Learning obedience is an important part of child development. This is the tool that allows you as parents to train your child. Through obedience your child will learn self-control and develop other positive character traits that he will need as an adult.
However, obedience cannot be forced upon the child. Parents who simply command their children will foster resentment, which will eventually lead to rebellion. In fact, some researchers feel that poor parenting techniques contribute to the development of oppositional defiant disorder in some children. Although you can punish a child for not obeying, this will not foster any long-term obedience. When the child reaches his teen years and becomes more independent, punishment will only serve to destroy the already faltering parent child relationship.
Our goal then is not to force our children to obey us, but to get them to want to obey us. This willingness to obey will only come about if the parent’s commands are based upon seven principles.
1: Loving Concern for the Child
A child knows quickly whether a parent’s demands are for the sake of the child or for the personal convenience of the parent. If the parent’s primary motive for giving orders is to make his own life easier, then the child learns to place his own interests first, also. If you want to be successful in raising your child, then your reason for giving orders must be for the benefit of your child. When your child senses that your demands are for his sake, he will much more readily obey you. He knows that it is for his own good. He will know that any demands made of him, no matter how unpleasant, come from a genuine concern for his welfare.
2: Sincere Respect for the Child
Parents must respect their children. This is a concept that is not well practiced by our society. Western society focuses on possessions. Somehow in the back of many parents’ minds their children are counted among those possessions. We must remember that our children are not objects, but people. As people, they are deserving of respect. We must remember to give respect to our child to the same degree we would like others to respect us.
Very often our children do things that bother us. This is usually unintentional on their part and is just a reflection of their immaturity. However, if we show our children that we are annoyed they will begin to resent us. This resentment feeds their desire to rebel against our wishes. One of our goals as parents must be to try to keep our negative emotions in check.
4: Speak Softly
Nothing gains a child’s cooperation more than a gentle tone of voice. Speaking softly helps us to control our negative emotions, especially anger. A soft voice soothes and is more likely to be met with cooperation. It creates a relaxed atmosphere and is reassuring to children.
When we speak in a soft voice it also conveys strength. We show our children that we are in control of the situation and not merely reacting to it. If the only step you take is to control the volume of your voice, particularly in stressful situations, that alone will foster better child compliance. You will find that everything around you goes more smoothly.
5: Make Moderate Demands
No one likes having demands placed upon him. Children are no different. Yet we are constantly commanding our children. We feel that as parents we must take steps to correct every misdemeanor that we see. When the orders become excessive or arbitrary the parent becomes more like a dictator that an educator.
If you place a lot of obligations on your child, then your child is going to resent and resist your authority. One of the most important steps in getting your child to listen to you is to reduce the amount of demands that you place upon him. This will require you to stay calm and overlook a lot of childish behavior. Commands should be made thoughtfully and be within reasonable limits. The general rule is that if a certain behavior is not something your child will be doing as an adult and if it is not dangerous, then you should not make it a priority to correct.
6: Follow Through
Even if you do all that has been mentioned so far, you will still need to give your child orders. When you do so, you must be firm and make sure that your child obeys. If you give your child an instruction you must insist that he fulfill it. Often it will be easier or more convenient to just overlook disobedience. This is the end will erode your authority as a parent.
You should only make moderate and well thought out demands on your child. However, when you do make those orders your child must fulfill them. If we want our children to take our words seriously, then we must show them that we are serious.
7: Be Free with ‘Yes’, but not with ‘No’
We must try to grant every reasonable request our children make of us. They should feel that we are giving to them freely and in overflowing abundance at all times. You should make it a rule to give your child whatever he wants unless you have a good reason not to do so.
In addition, we should try to temper our use of ‘no’. Try not to avoid saying ‘no’ whenever possible. For example, if your child wants to have a treat before dinner and you want him to eat first, rather than say ‘no’ or ‘not now’ say, ‘yes, after dinner.’ This small change in the way you use the words ‘yes’ and ‘no’ will change your child’s perception from the feeling that most of his desires are being denied to that most of them are being granted.
It is natural for a child to want to obey his parents. It is also necessary for his proper growth and development. Applying these seven keys will help you to make it easier for your child to obey you.
Anthony Kane, MD is a physician, an international lecturer, and director of special education. He is the author of a book, numerous articles, and a number of online programs dealing with ADHD treatment, ODD, child behavior issues, and education.