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How to Get Kids to Listen

How to Get Kids to Listen

When was the last time you heard a child referred
to as obedient? It’s probably been a while. That’s too bad because the best research
tells us that obedient children are happy children. And, from my experience as a family psychologist,
the parents of obedient children are happy parents. Since all parents want their children to be
happy, the question becomes: How does one get a child to obey? Is there some trick to it? Well, there are certainly are a lot of parents
who think so. They believe that proper discipline is a matter
of using the right methods, techniques, and strategies: what I call consequence delivery
systems. Parents have been using these behavior-modification-based methods since they became popular in the 1960s – seemingly to no avail. Would anyone argue that today’s kids are
more obedient than kids were several generations ago? I don’t think so. The reason these methods and techniques don’t
work is that proper discipline is not a matter of proper methods. It’s a matter of a proper attitude on the
part of the parent. Let me illustrate the point. Let’s say that for a week I observe the
classroom of a grade school teacher who has the reputation of being the best disciplinarian
in her district. She consistently has fewer behavior problems
than any of her colleagues. What is she doing? She’s making her expectations perfectly
clear. Which means, first, she communicates in simple,
declarative sentences. She doesn’t use fifty words when she could
use ten. The more words you use to communicate your
expectations, the less confident you sound. Second, she prefaces her instructions to her
students with authoritative phrases like “I want you to…” and “It’s time for you
to…” She says, “It’s time for you to take out
your math books and turn to page 25” as opposed to “Let’s take out our math books
and turn to page 25. Okay?” Third, this teacher does not explain the motives
behind her instructions to her students. Why? Because she knows that explanations invite
arguments. Whenever parents tell me they’re dealing
with an argumentative child I know that these well-intentioned people are explaining themselves. They tell their child why they want him to
pick up his toys, for example. And he argues, because you can always pick
apart an explanation. If you don’t explain yourself when you give
an instruction to a child, then the child, being a child, is almost surely going to ask
for one. He’s going to ask Why? or Why not? At which point… get ready for a big surprise…
your answer should be “Because I said so.” These very useful four words – and no, they
will not cause psychological damage to your kids; quite the contrary — are a simple,
but powerful affirmation of the legitimacy of your authority. Say it calmly. Don’t scream it. Nothing good is ever accomplished by a person
who screams. Last, but certainly not least, when giving
instructions to a child, do not… let me repeat… do not bend down to the child’s
level. Getting a child to do what he or she is told
is a matter of looking and acting and talking like you have complete confidence in your
authority. Bending down to a child’s level does not
look authoritative. It looks, in fact, like you’re one movement
away from being down on your knees in front of a king. I know, you’ve read somewhere that you should
get down to a child’s level when you talk to him. Well, all I can tell you is that there’s
a lot of really bad parenting advice out there. And that’s but one example. Speak to children from an upright position. That causes them to look up to you. And that is a good thing: for them and for
you both. I’m John Rosemond, author and family psychologist,
for Prager University.

Reader Comments

  1. Children "pick-apart explanations" because the explanations they get, don't apply the the situation. If you tell them WHY they have to do something directly and with relevance, it makes sense to them, and they know to obey with their own intelligence. "Because I said so", doesn't cut it.

  2. I agree with everything but the because I said so… I grew up quite obedient but when I didnt know the value of why I needed to learn something I became more reckless as an adult in those areas and then I found out why not as an adult.

  3. Explaining your commands is sometimes a good idea as the child will eventually learn. Simply telling a child what to do and not why they should do it is not parenting. They might not listen to you that day, but they will one day and they will be better for it

  4. This video argues authoritarian parenting is the best, but I think authoritative is much better.

    Authoritarian parenting just breeds resentment and a simmering indignation that will eventually explode into outright rebellion, especially during the kid's teen years, when the parents more than ever need a strong and healthy relationship with the kid. At this point, the kid often gives the parents a big middle finger and goes their own way, to their own detriment.

    If you always tell a kid to do things “because I said so,” they’re not going to trust your intentions ("my dad just likes to boss people around"), they’re going to assume your reasoning is bad ("she wants me to do this for a stupid reason"), and they’re not going to have a good relationship with you, and will sometimes even listen to others who "care" or "understand" over you as a result. Also, blind obedience isn’t a good thing to have in adulthood, so why should you raise a kid as if it is a good thing? Asking questions is what smart and curious people do, and will lead to good critical thinking skills. No matter how left-leaning your schooling is, they can't brainwash you if you approach things with critical thought. And if you can't out-argue your own child when they question your reasoning, that's either laziness or stupidity, neither of which makes for good parenting.

