Save Your Kid’s Life (and your sanity)

How to train your child to instantly obey your vocal warning

If you agree with the following assertion, read on for a proven approach:

One responsible for the safety of a child must be able to instantly control a kid out of arms reach with a voice command.

Busy Parking Lot Scenario: The bright, cute and energetic child skipping just a few feet ahead of your group is suddenly two skips from crossing paths with a pick-up driven much too fast by a moron. She doesn’t see it and you will not reach her in time. Consider:

  1. Are you 100% sure that your precious baby will immediately heed your shouted warning to stop moving?
  2. What if your attention is elsewhere and the command to stop comes from Grandma, Uncle Bill or Sissy?

Put another way, is there a legitimate possibility that — before obeying a voice command — your child is just as likely to counter with a “Why?” or “What?” question while still skipping toward disaster?

At issue is that the child in the parking lot does not yet perceive the danger and is reacting as if the situation is routine…and the routine in her short life is that directions from adults are open to negotiation:

“Please pick up your toys.”
“Why now?”
Heavy sigh…“Because we need to…”

This is a recent phenomenon. We Baby Boomers come from homes where orders from adults were obeyed without question lest there be hell to pay:

Direction => Action (or else!)

For all its faults, the approach was effective in training us to respond to voice commands and many (most?) of us owe our lives to instantly obeying an adult in a dangerous situation. But we raised our kids differently and their child-rearing approach has evolved to the point where normal behavior includes kids questioning before acting and adults willingly explaining the rationale:

Direction => Question/Answer => Negotiation? => Action

For all its potential, this approach is not effective in training a kid to instantly obey an adult in a dangerous situation the child has yet to recognize. Moreover, we’ve all witnessed how this dynamic is apt to spur avoidable stress for parent and/or child. Due to the built-in delay before action, this well-intentioned approach to accommodating curiosity and discussion is fundamentally flawed since — for every time that the kid’s questions are patiently answered in good humor — there will be other occasions when the parent has neither the time nor the inclination for explanations. From the kid’s perspective, that inconsistency is maddening.

Fortunately, the fix — a hybrid of old and new parenting — is straightforward, at least for those whose toddlers are not yet habituated to questioning every direction:

Train your child to respond to your directions by acting first and questioning later

Direction => Action => Question & Answer

This rational approach establishes a consistent rhythm — Ask/Do/Then We Talk — that fosters healthy discussion without undermining parental authority. Meanwhile, your confidence is boosted that your child — and your sanity — will survive childhood…at least til the teenage years!

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