Question: Obedience without Fussing?


Thanks Nanny-Granny for a yummy treat!

My daughter was 3 in January and John is 20 months. John obeys fairly well if he feels like it and other times after being told to do it many times. Chloe obeys fairly well most of the time, but first time obedience? It doesn’t usually happen and many times, though she obeys, it is with a poor attitude and fussing.

When I started my parenting journey, I read many books and my goal was immediate first time obedience (it could be a matter of life or death!) without fussing. Have I missed my opportunity to implement that?

I know a major key to first time obedience is simply to talk to her about it, implement it and follow through consistently every time. But, how to I address the heart issue behind the fussing when obeying?

I may be opening a can of worms but I’m a little discouraged right now and would welcome your advice and tips to consider about tots and obedience.

I love my so much children. They are smart, funny and delight me to no end. I know that they are considered well-behaved by many…and they are at times but better behaved than most isn’t my standard! I just want to influence and mould them as best as I can while they are so young and more open to change.

{A few weeks back, I had a really good question and I thought to myself, When will Kristen be doing another backwards WFMW?” Alas, I didn’t write it down and now that question is gone.}


  1. I have a 3 yo daughter as well. I don’t have a cut and dried answer, but we have the same issue. I am working to make her aware of her tone and expression, and will tell her that she would have been given a choice or would have received what she wanted except that she chose a disrespectful voice or a rude face. We instruct her to repeat herself without fussing, or in a nice or respectful voice before answering her. Or, if we give her an instruction and she doesn’t want to obey and asks (as only a whiny 3 year old can) “BUT WHY?”, I answer that she is not allowed to ask questions until she obeys. I am working for first-time obedience as well, while allowing for 3 year old emotional control (or lack!) and level of understanding. I figure that if I want her to understand the difference between whining and the appropriate way to respond to us, I have to figure out how to make her aware of the difference and teach her which is correct. It’s still discipline, but focused on teaching instead of punishment. It helps me not be too reactive.

    There’s always the teacher’s approach, too. Affirm the right action, but point out the bad attitude. EX ” I’m glad that you minded and cleaned up your toys, but I did not like your fussy voice while you did it.” We also talk about whether her behavior (tone, words, actions, etc.) was a good choice or not, and if it wasn’t, what WOULD have been a good choice.

  2. I think that they have bad days and good days…just like us. When they obey correctly (without whining/complaining) make a HUGE deal about it. Tell them how proud you are of them that they obeyed cheerfully. Positive enforcement goes a long way. I don’t think it’s a heart issue yet at 20 months or even 3 years old (not that it should be tolerated). Take away privileges/treats if they don’t obey correctly. Make them repeat themselves “with a smile.” You are a great mommy and your kids are blessed to have you. Happy Mother’s Day!

  3. I’m a developmental psychologist and mother of a 5-year-old. While first-time obedience is an excellent goal, it’s something you’re unlikely to see for a while. That doesn’t mean it’s too early to be teaching your kids; it means that they’ll take a while to learn it as their understanding matures.

    I agree with Beth about praising obedience when you do see it. Also, think about the reason your kids should obey you not as “authority” (a very abstract concept) but as, “I am their guide to what we do in this world. I’m an experienced person who has good reasons and can be trusted to tell them the right things to do.” Lead by example rather than command whenever you can. Talk about “what WE do” rather than what you want them to do for you.

    I have a few articles about techniques that might be useful to you:
    Counting to Three
    Second Chance

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