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Less Conversation, More Obedience



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Why is it so hard for children to just do what you tell them to do? Why is it, that when you tell a child "stop, don't do that," he so often goes right ahead and does it? This has to be one of the most frustrating parts of being a parent. What you may not realize is that a good portion of the reason children don't do as they're told is because we--their parents--are talking too much!

  • We insist on explaining why, or try to convince them--"Jojo, I need you to put away your toys. Mommy's going to have a planning meeting here in a minute, and I know you want to be helpful . . . " The plain fact is that your child doesn't actually care why you want him to do (or not do) something--when a child says "Why?" in response to an instruction, he isn't interested in your reasons, he's challenging you, as in "Why should I stop what I'm doing and do something I don't want to do?"

  • We stand there, waiting to see how our child will respond; Will he obey? Will he throw a fit? Will he ignore me? When you stand watching, he knows you are unsure, that the worst that will happen is you'll start explaining or nagging again. Not only that, but he knows he can play you for a little more time, and even possibly negotiate with you: "It was an accident!" "I didn't mean it!" "Just five more minutes?" "Just one more chance?" etc. etc. if he can negotiate with you, the odds are very much in his favor that you will grant him an exception, extend the time, etc.

  • We respond to our child's "Why?" by giving him more reasons, or a second chance, or "just five more minutes", etc. (See above) It's kind of a game you've actually taught him to play, and he's very good at it.

Think back to some of your recent interactions with your kids--I think you'll see things following this pattern more often than not.


What you have to do is to consistently demonstrate that you really are in charge and you mean what you say--you are "She who must be obeyed!" period.

So what is the solution? How do you get your child to obey? Well, before I tell you, I need to say that there isn't anything you can do or say that will magically make your child obey; it doesn't work like that. You can't learn a magic formula or set of commands that will work every time.


Instead, what you have to do is to consistently demonstrate that you really are in charge and you mean what you say--you are "She who must be obeyed!" period.


Here is how you demonstrate that you are in charge:

  1. Tell your child what to do. Don't ask or suggest: "Hey buddy, it's about time you stop--we don't do that, okay?" Are you kidding? You've 1) just spoken to your child as a peer (buddy), 2) given him permission to continue what he's doing indefinitely (it's "about" time), 3) said something absurd ("we don't do that"--clearly false, because he's doing it), and 4) basically asked if he's okay with doing what you said ("okay?") If your boss spoke to you in this way, would you think he was serious?

  2. Use no more than about five words. Examples: "Stop!" "Put it down, now!" "You may not do that." "Put away your toys." "Go brush your teeth." "Time to come inside." All of these are perfect examples--no trying to be buddies, no begging for compliance--instead, absolute clarity.

  3. Don't explain or give any kind of reason. It's not that you can never explain things to your child, it's that the explanation should not be part of the original command, nor should it be a condition for obedience; when you explain every command, your child gets the idea that he deserves an explanation, preferably one he agrees with (which will never happen), before he will obey.

  4. Expect obedience, not a reaction. If you expect a reaction and stand there waiting for it, you'll get one. Instead, turn around and walk away; resume your work, go into another room, etc., but do not stand there watching to see what your child will do or say.

  5. Ignore any reaction; do not answer any arguments. Say, "I'll be back in a few minutes to make sure you've done what I said to do.", then continue your work, etc.

If you do this, and keep doing the same thing time after time, your child will begin to understand that you mean what you say, and that demanding reasons, arguing, and begging for "just one more chance" is not worth his time.

If you're a parent, part of your job is to tell your kids what to do and what not to do. You don't "owe" them an explanation . . . there isn't an explanation you can come up with that will ever satisfy them.

This is not harsh. This is clear communication. Frankly, the reasoning parents do with children is an attempt to convince themselves that they have a right to tell their own child what to do! Somehow we've gotten the notion that this is a bad thing.


If you're a parent, part of your job is to tell your kids what to do and what not to do. You don't "owe" them an explanation. They don't want one and there isn't an explanation you can come up with that will ever satisfy them. They're just children! They want to do whatever they want with nobody correcting or stopping them.


So save your breath! Stop talking so much--stop explaining, begging, cajoling, persuading, threatening, and convincing. Say it simply, say it once, and get on with life!


#KayeWilsonParenting #stoptalking #lessconversation #telldon'task #obedience



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