#3 – What I’d Do Differently in Raising Kids – Instant Obedience

instant obedienceInstant obedience instead of delayed obedience. That’s one other thing I’d do differently if I were raising my children again. It’s a response to the question my kids asked me the other week.

For starters, I don’t think we parents need to walk around, ready to drop the gauntlet on any child who does not obey instantly.  Children should not be frightened of a parent and afraid of what they will do next. The goal in  teaching instant obedience is for the parent to not feel like they need a gauntlet to get their child to obey.

Teaching a child instant obedience is not an easy task!  As moms, we tend to want to be sure our child is old enough to understand, or not “too little,” so we expect less of them than we should.

I believe  “Anything less than instant obedience is disobedience.”

Let me tell you: believing that statement is a lot easier than implementing that concept!

It’s true, isn’t it? If a child chooses not to obey when he is told to do something, then he’s not really obeying, even if he says, “I’m coming!” or “I was about to!”.

We can make all the excuses we want, but if we told a child, “That brand new ______ you want is yours tonight if you will stop what you are doing right now and go do ________,” he’d probably be out the door before you finished your sentence. When a child is capable of obeying instantly to get a reward, then he’s capable of obeying instantly at any time.

I’m not a pro at this, you can be certain. Yet the more I read about this and the more I observe children who are not made to obey at once without complaining, the more convinced I am that we could have done it better.

instant obedience

When the chips are down, the child who learns to obey instantly is a happier and more secure child. I’ve seen this in real life and I know this is true. Sadly, I wasn’t always the best at making sure my kids obeyed instantly.

How many times in one sitting did I tell a child to come in from playing?

How often when it was time to be done with play did I tell a child to pick up the toys now?

How many times did I wake a child in the morning before school, only to go back and wake him again and again and again? (I rather like the snooze on my alarm myself.)

How often did I allow a child to dawdle around before finally making him complete a task?

Even now, when we have foster kids in our home, I struggle with staying on task and teaching instant obedience. It’s hard work and it takes time.

instant obedienceThe problem is that to develop this type of obedience in a child takes a parent’s time – and time – and more time. It also takes concentration and focus. Just when a parent thinks he’s won the battle, the child begins another war.  Teaching this type of obedience is a lot of work, but it pays great dividends. When you teach instant obedience, there is no need to count to three.

I can guarantee that if you ask a parent who you think has really well-behaved kids what their secret is, you’ll find that they teach “instant obedience” and expect it from their children.

Many years ago, I was in a setting where a three-year-old child was told to feed the chickens.  The family lives on a  farm, and this child’s chore was to feed the chickens,  every single day.  You think that’s too young? It wasn’t for this child. I’m certain on bitter winter mornings or if the child was ill, his father did the job for  him. In this situation, however, the child wanted to stay and listen to adult conversation. Yet, a look from  his father sent him to the barn to feed those chickens. This child knew there would be consequences if  he did not obey. It was obvious he had been taught instant obedience. In a few minutes, he was back, the job completed. He still got to listen to the adult conversation, and he was happier because his job had been done. The adult conversation was not interrupted by a parent telling a child over and over to do something; there was no arguing, just instant obedience.

This child was the youngest of a passel of children, and I know this instant obedience did not develop overnight. I have a feeling that the example of the older children helped pave the way for the youngest one to obey. Teaching those older children took time and effort, every single day.

In the same home on a different day, I watched the children in the family sit quietly an entire Sunday afternoon while visitors came to express condolences over the loss of a grandparent. The times I noticed a child wiggling, all the father had to do was put his hand over on the child’s thigh, and the wiggling stopped. You know what I was thinking?! They’re too little to be expected to sit still that quietly and for that long!  Had those children’s lives depended on sitting still and being quiet, they would have survived. Could the same be true of our own children? These children had been taught well, and they had learned well.

You know what? I don’t think it hurt those children to sit quietly that one Sunday afternoon while the viewing for their grandmother was held in their home. This is how things were done in their home and church community. All of these children grew up to be responsible adults who receive no government assistance as they have worked hard to provide for and train their own children. None of them suffer from emotional psychological problems; none of them have spent time in prison. They are mature, healthy adults and parents now. It started with learning responsibility and instant obedience early on in their home.

I thought about that family often as we raised our brood. I knew that if we wanted to have children who behaved like that, we needed to do the work involved in teaching and training that kind of obedience.  It means being consistent in dealing out consequences when a child is defiant, disrespectful, or disobedient. If I had to do it over, I’d be more diligent in teaching instant obedience consistently day in and day out.


instant obedience


To My Stepfather



You showed me tonight

how our old kitchen barometer works –

telling me about mercury,

explaining its pressure on the earth,

and showing me

the coil and chain inside the glass

working together to position the needle of the barometer.

