Friday, December 8, 2006

On Giving Orders and Obedience

After order, obedience is, in my opinion, the most important virtue to teach my kids.

As a parent, I try to teach this virtue since they are 6 months old, hoping to make a few important values their own.
I have to remind myself constantly that they have to obey me because it will make them better, not to be more comfortable or because I am lazy at that moment - they will notice the difference. This virtue helps my kids feel safe, because when you give them limits, it is not to keep them in a small range of action is to keeping them away of what ever is out of that range, that can harm them.

With my five year old and younger, when they ask "why do I have to....?", I tell them "because I'm your mother" or "because I say so". In this case I am not giving a long and boring explanation; I keep it short and clear. With our kids between five and ten years old, we say, for example: "you have to be here by 6 pm", why....? because those are the rules of our home. At these ages, if you start a negotiation process with your kids, you will loose. They will manipulate you and it will be easier for you to bend your rule than for them to understand, so don't even try to start to argue. Use a nice, very convincing tone of voice, and give your order looking at their eyes, then turn around and leave. We should not try to give too many orders, but the ones that we have, we don't change them. For example: bed time, arrival time, phone time.

For our 10 year old and older, we explain the consequences if they don't obey an order; for example: If they ask as for permission to go out to a party on a weekday, then we will tell them that they cannot go because daddy will stay up until you come back just to make sure that your get home OK, so tomorrow "not only you who will be sleepy at school, but daddy will have a hard time at work, and that is not fair. Why don't you go out on Friday or Saturday instead, so everybody can sleep well the next day; you will enjoy your party much more."

Set a list of home rules, before you have to improvise them. Keep them simple, five to ten is more than enough. That is a number you can remember without looking at the paper you wrote them on (and you should write them down!).
  • Phone hours: From Monday through Friday from 9 am until 9pm, Sat. or Sundays from 10 am to 9 pm.
  • Internet or video game hours: Monday through Friday 1 hour a day before 6 pm. Internet has all the parenting control system, if not an adult must be with you.
  • T.V. is available during the following times:
12:00pm - 2:00 pm 0 to 5 years olds,
2:00 pm - 4:00 pm 5 to 9 years olds,
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm 10 years old and up,
8:00 pm an onward is TV time for grown ups.
  • TV will be permitted only if you are done with your homework.
[We find that having only one TV for everybody will teach us generosity, will limit TV time for each of us, and will prevent us from watching bad TV programs - more on this in a future post]
  • Dirty clothes always in the hamper. Remember to do a not together with the pair of socks, and to turn your own dirty cloth inside out.
  • Backpacks for school, with all your papers and agendas - complete uniforms (pants or skirts, underwear, shirt, socks, sweater, tie, etc.) out and ready by the door before bedtime.
  • Pick up your plate after every meal as soon as daddy has left the table, and put it inside the dish washer.
  • Not eating allowed inside the bedrooms or inside the cars.

Why we impart orders.
We impart orders to our smaller kids to keep them safe from physical harm, like: "don't open the door to a stranger, no talking to a stranger, not cooking by yourself". As they grow older obedience will keep them safe from moral harm and will lead them to obey civil laws. When we explain to our children why they should be obedient, we tell them that it is not only to skip a punishment or to have a reward, it is "to teach you self-improvement, to become a better citizen."

Final very important note: It is essential to impart commands clearly- some pointers on this.
a) Be sure that your child knows what you are talking about, don't assume that it is obvious. For example: "go to my bathroom and open the little door at your right" might be confusing. Maybe there are three little doors, maybe they are not sure which is their right hand, so re-confirm the message with them.

b) Don't give more than one order at a time, like for example: "Go up stairs, and close the windows as it is raining. Then go to my closet and bring me the wallet from my purse. Then remember to turn off the lights on your way back and shut the door because your brother is sleeping." By the time they get to the part about their brother, they have completely forgotten what was it that they were looking for.

c) Be a bit flexible, you can bend a rule if you are having fun playing a family game, and is past their bed time. This does not happen everyday, enjoy the moment, soon they all will grow and leave home. What we are looking for is for them to remember the fun it was living at home, instead of "my mom (and/or dad) always ruins the moment".

Final, final note.
We, as parents are at the service of our children, God has given us the authority not to rule them, but to guide them to be good. They will be happy to have somebody who will help them, not somebody that exploits them. Let them know that they count on their Guardian Angle all the time and let them know that we all make mistakes, that we are all struggling to be good. Sometimes it is hard, but it is worth it!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Saying "because I'm your mother" is asking for rebellion. Actually giving them a real reason isn't any different to such an authoritative excuse. Providing a real reason doesn't have to lead to negotiation.