How to Teach Obedience to Children

If you find yourself telling your children to clean up their rooms, listen to instructions or even follow household rules over and over again, it can be exhausting and frustrating. You may resort to raising your voice or taking away your child’s privileges, yet the results you want to see may not become a reality. Because children often have different priorities than adults, they may need more guidance as to how to listen to rules, obey them and understand your expectations. To avoid any confusion or misunderstandings, it may be time to include daily lessons in obedience.

Offer Praise

Praise your child when you see him follow the rules. Although it may be difficult to praise your child when you are frustrated with his behavior, that may be just what is necessary, wrote clinical psychologist Laura Markham, in her article “Obedience: Why Do You Have To Tell Them Five Times?” 1

Acknowledge his accomplishments regularly. Markham, founder of, suggests connecting with your child by acknowledging his accomplishments and interests. For example, if he is preoccupied with a toy he is playing with, praise his efforts by commenting on what he is doing well.

Remind him of his responsibilities, such as taking a bath or cleaning up the dishes after offering praise, recommends Markham.

Allow him a choice to begin completing these duties now or in a few minutes and then shake on it to seal the deal.

Connect With Your Child

Avoid creating physical distance between you and your child. Many times, a child may not directly obey your orders because of the distance between the two of you. If you are offering instructions from across the room, it can be easier for a child to ignore or even tune you out.

Instruct your child at a closer range, recommends Markham. Move closer to your child and make eye contact before giving directions.

Tell your child what you expect from her at the moment you make eye contact and don’t give more than one warning, recommends Markham. This connection trains your child to follow through with your requests and lets her know that you expect her to obey your commands.

Model Obedient Behavior

Be the example. Children look to adults and loved ones for guidance and when it comes to learning obedient behavior, they are often looking to mom and dad for the example. According to Dr. Bill Sears in his article “8 Ways to Raise a Moral Child” on the Ask Dr. Sears website, your children soak up your actions and behaviors and adjust their standards to yours 2.

Follow the rules. If you are breaking the rules or acting disobedient, it is likely your child will follow suit.

Model obedient behavior to teach your children the standards you expect.

Minimize Exposure to Disobedience

Turn off the TV. Although it is not realistic to put your child in a bubble and protect him from all outside influences society brings, it may help to limit his exposure to disobedience whenever possible.

Know what type of media your child is viewing and opt for television shows and movies that model positive behaviors, according to Sears. If your child is watching cartoons or movies that model disobedience without consequence, she is learning these behaviors or may even glamorize them.

Take advantage of teaching moments. When your child is exposed to disobedient behaviors, use this opportunity to discuss morals, behavior expectations and the importance of following the rules.


Always talk to your child in a soft tone and avoid yelling.