That’s the first time

anyone ever explained it to me.

I never had a father

to explain things to me

before (who I really remember).


you made me realize once again

how much I have missed all these years . . .

And now,

 I know you . . .

and I’m glad.



#2 – What I’d Do Differently in Raising Kids – Structure and Schedules

structureWhen my kids asked me what I’d do differently in raising them, this is the one I mentioned first. I hate rigidity, but I know that kids do better when they have schedules and structure. Therein was my dilemma – finding that balance.

I enjoyed sleeping in during summer days, especially if I had been up late the night before. The problem was that if we didn’t get our day started in good time, we were always behind. Why have lunch at 12 when you’ve just finished breakfast at 9AM? (It is a pet peeve of the man of the house, and we never quite came to an agreement on this issue. This is because my creative juices begin flowing near midnight and his body wakes up with the sun.) But then, it’s so much fun to sleep in and be lazy in the mornings when you’ve got all day to do what you’ve got to do.

If you’re a mom who doesn’t do a sit-down breakfast with your kids, it’s easy to just let them meander downstairs whenever they want. That means, depending on how many kids you have, you’re putting things away and cleaning up the kitchen a blue zillion times in the morning. Sometimes I made use of that time by working on supper while I was in the kitchen.

Many days we ate breakfast together, but not always. I did tell the kids that the kitchen closed at a certain time. If they’d rather sleep in than eat, that was okay with me.  After that certain time, the kitchen was closed and there was no getting anything for breakfast. This insured that I could clean everything up at a certain time and know I was done. (My kids  had to put their cereal, juice, milk, and other breakfast items away.) There were times I fixed pancakes or creamed eggs, and it was better to eat while the food was warm than to have warmed-up food later. This worked well in getting kids out of bed most mornings.


Depending on the schedule your family needs to keep, you will do things differently.  What works for one family might not work for yours. The important thing is to figure out what schedule you want to have, and then plan accordingly so your schedule can be successful and not a point of contention or frustration.

You might have certain days that are allowed for “sleeping in”, or you might need a set schedule for every day of the week.  Flexibility is certainly important as you try to work out the kinks in your summer schedule.

Most children do better if they know what to expect and understand what is expected of them. Remember that as you go through your summer or your school year. There is security in structure; but our kids will also experience warm fuzzies when kids “get to” stay up late or sleep in on occasion, or switch up what’s a normal procedure for mealtimes in your home.

As foster parents, we learned that the sooner we set limits and schedules, the smoother life was and the more secure our foster kids were. We learned to explain rules the first day: At this house, everybody helps clear the table; At this house, everybody puts his dirty clothes into the hamper instead of on the floor. When children know what is expected and the adults are consistent in following through, they are more secure – no matter whose kids they are.


If you’re a single parent, you might want to get input from others who can help you think objectively. If you’re not a single parent, you should work as a team with your spouse in planning your structure and schedules. Remember that it’s not so important how you do it, but that you find a way to work together and have a semblance of structure and follow through – for your kids will be happier, healthier, safer, and more secure.

How do you handle having enough structure and flexibility in your daily routines?



The Swimsuit Part of the Pageant


It’s about time! The now, all-woman board of the Miss America Pageant has nixed the swimsuit competition for this year’s pageant. The reason, they say, is because they want the pageant to focus “on intellect, personality, talent and accomplishment,” according to the chairwoman of the organization.

We know that the choosing of a spouse should be based on character and not on a person’s looks or body image.  Choosing friends or dating friends should also be based on character. I wonder how many times I’ve asked someone, “And what does that have to do with his/her  character?” when they are describing the man or gal of their dreams – because they’ve focused on looks and left out the most important part: character.

We have lost the focus of what makes a person great.

In a student publication of the University of Kentucky this week, Saadia Ahktar wrote,

A woman’s worth should NOT be determined by her weight, her exercise routine or how many meals she has skipped to fit into that stage-worthy bikini.

It’s not the size of the hips, muscles, waist, jock strap, or boobs; it’s the character within us. Yet, our society exploits the visual sensuality of a woman’s body. Women have allowed this to happen by participating, and many men have encouraged it because they (all men) are visually stimulated and let it be known that they enjoy the sights they see.

