Do the daily struggles with your child leave you exhausted at the end of each day? Does your child seem determined to test your will with every request you make? You can put an end to the battles over obedience with your child!
Your Most Important Rules
Decide which rules and behaviors are most important to you. These are things that you expect of your child in nearly every situation, every time. For example, "Wash your hands before you eat." Make a list. Try writing them in language he can not only understand, but will be able to memorize. Use words that are appropriate for his age. The more clear you are about these family rules, the better chance you will have of getting him to follow them.
The next few times you need to correct his behavior, say the rule out loud. Then, and this is key, if he needs to be reminded of the rule again, make your child say the rule out loud to you. This moment in the process requires your full attention. Take the time necessary to help him say it. You may need to coach him through it the first time (or first few times.) Make him stop doing everything else and look at you. Make him keep repeating himself until he says the rule correctly, while looking at you, in a voice loud enough that you can clearly hear him. Doing this will impress upon him the importance of the rule. And it will impress upon him not only that he must learn the rule, but must follow it.
From then on, you can ask him to repeat the rule (when it is called for.) You can even refer to it by name. To use the earlier example, you could ask, "What is the rule about washing your hands?"
Make a distiction between your most improtant rules and one-time, or situational, requests. One-time requests are those you make of your child on the spot, because the current situation calls for it. For example, "It is getting late. It's time to go home now." These kinds of requests require more flexibility on your part.
Most people, including children, (and probably you too) do not like to be bossed around all day long, pushed and pulled at the whim of someone else. If you are always barking orders at your child, or anyone else for that matter, sooner or later they will get sick of it, maybe even start to resent it.
I suggest be firm when the situation demands it (you need to take the turkey out of the oven,) and be flexible when you can (you are bored and feel relaxing in front of the television.) If your child resists a one-time request, you have the opportunity to help your child learn to make good decisions by considering the consequences. You might offer two or more choices he can pick from. You might ask what he would like to do, then follow up with more detailed questions. The more you elaborate on the possible outcomes of his various choices, the more likely he is to be satisfied with either your request or a compromise close to it. You also get the chance to teach him your values, those things that are important to you and why, when you have his full attention (because he has a vested interest in the outcome of the discussion at hand.) And the more times you repeat this process with situational requests, the more your child feels empowered to make good choices.
Pick Your Battles
The distinction between your important rules and one-time requests makes all the difference in gaining your child's obedience. When you are clear on which behaviors you expect without compromise and which things are negotiable, you give yourself and your child a solid framework to work in. This makes it possible for him to assert his will sometimes (where you are flexible,) while you maintain control of the essentials. Now you have a benchmark to decide what is willfull disobedience, and what is resistance for some other gain. Those rules that you decide should be important and constant, should be enforced consistantly. Never allow your child to be disobedient just to spite you.
Some people are strong-willed (confrontational) and some are easy-going (non-confrontational.) This applies to children, too. Another way to say this is some people feel the need to be in control of their surroundings and others are okay to go with the flow. You will have more battles (learning opportunites) over a longer period with a strong-willed child.
If your child is disobeying you merely to exert control, your reaction should be swift and severe. Priviledges should be taken away and punishment given. I do not recommend hitting or administering any physical violence on your child. The consequences should fit the offence and his maturity level. For example, do not ground him for a year if he stuck his hand in the bag of chips, even though you just told him to wash his hands first.
If you brush off deliberate disobedience, or only deal with it only mildly, you can expect more of the same in the future. Your child may come to realize that he can set the rules and get away with it. The consequences should be unpleasant enough to him to deter him from repeating the offense. He will learn from your responses what is acceptable and what is unacceptable.
1) Create a list of rules for your child (Family Rules.) Over time, teach him to say each rule out loud from memory. You will be amazed at difference this makes in your child's behavior.
2) When your child resists a request that you can be flexible on, discuss his various choices and the possible consequences. This may be the most powerful tool you can use to teach your child to make wise choices.
3) Deliver swift and harsh consequences for deliberate (spiteful) disobedience. This will persuade your child such behavior will not be tolerated, and in a very short time you will find disobedince a thing of the past.
Coming Soon: Reward and Punishment. Learn what works and what doesn't to shape your child into a well-behaved angel!