Four Tips to Disciplining your Introverted Child

I want you all to meet Kass Fogle, a writer friend of mine who advocates 
for the shy, socially anxious, and/or introverted in our churches and 
communities. She's also a thoughtful parent, which is why I asked her to 
share with us today. Oh, and by the way, Kass has a fantastic sense of 
humor; seriously, if you want a frequent laugh, follow her on Instagram! 
Let us know what you think in the comments at the bottom.

My children have provided some of my most cherished memories. They have also provided memories I’d rather forget.

Like the time I fireman-carried my two-year old son while very pregnant with my daughter, leaving behind a cart full of groceries.

Or the time my five-year old daughter chose to share her “texture-aversion” to shin guards 5 minutes before a game. To this day, I will attest they were lined with fire ants.

IP - Kass Fogle ducks
courtesy of Pixabay

While the cherubic memories far outweigh the demonic snapshots of our lives, one thing is for certain: kids are kids and will behave in illogical and immature ways.

Our challenge as parents is to respond differently. Easier said than done. In fact, I’m quite guilty of throwing my own tantrums. (For more on momtrums, read When Good Moms Lose It)

But, God’s word instructs parents not to provoke their children.

Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.  –Colossians 3:21 NKJV

One way we can avoid provoking our children is to pay attention to how we discipline them based on their personality type. Introverted children respond very differently to discipline than their extroverted siblings.

Introverted children (and adults) tend to be more reflective, self-aware, and judicious, therefore very responsive to discipline that matches their personality.

While discipline is based on many factors, here are four tips to guide you when disciplining your introverted child:

  1. Instead of, “Answer me!” consider telling them, “I want you to think about why this is wrong.”

Your child is introspective. Try not to assume he is ignoring you or trying to make up a lie just because he is quiet or not responding to cues immediately. He is likely processing the situation. Consider giving your child time to think about your request then provide the option to respond in writing. Introverts typically share their thoughts or feelings more easily in writing, even with those they love.

  1. Instead of asking them, “How does this make you feel?” consider asking, “What will you do differently in the future?”

Introverts are already hyper-aware of their feelings so calling them out shames them. Instead, have them develop a plan for what they will do next time. Introverts are problem solvers and will rise to this challenge.

  1. Don’t assume a time-out is always the answer. Instead, match the consequence to the situation and child.

Just because your child is an introvert, does not mean they do not want to be heard. Locking them away in a room may not bring the change in behavior you seek. They may enjoy solitude, but no one enjoys loneliness.

  1. Don’t be afraid to share your experiences. Instead, speak up – tell them you’ve made a similar mistake or that you’ve made bad decisions too.
IP - Kass Fogle mom-daughter
courtesy of Pixabay

Introverts tend to exaggerate their offense and worry themselves into quite a state over it. While they may not be as open to sharing their own feelings, they are usually great listeners. Hearing about your experiences and mistakes puts their own transgressions into perspective.

When you combine these four tips, you are creating a safe environment for your child to learn and grow from their mistakes.

God has certainly blessed us as parents when He chose us specifically for raising our kids up in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6). There is never a shortage of methods, theories and tips. Studies will show this and research will show that, but one thing remains the same and that is our Father’s love for us. It is by His example that we lead our children, introverts and extroverts, “to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

4 #IntentionalParenting “insteads” to better #discipline our #introverted children–because they think differently. From @KassFogle via @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet)

Have you found that your children respond differently to discipline because of their personalities? Have any helpful tips for the rest of us (introverted or extroverted)? We would love to hear from you in the comments below!

IP - Kass Fogle headshotKass Fogle is an award-winning author and speaker. Her weekly blog, The Introverted Believer is shared each Wednesday on Kassfogle.com.

As an introvert with a side dish of social anxiety, she’s struggled with understanding her role in the Christian Community where small groups are the foundation. This struggle has inspired her to learn more about personality types so she can encourage other introverts, and those who love them, to live out their faith in their work, their marriages, and their friendships.

Kass lives in south-central Illinois with her husband, amazing daughter and two crazy cats. Her son, the source for much of her content, plays football at Olivet Nazarene University. Kass welcomes conversation about coffee, chocolate and comfortable clothes, but please, no small talk!

Please visit her website to download Friendship with a Purpose – a journaling page to strengthen your friendships, free when you subscribe to kassfogle.com.

