Child training: obedience

“The representative of God …… did not say ‘You shall choose God’s service now; and if you deliberately refuse to do so God will break your will so that you do do it’; but He said ‘….Choose ye this day whom ye will serve’ (Joshua 24:15)” ~ Hints On Child Training by H. Clay Trumbull
“Many parents and teachers use the phrase ‘I’ve told you a hundred times.’ They need to realize that it is not the children who are dense. Children know what works for them. Adults need to learn that telling a hundred times is not effective.” ~ Jane Nelson “Positive Discipline
“Now, if the parent realise that obedience is no mere accidental duty, the fulfilling of which is a matter that lies between himself and the child, but that he is the appointed agent to train the child up to the intelligent obedience of the self-compelling, law-abiding human being, he will see that he has no right to forego the obedience of his child, and that every act of disobedience in the child is a direct condemnation of the parent. Also, he will see that the motive to the child’s obedience is not the arbitrary one of, ‘Do this, or that, because I have said so,’ but the motive of the apostolic injunction, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” (Charlotte Mason, Vol. 1: Home Education, p. 161)
“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work.” Titus 3:1

We all know that obedient children make our lives more smooth, and the days easier. But if you are anything like me the question of how to “make” them obey looms between the dream of obedient children and reality. I wanted to share some things I have found helpful in teaching my children to obey. But first I want to mention that these work better with young children. I am pretty sure your teenager will hate you (and me!) if you try these on them!
Obedience is more of a childhood habit you want to teach while they are young. As they grow older obedience is born out of respect for the authority making the request.

  • First, when my children are small, I teach them the “obedience game”. I state a command and they obey. At first the commands are simple and essential like “Stop! Walk.” “Sit. Come. Go.” As they get better and more capable I give instructions “Go to the fridge and open the door, look what is on the top shelf and come back to tell me.” “Pick up all the pink toys you can find between here and the door and count them.” We practice obedience this way so that when we are out in public or in the middle of the day, I can expect them to listen and know what to do. I give them lots of encouragement as they accomplish each task. “That is good stopping! you followed all those directions! Good job!” I try to focus on the job they did, with honesty, and not what I feel about it. So no “Thank you! I am so happy you obeyed me!” as this can teach them to depend on outside acceptance and praise rather than how they fell about themselves.
  • In the course of our day, when I need a child to do something I always call them to me first. I have learned that if I make a request from across the room I am setting both of us up for failure as they stop listening after one word or so, so ai have to make that one word count. I also have a game where they learn to look at me when I say their name. If, in the moment, they choose to ignore I remind them that we need to practice looking when I say their name. And then I say their name five to eight times, each time telling them to look away again. If they don’t come when I call, or are too involved in a game to respond to their name, I go to them, touch them and tell them to come. While they are with me, we practice responding to their name and then remind them that they need to come when I call. Then I allow them to return and practice coming to my call several times. All of this before I make my request. It probably doesn’t take as long as it sounds, and even if it does I feel it is an investment well made.
  • When they come to my call, I always look them in the eye to make my request. It shows respect for them and me, and it teaches a good habit. It also ensures that I have their attention.
  • I then make my request and have them repeat it back to me by asking “What did I just ask?” or “What are you going to do now? This helps with their follow through. If up till now they have only been going through the actions, they finally get their mind and heart involved by repeating what their plan is now.
  • There is always times when you don’t follow all these steps, or even through the steps, obedience is not observed. When you feel guilty that you didn’t do it right, does this justify the child in not obeying? No. These times you can take the child aside and explain to them that you require obedience always. That they need to remember the good habits you have taught them, and implement them in their lives so that they can become useful and pleasant people. It can also be a good time to talk about obeying cheerfully and the quote from Titus 3.
  • One more thing that you can do in moments where they don’t listen or obey is a do-over. Simply say “Wait! lets try that again!” Try for eye contact and state your request again. Hopefully you will have a better outcome. If not, it may be time for a bigger talk about what is bothering them. (By the way, this one applys well for teens!)
  • As always thanks for reading! Here’s to hoping for more obedience in your Daily life!