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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

Parenting column: 'Formula' for obedience produces happy kids

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Wednesday, March 01, 2017 04:59 am
I’ve said it many times, but it bears repeating: A child’s natural response to the proper presentation of authority is obedience; as in, the first time the child is told to do something, he does it. Furthermore, research finds 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 what some other “experts” say. They are 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 are giving the instruction. That results in the question, “Why?”

5. Answer “Why?” with “Because I said so.” Yes, and again, I know what some other “experts” say. They are wrong.

6. If possible, walk away. Do not stand there, giving the child someone to push back against.

In September of 2016, a couple in Richmond, Va., heard me describe The Formula. Their 3-year-old has been obedient ever since. Mind you, prior to the fateful speaking engagement in question, said 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 of 2017 began using The Formula with their 4-year-old. The first day, the little fellow cleaned up his toys by himself, dressed himself, and when straightforwardly told to stop interrupting conversation between his parents, stopped and stayed quiet. In all three cases, firsts. When his mutually-dreaded naptime came, his parents used the formula and he took his nap without a fight (prior to this, there had always been a naptime 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 with how much progress they had 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 is eating a regular helping of broccoli without complaint. In addition, his teacher reports that he is now eating veggies at school.

The proper discipline of a child is a matter of presentation, folks. It is not a matter of using correct consequences, although there will still be times when they are necessary. The formula described above 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 answers questions at www.johnrosemond.com.

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