise guest blogger
One of the many ways we parents get into trouble with our children is by making obedience an option. Of course, we never set out to make obedience an option, but unfortunately, it happens. It’s important to recognize the ways that we may communicate to our children that they have a choice when it comes to obedience. Then after recognizing those ways, we are better equipped to spot them as they pop up in our daily lives.
So how exactly do parents convey that obedience is an option? There are many ways.
Not giving instructions with authority
How do you sound when you give instructions to your child? Do you ever sound like you might as well put a question mark on the end of your instruction? Do you sound like this: “Johnny, it’s time to get dressed.” Or like this: “Johnny, we need to leave the house soon, and we all need to be dressed and ready to go, so go get dressed. Okay?”
There are two things wrong with this example. First, don’t feel compelled to give your child an explanation as to why you’re requiring him to obey an instruction. Knowledge is power, and he may turn that information back on you in an attempt to get out of obeying. He may argue that getting dressed doesn’t take much time, so he doesn’t really need to obey you right then. Simply telling a child to get dressed leaves no option for disobedience.
The second problem with the above example is that big fat “okay?” at the end. Don’t ask your child to obey. Don’t ask him if he agrees with you. Don’t ask him anything. Simply direct him and do it with authority. If you can’t quite get a grasp on your firm mommy (or daddy) voice, work on it and do it now. If you want an obedient child, you don’t have the luxury of being your child’s friend — at least not yet. You are his parent, and parents stand in a position of authority over their children. So dig deep and get a grasp on your authority.
Another way parents make obedience an option is by front-loading consequences. By this I mean that we tell our children what their consequence will be if they disobey. Hopefully, whatever consequence we threaten will be one they won’t like, but we never can know for sure. By front-loading consequences, we give our children a choice. They can either obey, or they can choose the consequence which as been laid out neatly for them. They can weigh the odds. And they may in fact decide that they’d rather run around at bed time and miss story time than obey.
How many times do you repeat yourself when giving your child an instruction? It can be so easy to repeat ourselves when our children don’t immediately obey. We may think they didn’t hear us or we may think that if we repeat ourselves with a more stern voice, they’ll be more likely to obey. Let me tell you that the opposite is true. When we repeat ourselves, we are training our children that they don’t have to listen or obey the first time. We are teaching them that we don’t really mean what we said the first time. Teach your child that you mean what you say. Don’t utter a word unless you are ready to follow through on that word. Train your child to obey your word among all else.
Similar to front-loading consequences, threatening our children with consequences does not get them to obey. When our children learn that we don’t mean what we say, they learn that our threats are meaningless. Now, it’s one thing to warn a child of an impending consequence and another thing altogether to threaten one and never follow through.
“The mother who first coaxes, then threatens, then bargains, then pretends to punish, and finally punishes a little is only making a bad situation worse…. Lack of moral fortitude and resolution in the parents undermines obedience,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 124).
Parenting from the hip
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to have a plan when teaching children to obey. Parenting from the hip only gets us into trouble. We must recognize our own fallibility. When we’re tired, hungry, or just plain grumpy, we cannot parent with a firmer hand. By the same token, if we’re in a good mood, we cannot let bad behavior slide simply because we don’t want to ruin the mood. Obedience cannot be subject to our mood or whim. If it is, our children will gauge our mood when deciding how important it is to obey. Children love to push the boundaries to see how flexible they are. If your boundaries are flexible based on your mood, your children will quickly figure it out.
Not only is this ineffective in teaching obedience, but it’s simply unfair to the child. Our children shouldn’t have to suffer the wrath of our mood. They should know what to expect; and they should expect that we will follow through every time. Have a plan and be consistent.
Many of us know that bribes don’t help. But when we’re in the heat of the moment, thinly veiled bribes often escape our lips. We may not say, “Be good in the store and you’ll get a lollipop.” But we may say something like, “I expect you to be a good boy in the store today. You can do that, right? Good, then when we’re done, we might be able to get some special treats.” No matter how you phrase it, a bribe is a bribe.
Scare tactics are just as bad. “If you’re not good in the store today, the police will come and get you!” Or, “We’re leaving… We’ll see you later. I hope the store leaves the lights on for you tonight.” The fundamental problem with bribes and scare tactics is that we are teaching our children that we don’t mean what we say. We only expect them to be obedient to gain a reward (or avoid a scary situation). We are not expecting our children to obey simply because we expect them to.
When we give our children an instruction, there should be no doubt that we expect them to obey the instruction exactly as we give it. When we tell a child to clean up his room right away, he should do so right away. He should not be allowed to negotiate with us by telling us he’ll do it in 5 minutes. When we tell a child it’s nap time, he should not be allowed to tell us he’s not tired. When we agree to a dessert of one cookie, he should not be allowed to convince us that he deserves three cookies.
“When parents become characterized by continually accepting a negotiated compromise, they undermine their attempts to bring their child to first-time obedience. If all is negotiable, then no instruction is absolute. When we negotiate in the heat of battle, there is no true surrender,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 125).
Have no doubt: obedience requires submission.
If you ever wonder whether you’re undermining your authority and training your children not to obey, ask yourself whether you are training your child to obey your word. Whether you lack resolve and don’t follow through on your word or allow your child to negotiate with your instructions, take a minute to realize that the fundamental idea is that the child isn’t being taught to obey your word.
Remember this: “When you speak to your child in a way that requires an answer or action, you should expect an immediate and complete response,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 125).
Your children are capable of complete obedience. All you need to do is pave the way for them to get there, removing any obstacles that may give them the idea that obedience is an option.
This was a weighty post with a lot to think about. I can’t not end this post without mentioning my eBook. While I’ve given you ways to spot a lack of obedience, I haven’t really told you how to train our children to obey. This is where my eBook comes in. I’ve written several other blog posts on first-time obedience, but if you are looking for a detailed, day-by-day instruction manual on first-time obedience, check out my eBook. Endorsed by Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo, 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 offers 112 pages of a detailed, step-by-step approach to creating an environment of peace, obedience and contentment in your home. Click on the above link to purchase and download it instantly, or download a sample to learn more.