Obedience: Why Do You Have to Tell Them Five Times?
- September 20, 2016
- Posted by: gordon
- Category: Parenting Tips
By Dr. Laura Markham
“In one fairly typical encounter, a father asked his eight-year-old son five times to please go take a bath or a shower. After the fifth plea went unheeded, the father picked the boy up and carried him into the bathroom. A few minutes later, the kid, still unwashed, wandered into another room to play a video game.” – Elizabeth Kolbert
This situation may be extreme, but most parents I know have some version of this complaint. It’s a good question: Why don’t kids just do what we say the first time we say it?!
Here are the eight reasons from the child’s perspective – plus solutions that work for parents!
- They don’t share our priorities.
No child understands why a bath seems so essential to you. Every child’s play is his work – it may not look important to you but it is important to him.
Solution: First, connect with your child by noticing what he’s working on and acknowledging his priorities. Then, give him a warning that you’re about to overrule his agenda with your own.
2.We have trained them not to pay attention until we yell and threaten.
Your child knows she can milk extra time before bath if he/she ignores you. You have trained her that you are not serious until you yell.
Solution: Connect by commenting on what she is doing. Give directive when you make eye contact, so she knows you are serious. Give only one warning, then stick to the time limit you have agreed on.
3.They need our help to make the transition.
When you are engrossed in your computer screen, it is hard to pull yourself away to tend to a whining child. Kids experience our repeated nagging the same way we experience their whining.
Solution: Give one warning. When you go back in five minutes, connect again by commenting on what he is doing then remind him of your deal.
4.Their frontal cortex is still developing.
Their frontal cortex is still developing the ability to switch gears from what they want to what you want. Every time your child gives up something in order to do what you want, he/she is strengthening his/her brain’s ability to redirect herself toward a higher goal.
Solution: Set limits with empathy so the child would want to cooperate and to also get plenty of practice to exercise his/her brain to choose the higher goal.
5.They don’t feel heard.
Most of the time, we cannot MAKE children obey us, but they have to. Our kids usually give us the benefit of the doubt and follow our rules as long as they feel heard.
Solution: Acknowledge his/her position. If possible, give her a choice.
6.They feel disconnected from us.
Our kids usually do not follow our lead because they feel disconnected from us.
Solution: To build connection, empathize with your child’s experience as often as you can. Stay compassionate even during meltdowns.
7.They have given up on us.
If children were convinced that we are on their side, they would want to please us. So, if your child is defiant, that’s a red flag that your relationship needs strengthening.
Solution: Set a half an hour one-on-one daily with your child. It is a tangible expression of your love, your willingness to put your child first.
8.They are human.
All humans resist control. Strong-willed kids rebel when they feel “pushed around”. While the more compliant kids tend to lose initiative and the ability to stand up for themselves.
Solution: Make sure your child knows you are on the same side and she has some choices. Coach your child rather than trying to control her. Teaching self-discipline will train a child to think for himself/herself and to stand up for what is right and will not likely be taken advantage of.
Learning to set empathic limits take a lot of work in the beginning. But following these practices consistently not only raises a self-disciplined child but also a child who knows you will follow through so he/she does not need to be asked five times to do something.