Assignment #3 – Following Instructions
I’m actually working the equation backwards with these assignments. Ideally the first thing you would begin teaching your children is to obey you immediately, but I figure that lots of you already have children who aren’t very pleasant to be around. They sure don’t immediately do what you ask them! I’m assuming that you are like we were when we first started. The intent of the first two assignments was two-fold. The first was to encourage you. If you were consistent in following through with those two simple assignments, you’re ahead of the game in teaching them to obey immediately. Your children have started creating a habit of doing what you say. The other intent was for you to begin to creating habits of requiring something from your kids and actually having them do it! Honestly, whenever a parent has told me that they’ve begun to implement even one of those assignments in their home, they are shocked at how effective it is. The whole family dynamic begins to change. Just those two things bring down the overall frustration level in the home.
As we move to requiring obedience from our kids the first time we tell them something, we’re likely to hit a bump in the road. The main problem most parents will have is following through to ensure the kids actually do what you’ve told them to do! Settle it in your mind right now; consistency requires effort. If you have lots of kids, it requires lots of effort. But it can be done. If you will steel yourself to invest the time and energy, I promise you that your whole family will benefit. If you’re a new parent with toddlers, you can start with this assignment. Remember, if your kids are older and have significant habits of disobedience, you’re definitely going to want to start with the first two assignments. Practically speaking, they’ve been in charge of your family if they haven’t obeyed your requests. You’re taking back lost ground, and they’re not going to give it up easily. Hang with me; we’ll get to you.
First let’s talk about teaching the little ones. It’s actually quite simple and it is much easier with a young child, so start now! I suggest you decide to have a training session when everyone has full tummies, is rested, and you aren’t rushing to a commitment. Read through these instructions first, and gather the things you’ll need. Put a smile on your face and a happy attitude in your heart. Plant yourself a little distance from your child; we’ll call him Ben. Wait until Ben is engaged with something and say, “Ben, come here please.” He will probably look up at you briefly, and continue what he was doing. That’s okay. You go to Ben, pick him up or take him by the hand and take him to where you were when you gave the instruction. You tell him he did a great job obeying you (he really didn’t) and you sit and read a book, or play a quick game, or something else he enjoys. Keep him with you only briefly (don’t press your luck when you’re just starting!), and then you say, “You did a great job obeying Mommy, you can go play.” You might add that you’ll practice again later. On the surface, this seems silly, setting up a training session. That’s the point, though. You are teaching and training your child to attend to what you say, and do what you ask. If you’re like we were, this is something new. In the beginning when we started, we quickly realized that most of our day was characterized by repeatedly trying to get our child’s attention and making our request repeatedly, and then hoping he would do it. Sometimes he did, sometimes he didn’t. It was all a matter of how he was feeling at the moment and had nothing to do with the fact that a parent had requested that he do something. Even so, this new training thing seemed odd. So what? I can’t think of a better way to teach a child to obey than a proactive method where you’re not correcting in order to get the right response, you’re demonstrating what it looks like before expecting to get it.
The important stuff for you to remember is that you are teaching your child to obey you the first time you say something. You do not have permission to get angry or frustrated if your child isn’t interested in this new game you’ve introduced. Your goal is not that your child learns by the tone of your voice when you really mean it. You’re the parent and that means that what you say matters. You should never need to use attitude, volume or scowls to get that message across. If that’s what you’ve been using, you need a better plan. We humans do not come hard-wired to do what someone else tells us to do. Even those of us who are rule followers by nature still only follow the rules on our terms! Think back to Adam and Eve. God had given them permission to have anything in the garden except the fruit from that ONE tree. Yet that’s the one they wanted. Not much has changed since then.
You’ll make better progress if you relax about how long it takes, and if you keep a happy, positive attitude. When you decide it’s time for another practice session, it’s quite possible that your child isn’t going to be so willing to play this time around. No problem. Do the same thing you did the first time, say, “Ben come here please.” This time Ben may plunk himself down on his bottom in defiance. Just pick him up, without a corrective negative response or a launch into a lecture on how God is unhappy when he doesn’t do what mommy says. You already gave the instruction. Now it’s time for him to obey. You take him to the place where you were and you read, play or just sit a moment and tell him, “You did a good job obeying mommy.” The point he’s learning is that when you tell him to do something, he’s going to do it. There’s no conflict or frustration. It’s likely that in the beginning your child will become less and less interested in this little game, and you’ll find yourself helping him to obey more than he obeys on his own. That’s okay. As long as you don’t let your emotions rule you and you are consistent, your kids will learn that when you tell them something, they are expected to do it. These are intelligent humans we’re talking about, believe me, they get it! You’re teaching a skill in the same way your teachers in school, or an athletic coach, or a boss teach you.
More often than not, we parents have capitulated to our child’s every preference in obeying, saving our expectation of immediate obedience for the ‘important stuff’. The trouble with this idea is that our children are immature and lack wisdom, and they don’t know what constitutes the important stuff. That leaves us as parents to communicate how important something is by our tone of voice, our attitude, our scowl, or the fact that we’re running after them trying to get them to comply. We are civilized humans for crying out loud; our calm words should be enough!
Go ahead, give this a whirl. To the parents whose children are a little older, if you haven’t already figured out a way to do this based on the principle, we’ll talk about your situation next. I will tell you, though, that you do have something going for you with your older kids. They’re a bit more mature, and you can explain in advance your purpose behind what you’re doing. Attach some rewards to it and they might even be willing to play this ‘game’ with you just like I’ve laid it out here. I think you’ll be surprised.
Copyright (c) 2019 Beverly Parrish