Sunday, August 10, 2008

First Time Obedience Part II

Last time we talked about the importance of “First Time Obedience,” and we began a list of tips for parents to help develop the habit of first time obedience. Here is a quick review of the first four tips and a description of four more …

1. Use a positive tone of voice. A positive tone of voice lets children know you respect them.

2. Give lead time, if possible. Give some advance notice that you are going to want something to happen soon.

3. If at all possible, give a choice. By saying to the child, “You can choose to do either this or that,” you empower the child and give him or her a sense of control.

4. If you cannot give a choice, sometimes you can describe the facts of the situation. For example: “It’s time to go home.” or “The table is not for sitting on.”

5. Be reasonable in the type and number of choices or commands you give. You will have to be the judge of how many commands per day are reasonable, but remember, the fewer commands you give the more likely the child will take notice when you do give a command. As the child grows toward puberty, you should need to give fewer and fewer commands. The older the child, the more areas of life should be in his or her own area of control. We do not own children. Any command that orders children around just because the adult wants to wield power over them is not reasonable. Any command that tries to force a bodily function on the child is also unreasonable, “Eat that food” or “Stop wetting your bed” are unreasonable commands.

6. The fewer words the better. Be as brief as possible. Give only one, or at most two commands at a time. Giving too many commands at once is confusing. “Gary, go upstairs and bring me a diaper for the baby, and on your way, turn off those bathroom lights, and when you’re done with that, you can either take the letters on the hallway table out to the mailbox before we watch Sesame Street or before lunch.” This kind of command is too hard to remember even for a very intelligent child. Keep it short, clear and simple. A one word command is sometimes the best. Rather that telling a five year old who knows better to pick up her coat and put in on the rack, simply point at the coat and say “coat,” in an authoritative yet not angry voice. A single word is hard to argue with.

7. Be sure you can follow through with the correction, otherwise do not give the command or choice. If you are in a public place, like the grocery store or at a school play, and you know you will be too embarrassed to carry out the correction, do not give the command. You must be consistent in carrying out the correction the first time the child does not mind. It is better to not give the command than to sabotage yourself by commanding and then not seeing it through.

8. Do not respond to self–indulgent behavior. Concentrate on dealing with the not-minding behavior. Do not let the child’s accusation, complaints, whining, name calling, or scolding deflect you from carrying out the correction for not-minding. You will sabotage yourself if you get hooked into responding in any way to the self-indulgent behavior.

When these tips become habits, they promote first time obedience in children. They are a starting point and form the general foundation for expectations of behavior. In the next post, we will get more specific about how to administer discipline when first time obedience does not happen. We will be looking at the four categories of disobedience and how to specifically address each one with the appropriate discipline.

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