The struggle is real when it comes to teaching children to be obedient, and comply with your requests/commands which are only in their best interest. It is truly an uphill task but God has given us wisdom that can be used to make this job a little easier. Without further delay let’s jump into our tips for teaching children to obey.
- Be consistent. Parents are often guilty of enforcing rules sometimes and no at others. What this does is create confusion for the child. So for example if the rule is that the child should eat at the table, then the child shouldn’t be allowed to eat on the couch just because you were too tired to enforce the rule. That’s not a good enough reason. If you have guests over and the table is full then that’s a legitimate reason. Consistency is important. Respond the same way to the behaviour you desire to be changed every time. It helps children to learn over time that you mean what you say. You will hardly get the level of compliance you desire the first time so perseverance is important. Keep at it until you achieve the desired result.
- Give clear and effective commands. Sometimes our commands are difficult to understand especially for young children or phrased like a question. For example, it’s pointless to say to a two year old “Aren’t you going to pick up your toys?” or “Why aren’t you being obedient?”. Just go ahead and clearly communicate in simple language what you would like your child to do. For example, “It’s now time to get ready for bed. Please put your toys in the toy box.” The commands should also be given one step at a time and not multiple commands rolled into one. Children will forget if you tell them too many things at once.
- Be realistic. What is expected of your teenage child cannot be expected of a one year old. Ensure that your expectation of a child’s behaviour are realistic. So I expect my teenage brother to sit through a church service and would be annoyed if he kept getting up and walking out but my 1 ½ year old has to be occupied so I ensure I have things for him to do and take him on occasional walks because it’s not realistic to expect him to sit that long. We sometimes get upset over behaviours the child has not yet learned to control.
- Give effective warnings so the child knows the consequence of not following through on a directive. The warning can be given using a statement such as “If you do not do so and so then so and so will happen. For example “If you do not take up your toys mommy will put you on a timeout” This warning should be given only once and the selected method of disciplining should be followed through immediately if the child fails to comply.
- Focus your efforts more on praise than punishment. In other words reward more than punish. If I could give parents only one tip from this list, it would be this one because I believe as parents we focus so much on singling out and fixing our children’s negative behaviour that we fail to reinforce the positive ones. If our children do not receive attention for positive behaviour and receive lots of it for negative behaviour, then they will behave in a manner that gets them attention. I’ve found that children aim to please so catch your child doing something right for a change and reward them with a hug, kiss, compliment or high five.
- Remain calm. One tip I have found helps me remain calm is to pray as I am trying to teach or correct a behaviour. Avoid getting into a fight or power struggle with your child. Your calm disposition also teaches them how they ought to respond to others and yourself when there is a disagreement.
- Use charts for younger children. As soon as your child is able to understand, a chart can be a helpful way to teach obedience. This chart can be used as a reward system for good behaviour. So for example you will list the desired behaviours “Pick up my toys” “Respond promptly when called” etc and then give a star each time the child does the desired behaviour. When the child has accumulated a certain number of stars, they receive the reward that you have agreed on. What you will find is that overtime, as the child becomes older, a chart will no longer be needed. Be careful to teach children the “why” of behaviour so as not to have them feel they are only doing the behaviour for a reward.
I hope you’ve found these tips to be helpful. What other strategies have you used when teaching children obedience? Please share in the comments below.