Related: Disicipline is Designed to Disciple

 

 

Advertisements

Emotion Management 101

The Scriptures tell us to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27). The heart, in Hebrew as well as English, refers to the “seat” of our emotions; that is, the part of ourselves from which our emotions spring. So how do we love God with all our emotions? And how do we teach our children to do the same?

  1. The three-year-old boy can’t operate his bubble gun. After about twenty seconds of trying, he throws it onto the ground in frustration.
  2. The four-year-old girl doesn’t want to lie down for rest time. She screams and kicks, refusing to comply.
  3. The six-year-old boy wants the brown crayon while another child has it. He breaks four other crayons because he can’t get it.

These are sinful actions, no doubt about it. But let’s be careful to distinguish the actions from the emotions. Depending on the age of the child and other factors, discipline may be appropriate for actions springing from certain emotions, but let’s never discipline our kids for feeling angry, frustrated, or other so-called “bad” emotions.

Consider:

  • God is emotional. He loves; He is pleased by things; He gets frustrated (e.g. the Hebrew people in the wilderness, Exodus 32:7-10).
  • Jesus experienced everything involved in being human—including emotions: He loved, He wept, He got angry—and even acted on that anger (Mark 11:15-17)! Yet He never sinned (Hebrews 4:15).
  • We humans, created in the image of God and patterning our lives on the example of Jesus, are emotional beings.
  • The Bible never says, “Don’t get angry.” Rather, it says, “In your anger do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26).

Clearly, the experience of strong emotions is not automatically sinful. The sin associated with emotion comes from one of two issues. Either sin causes the emotion (e.g. selfishness leads to impatience), or we respond to the emotion in a sinful way (e.g. hitting someone in anger). For our concrete-thinking children, let’s focus on the second, more tangible issue: responding to emotions.

Responding to Our Emotions

When we experience a negative emotion, we have three response options. (I’m not a psychologist. These are just my observations.)

  1. We can act out. The child in example 3 above broke crayons because he didn’t know how to practice patience.
  2. We can stuff the emotion back down inside ourselves. This often happens if we shame our children for feeling a certain way. Eventually, all those swallowed emotions will probably cause the child to explode. I’ve seen this happen with my own kids.
  3. We can handle the emotion responsibly. People (children and adults) can’t do this without training.

Handling emotions is a learned skill, not something we’re born with. How can we teach our kids to manage their emotions well?

Build Vocabulary

First, we must build emotional vocabulary through observation and experience. For our younger children, we name it: “Noah, you’re feeling angry.” Or “Sarah, you’re feeling sad.” Or “Mommy is feeling frustrated.” Say it out loud. Ask your child to say it out loud.

We follow the feelings statement with why. “You’re feeling angry because the bubble gun isn’t working for you.” “…because your friend can’t come play with you today.” “…because I’ve told you all to pick up your toys five times already and you haven’t done it.” (Maybe that last one is just me.) If we model this verbal acknowledgement, our children will learn to do the same.

Offer Action Steps

Next, we must offer concrete action steps for managing various emotions, e.g. “When I am angry, I can do ten jumping jacks to calm down or I can take a deep breath and back away.” The actions you offer will depend on the child. I suggest you give two acceptable options. Choosing will help your child feel in control of the situation. Offer action steps for the positive emotions, too. “When I am happy, I can sing a song or I can skip across the yard.” Keep the options consistent if possible. If little Noah always has the same two options for managing his anger, he’ll soon learn to choose even before you offer the options.

Lots and lots of praise would be appropriate when she successfully manages a difficult emotion on her own!

Play a Game

To introduce this new way of managing emotions, play charades with your child/children. First, the parent models the emotion and the child guesses. Once the child has named the emotion, give a reason one might feel that way. Say for example, “I am sad because my friend forgot my birthday.” Next, model various positive and negative ways to manage that emotion. (Use options your kids might use.) Ask your children to decide if each way is acceptable. When you’ve settled on at least two healthy ways to deal with the emotion, ask each child which one he/she would choose for that emotion.

After your children understand the game, let them model various emotions and responses. Make sure to discuss each response.

How do we love God with all our emotions, not just the positive ones? We handle them in a way that brings Him glory. We take them under control and learn to manage them–and teach our kids to do the same–so it’s clear to everyone that we love Him.

