Jan 17, 2012

Teaching Obedience

Oh, here's a topic close to most parents' hearts: how to foster obedience in our children.

It's not that we're power-tripping control freaks. We focus so much on obedience because we know -- sometimes from painful personal experience -- that when children disobey their parents, the natural repercussions can be more painful and more long lasting than any spanking any parent can give.

Children who do not obey their parents could end up

  • dropping out of school,
  • getting addicted to drugs,
  • scalded in the kitchen,
  • electrocuted from the electric socket,
  • pregnant out of wedlock,
  • sunburned,
  • etc.
So when my friend Abby Sasscer shared on our group's Facebook page these things she learned on how to teach children to obey, I thought the rest of you would like to hear it too!

Here's Abby's list:
  1. Don't shout. No matter what happens, keep a calm tone. You can't expect a child to control his or her impulses if you, the adult, can't show that you know how to control yours. Also, when you shout, it shows that you have lost control. Children will obey better if they can see that you are in full control. Don't lose your credibility by shouting.
      
  2. Don't nag. Ask questions instead. In fact, don't tell your kids what to do at all. They know what needs to be done. So ask them, and let it come from them. If their toys are all over the floor, ask them, "What do we need to do with our toys?" They know. Let them tell you. Then wait for them to do it. Never do for your children what they can very well do for themselves.
       
  3. Give choices. Giving children choices makes them feel that they are being respected, as they should be. But maintain control of the situation by limiting the choices. Don't ask, "What do you want for dinner?" or you might get answers such as "popcorn" or "chocolate cake." Instead, ask, "Do you want chicken or fish for dinner?"
       
  4. Say yes whenever you can. Sometimes, we say "no" when we really mean "not yet." If what your child is asking for is allowable with conditions, say yes, but give the condition. For instance, if your child asks to play outside at 2 p.m., you can say, "Yes, as soon as it's 4."

    "Mommy, can we eat popcorn?" "Yes, after dinner."

    Of course, if your child says, "Mommy, can I eat popcorn before dinner?" then you can say no. It's for times like these that we save our noes for.
       
  5. Give them a chance to correct the behavior. Inevitably, at one time or the other, your child will mess up. Even the best kids sometimes slip and spill juice or turn in sloppy worksheets or tell a fib.

    When that happens, don't punish. Give them a chance to mop up the juice (if your child has enough hand control to color pictures, he or she has enough hand control to mop up a spill), redo the worksheet, or tell the truth. If there is undesirable behavior, don't get mad or emotional or give a consequence right away.
       
  6. Save the shouting for emergencies. Like "Fire" -- or "Fore!" But if you just want to give a command to your child, it's better to signal them to come close then whisper the command. Their curiosity at what you're going to say will ensure their undivided attention.
       
  7. Focus on what is right. When you want a child to stop writing on the table, you can say, "Here's some paper. Let's write here." 
Make no mistake: our children are not little angels. "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child (Proverbs 22:15)." But even the most foolish child relishes approval, and if obedience is the price of that approval, they will learn to obey -- as long as they are taught correctly.

Thank you so much for these tips, Mama Abby!

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