Listen and Obey :: How?

I was prompted to flesh out my previous post about how we are working with Judah to listen and obey. My first confession is that it's harder than it sounds. Parenting a toddler is tough as they are asserting themselves, seeking an element of independence, gaining a voice, and developing their personality.

  • EYE CONTACT :: We get down on his level, look him in the eye, require him to look in ours and speak as calmly and authoritatively as possible about what is expected.
  • "YES, MOMMY" :: After we finish explaining what he cannot do, we make Judah say "Yes, Mommy" or "Ok, Daddy". That's our verbal agreement of him listening to what we've said.
  • CONSISTENCY :: This is a big one with what is and isn't acceptable in our house. If we're inconsistent on behavioral expectations, everything else is for naught. Karyn Purvis says that kids learn their parent's boundaries in 3 months. Yikes.
  • REPETITION :: "Did you hear what mommy said?" We are quick to repeat over and over what's acceptable. If something's going to hurt them, we say "owie" multiple times. If Judah takes something that is Addise's or ours, we say "that's not yours". If he's hungry or thirsty, we make sure he asks for it through words or sign language. We say and ask Judah to repeat "please" and "thank you" for most everything in the world. This repetition is so important for training his heart and hands.
  • REDIRECT :: For the things that Judah isn't supposed to do, we make every effort to redirect his behavior toward something he CAN do.
  • WARNINGS :: When he tests us to the limits or repeatedly pushes the boundaries, we give him a warning that the next time he's going to get in trouble. It's important for him to know when he's out of chances to do it right on his own.
  • IMMEDIATE FOLLOW-UP :: When he loses those privileges, we work to quickly respond to his misbehavior. Karyn Purvis also talks about using only the strength required to right a wrong. This is important when his buff daddy needs to correct a 28 lb 3-year old.
  • DISCIPLINE :: We've heard it said that physical discipline is not recommended for newly adopted kiddos because you do not know how they've been disciplined in the past. Physical discipline [i.e: spanking!] can be extremely harmful in the attachment process. But in the past couple months, we've sparingly used hand slapping for our kiddos and we've seen healthy responses from our kids. We've been very attentive to the after-math of this and have been willing to switch it up, if necessary. So far we feel good about this. We've also utilized "time-ins" for Judah when he needs to chill out. Instead of separating him from us, we've kept him near but removed privileges. This has been a starting point to teaching him about grace and mercy.
  • NURTURE FOLLOWING DISCIPLINE :: We make a concerted effort to reinforce our love - regardless of his recent behavior!!!!! - after he's been corrected. One adoptive daddy just told me that when he starts to correct his newly adopted son, his son starts crying [a wounded response from his son's abandonment issues]. But this dad begins the discipline by saying, "No matter what you do, I love you. I'm not going anywhere even if you do something bad." Amazing Grace.
  • REMINDERS :: Afterward, we also attempt to reiterate, "you need to listen and obey, mommy, ok? Say, 'ok, mommy'". We work really hard to consistently communicate the expectation and our love for him.

My training has taught me that authoritative parenting is the most effective in raising healthy and successful kids. Authoritative parenting has a high degree of nurture and high degree of expectations. We seek to provide equally high levels, which is impossible on a daily basis but is our parenting aim.

Before I became a parent, I'd heard that you should never discipline your child in anger. In an attempt to be an honest parent, whoever said that I'm pretty sure was never a parent. That's impossible to me. But in those few moments when we discipline in anger, it's also an opportunity to say afterward "I'm sorry" to our toddlers. That also teaches them about grace and forgiveness.

This is the kind of restorative parenting that we desire to give to Judah and Addise! We MOST DEFINITELY do not do it perfectly, but it's an area of focus and great intentionality for us.

I'd love your additional thoughts and suggestions...


April L. Diaz

April has been a visionary activist her entire life. She has made it her mission to lead high performing teams and develop leaders in the margins of society while caring for our bodies, mind, and spirit. Secretly, she’s a mix of a total girly girl and a tomboy, and is still crazy about her high school sweetheart, Brian. Together, they co-parent 3 fabulous kiddos and live in Orange County, CA.