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     * Writer's picture Katie Ely
          + Mar 26, 2021
          + 8 min read

First-Time Obedience: Why It's Better for Kids and How to Get It

   Updated: Aug 26, 2022

   Find out why first-time obedience is actually a better, kinder
   discipline approach. Then, learn how to train your child to have
   first-time obedience with a Training Session.

   This is an excerpt from the book Parenting with Focus by Katie Ely.

   Training your children to obey has gotten a bad rap in the 21st
   century. Even Christian parents are often uncomfortable with the word
   obedience. And the concept of first-time obedience has really been

   But as Christians, we need to follow the ways of God when raising our
   children, not the world. It's clear in the Bible that God commands
   children to obey their parents. And by definition, true obedience is
   first-time obedience.
     * "Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the
       Lord." -- Colossians 3:20
     * "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right." --
       Ephesians 6:1
     * "My son, obey your father's commands, and don't neglect your
       mother's instruction." -- Proverbs 6:20

   The Word of God should be reason enough to train our children to obey.
   But if it's not, here are 4 more reasons why training our children to
   obey the first time is actually a much kinder, better approach.

#1: Safety

   First, there's just the issue of safety. If your children are used to
   getting 3 or 4 warnings before they obey, what's going to happen if
   they're in immediate danger? They're not going to respond instantly to
   you in a crisis if they're not in the habit of obeying you under usual

   I witnessed the need for first-time obedience once with a friend. I had
   gone to the mall with a friend and her daughter. The daughter, by the
   way, did not have first-time obedience.

   As we headed back for the car, my friend told her daughter to stop. But
   as usual, her daughter ignored her. By not obeying, that little girl
   was nearly hit by a car.

#2: Lack of First-Time Obedience Creates a Stressful Home Environment

   The second reason to have first-time Obedience is that, without it,
   your home life can be very stressful and unhappy. How? By not training
   your children to obey the first-time, you have to constantly harp on
   them to get them to obey. And the more you have to nag them and repeat
   your instructions, the madder you become.

   As for your children, they'll soon learn to tune you out. They'll learn
   from experience that you never actually do anything about their
   disobedience until they've been warned several times. So, they just
   wait until they see you've reached your boiling point. Then, when you
   become really angry, they obey just in the nick of time to escape any
   punishment. So, in order to get your kids to obey, you have to
   constantly nag or get mad or yell at them. What a horrible environment
   to live in.

   Let me give you an example of a mother and son I know. Every night,
   this mom has to battle with her son to get him to stop playing video
   games, and go to bed. But her son knows from experience that he can
   continue to play for at least 30 more minutes without getting into any
   real trouble. So, he just ignores her until he sees that she is really
   mad and is actually getting ready to do something to him. He knows just
   how far he can push his mother before she'll actually do anything.

   The mom is convinced that the only way she can get her son to obey is
   to yell and scream at him. But it's not the yelling and screaming
   that's getting him to obey. Her outrage is just signifying that she has
   reached her limit, and she's actually getting ready to do something
   unpleasant to him. It's the forthcoming consequence that's getting him
   to obey. It would be far kinder and better for both mother and child to
   calmly take action after the first command.

#3: First-Time Obedience Develops Self-Control

   My favorite reason to have first-time obedience is that it helps
   children develop their self-control. Basically, self-control means
   doing the right thing whether you feel like it or not. It is the #1,
   most important virtue you want your children to have because you can't
   have other virtues unless you first have self-control. For instance,
   you can't always be kind, or unselfish, or full of integrity unless you
   first have the self-control to exhibit those traits.

   But self-control does not come naturally to children. It must be
   developed. Like any talent, skill, or quality, it is developed through
   practice and repetition. The more you practice, the better you get.
   First-time obedience requires children to repeatedly practice
   self-control. Every time your children have to obey the first time when
   they don't want to, it develops their self-control.

#4: First-Time Obedience Is a Consistent Rule

   Finally, first-time obedience is a predictable, consistent rule. When
   you give multiple warnings, your discipline is random. Kids don't know
   what to expect. Sometimes they can get away with things, and sometimes
   they can't. That's not fair.

   Children do better when there's routine, structure, and predictability.
   First-time obedience is a predictable, consistent rule that children
   can count on.

How to Train Your Child to Have First-Time Obedience

   So that's why you need first time obedience. Now let's talk about how
   to get first time obedience. The answer is--you train them! You train
   your children to respond to you immediately as soon as you give an
   instruction. They don't ignore you, and they don't defy you. They
   simply obey without delay--AND with a good attitude.

Training Sessions

   A great way to train your children is with a Training Session. A
   Training Session is just a time when you instruct, demonstrate, and
   have your kids practice the correct behavior over and over.

   You also clearly let them know they will receive a consequence for not
   following the rules. And then you have to constantly REMIND your kids
   of the correct behavior. Think about how many times you had to remind
   your kids to say please and thank you. It's the same principle.

   Schedule Training Sessions at a neutral time--not when there's a
   problem. Plan it for when you have plenty of time and everyone involved
   is calm and in a good mood.

   So, if you were training your kids to have first-time obedience, here's
   what you might do. Have your kids sit down and let them know that from
   now on, when you tell them to do something, they must obey the first
   time AND with a respectful attitude. Go over the scriptures about how
   children must obey and respect their parents.

