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How to Use Simple Rules to Help Kids Obey

Updated on August 30, 2011

Getting children to obey their parents is often overwhelming. Misbehavior and disobedience are common frustrations among parents today. As parents, we all want the same thing. We all want our kids to be good and well behaved, happy, respectful, and polite. What can moms and dads do to help their kids mind? What can parents to help kids obey?

Obedience really isn’t easy for anyone. When you’re told to do one thing, but really want to do another, our natural instinct is to rebel. It’s difficult for adult, and it’s even much more difficult for kinds to mind. Obeying is hard for children, especially when they don’t agree, don’t understand why, or have a strong desire to do the opposite.

When my children were young, they were no different. My telling them “no” or “don’t” or “do this” would often end in an argument or debate. I couldn’t bring myself to parent with an iron fist where my “no” meant “no”. Instead, I would find myself reasoning and cajoling or bribing and threatening. No matter what, I ended up angry and frustrated.

One day, however, I learned a new trick. One simple sentence suddenly made all the arguing and debating disappear. I no longer had to bribe or threaten. I no longer ended up angry or frustrated. This one simple sentence even made obedience easier for my kids. I came up with it quite by accident, but it proved to be very useful through the preschool and early elementary ages.

When giving an instruction and hearing “no” or “why” in response, I learned to simply say, “Because it’s the rules.”

Telling an adult they have to comply to a rule doesn’t fly. We’ve learned to push the envelope and question authority. A preschooler, however, is a little more impressionable. To them, a rule is a rule. Rules are not made to be broken. Rules cannot be argued against. Rules are even bigger and more important than mommy. It didn’t matter to them that I’m the one who made the rule. The rule was the rule and it must be obeyed.

For the good of everyone, I began to tell them the rules for every place we needed to go. I kept them simple, I kept them short, and I made them memorable. For example, the library had its own set of rules. I began with, “You must use your indoor voice, and when Mom says it’s time to go, then it’s time to go.” Simple enough. Then whenever we would load up the car to go to the library, I would call out, “What are the library rules?” And they would repeat them proudly. My daughter even added one to the list declaring that “no chewing gum” was a library rule. I thought it was a good one, so we kept it with the others.

Having rules for everywhere we went proved to be the best method for me in getting them to behave. We had a short simple set of rules for the park, the grocery store, restaurants, and gift shops. Going over the rules beforehand helped to reinforce them and encourage them to obey. The best part of all was that I was able to go places with well behaved children!

Through all of this, I learned that kids need to know what is expected of them. They want to do the right thing and please you. By establishing rules, I was able to set boundaries for them so they could learn those expectations.

While this approach works best for young children, I have found that those rules helped my kids learn to set their own boundaries as they grew. Knowing what was expected of them as young children helped them to understand their expectations as they passed into each new phase of adolescence. The rules have changed as they’ve gotten older, but their respect for authority and obedience has not.

If you have young children, why not give that one little sentence a try? See if that helps to minimize the arguing and pleading. Here are three simple rules for setting rules:

Keep them short. Our grocery store rules were:

  1. Don’t stand in the cart.
  2. Don’t ask mom for anything.
  3. We only buy what’s on the list.

My preschoolers couldn’t actually read my list, so they wouldn’t know when I deviated from it. Once my youngest lamented, “Will Cheetos ever be on the list?” She had no idea that I’m the one who wrote the grocery list each week!

Keep them simple. Just like our library rules:

  1. You must use your indoor voice.
  2. When Mom says it’s time to go, then it’s time to go.
  3. (Added by my daughter) No chewing gum.

Keeping them simple means they can recite them easily. They should be simple enough that they can add to them without over complicating them.

Keep them fun. Our rules for hiking were:

  1. Stay with mom or dad.
  2. Stay on the path.
  3. Don’t feed the bears.

The last one was given as the most important and serious and was always answered with a lot of giggles!

Here are a few other things to keep in mind when establishing rules for your young children:

  • Reward good behavior. When rules are obeyed, be sure to encourage them with lots of praise and affection. Obedience takes a lot of self control. Make sure their efforts are noticed.
  • Set consequences for when those rules are broken. Make sure they understand them ahead of time. What happens when you won’t leave when mom tells you it’s time to go? You won’t come back the next time; we won’t check out your library books; you’ll have a time out; or whatever. Set the consequence, and then be sure to follow through.
  • Be as clear and to the point as you possibly can. Many time disobedience looks like rebellion, when in fact, it is a lack of clarity. Remember, our children want to do well. They want to please us. Make sure you are absolutely clear in your instructions. Create an environment for them where it’s easier to succeed and obey than it is to fail and misbehave.
  • Be intentional. Good kids don’t just happen. You as the parent will have to make some conscious decisions and stick with them. Determine how your want your child to behave and then intentionally guide them toward that direction.
  • Set a good example. Follow the rules set for you as an adult as well. (My deviating from my grocery list probably wasn’t setting the best example though!) Be sure your children see you abiding by age requirements at parks and restaurants. They are smart. They’ll notice if you disobey traffic laws and tell white lies to avoid paying extra fees. If you want your children to respect authority, then you’ll need to respect authority as well.
  • Enjoy your kids! These years won’t last forever. Someday they’ll be teenagers with their own plans and goals. Use this time to mold them and instill within them your own family values and expectations.

