How do I get my daughter to obey the first time?


I am having an issue with my eight-year-old.  I can ask, or tell, her to clean her room, do her homework, take a shower, or anything for that matter and it takes me being right on top of her and hounding her to do it, and when it does finally get done (if it does get done) it can take all day or week to be accomplished.  She is a severely dyslexic child, and I had been more lenient on her because the teacher who works with her at school tells me that it is associated with dyslexia.  My background is in Psychology, but I also feel that this is allowing her to "blame" her dyslexia for things that it shouldn't be blamed for.  It gets to a point that I am yelling to the point of making her cry, but spanking doesn't work, taking things away doesn't work, and even the yelling doesn't work.  This all worries me because I work hard at trying to teach my children to be the best Christians that they can grow up to be, but I don't want my 3-year-old to grow up thinking that because sister gets away with it he can, too.  How can I effectively get her to do what she is told to do in a timely manner?  When she watches television she can sit for hours and it keeps her attention.


I can only speak in generalities. Many parents don't give their children enough credit for intelligence. It is sad, really, that people are better able to train a dog or a horse than they are able to train a child and a child is far more intelligent than any animal.

What I typically see is that parents usually have a set pattern where they accept being ignored until a certain point -- then they usually blow up. If you expect to be obeyed the first time you say something, then you have to gain compliance after that first time. Compliance has to be rewarded. It doesn't have to be anything major -- simple praise usually makes a child's day. Non-compliance has to be punished in some fashion, and again, it doesn't have to be severe -- what is far more important is consistency.

So let's take the matter of a shower. You tell the child several hours in advance, "You need to take a shower before 8 pm tonight." At 7:45 pm give her a reminder of the approaching deadline. At 8 pm you or your husband, quietly, calmly put her in the shower (fully clothed) and turn on the water. No shouting, no yelling, but a definite consequence she won't forget. Yes, it makes a bit of a clean-up mess later, but it gets the point across.

For homework, the television (or whatever she finds distracting) doesn't come on until she shows you she's finished her homework for that day. Again, no arguing, not threats; Just simple quiet expectation of being obeyed with a consequence related to the offense that isn't enjoyable.

It doesn't matter how many times you have to repeat the lesson. The point is that there is a consistent, predictable, immediate consequence to each offense.

Now, since I'm fairly sure that you have been punishing in a consistent manner, you are going to have to go through a period of retraining and several periods where she is going to test you to see if you really mean what you say. What you are going to find is that disobedience is going to fade.

As you begin to make progress, watch out for the trap of sliding expectations. I've seen businessmen make this mistake. They want better sales, so they set a sales quota with a reward. In a short period of time, the quota is exceeded, so what happens? They set a higher sales quota. The result is frustrated employees because they see that their efforts are rewarded with impossible to reach goals. I've seen a child improve but then the parents raise the bar and convince themselves the child is not making any progress because she never exceeds the ever-moving bar.

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