Training Children to Obey Your Word

5 Principles for Child Training

We’ve all been unhappy bystanders at the “supermarket meltdown.” Some cute, precious toddler has been told that he can do without the tantalizing and strategically placed candy bar next to the checkout counter. In mere seconds a transformation takes place! The toddler suddenly morphs into a Tasmanian devil with an amplifier for a voice box. You know what I’m talking about. Sometimes the kid is even related to us.

Trying not to stare, but deriving a certain sadistic pleasure, we watch as the predictable drama unfolds:

Mother: “No, Sweetheart, Mommy doesn’t want you to have that.”

Toddler: “But I WAANNNTT it!!”

Narrator’s comment: Kids don’t play fair. Often they employ the time-honored weapon of embarrassment. They know that their increased volume level has attracted curious onlookers, and they sense your growing level of discomfort. In fact, they take an almost sadistic delight in it.

Toddler: (Kicking, screaming, crying, turning colors, and raising his voice to jet engine decibel levels) “IIIIII WWWWWAAAAAANNNNTTTTT THHHHAAAATTT CCCCAAAANNNDDDYYY!!!!!!!!”

Narrator’s comment: Obviously the Tasmanian devil is winning. In part, because he has not changed his game plan one iota, unlike the hapless mother who is grasping at straws. Rationalizing with toddlers is not rational. Two-year-olds cannot grasp the complexity of a strained family budget, nor do they care about the long-term health of their pearly whites. In fact, in their economy, more teeth lost equates to more money from the tooth fairy!

Mother: (Exasperated) “I’m not going to say it again! No! Do you understand me? No! No! No!”

Toddler: (Unintelligible wailing akin to the bellowing of a stomach-sick wildebeest)

Narrator’s comment: After vowing she would not repeat her complex instructions (“No”), she repeats them four more times. The toddler has played this game before and understands this to be the ineffective roaring of the lioness before she ultimately relents.

Mother: (Defeated, embarrassed, and exhausted, as she pays for the forbidden candy and gives it to her child) “This is the last time you are ever going shopping with Mommy! And I mean it! Don’t come running to me when your tummy hurts either, because I told you so!!”

Toddler: (Unable to speak with his mouth full of candy)

Narrator’s comment: Everybody’s happy. Right? Mom is no longer the center of an uncomfortable drama. Toddler happily eats his hard-won candy. Store patrons are spared further noise pollution.

Unfortunately, nobody wins. A child has openly and willfully defied his authority’s word and has put his future in a precarious position. Parents, consider these thoughts about teaching/training your children to respond to your word.

1. Our children do not belong to us—they belong to God. We are training them to serve Him. By training them to respond to our word, we are training them to respond to the Word of God.

2. When my children obey only when I become sufficiently angry and threatening, I am training them to await God’s methods of attention-getting before they obey Him… a dangerous prospect, to say the least.

3. Children should be taught and trained to respond to a parent’s word, not a parent’s tone. Remember: we are attuning our children to respond to the still, small voice of God.

4. Parents should understand this principle: If I tell my children to do something and they don’t do it, they have done wrong. If I have to tell my children the same thing over and over until they obey, I have done wrong! Disobedience should not be met with repetition of commands; it should be met with discipline.

5. Parents must schedule time early and often to train their children to respond to their commands. We taught our children at a very young age that obedience included three words:

  • Now—obedience should be rendered immediately.
  • All—obedience should be rendered completely.
  • Smile—obedience should be rendered happily.

Note: Please understand the difference between teaching and training. Teaching is the imparting of right information (what to do). Training is the physical exercise that accompanies teaching (how to do). A football coach can draw Xs and Os on the chalkboard until his hands become cramped, but the players will not necessarily play football any better. In fact, they will probably just become more frustrated losers!

Example: When our children were toddlers, we would have training time just before devotions. We taught them to come to Mommy and Daddy whenever they were called. To solidify the teaching, we would play the “Come when you are called game.” (Pretty original, huh?) We told the kids to go anywhere they wanted to go in the entire house. Then we told them that we would call one of their names, but not loudly, so they would have to listen carefully. When any one of them would hear his name, he would shout, “Yes, Sir!” or “Yes, Ma’am” and come immediately. In “the game” we would reward them for how quickly they would come, or how happily, or how closely they listened. You get the idea.

Never underestimate the importance of training your children to respond to your word immediately, completely, and happily.

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