#Emotions themselves aren’t sinful. It’s how we handle them that counts. Let’s teach our children some emotional management skills. #IntentionalParenting via @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet)

What practical ways have you found to help your children deal with their emotions in a way that honors God? We would all love to hear some “best practices!”

Want more? Check out this post from Desiring God for more on handling emotions as a Christ-following adult.

 

Discipline is Designed to Disciple

When my firstborn was toddling around—less than a year old—she once stuck her finger in an unguarded electrical outlet. (At someone else’s house. Of course, we had covers on our own outlets!) I grabbed her hand immediately. I got down where she could see my face. I looked her in the eye, and while squeezing her little hand just until I could see that it was hurting her, I said “no” in my most serious voice. If I remember correctly, I only had to do this twice before she learned not to put her fingers in electrical outlets. Yes, I hurt her just a little bit, but way less than if she’d been electrocuted. I thought of it like a vaccine: a little pain now to prevent a lot of pain later. I squeezed so tightly for her own good.

Parental discipline is like a vaccine: a little pain now to prevent a lot of pain later. (click to tweet)

I disciplined her in the only way her young mind could understand. It was an action/reaction concept: if I put my fingers here, then I hurt. The discipline was immediate and tangible because her brain wouldn’t have processed anything else. Why did I hurt her when she was so young?

  • I knew she was capable of understanding it. (The form of discipline matched her maturity level.)
  • I wanted to protect her in the future. I might not be watching so closely next time.
  • I loved her (still do) and didn’t want her to be seriously injured.
  • I wanted her to begin practicing self-control.

I did not squeeze her hand…

  • Because I was angry,
  • Because I wanted her to hurt,
  • Because she irritated, interrupted, or embarrassed me.

This is the difference between punishment and discipline.

Parental punishment is about me: my anger, my needs, my embarrassment, my convenience, my sense of entitlement or frustration with the situation.

Parental discipline is about my child’s physical well-being and spiritual growth. That’s all.

Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them. -Proverbs 13:24

In Intentional Parenting, we teach our children in advance, but we also watch for opportunities to correct through discipline. There’s no love in pampering them, in hiding their sins and failures from them, in allowing them reckless “freedom” that ultimately enslaves them to their own desires. Discipline is something we do carefully and purposefully because we love our children.

My children have grown since the electrical outlet incident. They’re both in double-digits now, and squeezing hands isn’t the best option anymore. (Sometimes I wish it was. It was so much easier!) This week, however, I had a chance to practice some fairly serious discipline with one of my children.

At first, I was so angry that I had to just send him to his room. I felt like there was steam coming out of my ears, and I’m sure my face was red! I wanted to punish him. I wanted him to hurt. (Don’t judge. You know you’ve felt the same.) Because I was angry, I was in no state-of-mind to discipline properly. Once I calmed myself down, I went to him and told him I needed to talk with his dad about the discipline. I still didn’t trust myself, honestly. As we talked a little, I made sure he knew I loved him. The next morning, having talked with his dad, we sat down and discussed the situation calmly and arrived at some discipline that fit the situation and aligned with his maturity level. I’m praying it helps him grow in wisdom and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52).

Some observations about discipline:

Good discipline comes out of love. We already talked about this one.

Good discipline comes out of humility. I do not present myself as better than my child but as another sinner learning how to please God throughout my life.

Good discipline comes out of obligation. As another Christ-follower, as one called to be his parent, it is my duty to correct my child when he fails. I’m helping him understand how to follow Christ more completely.

Good discipline is a product of peace. I’m talking about Biblical shalom, that confidence in God’s sovereignty over His creation and the security of knowing He loves me. Anger dismisses His sovereignty. It says I deserve something or I have been wronged. With peace, I approach my child in the confidence of God’s economy.

Good discipline aligns with the child’s maturity level and spiritual state. The wise parent desires her child to learn from the error/sin through the discipline. Just like you don’t teach first graders calculus, it takes thoughtfulness (and sometimes wracking your brain) to provide discipline at each age. If the child has accepted Christ as Lord of his life, that significantly influences the way discipline is given.

Good discipline ends. What could be more miserable than to be repeatedly reminded of a failure from your past? Trust the Holy Spirit to work in your child’s heart and lay aside the situation once the discipline is complete.

Good discipline is reserved for disobedience or danger and other clear acts of sin. Children will be foolish and forgetful. They’re ignorant of many things we take for granted as adults. Before enacting discipline, be sure the situation warrants it. Perhaps a good “talking to” (a Southern term) is all they need.

