Obedience is an important skill to teach kids. We want our kids to learn to obey with a positive attitude. Teaching kids to obey with the “Yes, Mommy” Game is a fun way to help kids get into the habit of learning to obey. This game is geared toward younger kids, and my experience is that it translates nicely into real life. If you have an issue with the word “obey,” I’d really encourage you to read my post, “Is Obey the New Four Letter Word?”
I was having problems with my kids listening to me. They would completely ignore me or just not obey. They’d get a consequence for not obeying right away, but it didn’t seem to be working. I asked for some advice, and this was the tip, “Teach them to say ‘Yes, Mommy’ in a fun way.” The concept is that by saying, “Yes, Mommy,” it acknowledges that they heard me and that they are willing to obey. It leaves no room for the question as to whether they really understand or heard the instructions. It shows respect.
However, just demanding that a child respond with “Yes, Mom” (or fill in the blank for any caretaker or authority figure) probably won’t be met with a lot of enthusiasm. Therefore, I decided to make up a game for practice. After all, it is always best to practice obedience when you are not “in the moment.”
Kids respond to games. It is how they learn. The game I made up is simple and effective. We went outside (can be done indoors too), and I had them run around. When I called out their names, they were to freeze and yell back, “Yes, Mommy?” Then, I would give them a command like, “Sit on the grass!” or “Grab a leaf and bring it to me.” Their next response was suppose to be, “Yes, Mommy.” They would then hustle to do the task as quickly as possible. We played this game for a bit, and they had fun racing each other.
I gave a brief talk when we came inside about saying “Yes, Mommy!” throughout the day as mommy asks them to do something. I would enthusiastically say, “Yes, Mommy!” if they forgot, and they would repeat. It translated immediately, and we literally had a miracle turn around in their response to me. Of course, we taught them to say, “Yes, Daddy” also.
I praise them like crazy whenever those words come out of their mouths. You’ll often hear me saying, “Oh, I love ‘Yes, Mommy.’ Thank you for that!” When there’s not obedience, there’s still a consequence, but we often try and give them one more chance to respond with a cheerful yes mom with this phrase. We’ve played the game a couple times if things went slack, but it was really absorbed amazingly the first time.
As the kids get a bit older, there is room for negotiation. In the younger years, we are in a phase of parenting that really focuses on use teaching them by showing them what we expect. We have taught negotiation skills to older kids who respond with respect. I’d love for you to read more by clicking on the link to my other article.
In short, when the kids respond with, “Yes, Mommy…but…” I try in my best efforts to accommodate. For example, if I say, “You need to come to the kitchen for dinner,” and they respond, “Yes, mommy, but I’m almost done finishing this drawing. May I do that first?”, then I would try my best to be able to say yes. If they just ignore me or say disobey there is no negotiating. Of course, there are times when compromising is not possible. “Sorry, we really need to leave the house right now.” Then, it’s time to obey.
I just told my daughter she doesn’t even listen to anything I say today. I am definitely going to try this game out. Thank you so much for sharing!!’
Hi Michelle, Listen to what you said if that is indeed how you worded it. You are telling her she doesn’t listen to you so guess what happens? She hears that and says to herself ‘I don’t listen to mommy’. It is like a self fullfilling prophecy. You don’t mean it but kids take things literally. I always say SAY what you WANT, not what you DON’T WANT. I catch myself all the time. I always give a reason for what I say too. Things like.. get down, your gonna fall. Re-Word to Please get down. You COULD fall. In their heads they think No I’m not and I will prove it . They are not trying to be bad or go against you but this is just how they think. I hope my little suggestions help and not annoy you : ) My husband used to say ‘they don’t listen to me’ all the time right in front of them and guess what? They didn’t. I explained this to him too. How his words impacted them.
Hello, I’m sorry it has take me so long to respond. I’ve fallen behind on my comment section as life seems to just be getting away with me. I totally agree with what you said. I wrote about it way too briefly at the beginning of my blogging career – https://meaningfulmama.com/2012/01/day-8-tip-of-day-ask-for-behavior-you.html. I just re-read my post that you are commenting on, and I’m not quite sure what stood out to you. I think you are commenting on my first sentence that said my kids were having a hard time listening. I see what you are saying here. I do try and phrase things in the positive because it does make a big difference. Thanks!
