I’ve said it many times, but it bears repeating: A child’s natural response to the proper presentation of authority is obedience. That is, the first time the child is told to do something, he or she will do it.
Furthermore, research shows what common sense intuits: obedient kids are happy kids. Therefore, whereas an obedient child is certainly a blessing to a parent, the greatest benefit of obedience accrues to the child.
Getting a child to obey is a matter of six features of parent communication that I call The Formula:
1. Speak from an upright position. I know that some “experts” say to kneel in front of the child, but they’re wrong.
2. Use as few words as possible to convey the instruction.
3. Precede the instruction with an authoritative phrase such as, “I want you to . . . ,” “It’s time for you to . . . ,” or “I expect you to . . .”
4. Do not explain why you’re giving the instruction. That results in the question, “Why?”
5. If the child asks why, respond with, “Because I said so.” Again, I know that some disagree; but, again, they’re wrong.
6. If possible, walk away. Don’t stand there giving the child someone to push back against.
In September 2016, a couple in Richmond, Virginia, heard me describe The Formula. Their three-year-old has been obedient ever since. Mind you, prior to the fateful speaking engagement in question, this child ignored, complained, cried, and otherwise refused to obey instructions from her parents. The child’s oppositional defiant disorder was cured in one day.
A couple who attended a small-group retreat in Atlanta in February 2017 began using The Formula with their four-year-old. The first day, the little fellow cleaned up his toys by himself, dressed himself, and when straightforwardly told to stop interrupting conversations between his parents, he stopped and remained quiet. All three were firsts. When his dreaded nap time came, his parents used The Formula, and he took his nap without a fight, whereas prior to this, there had always been a nap-time scene. He also had a habit of following his mother around the house. She told him to stop and leave the room. He left the room.
The parents, amazed at how much progress they’d made in such a short time, applied a similar recommendation of mine to their son’s refusal to eat vegetables. At dinner they gave him one green bean cut into pieces, one half teaspoon of fried chicken, and one half teaspoon of mashed potatoes and gravy. They informed him that when he ate everything, he could have seconds of anything. He ate everything. Over subsequent nights they increased the veggie but not the meat or starch. A week later, he was eating a regular helping of broccoli without complaint. In addition, his teacher reported that he was also eating veggies at school.
The proper discipline of a child is a matter of presentation, folks. It isn’t a matter of using correct consequences, although there will be times when consequences are necessary. The Formula keeps the use of consequences to a minimum, meaning everyone is happier.
Your great-grandmother could have told you this. Despite what people in my profession have been saying for 50 years, there is nothing new under the sun concerning children.
Family psychologist John Rosemond is the director of the Center for Affirmative Parenting in Gastonia, North Carolina. For information about his talks and workshops, contact Tracy Owens-Jahn at email@example.com or (817) 295-1751.