With older children…

There’s a reason discipline and disciple look so much like. Add these to the description of good discipline when your children are past the stage where physical things work best.

Good discipline is mutually-agreed-upon. We discuss ways for him to learn what is necessary. It’s important for him to understand why he must forfeit a privilege or spend time alone or do something extra. He doesn’t like it, but he understands the purpose. If he doesn’t understand why it’s happening, then he will not learn. That’s punishment, not discipline.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. -Hebrews 12:11

Good discipline involves follow-up. After the discipline phase is completed, we come back to the subject at least once more to test what he’s learned. If it arises around the same time in a sermon, book, or other medium, we’ll mention it again. (See “Good Discipline Ends” above for the balance on this.)

Good discipline incorporates forgiveness. If I’ve personally been wronged, I must intentionally and specifically forgive my child. If my child has wronged someone else, he must clearly request forgiveness—including an explanation of how he now understands his behavior. He must also ask for God’s forgiveness. Never leave your child wondering if everything is “right” between the two of you afterward.

Good discipline renews trust. A follow-up time gives the parent an opportunity to talk about trust. Can you trust your child again? Do you need to see evidence of a changed heart first? Does there need to be a trial period? Make all this clear rather than leaving your child guessing.

The child who is disciplined in a Godly way will see the wisdom of Proverbs 12:1…and probably enjoy that the Bible calls someone “stupid.”

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid. -Proverbs 12:1

11 characteristics of good discipline for #IntentionalParenting. (click to tweet)

prov-12-1-meme

For further reading:

Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp (more for younger kids)

Age of Opportunity by Paul David Tripp (for teenagers)

Yes, they are brothers. Both of these books offer excellent sections on Biblical discipline. If you’re struggling with this issue, I urge you to take a look at the appropriate one.

The Highest Calling of a Parent is the Shaping of Hearts (Guest Post)

So pleased to introduce you to a like-minded parent today: Kelly Smith. I 
first read her thoughts on The Glorious Table, and I immediately started 
following her. She speaks from the heart here, along the lines of Tedd 
Tripp's Shepherding a Child's Heart (one of the best parenting books 
around!); I know you'll be blessed and challenged. Read more about Kelly
(and connect with her yourself) at the end of the post.

The same scene keeps playing over and over again at my house. The child breaks a rule. The parent punishes. The child complies. The parent relaxes. The child breaks the rule again.

I live in perpetual frustration over this madness. My kid can’t be the only one repeatedly falling down. I am not the only parent on the verge of a hissy fit. I know you feel it, too.

Why is it we work so hard to make our kids do right only for them to turn around and commit the same offense all over again? It comes down to the heart. Parenting is about heart change, not behavior modification. We press down with consequences but there will be no real, lasting change in their outward behavior until there is an inward change.

Moses learned this important lesson when he faced Pharaoh. God sent him to Egypt to free the Children of Israel. Moses went before Pharaoh eleven times with the same request: “Let my people go.”

Initially, Pharaoh resisted. God sent plagues to show Pharaoh who was in charge. He turned the Nile to blood—no change of heart. Then, He brought frogs out of the water. This one made Pharaoh uncomfortable enough to relent. “Plead with the Lord to take away the frogs from me and from my people, and I will let the people go to sacrifice to the Lord” (Ex 8:8 ESV).

Once the dastardly frogs were gone, Pharaoh hardened his heart again. He went right back to his stubborn ways. Through gnats, flies, dead livestock, boils, hail, locusts, and darkness, Pharaoh waffled between obeying God and standing his prideful ground.

Pharaoh never experienced an inward change. He wanted a way out of the discomfort of the consequences of sin while holding tight to that very same sin.

Matthew Henry says:

When Pharaoh saw there was respite, he hardened his heart. Till the heart is renewed by the grace of God, the thoughts made by affliction do not abide; the convictions wear off, and the promises that were given are forgotten. Till the state of the air is changed, what thaws in the sun will freeze again in the shade.

I see the same pattern in my children. My kids change their behavior when met with consequences but, without that inward change, they return to their foolish ways. The same is true for me. For example, I do not like the morning misery after a late night, but I find myself staying up too late over and over again.

The highest calling of parenting is the shaping of hearts.