    Authoritative parents, on the other hand, by explaining their actions, establish that 1) they do have a logical reason for their actions, and 2) they intend well toward their children. Good authoritative parents will tell their kid "no, you can't have every toy you want because we do not have the money for that, and it is not very satisfying if you get everything you want." If the kid asks why it isn't so, give them examples–lead them to understand your reasoning so that they agree with you: "did you enjoy your second slice of pizza at dinner last night as much as your first? No? See." or "just because everyone does it, that doesn't mean it's right–everyone but you answered B on that quiz question, and they were wrong, remember?" Children can be quite smart if you let them be.

    If they continue to resist put your foot down and establish your authority role as parent/provider: "I make the money, I make the food, and I don't want to do that for the reasons I explained, when you make the money and you are in charge, you can decide to do differently." This squashes entitlement mentality, as well as demonstrating again that you care about your kid by reminding them of the things you do for them. It also legitimizes your authority "I can punish you as I like because I am who keeps you alive, gets you your toys, and everything else, and I do this because I love you." If your kid knows you care about them and love them, they will trust your advice more, be more eager to please you, and be more willing to obey you even though they may disagree. Just as governments that aren't answerable to the people lack legitimacy and breed rebellion, parents who do not establish their legitimacy–the legitimacy of someone who is older and wiser, who provides for their kid, and is motivated by love–they will find they have rebellious and often resentful children.

    It's pretty easy to spot which parenting style people grew up with. Adults who had authoritative parents are usually successful, and maintain positive relationships with their parents as adults, because they trust their parents' intentions, and they know their parents can give them good and logical advice. I received authoritative parenting. I still ask my mom her opinion on my decisions and life situations.

    The people I know who grew up with authoritative parents, however, still hold resentment, and actively seek to disobey their parents just to spite them. Or they secretly subvert their parents, fearing the consequences of their parents knowing what they are up to, but not listening to their parents because they do not trust them. Either scenario is far from ideal.

    Authoritarian parenting is still better than permissive parents, who raise their children to be entitled, obnoxious, and all around unpleasant and unhappy adults, but neither is ideal.

  5. I would never tell my kids “because I said so” they need to learn why I do stuff its part of their education and imtellectual growth, and If they do know why then can orient their action and behavior to do anything for the purpose why I told them to. Arguing is not necessairly a bad thing it teaches them to think critically and deeply. I don’t just raise my kids to be an obediant drone, blind obedience is not a good thing.

  6. This lacks a section about Peer orientation. John I assume you have read Neufield. I know it's complicated for a video like this, but every discussion about child behaviour should include at least a quick reference to this.

  7. Authority comes from being seen as knowing what you're talking about. No child listens to someone they perceive as a fool

  8. Just watching the first few seconds of this makes me think this is not a man I want in charge of parenting. Making an obedient kid is easy, you just need to threaten them. It may not be the most moral method but it’s sound and tested, yet I don’t recommend it because it raises bad children, at least when used in excess. To make a good child you simply have to be fair, draw your line and don’t let them cross it. And obedient isn’t always good, make a kid too reliant on orders and you’ve created someone who can’t function by themselves and will probably always be codependent on someone. Basically parenting is MUCH harder than anyone could ever explain fully and certainly not in five minutes.

  9. 100% right. If one really wants to be a successful parent, one should stop taking "advice" from the loony Left regarding such matters — actually, regarding ALL matters.

  10. Quite the contrary. “Because I said so caused me psychological damage.” There are so many things wrong about this video. I am the walking billboard for that. With all the different personalities God has given us, there is not just ONE way to address children.
    I’m disappointed that I waited out the buffering for this video.

  11. A kid isnt a piece of property, its not something to be dealt with the least convience to the parent. If you want convience, dont have kids. This video over simplifies complex human behaviour and brain function and brain development to simplistic black and white terms.

    Here is a thought what is 'individual' mean to you?

  12. What happens if your IQ is higher then that of your parents and they are just average? Naturally your abilities are going to be superior so your going to want to know your parents motives to know if they are valid in their direction and assessment.

  13. I’m not on board for this one. I need students to make good decisions without my authority looming over them. For that they need to hear explanations at first.