   Have them memorize the following two scriptures:
     * Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the
       Lord." -- Colossians 3:20
     * "Honor your father and your mother, ..." Exodus 20:12

   Also teach them the verse in James 4:17 that says: "Remember, it is sin
   to know what you ought to do, and then not do it."

   From there, train them that when you give an instruction, they need to
   do these 4 things
    1. STOP what they're doing.
    2. LOOK you in the eye.
    3. RESPOND "Yes ma'am or Yes sir" with a good attitude.
    4. DO what you told them to do.

   If you don't like the terms "Yes ma'am or yes sir", you can train your
   child to respond with whatever wording you want. It might be, "Yes, Mom
   or Dad" or, "Okay, I'll do it now." Or, "All right--I will." Just be
   consistent with the wording.

   The reason you want them to look you in the eye and respond is so that
   first, you know that they've heard you. Second, it shows respect.

Disobedience Will Result in a Consequence

   Let them know that from now on you're only going to tell them once, and
   if they don't obey immediately, they will get an immediate consequence.

   Now that doesn't mean to get up and beat them. That's not what I'm
   talking about. I'm talking about giving a consequence that is
   appropriate for that situation. For instance, if they're throwing a
   ball in the house, take away their ball. If they're not playing nicely,
   make them play in separate rooms. The point is, you get up and take
   action to make sure your instructions are followed.

   Ask questions along the way like, "What are you supposed to do when I
   tell you to do something? What's going to happen to you if you don't?"

Practice First-Time Obedience

   Then, practice first-time obedience. Have your kids pretend they're
   doing something, then give a command. Have your kids practice:
    1. Stopping what they're doing.
    2. Looking you in the eye.
    3. Responding "Yes ma'am or sir" with a good attitude.
    4. Doing what they were told.

   Practice different scenarios. For instance, role play things like:
     * Go put your shoes in the closet.
     * Go put your backpack in your room.
     * Fill up the dog's bowl with water.

   Be sure to make the Training Sessions fun. Make up situations where
   your kids have to move a lot and make a lot of noise. Then, when you
   tell them to stop, they have to obey instantly.
     * Have them jump up and down and scream, and then tell them to stop
       jumping up and down and screaming.
     * Have then run outside and then call for them to come back inside.
     * Have them pretend to be playing and then call them to the dinner

   Each time, they need to stop, look, respond, and obey. For younger
   kids, do silly things, like:
     * Stop that awful noise!
     * Stop running through the kitchen!
     * Take that underwear off your head!

   Be sure to give plenty of praise when they immediately obey. But also,
   be sure to give an immediate consequence when they don't obey. The key
   to first-time obedience is getting up and giving a consequence the
   first time they disobey.

   However, do be aware of your children's situation. If they're in the
   middle of an activity, you might wait until they've finished. Or, you
   might want to give them a 5-minute warning to wrap things up. However,
   being in the middle of an activity is no excuse to ignore your
   instructions. Train your children that if they have a legitimate
   excuse, they could respectfully ask for a delay until they finish their

Be Diligent the First Week of Training

   In the beginning, be especially diligent. For an entire week, devote
   yourself to train your children to first-time obedience. That means
   reminding them daily of the rules of first-time obedience. It also
   means that every single time you give an instruction, you follow
   through to make sure that your directions are fully carried out.

   But remember, you're in the training process. Your kids probably aren't
   going to consistently obey right away. Because training involves lots
   of practice and lots of reminders.

   Ephesians 6:4 says, "Parents, do not treat your children in such a way
   as to make them angry. Instead, raise them with Christian discipline
   and instruction."

   Be diligent in your training, but give them room to make some mistakes.
   Good habits take a while to develop, and bad habits take a while to
   break. That goes for parents too. We often are just in the habit of
   giving multiple warnings.

   For the first few days, when you give an instruction, if they don't
   obey immediately, give them a gentle reminder. Say, "Remember, you need
   to obey the first time." If they don't obey immediately after your
   gentle reminder, then they need an immediate consequence. It won't take
   long before they realize that they must obey the first time.

True Obedience Requires a Good Attitude

   True obedience also requires a good attitude. Not only should your
   children obey immediately, they need to obey politely and respectfully.
   Remember, the whole point of training is to train up your children for
   how you expect them to behave. Do you want your children to have a bad
   attitude with their teacher? With their boss? Then don't allow bad
   habits to form with you. Insist that your children respond to you
   politely and respectfully.

Give Instructions with Authority

   One final note: Be sure to give instructions with authority. Don't wish
   or ask that your children do something--tell them. For instance, don't
   say, "Billy, I wish you wouldn't dump out your toys." Or, "Billy, would
   you please not dump out your toys?"

   While wishing or asking may seem polite, it only confuses children
   because it sounds as if they have a choice. Instead, just say, "Do not
   dump your toys out." It doesn't mean you have to be unpleasant or
   disagreeable. Giving instructions with authority simply means you tell
   them exactly what you want them to do. This leaves no room for

   By diligently training your children to obey the first time, it won't
   take long before it becomes a habit.

   For more about raising your children with Christian discipline and
   instruction, get Parenting with Focus by Katie Ely.

   Want to make new friends and connect with other Christian parents? Host
   a small group parenting class. It's easy with The Parenting with Focus
   Video Course. Just watch the video and discuss the group discussion
   questions. Easy--and fun!
   Parenting with Focus Video Course
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   Parenting with Focus eBook
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   " Train up a child in the way he should go,

   and when he is old he will not depart from it."

   Proverbs 22:6

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