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Do as I say and Do it Right Now!

fourteen year old teenage with aggressive bully expressionPitfalls to Avoid

In the busy world we live in, we expect kids to obey and do it right now! When they don’t, we often threaten, take away privileges or ground them.


When we are tired, it is easier to get angry and harsh in our responses.  When expectations are unclear, there are more arguments.

Obedience versus responsibility

We want our kids to obey. We also want them to become responsible. Obedience without understanding both choices and consequences, however, does not help kids become responsible. While there will be times when obedience without question is necessary, especially when danger is a factor, those should be the exception.

As a kid, when Mom calls you to set the table for dinner or do some other chore your first inclination is ignore and keep playing. But if you know that non-compliance will have some kind of negative consequence, you learn to make the tough choices. That’s discipline.  That’s teaching.

If punishment is the only motivation for obeying, children will soon become resentful, find ways to retaliate and learn to be sneaky and dishonest to avoid detection. And, as mentioned in my earlier blogs, when children obey simply to avoid punishment, they don’t learn internal motivation or responsibility.



Responsibility is learned over time. Give simple requests and appropriate choices for a child’s age. A toddler can’t be responsible for not playing in the street because he is too young to understand the danger. You need to put in place appropriate safety boundaries.

By the time children enter school, they are able to understand choice and consequences. House rules are important. With teens, the need to make good choices becomes more critical as they learn to drive, experience peer pressure and are exposed to drugs.

But parenting involves more than just compliance with rules and requests. It always begins with that base of unconditional love and putting in place structure and routines in your home that makes it easier to comply.

A child, even through his teen years, needs supervision, guidance, protection, love and understanding. And as teens transition to young adults, parents still need to be involved while giving them more freedom.


Responding To Misbehaviors

If your child continues to misbehave or constantly argues, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are the rules clear, specific and posted?
  • Have I set appropriate boundaries and does he understand what they are?
  • Do I tell my child exactly what is expected of him/her?
  • Do I get into power struggles with my child?
  • Have I given him choices with established consequences?
  • Do I follow through with those consequences immediately and consistently? Except for special occasions, if consequences are inconsistent or sporadic, your child is learning that you do not mean what you say.  Perhaps your consequences are too harsh.

For discipline to be effective, it needs to be

  • Contingent or dependent on the choices made
  • Immediate, consistent and predictable
  • Short and mild consequences instead of severe
  • Fit the crime or offense
  • Uses few words
  • Provided calmly but with authority
  • Have a response cost of some kind that affects the child


Ineffective Discipline

  • Produces whining
  • Uses threats (if you continue, I’m going to break your neck)
  • No follow through
  • Big demands
  • Lengthy directives
  • Physical consequences or punishment
  • Inconsistent
  • Unpredictable
  • Used with negative emotion – anger, put downs, labeling, shaming
  • Without control (angry when giving consequences)


Remember discipline is teaching. It offers choice, rewards or a cost of some kind. It works. It is fair to both the child and parents. You can do it.

Marlene Anderson

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