  14. I don't ever remember asking my dad "why?" Unless we were building something or he was teaching me something.

  15. Obidient children grow up to be obidient adults that are fine with being a wage slaves for a ruling rich class. So of course PragerU wants you and your kids to be obidient, wagey 😉

  16. idk who this guy is but his advice is shit and everything in the comments is more right than he is
    this is a dislike from me PragerU

  17. everyone I know who has parents like he says parents should be is afraid of them but doesn't actually respect them, or anyone else for that matter

  18. I give em things, then take it away for 5 mins.

    I give them two options that both result in my will being done.

    I dont yell. I dont hit.

  19. This is wrong. The “because I said so” method is flimsy. It doesn’t explain why they should follow it when you’re not around. In fact, it’s license for them to go behind your back.

    Getting on a child’s level is actually MORE authoritative. It allows you to make direct eye contact and it makes it easier for them to listen to you, rather than feel intimidated by a towering adult.

  20. When is it appropriate to be disciplinary with your child, and playful with your child? Because surely things don't have to be constantly you being over them.

  21. When my child asks why, I say z. Every time they say why, I say z. It doesn’t take long for them to give up.

  22. Eh. That advice your giving. My parrents did the same and it didnnot worck well for anyone. Mom kept yelling at me for little things and i kept on getting in trouble in her eyes. Maybeybit worcks for other parrent but not mine. At the same time though my situation of why they keep disiplining me.were problably different from other parrents. Much different. Yep. Dont miss em at all. Granted it was never my dad who rasised me. Just mom and the alcoholics that she pasted by.

  23. Argument are good because it invites debates and it makes the child smarter
    Also children arent stupid

  24. Old school rules that raised many children into successful and productive adults. When the 60’s came about (and the ‘cancer’ on future society took hold) the idea of being “friends” to your children has created the likes of Antifa, social miscreants, and their so-called sense of entitlement. Today they are placated with bribery, rather than being taught to “earn” through deserving acts, hence why the bondage of Socialism is so attractive to many.

  25. Thank you for this video!!! My family is always insulting my parenting because I employ these very tactics. But, low and behold, at 12 & 10 my boys are kind, respectful and obedient!

  26. Don't just say “because I said so" . You give the explanation and then if they don't care then you say because you said so

  27. “The more words you use…the less confident you sound”
    This is why I can’t stand the concept of multi-page college essays.

  28. Old video, so commenting now is a little silly, but something the video did not have time to address is the age at which you no longer use the because i said so. A lot of the comments talk about how that was annoying to them growing up. That's because your parents used it past the age where it should no longer be used.

    You NEVER explain yourself to a 4-6 year old. They barely understand how to do anything in life and you're going to EXPLAIN discipline to them? HAH! That's when you pull the, "because you're a miniature human you're just gonna have to trust me."

  29. Using "methods" & "techniques" on kids sounds kinky. My son would immediately see through them. He is just too smart to be obidient .

  30. Children today are more creative and it shows in the process we have made in the past 50 years. But we could go back to our authoritarian ways and return to the dark ages where everyone is obedient and no one questions anything, yeah I am sure that will be wonderful

  31. Wow. Can't change the way a parent has raised his kids. By the rod you get one thing and by compassion you get another. Child rearing is an on going and adaptive daily activity. On the contrary, obedient kids become tools as adults. So enjoy the challenges to your authority and most of all stand up for what you think is right.

  32. Where do you stand on using a 2×4 right to the face? Yay? Nay? Hanging them by their feet from the swingset? Dropping them off in the woods for a week? Idk maybe I'll just talk to them

  33. I remember a quote. And my child is aware of it.. "My job as a parent is not to take care of you…my job is to create a responsible productive adult."…catering to my child does no favors for their future.

  34. First two ones and fourth one as well are very convincing and I agree with them completely. Third one, not so much.
    With teenagers, "Because I said so" can be easily rebutted with "And why do you say so?" and "How do I know you are right?", because the statement is illogical; it's not hard to deduce truth isn't determined by who says it. Besides, if they're taught to blindly follow the lead, they could end up doing bad things.

    Do state simple orders, but don't shut down all questioning.

  35. My family is an Asian American family. We always stick to authority. Yes, showing your kids authority will also help them be confident in themselves also. Why? Because kids think that if the parent can do it, they can also. There is one awesome way that my family chooses to raise children, and it always works for their lives. Parents are as gods. Keeping yourself above a child may make it seem harsh and discipline will hurt a child for a little bit, but soon it will give the child respect and love. Parents who use their "Parental Authority" know that being over their child is not dictatorship but love. Without authority, children will never understand. Let's go back to 1776 American Traditions and also bring back the Board of Correction.

  36. Today's children and young adults don't even have the most basic of manners…such as saying "please,” "thank you,” ”excuse me,” etc.

