Monday, August 10, 2009

Monday Answers--Dealing with Direct Disobedience

You know the kind...where you say "Johnny come here" and he gives you an evil look, shouts "no" and runs the other way. I'm not talking about when they forget to follow through, or didn't understand the request or were not capable of doing the thing properly...we're talking about wilful, intentional, disobedience.

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."
When I do need to give a command (which happens in cases where there is imminent danger, or where asking nicely didn't work), and when they don't heed my command, then my response varies depending on the age of the child.
  • 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 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!)


Jess said...

I think your responses were great!!

I know with my 3 yr old.. (almost 4) there is a pattern we seem to do.

On the things that are important... I ask her to do them... most of the time she complys.... sometimes she gives me attitude... to which I then ask her nicely again.... if she still doesnt do it.. then I come and help her do what I asked.... but most of the time, as soon as I step in her direction, she says, ok ok .. and does it on her own.

With my 11 and 12 yr old... well... I will ask... and give a time frame... for example... blah blah needs to be done today... before dinner .... or this needs to be done today within the next 10 minutes..... if it doesnt get done... and I end up doing it... they lose priveleges... playing on the computer or on the xbox games... no friends over, no going to friends.....

If it is outright disbedience... which does occasionally happen under the pretense o them "not hearing".... we talk about how they know better.. they know right from wrong.... what would they have assumed would have been the best route to go if they had stopped and thought about it.... and also what their consequence for the offense should be. They pick it... and then they do it.

ALWAYs... ALWAYs.... follow up with some sort of showing love for them.... whether it be a hug and thank you, I love you for talking about it with me.... or I love you and I know you will do better next time....

With anything though... some things work for me that might not work for someone else..... you have to find what fits your family...GOod luck!!

Stacy S said...

This is a timely post for me, because we had an incident like this today. I told my nearly eight year old daughter to go tell her sister it was time to get out of the pool, and NOT to get back in, and then next thing I knew, she was back in the pool. I didn't handle it very well, but it was so infuriating for her to hear me tell her something and then do something else! Good to know I'm not the only one that struggles with this!

Threads of Light said...

Something I've done from time to time is to acknowledge what the child is 'telling' me by their direct disobedience. I.e. saying to them that I can see they need extra time with mummy while everyone one else is doing (insert fun activity here), because they are telling me they need more help learning to be respectful/obedient. During that time we would sit and talk, read scriptures, and role play being obedient.

nicole said...

I believe strongly in natural and logical consequences and positive reinforcement. We have a reward system set up for when they're obedient. I've noticed that whatever I pay attention to a behavior (good or bad) it increases. So I try to focus on and praise their obedience and ignore their disobedience (unless it's harmful to themselves or others).
Like if I ask the kids to help set the table, and one of them responds right away, I make a huge deal of it... "Oh wow! Thank you so much for helping right away!" And I'll ignore the misbehavior (the kids who aren't getting up as quickly). And sometimes they'll earn a "rupie" in their cup. (When it gets filled up they get a special reward.) And the other kids that had been slow to respond usually get right up to help too.

This has been an effective tool for our family. It helps keep things positive. Instead of me feeling like I need to constantly nag and criticize them, I can pay more attention to their good behaviors.

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