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Compliance – Critical – Non-Negotiable

Grandparents posing with grandchildren

Living without rules and laws would soon result in a breakdown of order within our homes and in society.  Without respect for the property and rights of others, life would eventually become chaotic.


Children who grow up with noncompliance, being disobedient and unwilling to cooperate tend to have severe adjustment problems as they grow up.  Learning to listen and obey is important.


If you want compliance from your children, you need to inform them of what is expected. Obedience doesn’t mean that you don’t listen to your kids reasons or try to understand things from their point of view. It doesn’t mean we demand rigid uncompromising obedience that makes our kids fearful.


When compliance is connected with simply stated and understood rules, it is easier for children to obey.  As they understand the need for rules they will be able to self-govern and self-regulate when they get older.


As Dr. Frank Lawlis reminds us in his book, Retraining the Brain, that “receiving consistent, positive reinforcement” is the best way to reach success and put in place consistent and constructive patterns of behavior.  Along with compliance, our children need positive encouragement and reinforcement.


There are three behaviors typically connected with anti-social behaviors:

non-compliance, temper tantrums and avoidance of responsibility.

When children learn to obey and are respectful of others within the home, they will be able to function appropriately in different social settings.

The following are a few ways to encourage compliance.

The 1 – 2 – 3 Rule 

For younger kids, a simple 1-2-3 rule can be used. Tell them what you expect and want along with the consequences for non-compliance.  Give the command, then give a second warning in 10 seconds. If they do not comply, they go to time out.


A time does not mean sending then to their room for long periods of time with their toys. Time out is sitting in a chair without social interaction from others for about 3-5 minutes maximum.  No toys.  No talking to anyone. There is nothing more effective in changing behavior than spending 3-5 dull minutes without attention or toys to play with.

 The five minute work chore

For older children, the five minute work chore can be applied to maintain cooperation and compliance.  Once again, try more positive ways to gain cooperation before resorting to removal of privileges or the application of small work details.  Do not use bribes.

Make a list of little jobs around the house that take about five minutes to complete. When children  do not comply and you have given them a warning, assign a five minute chore to complete. Here are some examples:

Scrub burner on stove

Clean kitchen or bathroom sink

Sweep floor or vacuum carpet in one room

Clean toilet bowl

Clean mirror in bathroom

Empty dishwasher

Fold one load of laundry

If they do not comply with either your request or the five minute chore, remove a privilege that they would normally have that day.

Avoid power struggles. Don’t allow yourself to be drawn into a confrontation. Take some slow, long even breaths to remain calm. Think about what you want to say and what you want to accomplish beforehand.

Here are 8 steps involved with a five minute work chore

  • Make requests without anger or a confrontational attitude
  • Warn teen that you will impose a work chore if there is noncompliance
  • Don’t lecture or argue
  • Before you make a request, have two work chores that you can impose if necessary
  • Impose no more than two work chores before you withdraw a privilege
  • Make sure the chore is brief
  • Stay out of the way while they are doing the work
  • Remain calm and neutral

Focus on Cooperation

Remember, positive reinforcement is better when applicable.  Whenever possible work together to achieve cooperation.  Be considerate of the feelings, wishes and wants of all members of the family.

Cooperation begins when children are reasonably compliant. It cannot happen if you are constantly in a power struggle. Foster cooperation by creating a positive atmosphere through play, listening and spending time together.


If you want cooperation, be clear with what you want. Make instructions and requests short and succinct and in a pleasant manner. See my 2-16-16 blog on rules.

There are many parenting books on the market. The “STEP books for Systematic Training for Effective Parenting” by Don Dinkmeyer and Gary D.McKay are explanatory and easy to follow.  The one on Parenting Teenagers is particularly useful as it can be a difficult time for both teens and parents during the teen years. Another set of books that give step-by-step approach for parenting adolescents is “Parents and Adolescents Living Together” by Gerald Patterson and Marion Forgatch.

Marlene Anderson

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