    Nor, do they even display any simple common decency behaviors such as, holding a door for someone, and/or just basic respect for others. Or such as, always…, respecting your elders.

    They are the rudest generation of youngsters in my six decades of living.
    (Millennials mostly – some, not all).

    It's truly a disgrace!
    And a failure on the part of the parents.

  37. I think the point about not explaining things may be true with parents who struggle to discipline, but was not the case with mine. My mother would always explain the reason for a rule, and was also quite happy to engage with our counter-arguments if the time was appropriate. If something had to be done immediately her tone would make that obvious, and we were happy to obey because we knew she would always explain in full later.

    This worked for her for two reasons 1. she's a quick thinker and a confident speaker, so can keep pace in a debate without the hesitation or signs of weakness that might make a child think they've won the argument. 2. she had an absolutely terrifying shout, which she very rarely had to use (and never hit us), but meant that we always instinctively knew that she could flatten us if she wanted to, and the explanation and discussion was a gift she allowed us rather than something we could demand on our own power.

    Consequently, her authority was unassailable and we were very polite and well-behaved children, to the point that other parents would often congratulate her on our behaviour (which she would pass onto us and which made us feel great), and ask her to be present at parties etc. with more difficult kids, because she could often stop them in their tracks better than their own parents. However, the reason why she was and is someone we trust and love rather than simply respect and fear is because the explanations made us see how something was for our own good rather than the whim of a bully.

    Still, I guess this video is good advice for parents who don't unconsciously project authority through every cell in their body, which I completely understand (I work with SEN kids at a mainstream school, and many of the non-SEN kids walk all over me because they know I'm more patient and calm than is good for kids who are simply rude, spoiled, rowdy, entitled brats.)

  38. My dad use to tell me “because is said so, now do it” lol parents aren’t parents anymore they try to hard to be there kids best friend and they are too busy kissing there kids ass.

  39. "Because I said so" never made sense to me and it never worked on me as a child.

    I would tell them that the only being that spoke things into existence is God and unless they can create a planet, I'm going to need an explanation.

    I got a lot of spankings.

    To which I would reply, "Hitting me doesn't make you right and you're only doing it because you're angry it feels good to hit someone."

    My parents would retort, "I hope you have a child just like you!"

  40. For the pick up your toy example in video, can't you just say "because other people will trip and hurt themselves of the mess you made." That teaches responsibility and reasoning. Every "why" aaked has a better answer than I said so.

  41. The number of parents that have been TRAINED their children these days, makes for a dysfunction family and society. I use to live by 2 eleven year old twins that came to our home, for their desire for discipline.

  42. The right method techniques and strategy was taught to me over 80 years ago by my mother who is a very religious person and she said and I quote spare the rod and spoil the child!!!

  43. This is disgusting. I thought you'd have some actual insight here but then you started not only glorifying teachers in goverment-run nonconsensual and highly abusive school environments as legitimate authority figures, but even suggesting that authority should not explain itself. "It invites arguments" means "it invites giving good reasons and thereby training children to not depend on guidance in order to make good decisions". If you can't explain why someone should do what you want them to, it's because you're wrong. If you can explain, you should because this respects individual autonomy and teaches the people you instruct why your guidance is good so that they will learn to be more like you, rather than drones that depend on you specifically in order to act well. Utterly disgusting authoritarianism here.

  44. Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And, weak men create hard times.

    Weak parents will bring about a plague that wiser people will have to put up with and curtail.

  45. Why are there over 4K dislikes to this video? Do people not believe in authority anymore? Oh let me guess it’s those people who go around saying, “oh I’m my daughter/son’s best fiend.” Pathetic.

  46. When I was 7 years old I watched my friend make demands to his parents and it worked. So I tried the same with mine…. Needless to say it did not go over well. I did not try that again.

  47. My mom is a preschool teacher and she says kids argue whether you give an explanation or not. And in any case, a child being argumentative is no worse than just screaming no.

  48. That's basic dominance body language, it works. However, I don't agree all that much with the ''because I said so'' because it brings the message that ''whatever authorities say, do it.''

    I've been watching a lot of Jocko Willink podcasts lately, and what I'd suggest is that the kids don't learn ''obedience'' through simple dominance. They learn to contribute to the family dynamic with their small responsibilities; cleaning their rooms, keeping the bathroom clean, helping with the dishes, taking the dog out…

    They do more than become ''obedient''. They develop a work ethic that will speak volumes about them when they're adults.

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