Helping Kids Want to Comply

want to complyLearning to want to comply

The grandson was quick to shirk responsibility. In desperation, the father talked to his father (the boy’s grandfather) and asked his advice. The grandfather knew what the problem was because he’d been around the kid –and he was a father himself.

“I told him,” the grandpa told us, “You have to make it worth his while to obey, and not worth the consequences to disobey.”

By the time our kids are teenagers, we can’t force them to do what they don’t want to do. By the time our son is a teenager, he towers over us, daring us to demand his obedience. He knows we cannot physically make him obey. We can’t. 

So we need to do what this grandfather advised. Let him choose whether he obeys or not – then let him experience the reward of cooperation or the consequence of uncooperating. Let him learn to want to comply.

This happened in our home this summer. A teenager staying at our house refused to go to bed on his last night with us. When he finally decided to head upstairs (because he did not want to face Dave whose arrival was imminent), he left his MP3 player on the rug in the living room – and it became “mine”.

He decided the consequence of losing his MP3 player for his trip on the morrow was not worth staying up an extra thirty minutes. No matter he bought it with his own money, and no matter the songs he wanted to listen to on the trip were on that MP3 player, he lost it for a long time. Now when we talk about the incident, he recognizes the consequence was not worth his belligerence about going to bed.

Rewards of complying

When a child complies, he not only experiences satisfaction of a job well done, he also learns the pleasure resulting from a good attitude about work. He reaps the rewards of applause and compensation. 

Until a child learns the deep down satisfaction of success of his work, he doesn’t miss the reward of that feeling. He also learns the satisfaction as a result of his choice to comply.

Certainly, a child needs to learn to work at home because he is a member of the family. He does not always need to receive monetary compensation. At the same time, when there are projects that benefit the family financially, he can receive a benefit of that financial compensation. 

Make it worth his while to help, and he will more quickly choose to comply. Verbal appreciation and applause go a long way in helping a child gain self-worth in a job he does. Applause will not make him proud; go ahead and applaud!

Non-compliance in a child

When a child refuses to help or do a job, he must find the consequences are not pleasant. You know your child and what matters to him. Leverage that to help both of you. Usually when a child knows he will lose a privilege if he refuses to cooperate, and when he knows the consequence will be firm without negotiations, he will comply.

Make certain you choose consequences that can be dealt out fairly and quickly. Withholding a privilege three months down the road is not fair to a child. Use real consequences in a timeline he understands. That, of course, is based on his age and his understanding. 

Sometimes when a child is asked for his opinion in this matter, he is harder on himself than his parents (or mother) might be. When he is allowed to come up with a plan for work and play and consequences, he is sometimes more receptive to the plan. You are the parent, and that must be recognized. Yet coming up with a plan that encourages him to do better will certainly receive more support. It will also make him more willing to comply if he is given a voice.

The key to helping a child want to comply

I remember the day my son asked me which of us was going to spank him if he did this “one more time.”  Apparently, my spankings were not enough to persuade him to obey. Learning that, this time, his father was going to administer the discipline made him choose to obey.

When you’re struggling with how to help your child want to comply, remember two things.

  1. Your child needs to know it is worth his effort to comply.
  2. Your child needs to know there are consequences not worth experiencing when he does not comply.

Use what you know about your child (and yourself) to develop a plan that works. That’s what good parenting does.

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