Parenting is hard work! It can be exhausting and frustrating. Sometimes, however, it is the simple things that help the most. Try this little sentence. See if it can work for you! In the comment section below, let me know how it works or let me know what has worked for you. If you’ve found this hub helpful, please be sure to vote it up! Thanks for reading!


Submit a Comment
  • jpcmc profile image

    JP Carlos 

    7 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

    I appreciate the information. My daughter just turned 1 a couple of weeks ago. Discipline is very important to me and strategies to instill it is greatly appreciated.

  • Kathryn L Hill profile image

    Kathryn L Hill 

    8 years ago from LA

    HI. I enjoyed this hub. I liked the last point: Enjoy your kids. The time it takes for them to grow up, in hindsight, is short. Being a parent can be a really beautiful part of life, if you understand how to do it, as you explain, Lisa! Nothing in life equals it, in my opinion. Thank You for sharing.

  • lisabeaman profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Phoenix, AZ

    Thanks KathiErber! Helping our kids learn to think for themselves is huge! And a great goal to shoot for. Thanks for sharing.

    @Dobson - thanks! What's funny is, is that I'm not a particularly organized person... I've just found that these types of things don't happen on their own. If I want progress, I have to plan and prepare ahead of time. Thanks for reading!

  • Dobson profile image


    9 years ago from Virginia

    I believe you have made some great decisions in raising your family. I am sure they will benefit greatly from your thoughful and considered approach. Thanks for sharing these tips on this forum where more parents can benefit from your organized approach.

  • KathiErber profile image


    9 years ago from Colorado

    Keeping it simple and consistent is the key and you have it pegged! My children are 12 and 15 and are learning to think for themselves and saying "no", but laying this same foundation when they were young has really helped as they get older and grow their own wings. I look forward to forward to following you.

  • lisabeaman profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Phoenix, AZ

    Thanks for the comments everyone! Parenting really is quite a challenge - but it's very rewarding too!

    @LeanMan - Really? I learn something new everyday here. I would have never thought that about kids in saudi!

  • LeanMan profile image


    9 years ago from At the Gemba

    I wish the mothers here in saudi would read this, they really have zero idea, the kids are wild here!

  • Wendy Krick profile image

    Wendy Henderson 

    9 years ago from Cape Coral

    Another wonderful parenting hub.

  • kaltopsyd profile image


    9 years ago from Trinidad originally, but now in the USA

    Great tips... and those photos are so adorable! It's interesting though, that the most obedient children has moments of wanting to 'test' their caregivers. My godsister (now 4) was the most obedient child but she tries to push the boundaries now. Yet, her goal in life is still to be a 'good girl'. :D Thanks for the tips!

  • theraggededge profile image

    Bev G 

    9 years ago from Wales, UK

    I have a couple - one is "If you don't clean up your mess I'm going to run away." another is, "Wait until your father gets home" and my favourite by far, passed down by my loving mother is, "Because I said so." LOL Just joking (sort of).

    You are right, of course, and your suggestions are excellent.

  • Pro Design Source profile image

    Pro Design Source 

    9 years ago

    I like your rules! I think the most important thing as a parent is simply to STICK TO YOUR RULES. Don't confuse the kid by making exceptions. Do what you say you will do, and don't say you'll do something if you aren't gonna do it.

  • viking305 profile image

    L M Reid 

    9 years ago from Ireland

    I like your parenting tip because it does make a lot of sense. I would imagine it works because the children know what those particular rules are for that situation and have clear bounderies. It makes them happy and secure because they know what to expect

  • lisabeaman profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Phoenix, AZ

    Thanks Pamela & K9! I appreciate the encouragement and the recommendation! And yes... raising kids does take a certain amount of bravery! :)

    @Writer-4U - I agree with most of what you are saying. Certainly respect and dignity must be present. However, I wouldn't go as far as to say that a home should be democratic. Someone has to make the rules, and it cannot be the children. They simply haven't experienced enough life to be able to make certain decisions on their own. While it shouldn't be a dictatorship either... the parents have to be the ones with the final say. But it should always be done in love and as you said with respect. Thanks for commenting!

  • K9keystrokes profile image

    India Arnold 

    9 years ago from Northern, California

    Thanks for offering Parenting Tip: Simple Rules to Help Kids Obey. I am going to share this with my sister inlaw who is raising several school age kids,...she is one brave woman!


  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 years ago from Sunny Florida

    It sounds like you are a wonderful Mom. I think you are doing something that more parents ought to do. Good hub/ rated up!

  • Writer-4u profile image


    9 years ago

    Respect is the foundation of all the healthy relationships. Both parent & child want and need respect. If you maintain democratic rules in your house, where both, you &your kids are equal as human being & treated with same dignity &respect, then this problem would not arise.


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