There are a lot of parenting styles out that there following the “no discipline” train of focus. Or the “freedom” focus. The type of mindset that setting rules and boundaries too early can stifle personality development and teach your child to accept authority without ever challenging it. Parents with these tendencies seem to think that’s a bad thing: Teaching your child not to challenge authority. I, on the other hand, teach them that if they challenge it – they’ll eat dog food for a week.
I guess I want my children to grow up to challenge authority if it goes against something they believe in. Or of it’s a crime against humanity. When they’re old enough to know what those things are. But – I don’t want them to challenge my authority now. I simply can not deal with that kind of chaos. It may be easy for some mom’s to promote that kind of freedom and still stay sane. But not me. I’m big on black and white rules. Easy to pass on to small children that don’t really grasp the English language yet. The fewer words in the rule – the better. Be Nice. Use your manners. Gentle when rubbing Mommy’s feet. Quiet during Mommy’s TV shows. And most important: Obey FIRST time.
I first heard the concept of the “When do you obey?” “First time.” dialog when LilZ was 3 or 4. It was in a book about being a good father (don’t ask) and it taught that the number one easiest concept to teach your child is that they obey FIRST TIME. (I can’t remember the book, sorry.) It keeps you from nagging and it nips dissent in the bud. Squishing their fragile spirit before they can overpower you.
I think most parents want easy-to-teach rules. For me, now that I’m a working mother, they’re especially important. I just don’t have the luxury of time to talk it out. So, condensing it to one simple concept is the best. When LilZ was 3, if I asked him to do something and he hesitated I would say, “When do you obey?” He would say, “First time,” and he would execute the initial task. It didn’t always work, but it was simple enough to jar the rule and motivate him to BRING MOMMY HER CIGARETTES ALREADY.
I’ve decided to try to teach NikkiZ the same rule the last few weeks. She has started understanding abstract concepts, so I thought it would be a good time to introduce this one. If I ask her to do something, pick up a toy, put her milk in the fridge, get daddy a beer, I remind her that she should obey “First Time.”
The other morning I asked if she had pooped. She said, “Yeah!” and kept running around the living room. I was in a hurry and needing to leave for work so I said, “Come let momma change your diaper.” She looked at me once and kept with the playing. I said, “Nikkiz…” and was about to say “…when do you obey?” But she turned around and held one finger up and said to me, “Firsh Dime.” And then she ran towards her bedroom to get changed. She actually answered the question before I even asked it. Reminding me that people who write parenting books sometimes actually know what they’re talking about.
I might actually reconsider the whole Explosives Should Not Be Used as Toys now. We’ll see.