We thought we were such wonderful parents as the “terrible two’s” passed in our house with only a whimper. That is until the “awful three’s” hit us with a vengeance. We were determined to follow the best parenting advice we could find and remain firm and consistent in our discipline. It wasn’t so bad the first couple of weeks, but when the weeks dragged on into months, I was getting weary.
It seemed like my conversations with our daughter were beginning to sound like I was a parrot – squawking “no,no” and “don’t touch” over and over again. I knew the training was imperative (It really is true. After this period we only had minor episodes for the rest of her childhood. We haven’t had to give consequences to our now delightful seventeen year old college student in literally years.), but I was tired of the negative tone our house was beginning to have on some days.
I stumbled upon the idea of teaching obedience in positive ways as well as using correction and consequences. Why not help your children understand the importance of obeying? If they can grasp the concept, obeying your rules and ultimately God’s rules will be so much easier.
There are actually quite a few fun ways to begin to teach your child why it is so very important they obey you – the first time you give a command – and do exactly what you tell them to do it. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Pull out your child’s favorite board game or for older children consider buying or borrowing a new game. After playing by the rules normally for a few minutes, start breaking the rules in crazy ways. Go backwards instead of forwards. Dislike the number you roll or spin and move a different number of spaces. (Be aware of the developmental stage of your child. If he has a tendency to melt down during games, don’t do this activity.) As your child begins to call you on not following the rules, ask him why it matters. You may even give him an excuse he often gives you for his disobedience (“I didn’t know the rules were for me!” or “I wanted to hurry up so I could go outside and play.”) Depending on the age and maturity of your child, you can repeat the cycle more than once during the game or just continue playing normally for the remainder of the game. The next time he disobeys you and he’s had his consequences, have a chat after he has calmed down as part of your reconciliation. Remind him the frustration he felt when you broke the rules of the game is the same frustration you feel when he breaks your rules. Remind him that just like the rules of the game are the best way for the game to be played well, your rules are the best way for him to live a good life in your house.
- Bake some chocolate brownies. Call your child into the kitchen to help you make some chocolate brownies. Keep emphasizing how much your family loves chocolate and how much they will love these chocolate brownies. Intentionally overuse the word chocolate many times as you talk while you work. Have your child help you gather, measure and mix the ingredients (Here is a brownie recipe if you need one.). The next part is key DO NOT USE CHOCOLATE. Don’t pull it out, don’t measure it and don’t put it in the brownies. Very young children may not catch on until the brownies are out of the oven and you are eating them (Note: The recipe may be a little runnier and the resulting brownie will probably taste like a sugar cookie – edible, but not chocolate brownies!). Older children may try to convince you to add the chocolate in the recipe to your batter. Give them every excuse in the book why you don’t need to follow the recipe – especially some of your child’s favorite excuses. While trying the non-chocolate chocolate brownies, talk about why it was important for you to follow the recipe exactly as written. Ask your child why it might be important for him to follow your directions or God’s directions exactly as they are given.
- Go on a treasure hunt. “Bury” some treasure and make a detailed map of how to find it. Make sure to put some place on the map: Follow these instructions exactly as written to find the treasure. As you follow the map with your child purposely begin doing the opposite of what the map or instructions tell you to do. (Make sure you are in a place where you can’t get hopelessly lost!) It may take very young children reaching “the spot” and not finding treasure to begin to understand you didn’t obey instructions. Older children will catch on immediately and start giving you a hard time. Push back by telling them you are sure you know a better way to get to the treasure. Your way of course is easier and more fun (or so you say!). See if you can convince them to follow you instead of the map. If you end up away from the treasure, follow the map the second time and find the treasure. While you are enjoying the treasure, discuss the ideas of obedience to those wiser than us (parents, teachers, God) instead of going our own way – especially if we are being disobedient in the process.
- Put together a jigsaw puzzle. The puzzle should be easy enough to complete in one or two sittings and have a picture that appeals to your child. As you begin putting the puzzle together, start taking out all of the “red” pieces (Your choice – just make sure it will leave a nice hole in the puzzle.) You can even make a show of putting them away in a drawer in another room because you don’t need them. Very young children may not realize what has happened until the puzzle is “finished”, but has a huge hole missing. Older children may call you on your decision immediately. Give them every excuse in the book why those pieces (you are taking away) make the puzzle just too hard to do. Use every whining reason your children give you for not obeying you when you give them chores or work to do. Afterwards, talk about why it is important to obey parents and God -even when it seems like it will be hard work to obey.
- Make a small craft. Choose an origami pattern or buy one of those tiny craft kits you can get for a dollar. Make sure it has a picture of what the completed origami shape or craft should look like. If your child is older, you might have two of the same projects going at the same time. Allow your child to follow directions, while you don’t. Compare the results to the photo of what it was supposed to look like. (I will admit I can’t usually follow origami directions, so most of the time mine come out looking crazy without trying hard!) Discuss with your child why their life may not turn out the way it “should” if they chose to disobey God. (With younger children, this concept is a little too abstract. Go back to emphasizing the need to follow directions exactly as given.)
Your child absolutely must learn to obey God’s instructions. God makes it clear over and over again He expects our complete and exact obedience. Yes, forgiveness is possible for Christians, but that is another lesson for another day. Make very sure your children understand the need for complete first time compliance with God. It will make a tremendous difference in their lives.