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Catholic Activity: Preschool Parent Pedagogy: Teaching Obedience in Preschool Children



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The virtue of obedience must be taught and stressed from early childhood. The author gives good structure on how to introduce and enforce obedience, emphasizing that it takes gradual training and that a religious motive in teaching is usually very fruitful.


In the remarks on tantrums in June, we touched on the essentials involved in teaching virtues to young children, and last month we listed some pedagogical watchwords to keep in mind.

Remembering these, let us work out some suggestions with regard to teaching the virtue of obedience.

First of all, let us realize that the time to teach begins at birth. Training in regular habits, — eating because mother offers food at a certain time, — sleeping because mother puts baby into the crib, says the good-night prayer and walks away, — all these early habits are giving the infant the custom of conforming to discipline, which is obedience of a kind.

As the child grows out of babyhood, this habit must be developed into conscious obedience, which means that the child obeys not simply from habit, but because he knows that he must obey and finally because he wishes to obey because he loves God and God has told him to obey his father and mother.

Gradual Training

All this cannot be learned in a day, but it can and must be learned day by day.

The wise parent makes few rules, gives few commands, but insists upon their being carried out. A properly trained child of two has the beginning of the notion of obedience. Parents must seize the chances as they appear to teach obedience definitely. Suppose Mother says: "Baby, pick up the ball."

Baby laughs or pokes the ball further away.

Mother says: "No, bring the ball." Mother looks grave.

Baby brings the ball. Mother smiles, says "Good baby," kisses him and makes him feel happy.

Suppose that after two attempts baby does not bring the ball. What then? You may take the ball, put it into baby's hands and go through the motion of his giving it to you. Then bestow smile and kisses.

With a child of two it is usually foolish to fight a long battle the first time. Some mischievous tots think you are playing a game with them. It is better to distract them, push the ball out of sight, and do something different. In a few weeks try again. Do not make an issue of the incident. But make sure that after two or three trials you win. A smiling command will usually produce the ball. It must be clear that you are in authority.

Religious Motive

By the age of three or four, you can make a habit of saying, "Jesus loves obedient children. He always did quickly what Blessed Lady and St. Joseph told Him." If you persist in suggesting such a motive, you will find that by four or five the child will make the connection between obeying mother and doing so because he wants to copy Jesus.

It is really beautiful to see how little children respond to the idea of copying little Jesus. They love to be like Him, provided, of course, they have been taught to love Him. And most encouraging of all, as the little ones grow up to be big girls and boys, they will often retain the ideal of copying Jesus, even though they never speak about it.

Activity Source: Religion in the Home: Monthly Aids for the Parents of Pre-School Children by Katherine Delmonico Byles, Paulist Press, 1938