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February 2020 Back to Family Challenges

All Pro Dads by Jackie Bledsoe

How to Get Your Kids to Obey Right Away


I have been the king of repeating instructions to my kids. "Obey your parents," I'd think to myself as I'd shout a command. At one time, I rarely could tell my kids to do something without telling them over and over again. “Go get your shoes on. Go get your shoes on. I said, go get your shoes on!" My kids wouldn't listen, and my wife pointed out the truth: I was the problem. By repeating my instructions, I conditioned my kids not to listen the first time. They became accustomed to my repeating an instruction. The more I repeated it, whether immediately or a while after they didn’t take action, the less accountable I held them. I’ve since learned that one instruction is all they need and if they don't oblige, consequences follow. How did I get my kids to obey right away?

Week of Feb. 3

1. Make sure you have your children’s attention. Spouting off instructions to our kids or to anyone whose attention you do not have is a waste. When you want your children to do something, be sure they are paying attention to you. If they are in the middle of something, be sure their focus shifts to you. By doing so, you are not only assuring your instructions get to them, but you are preparing them to be accountable and responsible for hearing and executing whatever they’ve heard. Back to Family Challenge: One of my favorite family activities is the “heart attack” we give each other. Towards the beginning of the month, we cut out construction paper hearts (all sizes and colors), write down what we love about a family member on each heart (the little kids dictate to someone who can write), then stick the completed hearts all over our kitchen cabinets. It’s great to see what everyone comes up with and such an easy way to decorate for Valentine’s Day.

Week of Feb. 10

2. Do not, I repeat, do not repeat instructions. If you make sure you have your kids’ attention when giving them an instruction and they do not immediately and completely follow your instructions, then that is disobedience. Whether they obey or disobey, consequences are to follow. Whether the consequences are good or bad depends on their choice. The more we repeat instructions, the more we condition our kids not to follow those instructions immediately and completely. But your kids are capable of hearing your instructions and doing what you’ve asked. Back to Family Challenge: Some years, I’ve written a love note to each member of my family and given it to them sometime on Valentine’s Day. In my notes, I’ve written down my current top 10 favorite things about that person. I love this opportunity to really think about how much I love my children and husband and have shared some beautiful moments with them when I’ve found a quiet moment to share my note with them.

Week of Feb. 17

3. Consistently follow through with consequences. Not following through on the consequences of your kids’ actions is just as bad as repeating instructions. You condition them not to do what you’ve asked because what you said will happen may or may not happen. This takes practice, at least for me. I have to admit sometimes I do this, but other times I let my kids skate by. It’s a habit we have to develop and it can be hard, but once the habit is developed, it’s easier for us to keep doing it and it’s more effective in getting your kids to do what you say the first time. Back to Family Challenge: During February, I love to take each of my children out for a special little “mommy or daddy date.” Since I’ve got a busy schedule and five children, these dates are pretty simple (stuff like stopping for ice cream on the way home from a basketball practice, or simply going with me to the grocery store one-on-one and choosing a favorite treat plus the ingredients for a favorite family meal that week).

Week of Feb. 24

4. Rinse and repeat these steps. “Instruct your kids to listen to you, heed instruction, and do what you ask immediately.” Doing these things once will not be very effective at all, especially if you’ve been doing the opposite up to this point. So, rinse and repeat. Keep working at it. Keep holding your kids responsible. Instruct your kids to listen to you, heed instruction, and do what you ask immediately. When you do, you’ll look up a few months from now and love how your kids are responding to you. Back to Family Challenge: Since February is Kindness Month, spend this whole week doing kind deeds for others. Sit down as a family on Sunday and plan a family activity where you go out and do something kind for another person or family for everyday of this week. Ex) rake someone’s leaves, cook a meal for another family and deliver it or invite them over to enjoy, go visit an elderly family member or friend,…