Is it reasonable to expect your kids to listen to you and follow your instructions the first time you tell them?
Sometimes yes and sometimes no. Kids don’t feel the same sense of urgency that we as parents do about things like chores or homework, and frankly, their priorities are different. It may be very important to us that they keep their rooms clean, but not such a big deal to them. Or timelines may be different: when you ask your teenager to take out the garbage, what you mean is “within the next 60-90 seconds”. When he says he will, he means “sometime before I go to bed in 12 hours”.
But at the same time, repeating ourselves over and over not only makes us feel like a nag, but it also trains our kids to not listen to us the first time we ask them to do something. If they know that we’ll keep harping on it, and that things won’t get serious until we start to yell, why would they bother to listen the first time? Maybe you’ll just get frustrated and do it yourself, they think. (Being a kid is all about playing the odds when it comes to things like this!)
So while the goal is a response from our kids after being told the first time, we need to prepare ourselves that it probably won’t happen that way all the time. This is where logical and natural consequences come in. If our kids know ahead of time what the consequence for not listening will be, then they can make an informed choice about reacting right away or accepting the consequences. As a parent, our job is to train ourselves to only ask one time, then be prepared to quietly and consistently follow through with the consequence that has already been agreed upon between us and our kids. When our kids realize that we’ll follow through on our part of the equation, they will be more motivated to take action right away. Will it work all the time? No. But sometimes it’s possible to do the right thing as a parent and not get the result we expect — we just have to keep looking to the bigger picture and keep doing what we know is right.