My husband and I created a similar game when my girls were little. We called it the “listening game”. We all sat in the living room, then said, “Sarah, Hannah, listen carefully… go to Hannah’s room, count to 10 and come back”. We started off with simple tasks then made them harder. They always ran to do the directions and did exactly what we said and came running back for more. I love your idea of having them say, “yes mommy?” That reinforces their skills. I found this so effective to have the kids following directions, listening to what you say, and obeying. Thanks for posting!
Thanks so much for commenting. It is encouraging about other moms who are doing similar techniques. I love to hear about others who value teaching kids what it means to obey. It’s such an important skill to teach. We are their parents with their best in mind, so it is important that they learn that they can trust us in what we are asking them to do. We give them more freedoms as they grow older and hopefully have set a good enough example so that they can make wise decisions as they grow. Thank you for telling us about how it worked for you!
So strange how things happen….I have been struggling mightily getting my 3 yr old boy to listen. To the extent that he has been in danger and not obeyed. I was on facebook, just getting ready to close the tab and goggle search “getting a 3yr old to listen” when I saw this post. Thank you so much for sharing and I will be playing this game asap!
I hope you have a lot of success with it. Thanks so much for commenting. It takes practice and coming back to it. I often do a refresher course when we fall out of our good habits. I can’t tell you that it is always the case that my kids are obeying when asked. That’s just not reality. However, I can’t tell you how many times in public people stop and say something positive to me when they hear the kids says, “Yes, Mom.” I really hope you have success.
Yes I’d like the texts
Thank you so much. I will add you to the list and then try and figure out if it’s feasible to do. 🙂
I am struggling to teach my daughter that is leaning into her teen adolescence. She has found the word, “brain-washed”. I am unsure where she found this but I have shielded her from media and internet. I have been taking her to church and praying hard. I have really been patient. I am not at rage, but I am feeling like I am losing connection with her. How do I recover our relationship?
Anna, I am so sorry. The teenage years are hard. The disobedience becomes a lot scarier because there are bigger consequences. I, too, struggle to find the balance of trying to protect my kids by not allowing some of the things other parents might allow (especially surrounding media) vs. realizing the more I try and control the more they might rebel. I wrote this post that might be helpful: https://meaningfulmama.com/how-to-avoid-controlling-your-teenager.html – I would always try and be a safe place to land, remaining calm during the hard conversations, especially if they are being vulnerable with you about ways they have gone astray. Continue to show up in every area of her life. Allow the conversations to come when they do and be available. Often, kids will share their stuff late at night (when we want to be in bed), but when we try and force our timing it doesn’t work. Explain the why behind the rules – how everything that you or God has put in place is really for their good and their benefit. I’ve been open with my kids about the mental health crisis surrounding media (https://meaningfulmama.com/our-kids-are-facing-an-epidemic-and-we-are-completely-ignoring-it.html) Emphasize love and grace. I know I can focus on and err on the side of works, which isn’t the gospel message. The goal is to help our kids understand God’s grace. They will mess up…over and over again. It’s our recognition of our own sin and realizing that God provided a way to reconcile that sin through Jesus’ death. It’s not about being “good.” It’s about God’s mercy because we aren’t. Pray lots. There’s no guarantee as she learns to make her decisions that she will choose faith. That’s so hard for me to swallow. I want them to experience God’s love and grace for them so much…and the freedom that comes through obedience. However, we can’t control that or decide that journey for them. We can speak the truth in love and model it. We can set reasonable boundaries and explain the reason behind our decisions, but ultimately they start to choose if they want Jesus or not. Their brains are developing in unique ways during the teenage years, and this rebellion piece…separating themselves from their parents and creating autonomy… is part of that. The prayer and the hope are that all the years of teaching and modeling and showing grace ourselves will be what brings them back into the arms of a Savior who wants a relationship with them. I’m so sorry you are going through this. I have teenagers now too, and I think all parents experience some sort of degree of this during this time. It’s hard. I’ve always said that I learned early on that parenting is a marathon more than a 50-yard dash, and this is part of it. Their story isn’t over, but we just do the best we can at loving them fiercely through it all. Thank you for reaching out. I love your heart for her.