What Do You Do When Your Kids Just Won’t Obey?

Hey, what’s up guys? Welcome to the Five Minute Fatherhood. If you’ve tried really hard to train your kids and you’re like, man, my kid just keeps hitting other kids, biting other kids, lying to me, cheating, whatever, what do I do? I just had a really good conversation with a dad who was kind of getting to wit’s end and he’s really being very faithful. And sometimes we have kids that are really, really in a challenging phase, toddlers or… And part of it is you guys, we give birth to pagan, barbarians, right? These kids do not come out with a perfect understanding of the way life works.

Yeah, exactly.

And a lot of times we think, well maybe just with training, we can get them to do the right thing and obviously that, you guys know we are huge into that.

We have the skill of fatherhood that has a whole module around training children. And so we want you guys to really do that well. I think about that sometimes as the ground war, but there’s another air war. You need to be on two fronts with your kids. And sometimes if your kid is really struggling, they need a better framework for right and wrong. And where do we get a framework for right and wrong? Where do we get the intuitions or the sensibilities that say, “I don’t want to be the kind of person who bullies other kids. I don’t want to be the kind of person who lies all the time.” The framework for our ethics comes from stories. And this is why stories are such an important part of the process of training our kids. We want our children to be immersed in stories that begin to create the framework for their ethics, for their morality, for their understanding of right and wrong.

And so you can do this at so many different stages and so at such young stages. And if your kids are like three years old and running up to you with the books in their hand saying, “Daddy, read to me,” read to them great stories. And so there’s obviously stories at every kind of level, stories like The Giving Tree or Horton Hears a Who! or when you get older, you can get into The Hobbit and Narnia. But these stories, what they do is they allow children to sort of… The reason why they’re so obsessed with them is that they are vicariously understanding morality justice and the way the world works. They’re simulating those things for the child and the child is voraciously interested in those ideas. And this is why kids love stories and really pay attention to the stories your kids want you to read over and over again.

What is it in that story? Debrief the story with your kids. Talk to them about the story. And so definitely read to your kids, watch great films with your kids, talk to your kids. And also one of the things that my parents did for me and that I do with our kids is also just let them listen to them in audio format. Find an audio format that really works. And they as they go to sleep, again, great stories, great classic stories that help your kids because what’s being played out in this story is what that child is playing out every day. And so the disrespect that they’re showing to you and your wife, the problems that they’re having with other kids, they’re going to very quickly wonder which character in the story am I, right? And so you got your training, your ground war going on, but you need to have a really great air war. So how have you thought about this one, Jeff?

Yeah, no, I think that’s exactly true is shape your kids with stories. We’re all shaped by them. We all live into them. And I think it’s also a cousin of the fact that we also live into identities and truths too. And I think that’s so the smaller version of living into a story in my opinion is our words and what those do with people and especially our kids. And this is something we’ve had to work on in our house is speak life over your kids, basically. Speak their future over them and their future self over them instead of out of frustration, only confirming and speaking over them, what they’re doing wrong, which we don’t even realize we do that usually as parents because we’re doing it right in the moment when we’re frustrated, like, “I can’t believe you did this,” or “Stop doing that,” or whatever. It kind of just affirms that.

And so what we like to do and one way we’ve kind of tried to get around this because, yeah, we have seasons of this as well and it’s hard. It’s specifically in harder seasons during bedtime or just little moments we have of slowness during the day, we’ll just kind of grab our kids and just kind of basically say, “Hey, I just want to let you know you have what it takes and you’re courageous and you’re so kind to your brother and I just love how good of a leader you are,” and stuff like that. And that’s huge because if you’re saying that every night and not just saying it, but then I’ll usually say it and say, “Hey, do you know that? Hey, what does that feel like?” And kind of really weed that out, really sit in that and just give that to them every single night.

What’s interesting, and this happens even in marriage by the way, when Alyssa says something really good about me, that maybe I feel like I actually have failed at, but she speaks it into existence, I actually step into that. It’s a weird thing where you kind of create futures with your words, either for life and death. And I think this is the smaller part of that story part is create a story for them and speak over a story for them, where they are being blessed and they are being affirmed. And I do see it subtly work. I do see it because then when they get into those situations, they say, “Oh, I don’t hit my brother,” or “I don’t hit my sister because I’m kind and I’m gracious and I’ve showed that. And dad believes that about me and I want to kind of continue to stay in that.”

And that’s huge. And by the way, this is not some hack that fixes it one day from now.


This is actually something that takes years where you have to pound them with this so they get saturated and saturated where then once it gets squeezed as a sponge, then it comes out. And that takes a lot of time and a lot of years to get a story or to get identity based truths into a heart and soul. And for some level it takes a whole lifetime even for us as adults. And so that’s what I would say and that’s what I would encourage you with is are you capturing them by the story and then speaking of true identity over them?

And when you think, I want to say too, Jeff, when you’re saying things like, “You’re kind, you’re courageous, you’re gracious,” kids when they’re born don’t know what those things mean, right?


That is the language of story. The only way they even know what is a kind person, what is a courageous person?

Is through stories.

It’s because they’ve seen or been immersed in a story that defines those things. And that’s what I mean by they’re born into this world without that framework. And a lot of parents are shocked when their kids don’t behave normally like perfect people and you need to create and craft that framework through story.

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