I was speaking last week to a group of young moms of pre-schoolers (MOPS). After I finished, a young woman came up to question my philosophy of teaching children the meaning of the word NO before they are a year old. I suggest consequences to make a small toddler obey his/her parents. Usually, it takes only two or three events before you have an obedient, respectful child!
No more yelling, threats, punishments or guilt.
This young mom had tears in her eyes as she described her 3-year old daughter as an adorable, fun-loving child to whom she has never given consequences. She has never told her NO because she doesn’t need to. “My little girl doesn’t obey me all the time; but, I honestly don’t think she understands it is disobeying. I would never want to squelch her free, creative spirit.”
I asked if her daughter comes when she calls her name. “Well, sometimes,” she smiled as though it was funny, “But, she is an absolute joy.”
I asked if she would respond to her mom’s voice in an emergency- maybe a warning about a hot stove, an oncoming car or a stranger who would attempt to grab her?
Her eyes widened…
“Oh, I’m sure my child could tell the seriousness in my voice if something bad was going to happen. However, I’m a fulltime mom who is always there to protect her.”
I smiled and gave her my card. I told her to call me if ever she wanted to talk more about teaching her child to obey and respect her.
In a perfect world, there might be a child who doesn’t need to learn the meaning of the word NO; but, that world isn’t here yet.
I know Temperaments come into play in parenting. REDS are the best disciplinarians- but need to be loving. YELLOWS want to be fun parents- but need to BE the parent. BLUES deeply want to raise excellent kids, but worry the child is fragile in regards to consequences. GREENS find it exhausting to be consistent with rules.
So intentional, serious parenting is a decision – not an emotional feeling.
I am not a horrible person. I am a loving Mom, Mimi and teacher (to thousands) who knows children and their need for boundaries and learning respect.
If children are taught right from wrong, at a very young age, they are the happiest of all kids!
Our three kids knew the word NO by a year old. That created a home where there was little need for consequences. The most challenging child took a bit longer- maybe, three years before he was finally convinced he wasn’t in charge of the household. Wow, what a happy kid he became! There was no need for time outs- serious consequences- repeated punishments; because, the rule in our house was to say, “Okay Mom (or Dad)” whenever instruction was issued. Okay, 99% of the time it worked. I liked the odds.
We did not run a dictatorship. Once the basics were understood (Kids, obey your parents.) we believed that “choices” were the creative outlet our kids needed.
Would you like to use a pencil or crayon? Would you like to wear this color or that color?
Would you like to set the table or clear the table? Would you like to feed the dog or fold the laundry?
Would you like to play for 15 minutes before your homework? Do you want candy or gum?
Our kids were free to be kids, as long as they respected and obeyed their parents.
I talk to young moms every week and am exhausted at the stress they put themselves through – dealing with problem kids – but, not willing to make the necessary changes to stop the unacceptable behaviors.
At the close of MOPS that day, the moms went to childcare to pick up their kids. The young mom, who had been so traumatized about the potential of introducing her child to the word NO, came back into the auditorium to ask me another question. Her adorable three-year-old was running ahead of her as she screamed the child’s name, “Lucy!” (not her real name) “LUCY! Wait for mommy!”
For the next five minutes everyone in the room heard the name “Lucy” about 25 times. “Lucy, be careful with the sucker!” “Lucy, honey, is that your toy?” “Lucy, should you be running like that?” “Lucy, please come to mommy.” “Lucy, I asked you to please come stand by mommy!” “Lucy, I want you to stand by mommy, so I can talk to this nice lady.” “Lucy, do you think it’s the appropriate time to run outside?”
Well, sweet, adorable Lucy never obeyed – or came to – her mom. The young woman chased her out of the room several times before grabbing her purse, and going to the car, to leave with Lucy.
I would not want to be Lucy’s first pre-school teacher.
Three-year-old kids understand the concept of obeying authority. Actually, most one-year-olds understand when they hear NO. Young children crave boundaries and need the security of knowing someone loves them enough to require obedience.
By the way, this was not originally my idea!
“Children, do what your parents tell you. This is only right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ is the first commandment that has a promise attached to it, namely, ‘so you will live well and have a long life.’” Ephesians 6:1-3 (The Message)
“Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you.” Ephesians 5:1-2
May I encourage all parents, grandparents and teachers to do the children in your lives a favor – teach them the word NO and insist on obedience. They will feel LOVED and you will have remarkably good kids!