Catholic Activity: How to Instill Obedience
Cultivating a spirit of prompt obedience in your children is a crucial task that can be difficult. Here are some basic guidelines.
You can teach your child to obey if you proceed in the proper way. Most youngsters want to remain on good terms with their parents and will do what they are told to maintain that relationship. Their disobedience often is due either to their ignorance of what is expected of them or to their desire to test whether the parents mean what they say. Obviously, your child's misbehavior through ignorance of what you expect of him is not a deliberate attempt to circumvent your will and cannot be considered disobedience; and if he is promptly punished for stepping beyond the limits of conduct you have set, his experimental disobedience will cease abruptly.
Many childish actions that may seem to be disobedient are actually not that at all. A mother asked if her ten-year-old daughter would like to set the table. The girl said that she would not. The mother shook her head, remarking that the child was truly disobedient. The mother was mistaken: her daughter merely gave an honest reply to a question. When you want your child to obey you, tell him plainly that he must perform a specific action. Only then can you justifiably expect him to do as you say. If you ask him if he would like to do something or if you merely discuss a possible action without making your position plain, he may reasonably conclude that he may follow a course other than the one you advocate.
Children should not be slaves, to be ordered about at a snap of the finger. They must often be allowed freedom of choice, and should be permitted to raise reasonable and respectful objections if they feel that your instructions are not altogether correct. In doing so, they merely exercise a prerogative of individuals with minds of their own. But when an important issue arises and they must obey without questioning or quibbling, let them know that you expect strict obedience.
As children grow older, they can be appealed to more and more by reason than by stern orders. A soft approach — suggesting or requesting, rather than commanding — is usually more effective. If you create a home atmosphere of mutual confidence and loving trust, the need to issue strict commands should diminish almost to the vanishing point by the time your youngsters enter their late teens.
Activity Source: Catholic Family Handbook, The by Rev. George A. Kelly, Random House, Inc., New York, 1959