3 things that matter more than your child’s obedience

We all want kids who obey (preferably with a cheerful attitude). When that doesn’t happen, we panic. What if, we took obedience off its pedestal and focused on laying a strong foundation instead? Here are three things that matter more than your child’s obedience.

Obedience is important. But these 3 things matter more than your child's obedience.

A child’s obedience is like the gold standard in parenting.

When a child obeys, we feel like we’re doing something right. We feel good about our parenting. We smile with pride.

We feel #blessed.

When a child disobeys, we panic.

The focus shifts to consequences and punishments. Anything to get the child back in line. To teach them a lesson. To get back to that happy place where the child listens the first time and doesn’t complain.

Where we can feel good about our parenting again.

What if, instead of basing our parenting “success” on our child’s ability to obey, we stepped back a few paces to lay a strong foundation? One that encourages and supports our kids through the ups and downs of child development.

To do that, we need to take “obedience” off its pedestal and put three more significant qualities in its place.

3 things that matter more than obedience:

Trust. Your kids need to trust you. You don’t want a child’s obedience to be fear-based–you want a genuine obedience that can only come from a foundation of trust. To achieve this, your kids need to know that you are safe. Not just physically safe, but emotionally. They need to know they can come to you when they make a mistake and you won’t freak out. They need to know they can be honest with you, even if it’s not the answer you want to hear. Your kids need to know that grace comes first and nothing they do or say will change your love for them.

A Strong relationship. Your kids need to be known by you. Without a relationship, you will have robotic obedience or rebellion. They may ignore you completely or they may obey because they feel unlovable and ashamed when they don’t. Truly knowing your kids takes time, energy, and patience. It might mean limiting your nagging, listening with the intent to understand, or giving a hug instead of a timeout. Focusing on connection before correction means you are able to send the message: “You are more than your behaviors! You are worthy of love and respect simply because you are you.”

Curiosity. Your kids need the freedom to learn and grow. Child development is a slow, uneven process, over the first 25 years of life. Imposing consequences or punishments won’t make your child mature any faster. If your child is having trouble listening or following through, the first step is to get to the root of the problem. Being curious gives you and your child an opportunity to explore challenges, brainstorm solutions, and evaluate decisions together. It gives your child the skills, tools, and support they need, rather than just hoping they figure it out on their own.

Now, when your child disobeys, you don’t have to panic.

You can take a deep breath, step back and look at your foundation. Do my kids feel safe? Is our relationship strong? Am I being curious about the behavior or making assumptions?

From there, you may decide to:

  • Remain calm when a sibling fight breaks out
  • Listen instead of doing all the talking
  • Change your expectations to match your child’s stage of development
  • Schedule some one-on-one time
  • Check into a math tutor
  • Take a deep breath before responding
  • Talk to a therapist
  • Make a visual schedule for the morning routine
  • Show empathy instead of judgment
  • Manage your own stress by going for a daily run
  • Create ways for your toddler to help out around the house
  • Play legos for 10 minutes a day
  • Put your phone away at school pick-up
  • Find 3 nice things to say each day to each child
  • Write an encouraging lunchbox note
  • Evaluate the family calendar
  • Get yourself to bed 10 minutes early

The options are unlimited!

Rather than seeing “good parenting” as raising kids who constantly obey, we can see “good parenting” as parents who work together with their kids, giving them the unconditional love and support they need to learn from their mistakes and move forward in a positive direction.

That’s the gold standard.


Nicole Schwarz (couch 3)

Welcome! I'm Nicole Schwarz.

I'm a Parent Coach, Licensed Therapist and Author of It Starts with You. I help stressed, overwhelmed, confused parents find calm, confidence and connection with their kids. No one is expecting perfection here. But, if you’re willing to examine your parenting, find encouragement, or try something new, this is the place for you.

Comments have been turned off to retain the privacy of all families. If you have a question or comment on the topic, you're always welcome to contact me.