Lots of parents will pay for advice on how to get their kids to behave. There are multitude of methods available for them to purchase but the good ones have one thing in common; the first stage in the training is for the parents. I have boiled down for you the keys to this all-important first step

1. Parents must learn to give directives before they become exasperated.

Let’s say little Jimmy is banging on your pots and pans, which is never a quiet game. You are trying to make your grocery list and are having a hard time concentrating but he’s being good so you try to over ride your distraction. After 10 minutes of frustration you explode angrily “Jimmy you are super-annoying right now. Go to your room!”

A couple of things just happened that you didn’t intend. You labeled him “super-annoying”, which may hurt his self-image. You gave direction in anger instead of from place of controlled authority, which invites him to test the strength of your command. Remembering that kids learn from ex

2. Parents must give commands with calm, firm voice.

We may think that what got us to obey our parents were their loud, scarey voices. That’s only partially true. When our parents yelled over and over without following through on threats, they trained us exactly how long we had to delay our obedience until the follow-through actually occurred. The reason our voice is loud and angry is because we’ve waited until we got angry to follow through on our commands! Inconsistant follow through equals inconsistant obedience. If we tell our child to do something one time and then follow through with discipline if he doesn’t obey, we won’t ever have to get to the angry stage. We’re actually training him for immediate obedience, which is what we really desire.

3. Parents must be convinced that the commands they issue are for the child’s own good.

Sometimes the reason we are inconsistant in our discipline is that we’re not sure we’re right. So there may be times we correct for a behavior while other times we let it slide. This sends confusing message to our kids, resulting in disobedience. What is needed is consistancy on our part born of firm conviction that our commands are for the child’s good be it a phyiscal or a moral good. When I am convinced that it’s best for little Janey to stay out of the street while playing ball, I give a firm, immediate command and have no problem following through on discipline for disobedience. The difficulty arises when its more seemingly more ambiguous to us in nature.  For instance, if I want her to pick up her toys after playing with them before she moves on to another activity. It’s not life or death so is it that important that she respond with immediate obedience, we may ask ourselves?  I found an effective way to make decisions like this. We had a very basic rule in our house, which was based on love for others: We don’t make work for others. This was a value we felt important and following this rule enabled us to firmly support a host of commands in service of it.

Let’s say little Janey has her Barbies all over the living room and she has left the room to color in her bedroom. Knowing it is for Janey’s good that she learns to think of others, I recall the rule “We do not make work for others.” I then call Janey out and tell her to pick up her toys in a calm and firm voice. I can do this every time because I am convinced she must learn to think of the needs of others in order to be a loving person. If she doesn’t comply I move to the next step in discipline, which we have predetermined to be an appropriate response.

4. Parents must make the punishment fit the crime.

The best way to make the punishment fit the crime is to allow the law of natural consequences occur. Many times we are having to create extreme punishments only because we desperately want our kids to excape the natural consequences of their choices. In fact, those consequences are the best teachers. It is prudent to allow our kids to experience the consequences while they are still under our authority, when they will be less profound in nature and we are still around to guide their responses. By allowing natural consequences to occur, we save ourselves from having to come up with different and continually more severe consequences as discipline. We also allow our kids to think for themselves, which is a skill that will serve them well in life. My job is not to protect my kids from bad consequences but to teach them in the midst of the experience.

Let’s say little Jimmy continually leaves his bicycle out on the sidewalk after being told not to. One of your reasons is that it may be stolen. Natural consequences are that if it is stolen he will not have a bike. You tell him you will not buy another if it is stolen and that he will have to buy his own. Aother way of handling might be that you tell him if he leaves it out again, you will keep it for a deternined amount of time and you follow through on it for the appointed time. Both can be viewed as natural consequences. Either way, you can issue the command in calm confidence because you’re not making a decision in the moment but have already predetermined the best course of action in the event that little Jimmy chooses to disobey.

5. Parents must not create a punishment they cannot enforce.

The worst thing we can do is to make a punishment that we feel we will not, in the end, enforce. This diminishes our authority in the child’s mind and opens us up for protracted periods in which he or she will have to test us to find out where the red line actually is. If we say they cannot watch TV for a month, we should recognize how much that will inconvenience ourselves to enforce. I better be ready for that. What might be better instead would be to make it for a period that would cost him something but not threaten my authority. It should be remembered that time moves much slower for children than for adults, think how long it seemed waiting for Christmas when you were a kid! So while a week without TV doesn’t seem punitive to you the adult, that same length of time to a kid may be quite effective if the restriction is strictly enforced.

Parenting is the hardest job we’ll ever have. It requires that we learn new skills even as our kids are learning from us. Adopting these five skills will facilitate a more peaceful, respectful home life and will equip you in building the kinds of kids who are respectful, thoughtful, and obedient; the kind of kids you will enjoy spending time with.


Which of these tips have you found to make the biggest difference in your parenting? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below.



Posted by Lee Ann

Hi, I'm Lee Ann, an extrovert; perpetual learner; book collector; Jesus-follower; A “doer” in recovery; Marriage & Family Therapist in private practice in Greater Denver, CO

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