I think every parent has asked this question.
It’s so common. You can hear it just about anywhere there are parents and children: at home, while shopping, in the classroom, at church, at McDonald’s…
What’s normally not recognized by the frustrated parent asking the question is that the child cannot answer that question! Really.
The question could be rephrased, in more accurate terms as: How many times am I going to ask you to do this before I actually enforce what I’ve told you to do?
Now we can very clearly see who alone can answer this question! The parent!
Here’s an important principle in parenting:
The best way to teach your child NOT to obey is to give him instructions that you have no intention of immediately enforcing.
Instead of immediately enforcing instructions (through firm and appropriate discipline), most parents resort to repeating the instruction/command, threatening, or bribing the child.
Some time back I was observing a mom trying every imaginable way to get her 5-6 year old son out of the playground tunnel at Taco Bell’s play area. The boy simply ignored her. She told him over and over. And over and over he simply ignored her. She threatened to never bring him back if he didn’t come out. Still no response. She counted to ten. She whined and shamed him. Still no success. Finally she said, “Okay, I’m leaving. You can find your own way home.” And she started out the door.
In just a moment the boy popped his head out to see if she had left. At that point it looked like the lad was concerned. He ran and grabbed his shoes and ran out the door, shoes in hand, toward the parking lot. He seemed truly afraid that she was leaving him. I certainly knew she wouldn’t. She had actually lied to him.
Who created this little monster? The mother largely did. She was actually training him to disobey. It wasn’t her word that was law, but rather her emotional state(s). The child was forced to study her tone and mood to figure out when she was really serious.
But if she had trained the boy that she always expected and enforced first time obedience, she would not have the problem.
This doesn’t mean that the child would never disobey, but if first time obedience was enforced he would face immediate consequences each time he disobeyed.
Some parents use bribery to get compliance. This trains the child that obedience is a form of manipulation to get something else that you really like. Bribery teaches the child that the reason to obey is not for the virtue and reasonableness of the parent’s instruction, but for the child’s own self-centered reasons. This parenting technique teaches the kid that they only have to obey when they can see that there’s some immediate personal gratification involved. This is not a lesson you want your child to get!
An example would be a mom taking a non-compliant, noisy toddler out of a church service and giving her a snack in the foyer. The child immediately learns that she can fuss in church and be given snacks outside. What a deal! She’ll find a way to have snack time at 11:30am every Sunday!
It’s so important to get quality parenting training so that you learn to avoid these sorts of errors.
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