I am having a conflict and thought maybe you could help me. I have been cracking down on my kids because I am convicted that I have not required quick obedience. In doing so our relationship has been strained and I am much more drained. I am not sure how to require respect and at the same time work on enjoying them when they are fighting me. Does anyone besides me struggle with this? I am really tired. I love my kids and want so much to just enjoy them but I don’t feel they respect me. It is mainly during school and at bedtime and chores they resist me.
I hear you, and I know how rough that can be. I totally agree with you that first-time obedience is important. I think the key is the climate in the relationship. Being playful might be a wonderful antidote for the stress you are feeling. It adds an element of fun, and makes obeying you more like a game for your kids. Your facial expressions—how relaxed and happy you are when you interact with them—can change their perception of you as the meanie into you as the warm and loving mother that you are. And being playful may change your stress level a lot.
Let me tell you about an interchange I had with my usually very grateful son. Though he is is grown up (19), playfulness still works! I had really extended to help him get a needed dentist appointment set up within a short time frame and at a discount price. When he came home from the appointment, he sat down to eat something, and was complaining a bit about it—it hurt, it was inconvenient, etc. Naturally I felt a bit annoyed that my efforts were “boo-ed” instead of “hooray-ed” and it was causing me stress to hear him. I started to express my negative feelings at hearing him complain, but that only deepened the gloom.
Suddenly I felt inspired to change courses and try the playful approach. I jumped up from where I was sitting, and grabbed a plastic hanger that I saw nearby and I started chasing him, telling him in a very exaggerated silly way, how naughty and ungrateful he was! He squealed with laughter and took off running. I stopped chasing him and hid behind the door where I could attack when he returned. We had a very stress-relieving duel with hangers and lots of laughter. I heard him repeat the story to his siblings a few times during the evening. He got my point (to be grateful) and our relationship was strengthened.
Life can seem restricting and heavy to kids, I think. Seeing how things look through their eyes helps me to want to make life more fun. Here’s a few different approaches you might try:
* Be playful and tell them you are going to try to “catch” them first-time obeying and tickle-attack anyone who makes the “mistake” of first time obedience.
*Set up a game to motivate them, drawn on poster board that you put up on the wall where they can see it. Let your kids advance their sticker markers one space towards some end goal (such as playing a game with Mom) each time they first-time obey. Make sure there are not too many spaces to go until the reward or they will get discouraged. Put a few short chutes and ladders (that go up) to keep their interest. For little ones up to about 5 years old, the reward should come within a day’s time, so make it simple enough that you can do it. As children move towards the 8 to 10 year old range, the game could extend over a few days without losing motivation.
*Stop frowning. Child discipline can string us out, no doubt about it. But through a child’s eyes, it seems we are displeased with them. Smiling makes a big difference all the way around . . . to you, to your child, to everyone in the home atmosphere.
*Make it beneficial to obey. While we want our children to obey just because “it’s right”, that is a bit unrealistic. (Some adults even have trouble with it!) If you want something (in this case, first time obedience), make it worthwhile to your child. Set a reward and cheer him on toward the finish line. Be on his side! Applaud him on to victory! You and him v.s. the clock (or the sticker chart, or whatever you set up to motivate him). Stop fighting him and jump on his side: help him win at whatever you are requiring.
Respect is something that you must give to them in order to expect it back. Respect comes from being unchangeable—always keeping your promises, being dependable, following through, being consistent—and from being honorable, kind and loving, fair, with clear boundaries of what you expect. It is earned by interacting with your children in the way you want to be treated. Listening to them, considering their opinions, treating them like a valid person who you enjoy being with—these things will help your children respect you.
“Kind and firm” is my favorite phrase, when it comes to child discipline. To me, it sums up the ideal parent. It is possible to be a loving, playful, happy mama who won’t budge on the important stuff, and whom her kids adore, obey and love to be with. It takes constant effort and there is always room for improvement, but it does get easier day by day, as the children learn what you expect and how to obey you.
For me, safeguarding the sanctity of the relationship is of more importance than first time obedience. I strive for first time obedience, but not at the expense of long term strain in our bond. When you truly enjoy them, love them dearly and treat them as your best friends, you will find you have enormous influence. They will want to please you.
Training children requires daily effort and you don’t see the results for years, but in the end, all your attention, sacrifice, love and devoted teaching will bear fruit! If you are happy and love them more than your own personal time, your hobbies, your friends, your work, your interests, your self; if they know for a fact that only God and Daddy come before them in your life, there is a power in that love that makes it difficult for them to disobey you, their best friend, nor wander very far from your lifestyle or your values.