Hello, my name is Kelly and I have a repeating problem. It started about 10 years ago. I didn’t realize it was a problem until recently. Maybe you have this problem, too. Consider these rhetorical questions:
- Do you find yourself giving the same instructions to your children over and over?
- Does it seem your voice is mute to anyone under the age of 18 until you raise it to a window-rattling volume?
- Do you find yourself counting to 3 by quarters, as in, “one, two, two and half, two and three-quarters . . . three!”?
My repeating problem started innocently enough. I would ask my strong-willed toddler very nicely to pick up her toys. Then, when she walked off without obeying, I would call her back and repeat my instructions. As she got older and her will grew stronger, it took more repetition to get her to obey.
There have been a few times in the last 10 years when I decided to stop repeating myself. This usually occurred after a parent pep talk via the latest parenting book. After reading Don’t Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Plowman, I determined I would never count again except when balancing the checkbook. Plowman says, “We want them to be in the habit of obeying us the first time so that when they surrender to the Lordship of Christ they will find it easier to obey Him the first time.”[i] No pressure, moms!
Then there was that one time I tried to read Kevin Leman’s Have a New Kid by Friday. I couldn’t get past Tuesday. I really believed in his message of only once.
If you want your child to take you seriously, say your words once. Only once. If you say it more than once, you’re implying, “I think you’re so stupid that you’re not going to get it the first time, so let me tell you again.” Is that respectful of your child? (Kevin Leman[ii])
I tried it and I just couldn’t do it. I wasn’t as strong willed as my strong-willed daughter.
Now, as we enter the middle school years, my repeating problem has become debilitating. I give out orders like a chirping parrot. “Take out the trash.” “Have you taken out the trash yet?” Remember the trash.” “Take out the DANG trash NOW!” I am met with an eye roll and, “I didn’t hear you.”
Yes, I have a repeating problem. I also created a listening problem for my kids. I allow them to stay when I ask them to move. Then, I tolerate their moving when I ask them to stay. Our sin problem starts with my sin problem.
To discipline and reprimand a child produces wisdom,
But a mother is disgraced by an undisciplined child.
Proverbs 29:15, NLT
What will I do about my repeating problem? We all know, admitting you have a problem is the first step. Being honest with myself is a start.
Next, I need accountability. As much as I don’t like for my husband to tell me what to do, I need his ears to hear when I repeat myself. I also need to give my friends permission to be honest with me and tell me when I repeat instructions during social events.
Finally, I must follow through with discipline. It helps no one if I identify the repeating and listening problem plaguing my family and do nothing about it. I must be present, detached from my phone and laptop. I need to deal with disobedience immediately, even when it is inconvenient for me.
Getting over my repeating problem will not be easy. But, God has given me everything I need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:30). He will help me through this. He will help you, too!
What strategies do you use to get your children to obey the first time?
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[i] Plowman, Ginger. Don’t Make Me Count to Three: A Mom’s Look at Heart-Oriented Discipline. Shepherd Press: Wapwallopen, PA. 2003. P 121.
[ii] Leman, Kevin. Have a New Kid by Friday: How to Change Your Child’s Attitude, Behavior and Character in 5 Days. Revell: Grand Rapids, MI. 2008. P33.