when . . . then

#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.

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