"You probably know some disobedient, disrespectful children. Do they seem like happy campers to you? No, they do not. Do you know any obedient children who don't seem like happy campers? No, you don't. Obedience and happiness go hand in hand."
Consistency. It's the advice you hear from all the parenting seminars and books. If you want your child to obey, you have to consistently follow-through, or they won't take you seriously. Or, they'll end up confused because sometimes you are serious about what you say and other times you are not.
Yes, consistency is important. My husband and I do make a conscious effort to follow-through on what we say, but do you ever notice how many chances you give to your child? Why do we do this? I think it's because we really do want them to have a fun day. I don't want to take away a privilege or put them in bed early, so I give them another chance, hoping they will choose to do the right thing if I give them time to "think it through." This is NOT working out so great for us right now.
I don't think they need anymore chances...they need to learn to obey the first time, every time. But, this is going to require a lot more work on my part. This means mom and dad are going to have to be the "bad guys" a whole lot more often. But, just maybe it will be better in the end. I won't be at my wits end by the time I've given my child(ren) two or three chances and they're still not obeying. It almost seems like my children don't take me seriously until I have raised my voice several levels. Do I really want this to be the norm? No, I don't want to always be frazzled because I've given chance after chance and nothing's changed. Not only that, but each "chance" is causing me more and more frustration, and my patience is growing weaker and weaker. How can I treat my children in a godly manner when I'm raising my voice constantly, my patience is gone and their chances are all gone? When this happens, no one's happy: my children are upset and confused and their mom feels guilty and at a loss for what to do.
So, we're trying something new this week. Yes, we will do our best to keep being consistent, but we're changing one MAJOR detail: no more chances. This also means that we will be deciding what we say ("say what you mean") more selectively. For example, if my child asks to do something that I might not prefer (he wants to go outside, but I'm cooking dinner), I'll take time to consider if there is a way to help accommodate his request before I rush in and say no. Maybe I could take a quick 5 minute break and let him play, etc. But, if his request is not possible, I will say no and be prepared to follow-through if disobedience occurs ("mean what you say"). So, if my child starts pitching a tantrum, I will immediately follow through with an appropriate punishment. I will not try to reason with him and give him chances to quit pitching his fit. "Reasoning", I've come to realize, does not work very well with small children when they are pitching a fit, anyway.
This is my challenge right now. We had the consistent part down before: we would always follow-through with what we said, but we were giving too many chances. But, maybe that was also because I was making a big deal out of too many little things that didn't really matter. So, this week: I'm going to try to intentionally think before I tell my child "no" or before I ask him to do something. But, I'm going to be ready to follow-through the first time. Even though my child may still pitch a fit or act inappropriately, I will at least be able to keep my composure and think through how to discipline my child instead of acting out of frustration.
"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." Hebrews 12:11