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Jun 12, 2017
Presented by
John Rosemond

Why is it so hard for so many parents and teachers to get kids to do as they are told? Because too many adults have followed some very bad advice. Family psychologist John Rosemond offers some useful tips on how to get the little barbarians to listen.

Research shows that obedient children are happy children. One of the best gifts parents can give their kids is to teach them obedience.

  • Family psychologist John Rosemond on the important of obedience in raising children: “The happiest kids … are those who obey parents and teachers, do what they are expected to do without lots of management and voice complaints and disagreements respectfully. Therefore, because happiness is a child's right …, teaching obedience and respect is a fundamental parental responsibility — the third, in fact, which comes after securing a child's physical well-being and demonstrating unconditional love.”View Source
  • Read more from Rosemond on the importance of authority and obedience in parenting here.View Source
  • WATCH: Rosemond on effective parenting.View Source
  • Related reading: The Well-Behaved Child: Discipline That Really Works! – John RosemondView Source

Parenting tip: Effective disciplining of a child is less about proper methods and more about the proper attitude of the parent.

  • Effective disciplining of a child is more a matter of the parent presenting the proper attitude—one of confident authority—than any specific disciplinary methods or approaches.View Source
  • Read more on the importance of authority and obedience in parenting here.View Source
  • WATCH: Family psychologist John Rosemond on effective parenting.View Source
  • Related reading: Teen-Proofing: Fostering Responsible Decision Making in Your Teenager – John RosemondView Source

Parenting tip: The more words you use to communicate your expectations of your kids, the less confident you sound.

  • Parenting tip: The more words you use to communicate your expectations of your kids, the less confident you sound.View Source
  • Read more on effectively teaching responsibility and obedience to children here.View Source
  • WATCH: Family psychologist John Rosemond on effective parenting.View Source
  • Related reading: Grandma Was Right After All!: Practical Parenting Wisdom from the Good Old Days – John RosemondView Source

Parenting tip: The best way to discipline your kid is not by raising your voice, but by speaking with a sense of calm, confident authority. 

  • A parent should attempt to maintain a calm, confident tone while disciplining their children. Instead of raising their voices, parents should use authoritative phrases when they give instructions, such as “I want you to…” or “I expect you to….”View Source
  • Read more on effectively teaching responsibility and obedience to children here.View Source
  • WATCH: Family psychologist John Rosemond on effective parenting.View Source
  • Related reading: The Well-Behaved Child: Discipline That Really Works! – John RosemondView Source

Parenting tip: Your children are more likely to obey you if they trust that you have their best interests in mind. 

  • Family psychologist John Rosemond on the role of trust in obedience: “Obedience on the part of a child to legitimate adult authority figures is an act of trust; to wit, the child trusts that said adult is always acting in his or her (the child’s) best interest, even when the child does not like what the adult has done or decided. The child trusts; therefore, the child obeys. The opposite is equally true, by the way.”View Source
  • Read more from Rosemond on the importance of authority and obedience in parenting here.View Source
  • WATCH: Rosemond on effective parenting.View Source
  • Related reading: Parenting by the Book: Biblical Wisdom for Raising Your Child – John RosemondView Source

Parenting tip: Getting your kid to obey requires looking, acting and talking like you have complete confidence in your authority.

  • Parents should act in such a way as to exhibit complete confidence in their parental authority. This includes not offering rewards for obedience or punishments for disobedience, or using a beseeching tone of voice.View Source
  • Read more on the importance of authority and obedience in parenting here.View Source
  • WATCH: Family psychologist John Rosemond on effective parenting.View Source
  • Related reading: Teen-Proofing: Fostering Responsible Decision Making in Your Teenager – John RosemondView Source

Parenting tip: “Because I said so” is not a cop-out; in fact, it’s an important assertion of parental authority.

  • The phrase “because I said so” is a strong assertion of parental authority. Many parents make the mistake of over-explaining themselves, which often undermines that authority, and thus frustrates their attempts at getting their children to behave properly.View Source
  • Read more on effectively teaching responsibility and obedience to children here.View Source
  • WATCH: Family psychologist John Rosemond on effective parenting.View Source
  • Related reading: Grandma Was Right After All!: Practical Parenting Wisdom from the Good Old Days – John RosemondView Source

When was the last time you heard a child referred to as obedient? It’s probably been a while. That’s too bad, because the best research tells us that obedient children are happy children. And, from my experience as a family psychologist, the parents of obedient children are happy parents.

Since all parents want their children to be happy, the question becomes: How does one get a child to obey? Is there some trick to it?

Well, there are certainly are a lot of parents who think so. They believe that proper discipline is a matter of using the right methods, techniques, and strategies – what I call “consequence delivery systems.” Parents have been using these behavior modification-based methods since they became popular in the 1960s – seemingly to no avail. Would anyone argue that today’s kids are more obedient than kids were several generations ago? I don’t think so.  The reason these methods and techniques don’t work is that proper discipline is not a matter of proper methods. It’s a matter of a proper attitude on the part of the parent.

Let me illustrate the point. Let’s say that for a week I observe the classroom of a grade school teacher who has the reputation of being the best disciplinarian in her district. She consistently has fewer behavior problems than any of her colleagues.  What is she doing? She’s making her expectations perfectly clear. Which means, first, she communicates in simple, declarative sentences. She doesn’t use fifty words when she could use ten. The more words you use to communicate your expectations, the less confident you sound.

Second, she prefaces her instructions to her students with authoritative phrases like, “I want you to…” and “It’s time for you to…” She says, “It’s time for you to take out your math books and turn to page 25,” as opposed to, “Let’s take out our math books and turn to page 25, okay?”

 

Third, this teacher does not explain the motives behind her instructions to her students. Why?  Because she knows that explanations invite arguments.

Whenever parents tell me they’re dealing with an argumentative child I know that these well-intentioned people are explaining themselves. They tell their child why they want him to pick up his toys, for example. And he argues, because you can always pick apart an explanation. If you don’t explain yourself when you give an instruction to a child, then the child, being a child, is almost surely going to ask for one. He’s going to ask, “why?” or “why not?” At which point – get ready for a big surprise – your answer should be: “Because I said so.”

These very useful four words – and no, they will not cause psychological damage to your kids; quite the contrary -- are a simple, but powerful, affirmation of the legitimacy of your authority. Say it calmly. Don’t scream it. Nothing good is ever accomplished by a person who screams.

Last, but certainly not least, when giving instructions to a child, do not – let me repeat: do not – bend down to the child’s level. Getting a child to do what he or she is told is a matter of looking and acting and talking like you have complete confidence in your authority. Bending down to a child’s level does not look authoritative. It looks, in fact, like you’re one movement away from being down on your knees in front of a king.

I know – you’ve read somewhere that you should get down to a child’s level when you talk to him. Well, all I can tell you is that there’s a lot of really bad parenting advice out there. And that’s but one example. Speak to children from an upright position. That causes them to look up to you. And that is a good thing – for them and for you both.

I’m John Rosemond, author and family psychologist, for Prager University.

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