Obedience training. We use it with our dogs, so your probably familiar with it. However, I was reading a novel about an Amish family (written by a woman who had grandparents that were Amish), and the woman in the novel refereed to obedience training for her daughter. It stuck out to me, in part, because we are working hard with our children on obedience. Mostly in today’s society you find people, (government, media, and even many parents) that condone allowing the child to run the show. This has been a topic in a book study the moms in our homeschool group are doing. There is a wide variety of beliefs on the subject, and a lot of desperate parents that want to find the balance in training their children. It’s not easy, and is rather different in each family, but the general points really do remain the same.
Obedience. What is it? The Mirium-Webster dictionary describes obedience as;
Synonyms and antonyms for obedience are;
So, reading all of this, try and apply it to your child. Does your child listen to your voice and obey without question? Does he act respectfully toward you and others in authority when asked to do something? Many people fear repressing their childs creativity and ability to reason if they demand full obedience, yet if you are like many parents you get very upset when your child doesn’t comply, or only does so with a poor attitude of resentment and anger. This is the quandary many find themselves in, including us. Our human nature is all about self, and that often doesn’t make obedience natural. Yet, we cannot function in our world without the ability to be obedient. My husband likens it to going to work; even if you don’t agree with your boss, you will obey or risk losing your job. Why? Because your boss is your BOSS! He decides what happens, and what he wants is how you do things.
Children need to learn that obedience is vital to making their way in the world. When old enough, it is good to teach them that they can argue for their position after they have obeyed, or even that they might request a discussion of what they are being asked to do before doing it if they feel strongly that the action is wrong, but as parents we need our children to be obedient. We are in charge of their health and safety, as well as training them for life without us in the real world. They have to understand that there are laws and orders of authority. There is no one without authority over them, and it has to be maintained. I am afraid that the 3-year old child just doesn’t have the ability to make decisions about whether to obey or not. In fact, until a child has reached the state where they are independent of you and fully responsible for their actions, you are in charge (or should be).
Now, training your child to be obedient doesn’t require yelling, hitting, or degrading your child. Those methods instil fear and resentment. Nor does it require constant explaining or completing your request with “okay Jaynnie?” (which I am rather guilty of and trying to correct). Obedience isn’t negotiable for your child; you shouldn’t ask if it’s okay with them, because that puts them in the drivers seat. My willful child will tell you outright that, no, it’s not okay with me, and then you have a fight on your hands. It is much better to say “Johnny, take the dishes to the sink and then do your homework” instead of “Johnny, take the dishes to the sink and then do your homework, okay?”. See the difference? Sure, many kids just do it, but it doesn’t keep you in the seat of authority, which breeds the idea that the child should be in charge of what they do, no you.
That’s all well and good, you say, but my child doesn’t do what I say! My child say’s no, or doesn’t listen when I talk! Okay, I am there with you! We have a very assertive child, determined to find a way to do things exactly the way he wants. We have struggled with this because he is on the autism spectrum, and being able to control his world helps him cope. However, if he doesn’t obey in all things, he isn’t likely to obey or listen when I try to stop him from running in front of a car. A child that selectively tunes you out, or says “in a minute” for everything and then ignores you, or yells at you and argues the entire time they comply, is not an obedient child. However, parents generally create this situation in the way they deal with their children. I have learned the hard way that speaking your childs name and getting them to make eye contact with you is the start of communication. Once they are looking at you they have no excuse to not hear you. Yelling from another room will not accomplish this; the child does not feel he needs to listen then.
Once you have your childs attention, you must tell them what you want, clearly and simply, not giving them opportunities to argue. Take a look at this; “Johnny, look at this mess! You are always creating so much work for me. Clean it up, right now!”. Well, Johnny is going to tune you out after your first sentence, especially since he feels attacked. Then he’s going to argue it’s not his fault, he didn’t mean to, but Suzie really made the mess, etc. This doesn’t acomplish anything other than making you angry and him to feel bad. Now. Take a look at this approach; “Johnny. (he looks at you) Please pick up all the toys and neatly put them away”. You have his attention, you treat him respectfully, and you give a command. Yes, he can still argue, but you can clearly say “what did I tell you to do? Are you obeying? What is the consequence for not obeying?” Imagine Johnny’s answers to this; “You told me to put the toys away.” “Are you obeying?”, “No.” “What is the consequence for not obeying?”, “I don’t get…. I have to sit in time out….I get a spanking…”. Here is a vital point; you need a pre-understood consequence for a childs disobedience. That way, when your child disobeys they know what is going to happen and they can make the choice to obey or face the consequence. With our son, at this point he has argued or not done what was asked, and that means I ask the questions. When I get to the fact that he isn’t obeying, and remind him that there is a consequence, I have to deliver the consequence and then give him another opportunity to obey. If handled in this way he understands the choice he made and the fact that he still has to obey, just with a consequence on top of it all. It doesn’t take many times handling it this way before he prefers obedience to start with instead of a consequence and then obedience.
Now, I understand how to do this without breaking my child. However, it’s not always easy and I am the first to be distracted. In fact, I just got back from dealing with the kids breaking a house rule (a form of disobedience) and handled it the way I told you above. Not a tear shed, they understood. Our youngest just came back with the “he started it” thing, so I asked him directly, “Did YOU break the rule?”. After hemming and hawing he said “yes” and I told him he broke the rule, he deserved punishment. Very simple. We are each responsible for our own actions. Hopefully my children will someday truly understand that fully, and be better for it. Now, if I can just do this consistently! I am sooo guilty of being too busy to train my children, a very bad habit of mine 🙂