My question: how do you handle direct disobedience? My 2-year-old sometimes completely ignores me, and then I don't know what to do, and i find myself raising my voice. Sometimes the situation is urgent as I have my hands full with my newborn at that moment, and I really need my toddler to do something, and at that moment she choses not to do it ! Normally she does her best to cooperate, but there are these moments when she wants to see what happens when she won't do what's asked of her...
This is a really hard question, and I don't know if I have a satisfactory answer. (I would love to hear comments from others who have ideas about this too!)
When I was a kid we got spanked for this, and considering that "obedience is the first law of heaven" I never felt like that was inappropriate. A hefty punishment for a hefty crime, right? But as I've written here, I no longer believe in spanking, so that means I need some other solution.
My current approach has several parts, and is different for children who are at different ages.
First of all (for kids of any age) I try to avoid the problem in the first place.
- I try not ask them to do things that are not important. If it's merely annoying to me rather than an actual danger to them, then I try to get over myself and let it go.
- I try to avoid problems in the first place by child-proofing my house and that sort of thing. When kids do get into things that they shouldn't, I try to use distraction to re-direct them into more appropriate activities.
- If possible, I try to make requests rather than give commands--simply asking nicely "will you set the table" or "please get ready for your bath" not only gives a good example to our children of how to treat people, but it also tends to make them more willing to comply. After all, don't you find it easier to do something when you're asked nicely?!
- If they don't respond the first time, I ask nicely again, but add their name to make sure they have heard me and to give it a little urgency: "Wolf! would you please set the table now, we are eating in 5 minutes and it needs to be done."
- With a toddler, I basically help them comply. "Bear, please come here" is followed by "Bear, come to mommy now" and then I go to him, take him by the hand or arm, and bring him to where I had been. As I do so I explain that when mommy asks you to do something, you need to do it, and that I will help him learn how. Obviously when they get older (old enough to run away fast enough to avoid capture for example) then this doesn't work anymore...but thus far it seems helpful for helping him learn the concept in the first place. Is it really inconvenient for me sometimes? Sure. I've wakened the sleeping baby in my lap or had to step away from conversations in order to go help my child do what I had asked of them, but I think obedience is an important thing so I think it's worth it.
- With an older child it gets harder. In cases where I can still help them comply, I often do, but obviously physical force becomes an impossibility (and not a very respectful practice anyway) so mostly I end up trying to help them develop their own motivation for obedience. I try to help them understand why it's important to obey. I remind them that I try very hard to only ask things that are important, and then ask them to try very hard to obey when I do ask something. I empathise with how frustrating it can be to do something you don't want to have to do. I explain how I feel when they disrespect me by ignoring something I've asked of them. I remind them about what the scriptures and prophets teach about the importance of obedience. Depending on the age and personality of the child, we may discuss what the scriptures say about punishments for disobedience (Wolf is in an age of wanting to know exactly what God says he'll do if you don't follow this rule or that one). I remind myself that my goal is not to raise a bunch of little automatons, but to raise thinking people who will do the right things because they want to, not because they fear punishment. So the truth is that sometimes when my 9yo stomps off to the other room there is not a darn thing I can do about it at the time...so I let it lie for the moment and make a point to talk to him later in the day and address the topics mentioned above.
- When it gets to teenagers, well, I don't have any of those yet. I have no idea what I will do at that point. ☺
So there it is, my current take on dealing with direct disobedience. Like I said, I would love to hear your thoughts on it. This is an issue where I don't always feel like my methods are effective, but I'm just not sure what else to do (without breaking the basic rule of respect that I believe in so strongly).
Additional questions always accepted...I'll answer them when I get settled into my new place and have internet again!)