This does not eliminate the need for consequences. It is through consequences our children see and experience the effects of their misbehavior. Shaping a child’s heart requires a connection of correction with instruction. Ephesians 6:4 tells us to, “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (ESV). John MacArthur points out:

[Instruction] refers to the type of instruction found in the book of Proverbs, where, as we’ve seen, a primary focus is on the training and teaching of children. Such training and teaching doesn’t have as much to do with factual information as with right attitudes and principles of behavior.

This type of instruction takes time, effort, and persistence.

A heart-shaping parent explains how the child’s behavior contradicts God’s word, instead of simply removing privileges

A heart-shaping parent uses the ordinary moments of the day to point their child to God and His plan for their lives.

A heart-shaping parent pushes through the Pharaoh-like stubbornness to free their child from slavery to sin.

A heart-shaping parent points out the need for God’s grace and mercy found through Jesus’ death on the cross.

A heart-shaping parent becomes an agent of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to their children.

Will you stand with me as a heart-shaping parent? Will you declare freedom over your children? Say it with me, “Let my people go!”

 

Kelly Smith profilepicKelly Smith is a small town girl who married a small town man 17 years ago. She has three energetic blessings, ages 1 to 11. Her favorite indulgences are coffee, reading, writing, and running. Kelly believes we are created for community and loves to find ways to connect with other women who are walking in the shadow of the cross. She blogs at mrsdisciple.com.Mrs Disciple

 

The Unlecture

Reading Mark 9:33-37.

At the store with the kids

Jesus and the disciples are walking, as usual. (It feels a bit like that first Hobbit movie: walking with beautiful scenery, bit of action, walking with talking, more walking, freaky monsters to overcome, walking again, etc.) This time, their destination is Capernaum, Peter and Andrew’s hometown. On the way, the disciples get into a hushed but heated discussion—one that they don’t necessarily want Jesus to hear.

“Just wait ‘til we get home!”

Nevertheless, the moment they walk through the door of that house in Capernaum, before they even sit down, Jesus turns his piercing eyes toward them and asks the question they least want to answer: “What were you arguing about on the road?”

Silence. The disciples look at each other, shrug their shoulders, look at Jesus, and adopt their most innocent “Who me?” faces. (Yeah, you and I both know what that’s like.) No one answers. Not even Peter, if you can believe it. You see, they knew Jesus well enough by now that they could guess what topics would displease him, and this one—about seniority and position—would certainly be on the disapproved list. (In the disciples defense, all that “last shall be first” stuff hadn’t been said yet.) It’s obvious that Jesus knows the answer to His question and that He just wants them to confess. Still, they hesitate.

Time for the lecture

Here’s where it really gets interesting, and where we can extract a fantastic parenting application.

Rather than wagging his index finger in front of their noses and commencing Lecture #47 on Servant Leadership, Jesus looks for a comfy chair. Having taken a moment to breathe, He calmly makes a simple statement of truth (v. 35):

Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.

Obviously, it’s easy to remember. Most of us learned it back when we were kids. Jesus, being so very wise, stops there. I don’t know about you, but I always feel the need to elaborate or at least repeat myself a couple of times to be sure I was heard . . . like maybe I have to say it once for each ear of each child in attendance. Sometimes I even repeat, “Do you understand?”

But Jesus just looks around for a tangible example. Let’s see, there’s a door . . . no, some dusty sandals . . . no, the sunlight through the window . . . nice but no. Oh, here we go: a few children (maybe Peter’s kids) are leaning on the wall over there, watching wide-eyed, trying to remain unnoticed. Jesus calls one of them over. Taking his (or her) hand, he pulls the child into the circle. That must have been a little frightening because then Jesus wraps His arms around the child in a comforting hug. Thus this anonymous child becomes the unforgettable object lesson. Without saying “no” or “you’re wrong,” Jesus challenges their thinking—even their worldview. (It would be interesting to dig into what He said and what it meant, but that’s not the point here. Maybe some other time . . .)

A Better Way

I think you get my point, but let me say it plainly just in case. The Proverbs (15:1) say, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” If we can control our own tempers . . . if we can seek our children’s good rather than our own justification . . . if we sincerely want them to learn and change at the heart level, we will follow Jesus’ example. Here’s the step-by-step:

  1. Pose the issue, preferably with a question.

I’ve heard it said that we all answer with our hearts first, and that answer is always honest, regardless of what we say.

