What is a parent to DO in response to the child’s failure to obey? This could be a really long discussion. First-time Obedience (FTO) training starts with training the child to come to the call of his name – that is the context of this blog. It is written as a follow up to my recent blog “First-Time Obedience is Key” (https://christianfamilyheritage.org/first-time-obedience-is-key/ ). We’ll look at what to do when your child does not come. These tools can also be applied to the myriad of other situations that arise when a child does not comply with parental expectations.
First Things First. Tell your child what you expect.
To be fair, before you can give a consequence for something, you must make sure that you have completely instructed your child in what you expect him or her to do and, when appropriate, given the reason why. It is best if the parent gets verbal assent from the child that he understands what is expected and intends to comply. Taking the time to give complete instruction helps the child know that you are serious about his compliance.
- Demonstrate it
For younger children you may need to show them what you want. Once you are sure they understand, begin to require them to come every time their names are called. Role playing can be helpful when introducing the concept to a child of any age.
I called. My child didn’t come. Now what?
- Practice Makes Perfect
In the initial training period there is a temptation to repeat the call. Don’t. Instead, if your child does not come to the call, go to her. Let her know in a calm voice that not coming is not an option. Have the child stop what she is doing and practice. For a younger child you may take her hand and lead her to the place where you were standing when you called. Repeat to her, “You must come when Mommy calls you.” Have your child respond with, “Yes, Mommy.” Then send her back to her starting place and practice several more times. This isn’t a very severe consequence to start, but as you are trying to build consistency, practicing in this way helps to reinforce the habit and communicates its importance. Older kids learn that if they don’t like to “practice”, then they need to come right away.
- Don’t allow a child to practice it wrong
Recently I was working with my 2-year-old granddaughter in learning FTO. She wanted to stop and pick up toys along the way as she was coming. Each time this happened, I made her go back and put the toy where she found it and start again. She had to practice coming and walking past all the temptations along her path. By not allowing her to practice it wrong, I was reinforcing what true obedience looks like.
- Give a Logical Consequence
Once a child knows what you expect and has shown an understanding of FTO, failure to comply will require more than simply practicing it right. In the training phase I will usually allow my son to return to what he was doing when I first called, but when he is now willfully ignoring the call, I must find a suitable consequence. The most logical choice in this situation is that he has lost the freedom to continue his play and must do some other, less desirable activity. This could be having some time to sit and think about his disobedience, or doing a chore.
- Related Consequences
A logical consequence could be related to the reason I called him in the first place. Perhaps I called because we were going to go to the park or to enjoy some ice cream. The logical consequence for not coming to the call would be to deny him this privilege. In fact, when I am working on my son’s consistency in coming, I will often call for reasons he will perceive as positive. It sets up a scenario where I can reward or correct him depending on his response. Of course for this to work, don’t let him know why you are calling until he has rightly responded to your call.
- Consequences with value
When considering what consequence to give, keep in mind that whatever it is, it must have value to the child. It is best if it is related in some way to the offense as described above. If the situation does not have such an immediately obvious connection, I might still take his game time away for the day because that is what he values. However, if you take the time to think the situation through, you will often come up with a related consequence that will bring meaningful correction.
- Isolate the child
Isolation is simply loss of social contact. It can look differently depending on the situation. Sometimes the child is isolated with just his thoughts and at other times he is allowed to play but must do so alone. Isolation is appropriate when the child gives a lot of resistance. In a younger child, resistance may be loud crying or a tantrum which makes other forms of correction difficult or impossible. Simply remove the child from the situation and isolate him in a crib or playpen until he is calm. When he is calm, the parent returns him to the situation with the same instruction to come. Usually this is sufficient to gain his compliance.
Attention to Attitude
For older kids, I may isolate for coming to the call with the wrong attitude. In training to FTO, we must not stop with right action; we must continue to train to achieve obedience from the heart. Remember true obedience is immediate, complete, without challenge and without complaint. Isolation can be used to help the child change his attitude and it can also be used as a logical consequence. For example, if my son comes to the call with disrespect or complaining, he has not truly obeyed me from his heart. I may have him sit in a quiet spot to get his attitude right. Once he is ready and rightly responds, then I will give a follow-up consequence. This may mean isolation from siblings or friends or another related logical consequence. In the first instance of isolation there is no time limit. My son sits until he changes his attitude and is ready to obey. Depending on the child this can take a while. When isolation is a consequence, I will set the time limit for isolation from the family or friends. It is important to note that sitting to get his spirit ready to obey is not the consequence since he should have come with the right attitude from the beginning. Failure to give a follow-up consequence in this case will undermine the importance of FTO and encourage a false repentance.
This just scratches the surface.
To achieve First-time Obedience in children, parents must be ready and willing to give a First-time Response. These and other tools explained in the GFI materials equip the parent with appropriate and fair consequences necessary for bringing children to the standard of FTO.