First Time.

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.

29 thoughts on “First Time.”

  1. wordnerd – I'm a proper southern, conservative gal, raised in the south, graduated from LSU...married with a couple of really neat kids... The quote that best represents me and my value system? "Some people are like Slinkies. . . not really good for anything, but they still bring a smile to your face when you push them down a flight of stairs."
    wordnerd says:

    “Firsh Dime.” I may just melt.

  2. Think there’s any hope for a mom of an 18 year old, with 2 older brothers who thinks the 18 year old gets away with murder (and he probably does)?

    Is there still hope? Can I teach HIM to obey “Firsh Dime?”

    OMG! Life would be SO MUCH EASIER!

    We are definitely a rules family, too. Tho there are (as in your house) 8+ years between #1 and #3 (all boys), and to MY defense, #3 has had serious medical problems that have on occasion gotten him the easy route.

    Now that he’s 18, I realize I didnt do either of us any favors by letting him slide so much, and we are both paying for it dearly now. He’s a great kid, not in any trouble, but I DO have to ask him 10 times to take out the trash…. and it would truly be easier to do it myself! (but I refuse).

    Learn from my mistakes, folks. . . . rules are good, and they should always be enforced!!!

    p.s. I love your blog and read it daily….

  3. Do you really include getting daddy a beer and when you smoked getting mommy’s cigs? I hope you are kidding.

  4. I love it. My girls are 12 and 9 now, and I have been bad about following through with even theh three strikes your out concept. I don’t know…I may just work on “Firsh Dime” and see what happens.

  5. I am beyond frustrated with my 2 year old right now because no matter what I ask him to do, he’ll play around for 10 minutes before doing it or just ignore me completely. I think I may try to implement the “First time” concept and see if it helps. Something has to work eventually, right?

  6. Wow, NikkiZ is one smart cookie! I think might I need the name of this book… I foresee problems in the near future with my son. Yikes!

  7. Good on you Zoot for enforcing a little bit of discipline. It can only lead to good. We have always insisted that our children use “please” and “thankyou” at all times and people frequently comment on their good manners.

    …and to Alana above – whenever I want my kids to obey me I always say “PLEASE bring Mommy a beer” (hee, hee)

  8. @Alana – I’m not sure how to answer that question. In reality? I was trying to be funny. But, the more I think about it, I’m also fairly certain at some point in time I probably asked LilZ to bring me my cigarettes. I’m not proud of it – but I’m not going to act like I would NEVER do such a thing when I probably did.

    I have NOT, however, actually asked NIkkiZ to get me a beer. She’s not tall enough to reach that shelf on the fridge yet.

  9. lol zoot. Way to answer alana 🙂 I was wondering how the heck to respond to that. you hit the right tone 🙂

  10. I think I’m going to try that with my 2 1/2 year old. He’s really good about obeying the 2nd or 3rd time…which I’m one of those people that usually has the patience to aske 2 or 3 times. BUT I just switched from a full time working single mom, to a full time STUDENT who is still a single mom. And it’s only been 3 weeks, but I’ve already noticed my tolerance for his shenanagins (sp?) has dropped.

    WHat did you do if LilZ didn’t obey the first time? I’ve tried a bunch of different “punishments” on mine, and they pretty much make things worse. So there are times that I’m at a real loss.

  11. I love this idea! And we started working on it today because we have a VERY strong-willed child and I thought this might be a good technique, but my question is…what do you do when they do NOT obey?

  12. That’s a really good discipline idea! I like it. I wish I could teach it to my eleven-month-old right now, but maybe in another year.

    NikkiZ is so cute!

  13. here i thought you were a granola eating, tree hugger. Like me. I’m totally stealing that.

  14. I have got to try that! I hope it’s not too late. My 3 & 4 year old never listen to me the first time. I have become increasing annoyed by this. I wonder. What do you do if they don’t listen the first time? cuz with my 2 I am sure that will happen about ooh. everytime.

  15. We also use this rule and have found it even applies as they get older. Obey me first, for safety reasons, and we can discuss it later. Because we were diligent about it when they were little even now that they’re 12, 10 & 9, they obey first and then ask WHY later. Not that it’s easy!

    The other magic phrase in our house is, “I didn’t ask you if you wanted to.” When the whining, “But, I don’t want to (fill in the blank)” starts.

  16. I love you. That is an absolutely brilliant idea. I am going to begin teaching “firsh dime” in the morning.

    My two year old is a holy terror. My parent’s laugh and laugh. Apparently, I was *cough* a little obstinate as a small child. My son has decided to follow in his mama’s footsteps…

    I still blame it on his father.

  17. OM Goodness How precious!! I am so jealous, lol. I guess I am way to wordy with my kids, lol. I have choas in my house, lol. Not all of the time for often enough to seriously grate on my nerves, lol I am working on breaking that cycle with Drew. Let him not follow temptation… otherwise known as…his sister’s examples, lol

  18. This was the toughest with my oldest. He’s nine and still struggling with it. Or rather, I’M struggling with it. He doesnt care if he responds ‘firsh dime’ or tenth time – I’m obviously the one with the hang up.

    My second though is a whole different story. Pretty good about things. Usually a firm count to three gets him moving, and honestly we’ve only made it to three a couple of times and even then I’m fairly sure the ‘punishment’ was no more than the stinky eye.

  19. We do that!! But we say “First Time Every Time”. I didn’t have to do it so much for my daughter. In fact I definitely remember it being my son where I had to whip it out..and still do. LOL

    Random – I love that your response is in PINK! It’s so easy to find in the comments! Woohoo!

  20. parenting books.. hmmm.. i guess down here people believe in ‘following your intuition’ or doing what your mom did with you.. and yeah, some good some bad stuff still happens..

    things r just so different in your part of the world 🙂

  21. Doesn’t everyone start out parenting by following their intuition or doing what your parents did with you (that is if it is something you want to repeat)? Sometimes those tactics just aren’t effective and we turn to parenting books or talk to friends about what works for them. At least those who turn to the parenting books are seeking out advice on being a better or more effective parent/disciplinarian.
    I feel like I use a tactic similar to your “Firsh Dime” with my 5 and 11 yr old……I try to follow through with a punishment if they don’t obey, what is your back up if “Firsh Dime” doesn’t work?

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  23. I always get people staring at me in stores because I refuse to let the girls tantrums interrupt my daily life. If they are naughty in the store and they deserve the naughty corner, they get it, right there with the Coke cases. It disturbs people but I’m teaching little minds here and that doesn’t wait.

  24. I decided to give this ‘obey the first time’ thing a chance with Echo. [HOW have I never heard of this before?] We sat down and talked about it and I was sure he understood. At the end of the discussion, I asked him when he was going to obey. He thought for a moment and then answered, “The first time isn’t good for me. I’ll do it Thursday.” A little later, he wasn’t listening so I asked, “When do you obey me?”

    “MOM! Don’t you remember? THURSDAY.”

    “It IS Thursday.”

    “Oh. Well, I meant to say Wednesday. It isn’t Wednesday yet. Is it?”


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