  1. Proffer a simple, memorable statement of truth.

Bible verses work well here, but don’t use the Bible as an instrument of punishment. (I’ve written more about that *here*.)

  1. Present an object lesson to reinforce your point.

Just look around, asking the Holy Spirit to guide you in the moment. I know of no other advance preparation that will work here.

  1. Pause.

After you make your point, let it rest there. Let them change the subject if they want to. That’s what happened to Jesus. In the next verse (Mark 9:38), John tries to divert Jesus’ attention.

  1. Place the ‘object’ in a prominent position.

While Jesus allows the change of topic, it’s clear that these ideas of children and of servant leadership are still on His mind at least through the end of the next chapter. Place your ‘object’ from the object lesson somewhere visible, where your children will pass it several times a day. They’ll get the message.

“Okay?”

Some languages are harder to learn than others because tone or inflection change the meaning of the word.  A friend of ours tells a story about trying to say ‘pardon’ but actually saying ‘cheeseburger.’  Yeah, inflection affects meaning.  Take the word ‘okay’ for example.  It’s one of those ubiquitous American words that (frustratingly) can serve as an adjective, adverb, interjection, noun, or transitive verb.  (Thank you, dictionary.com!)  Sometimes we shorten it to ‘ok’ or ‘o.k.’   We even have a hand signal for it (which, by the way, you shouldn’t do if you’re ever in Brazil.  It means something totally different there!)  Just look at all this:

Okay?  =  Do I have your permission?  Do you mind?  Is this agreeable for you?

Okay!  =  Let’s get started!  Sounds great!

(firm ending) = I understand. I hear you.  I accept or agree.  Yes.

Okay. (dragging on the end) = Fine, not great, acceptable but reluctant.

 

Pardon me while I now remove my English teacher hat . . . deep breath . . .

‘Okay?’ (as a question) does NOT mean “do what I just told you to do” and yet I hear parents saying it to young children all the time.

Mom:  Johnnie honey, don’t stick your finger in the electrical outlet, okay?

Child:  [no response]

Mom:  Sweetie, I need you to remove your finger from the outlet.  Okay?

Child:  Mama, I don’t want to.  Can’t I just finish this?

What are you trying to say here, Mom (or Dad)?  Are you asking for permission to be the parent?  Are you giving them permission to agree or disagree?  Is the finger-in-the-outlet something they can choose to do or not do?  I hope not! Most parents, when they finish their sentences with ‘okay?’, really mean ‘Do you hear me?’ and I get that . . . but I’m not sure the child does.  In every other situation, ‘okay?’ means the listener gets to make a choice.  Whether it’s an issue of danger or simply the practice of obedience (such as cleaning their rooms), children need to hear your confident authority.  Be the parent.  They will have plenty of chances to make choices when they are older.  For toddlers, preschoolers, and even elementary-age children, communicate with a firm but kind command followed by the expectation of a response.  The ‘okay’ should come from their mouths, meaning that they hear and accept what you have said.  Save the ‘okay’ question for situations where they really get to make a choice. If the expectation of a response hasn’t been the pattern in your house, it may take a little training.  Ideally, it looks like this:

Mom (firmly but nor forcibly) Johnnie, take your finger out of the electrical outlet now.

Child:  [no response]

Mom(putting down whatever she is doing and giving full attention to the child)  Johnnie, I told you to do something.  What was it?

Child:  I don’t know.

Mom:  I told you to take your finger out of the outlet.  When I tell you something, I expect a response.  I say, ‘Take your finger out,’ and you say what?

Child:  Okay, Mama.  or  Yes, Mama.

Mom:  Thank you.  Now, what can you play with that is safe?

Notice I said that this is an ideal scenario.  It will take some re-training.  At first, you may need to finish the command with “Do you hear me?”  or “Do you understand?”

I realize that this approach counters those who think a child’s self-esteem is so fragile that it can’t handle a command, but I promise you that speaking this way is actually kinder.  Making suggestions to your young child, giving him or her the impression that they can obey or not obey . . . well, that’s just confusing.  The parent follows up by getting angry or disciplining the child for disobedience or disrespect.  Then, the child is confused because he or she never understood that a command was issued in the first place.  Let’s help our children obey by being clear about what is a command and what is up for debate.

Deep breath.  Okay!  Try it for a week.  Just take ‘okay?’ out of your vocabulary and see what happens to your child’s obedience level.  Then let me know in the comments below, okay?