We choose clothing with specific patterns often designed by men. The purpose of many designers is to accentuate the female body instead of designing clothing to draw attention to her eyes and face. When an item of clothing says, “look at this part of my body,” it causes people to look at the body and not the personality or character of the individual. The person then becomes a thing or an object, losing her sense of worth and of value.

Heels that are high are designed to accentuate the hips when a woman walks. No wonder gals receive whistles and cat calls when they wear clothing  and walk in such a way to draw attention to specific parts of their bodies.  Sometimes a gal may not be aware that the clothing she’s wearing  and the body parts she is showing will invite men to see her as a sex object, but most women are acutely aware of the fashion statement they want to make and the attention they want to draw to themselves.  They are very much attuned to the approval of their peers and will often choose  indecency over their personal sense of propriety and comfort (and often that of their spouse.)

Girls who are working to compete in pageants – whether on local or national levels – often focus more on getting their body down to the size they want than immersing themselves in developing character qualities that will make a difference for a lifetime. (Don’t get me wrong – it makes sense to try to lose those last ten pounds to fit into that dress for a special occasion; my point is that the obsession to make the swimsuit competition is wrong.) How much more time has been spent at the gym compared to investing in others, and/or volunteering in service to others as opposed to trying to fit into a swimsuit? Health  and being fit is important because our bodies are the temple of God. We need to have that balance.

A former winner of the Miss America Pageant and chairwoman of it now, Gretchen Carlson, said she knew the swimsuit competition wouldn’t make it for her.

She knew she wouldn’t win the swimsuit competition, but she had to train for it anyway, running around the block of her childhood home in Anoka.


When I’ve voiced these ideas to others, I’ve been called old-fashioned and behind-the-times. I wasn’t “enlightened” and didn’t understand how “times have changed.”  There’s been some name-calling, for sure. This week, however, I moved from the ranks of old-fashioned to being in step with the times – thanks to the decision of Miss America’s Board of Directors.  Finally, the Board has declared that character has nothing to do with waist size or weight. Some women finally stepped up to the plate and said it loudly enough for everybody to hear.

Oh yes, times have changed. Crime is higher than it was years ago. Girls are prostituted at younger ages than a half-century ago.

Our world has sensationalized sex and the female body. Females, especially, have allowed this to happen by what they have chosen to wear and sometimes by their conduct. We do tend to act the part of the way we are dressed.

People aren’t happier because they’re “enlightened”; instead, there seems to be more competition and less satisfaction with one’s station in life. (I don’t have statistics to prove this, but I’m sure it’s true. It takes a lot more to make a kid happy now than it did 50 years ago.)

We allow this to happen when we choose to wear outfits that show off parts of our bodies that should be private. We say men should keep their minds out of the gutters and then proceed to bring gutter sexuality right to their eyes. We disrespect our own bodies by unclothing them, then become aghast at comments we hear or flirtations that occur, especially  in the work place. (The comments and flirtations are wrong; so is inviting them.)

Whether it’s in choosing a swimsuit, a prom dress, wedding dress, bridesmaid dress, or something for a gala event, the easiest ones to find are the ones with the least amount of fabric. Tell me it isn’t so. Instead of measuring our attire and actions by scripture, we compare ourselves to what others are doing – and feel good because at least what we’ve chosen covers more than what someone else is wearing. This is not the part of wisdom.

It’s true that “women can wear whatever they want to” in today’s culture. They cannot, however, choose the consequences.

Nor can women who follow Jesus wear “whatever they want to”, because Jesus said we are not our own; we are bought with a price. Therefore, we should glorify God with our bodies. Some Christian women choose dresses for occasions that expose parts of their bodies they themselves would consider improper to expose in church – but think nothing of baring cleavage or thighs for “special events”. Oh, they are special, all right, special to proclaim boobs and bottoms in such a way that it leaves nothing to the imagination. Why are we shocked and disgusted that “all he can think about is sex” or  that “he doesn’t recognize me for who I am, but just for my body.”


If we women don’t want people drooling over our bodies, then we ought not put them  on display. Don’t bring a brownie fresh out of the oven when your guest isn’t allowed to have chocolate.

Finally, we hear women proclaiming that the swimsuit ought not to be included in the  beauty competitions. “Because,” women are finally saying, “Beauty pageants are about character and not our bodies.”

Now a winning competitor will “use her talents, passion, and ambition to perform the job of Miss America.” Finally!

It will take more than forty acres to turn this thing around – but the first turn of the wheel happened this week by the all-female board of the Miss America pageant.