How To Get Your Children To Obey Immediately (And Why You Should Never Do It)
I had that kid—you know, the strong-willed one with a determination to do everything his own way in his own time. The one who could turn getting ice cream into a battle, because he had to have a particular amount in a particular bowl in a particular time frame.
I collapsed into bed too many nights exhausted and full of guilt because I’d spent the day correcting rather than enjoying the child I loved so much. And you know what exhausted discipline looks like–it ain’t pretty!
So I read every book ever printed on raising children (at least it seemed like it!), and became convinced only parents of compliant children ever wrote them. I wanted results, and I wanted them immediately. So I rose up to become bigger and more powerful than my child. I yelled louder, stood firmer, and looked fiercer. And it worked.
When all the usual routes didn’t work, loud words and a harsh countenance did. And yet, not really. Sure it got him to obey right away, but it came with the cost of his trust that I had his best interests at heart. I got smaller in his eyes every time I got bigger in my demeanor.
At some point along the way, I learned that parenting is a process and heart results come over time. I learned that effectiveness can’t be measured in a moment. Oh sure, we can effectively shame or coerce our child into submission, but that’s just an effective behavior-control method. It’s far from the effective heart molding that parenting is meant to produce.
So I traded my loud words and harsh stance for what takes more time and has less immediate effect. But I believe this approach protects the relationship and brings better long-term results:
Focus on the heart condition, not outward behavior.
I know this is really hard because you know and I know that people are judging us based on what they see. But our children need us to have eyes on their souls rather than make them straighten up so we impress our friends with our well-behaved children. Don’t get me wrong, behavior is important, but it’s secondary to the heart. When we focus on the heart, the behavior comes. When we focus on the behavior, the heart often doesn’t catch up.
Grow in grace and knowledge.
Learning the stages of a child’s life helps us put realistic expectations in place. It gives us more grace for areas that may be beyond their ability at this point.
Be firm, but fair and consistent.
Our correction cannot be governed by our moods or our hormones. Enough said ;-).
Be kind and be gentle.
Proverbs 31:26 (NLT) says, “When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness.” What a sweet picture. Mamas, our words are wise, but our children can’t hear them if they are spewed out. And do I ever know what it is to spew my words! But it only makes our children sick of us, not receptive to us.
We’re also told “a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1, NIV). I know none of us wants angry children, because angry children become angry adults who destroy their own relationships. So who should we practice this “gentle answer” approach with more than our children?
My policy now is to stop at the first sign of anger.
Stop making my point.
Stop insisting they obey.
Stop running my mouth.
With the exception of an immediate threat, there is little that can’t wait until the emotions settle.
Be a visionary and keep the big picture in mind.
Ask yourself, “In 10 years, what will matter most about this situation?” It will bring focus and clarify what’s really important.
Is it to stop the battle of a sibling squabble at all costs or to teach the value of friendship? If it’s the first, we might yank up our kids and send them to their rooms until they can play nicely. If it’s the latter, we’re more likely sit them down to find out what the real issue is. Then talk about the gift of sibling friendship and the ways they can protect that gift.
How about when kids race through the living room yelling and squealing? Do we want to quiet the noise, or do we want to create an atmosphere that allows play and fun? If it’s the first, we’re likely to yell louder about not yelling in the house. If it’s the latter, we might scoop them up, give a good tickle, and ask them if they need help with shoes so they can take loud play outside. Either way, we need to get a clear picture of what we’re trying to produce in the future over what we want instantaneously.
Instant results are rarely the most valuable ones.
So the next time you’ve “had it up to here,” and you’re twitching your way to the edge of a meltdown over your kids’ lack of obedience, stop to breathe and decide. Will you put your force on display and gain a momentary win? Or, will you disengage and remind yourself that winning the battle but losing your child’s heart is not really a win after all?
Hugs mamas. You are so important, and I’m here for you praying for every one of you who reads these words.