How to Train Your Child to Have First-Time Obedience

Updated: Jan 14

Note: To find out why First-time Obedience is better for children, read The Argument for First-time Obedience. To learn the basics and specifics of training, be sure to read The Secret to Good Behavior? Training! and How to Train Your Children with Training Sessions.


To have well-behaved children, you’ve got to have a solid foundation of obedience. This means that when you tell your children to do something, they obey. And true obedience means they obey the first time.


To quickly review The Argument for First-time Obedience, here are 5 reasons why first-time obedience is better for children:

1. Safer

2. Happier home environment

3. Fairer

4. Develops self-control

5. Stable & predictable rules


So how exactly do you get kids to obey the first time? 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. And you train them with a Training Session.


First, schedule the Training Session 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.


Then, 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.


Then, don’t forget to tell them that they’ll receive a consequence if they don’t obey immediately. Because that’s the key to immediate obedience—immediate correction. In other words, if your children don't comply at once with your command, they need to have a consequence right away. It won't take long before they realize that they must obey the first time.


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 table.


Each time, they need to stop what they’re doing, look you in the eye, say “Yes ma’am or sir” with a good attitude, and then immediately obey.


For younger kids, do silly things, like:

· Stop that awful noise!

· Stop running through the kitchen!

· Take that underwear off your head!

· Take that gag out of your sister’s mouth!


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. Because that’s the most important component of the training process. The key to instant obedience is instant correction.


It doesn’t have to be the same consequence each time, but it does need to be a consequence that forces your child to comply. For example, suppose your child is watching TV, and you tell him to pause the TV and put away his shoes. If he ignores you, calmly turn off the TV and say, “Sorry, but now you’ve lost TV time for the rest of the day.”


Or, if you tell your toddler to stop hitting the glass door, and he continues, physically pick him up; put him in his room, and say, “I told you to stop hitting the door. Now you’re going to have to stay in time-out.” The point is, you must make sure they fully obey.


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.


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. Yes, this takes a lot of time and effort. But it will so be worth it! Once your children know that you mean business, you won't have to get up nearly so much.


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 confusion.


By diligently making sure your children obey the first time you speak, it won’t take long before it becomes habit and they do it on their own.


To learn more about raising well-behaved children, get my book Proactive Discipline: A Parent’s Guide.


Learn how to get your children to clean their rooms and help around the house with Rubric Rules: A Cleaning System for Kids.A

“ 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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