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The elusive pursuit of obedience

July 9, 2012
 |  by Julie

The elusive pursuit of obedience

Okay, I’ll admit it – I’ve been somewhat reluctant to write an update on our recent foray into the Obedience lesson for one very big reason . . . it’s not going so well.

There. I said it. Let the parental guilt unfurl.

Oh, we had all kinds of fun making our new obedience poster (inspired by the kick-off craft). We got out our craft supplies, used our trusty glitter and wrote out the suggested caption, “To Love Means to Obey.” I explained to Piper why it’s important to obey God and our parents (note: I do think it’s important to clarify for children that “to love means to obey” does not mean we obey just anyone; we obey adults we know and trust).

We even had a few test runs. I would instruct Piper to do or not do something, and if she obeyed, she got to put a sticker on her poster. She thought this game was super fun – until hours later when we encountered the real test, dreaded bedtime. Dun-dun-dunnnn . . .

The problem I had that night was the same one I’ve encountered numerous times since then. When Piper gets into one of her stubborn I’m-three-I-must-test-my-boundaries moments, her emotions take over. She simply does not care about stickers or glitter or praise or, to put it simply, obedience.

I’ve been struggling to understand why this concept of obedience is so hard for my child. Maybe it’s just hard for most children. Maybe it’s hard because she’s an unusually stubborn kid. Maybe it’s hard because she’s simply three. (And the reason I fear deep down: maybe it’s hard because I’m failing in some way as a parent.) I simply don’t know.

I do know from parenting literature that children in their twos and threes typically enter a stage of testing boundaries. There’s a power struggle of sorts, and learning to control their emotions – including anger, stubbornness or simply frustration – is something they’re still learning. I suspect this is the main issue, but I still wonder.

I honestly don’t know if Piper will be able to grasp this lesson at this age, but I do know it’s my job to keep guiding her with loving firmness and consistency. In the meantime, if you’ve survived experienced the twos/threes with your child, any advice for handling this tough stage would be appreciated! How did you teach your toddler to calm their emotions and to listen when told to do something? Is punishment more effective than reward when it comes to obedience?

Related Lesson: Obedience