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Articles by Dr. Scott Turansky


Dr. Scott Turansky

Dr. Scott Turansky offers moms practical, real-life advice for many of parenting’s greatest challenges. read bio

The Secret to Prompt Obedience

How often have you told your son to get ready for bed, and then had to say it again and again before he started to move?….or have you told your daughter to pick up the toys and then found them still spread all over? Sometimes parents get pretty attached to the ways they relate to their children, even when those ways are a part of the problem. One of the solutions to these kinds of problems is a tight action point. This secret is foundational. By making small adjustments, you can bring about significant changes in your home. But that means some changes in mom or dad first. If you apply a tight action point in your family you will see immediate results. It will train your children to obey more quickly. It will bring immediate change in your child’s behavior.

Children are unique, and no one approach works all the time. There are, however, some truths of parenting that can be applied to all children, and an action point is one of them. An action point is the point when you stop talking and start acting, or the point when children know you mean business. You already have an action point and your children know what it is.

How do they know? You give them cues. Sometimes you get out of the chair. Maybe your raise the pitch or volume of your voice, or you use their middle name. The important thing about an action point is that children know when they must obey, and they know that they don’t have to obey until you get there. Each adult has a different action point. That’s why when Dad says it, the child may jump into action, but with Mom that same child may not respond as quickly. Babysitters may get taken advantage of because they often have very little action point. Your children learn how to play you. They know your action point. They know when they need to obey.

There are four important things to remember about your action point.

1. An action point teaches children when they must obey.
2. Action points vary among people who discipline.
3. Children learn to respond to each person’s action point.
4. Being consistent with a tight action point is hard work, but it is worth it in the end.

For many parents, anger is the motivation for their action point. A raised voice is a typical indicator that action is imminent. Anger, however, can be a destructive emotion, causing more damage than good to the relationship. When you get angry with your children’s lack of responsiveness to your instruction, you would do well to use that anger as a flag to remind yourself that your action point is not tight enough.

An action point determines the rules of the game for both the parent and the child in the discipline process. If you try to change your action point without explanation, your children may feel hurt and resentful. Although you have never clarified it before, you have taught your children to respond the way they do. If you’re going to change the rules, it will be helpful to explain to your children what you’re doing. Sit down and have a talk with your child. Explain that you have been wrong in teaching them to respond slowly. From now on you’re going to ask them once, then comes the action. In this way they’ll develop the character quality of obedience.

Practice is important. Give children opportunities to obey as they’re learning the new action point. Practice in places and at times when you can work through the process. In our seminars we’re often asked the grocery store question: “What if my child acts up in the grocery store, what should I do?” Action point is a skill that needs to be practiced, but it’s best to practice in safe, easy places. The grocery store is like the final exam.

Children will occasionally test the action point to see if it’s still there. Don’t disappoint them. Firm boundaries provide security for children. And offer much praise to the child who responds. It’s very important to catch children doing the right thing. Not only do you want to affirm behavior but you want to encourage the character development that you observe. Use words like, “You are becoming very obedient. I like the way you are learning to obey.” Praise goes a long way to build good habits.

It takes work, but if parents tighten their action point, then children obey more quickly. When parents realize that children need to learn obedience and that they, as parents, are the ones to teach it, then the individual acts of disobedience become very important opportunities. When you understand that teaching obedience is an important part of your role as a parent, you’ll be more motivated to keep a tight action point.

Obedience brings life and freedom. When children learn to obey, they are the beneficiaries. Taking time to teach obedience is in your child’s best interest. 

Used with permission from the book Home Improvement: The Parenting Book You Can Read to Your Kids by Scott Turansky, D.Min. and Joanne Miller, R.N., B.S.N., (Effective Parenting, Inc.).

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