Although old-fashioned obedience may not be in vogue, there are still important and relevant reasons for teaching children how to obey rules. It’s fine to have conversations with your children about opinions and desires regarding rules, but the bottom line needs to be that your rules are the law of the land. Your children’s unquestioning and unwavering obedience could even be lifesaving in an emergency situation.
Provide a framework of basic rules for your child to follow. Basic rules might include listening when Mom and Dad talk, speaking respectfully, telling the truth, no running in the house and no hurting anyone else physically or emotionally. Present these rules in a kid-friendly manner so your children understand them. Invite questions as well and provide any necessary clarification.
Explain to your child that rules are important for keeping people safe and happy. When everyone follows rules, people often don’t get hurt and people treat each other with kindness and respect. Tell your child that parents have an important job to keep children safe and that rules are there to make sure that no one does anything unsafe, dangerous or unkind. Explain that obeying rules is how your child can show trust and respect for parents.
Institute natural consequences for misbehavior to teach children lessons. Natural consequences are often the best way to teach obedience. The cause and effect lesson is so natural that kids understand what happened and why it happened. If dirty clothes aren’t put where they belong in the hamper, they don’t get washed. This means the child won’t have her favorite skirt to wear when she wants it -- a natural cause and effect lesson.
Utilize consistent expectations about the rules you’ve instituted. Enforce the rules consistently, every time, so your children learn what you expect. This eliminates any uncertainty or doubt in kids’ minds about what is acceptable and unacceptable. They always know that talking disrespectfully to Mom or Dad is not tolerated.
Listen if your child needs to communicate feelings about obeying in a specific situation so your child feels heard and valued. After listening, empathize with your child, and then gently prod her toward obedience. You might tell your child to clean up her toys and she tells you she doesn’t want to clean up. In this situation, you might say, “I know -- you were having fun with your blocks. We need to pick up now, though, so we can have dinner. We’ll play again later.” Listening and understanding often helps a child move through the resistance toward obedience.
Praise your child when she obeys you. Positive reinforcement of the behavior you want will motivate your child to repeat this obedience. People usually love hearing praise, which has a powerful effect on motivation.
Set a proper example about obeying rules for your children to see. Don’t execute rolling stops through stop signs and think that sooner or later your kids won’t notice. Parental example is powerfully effective for motivating the behaviors you want. When your children witness you following rules and laws, they will understand the importance of obedience.