Mmm, the child thinks. Maybe I shouldn't hit my sister.
Does the child want to listen because it's the right thing to do? Does the child want to listen because a parent has spoken? Does the child want to listen because the parent has raised his voice?
The child wants to listen because the alternative is not fun.
And that's the beginning of successful instruction in obedience. Children need to develop a habit of obedience before they have a heart for obedience.
That's where we come into play.
It's almost second nature for us to tack consequences on to our commands.
"If you don't brush your teeth, you'll get cavities."
"Don't forget your coat. You'll get cold if you do."
"Don't drink soda before bed. You won't be able to fall asleep."
"Don't leave the door open. You'll leave all the cool air out (or in)."
We aim to provide rules before a situation arises, but there are some scenarios that even the most astute parent can't anticipate.
"So, after you opened the second-story window, what did you and your friend do? You leaned out as far as you could? Then what happened? I see. You got scared and came to tell me. Well, at least you did the last thing right."
It's always good to emphasize the positive. If positive behavior gets a child more attention than negative behavior, guess how the child is going to perform most often? Attention is what a child wants more than anything else, so provide plenty of it:
· Before they do something. ("I see you have a test next week. Let me know if I can help you study.")
· While they are doing it. ("I see you're studying for your test. That's great. Do you want me to quiz you on this information?")
· After they have done it. (Wow! Look at your grade. You really studied hard for that. Keep up the good work.)
Sometimes parents become frustrated because we think our children should automatically know the basics of common sense.
We assume that a child will know what is considered proper or acceptable or expected.
But how is a child supposed to know if we don't teach him?
Careful, gentle, continuous admonitions administered in a loving way can have a tremendous impact on the life of a child.
It takes time. It takes energy. It takes repetition.
The end result is well worth it.
Oh, is that my children calling?
"Can't find your shoes? Ah, that's what happens when you don't put things in their proper place."
Guess it's time to remind the children that shoes go on the mat by the door. And, by the way, did I mention that shoes go on the mat by the door?
Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.