Parents want ideas that work. In particular, they want ideas that work
well. By well, they usually mean a formula by which they can guarantee immediate
compliance with a minimum of parental intervention.
This website does not provide a formulaic approach to discipline. It does, however, provide a practical one. The
most practical of my suggestions is an approach called “Get Off Your Butt Parenting” (GOYBP).
GOYBP is a way to teach your children how to obey your verbal commands. We often call it “listening,” although listening
is an imprecise term. Our children typically do listen to us; the reality is that
they don’t always obey.
Teaching your child that your words “mean business” is a commonly held value in our culture. You’ll
discover that most people believe that a child should be taught to obey, and I agree. Unfortunately, the method with which
most people are familiar includes punishment, most often spanking. On that, I must disagree.
Happily, it’s possible and indeed imperative that we teach our children to obey without resorting to spanking
or other punishment. Even if we choose to reserve punishment as an option in our home, we cannot possibly spank or punish
our child for every misbehavior. Instead, we need tools that work in the absence of punishment. It’s been
my experience that it’s not the spanking or time out that teaches - it’s the absolute consistency and parental
involvement. GOYBP provides both of those key elements.
Get Off Your Butt Parenting is a simple, straightforward and effective way of teaching your child that you mean what you say. Indeed, it is what we try to teach when we consider spanking our children: that when
we say something, we mean it.
Ideally, you start this with children when they are babies, as I did, but you can
start at any time. Be patient, be consistent and be committed. You will
1) Say “it” once. Issue the command, once, and only once.
2) Follow “it” up with related action, moving the child into compliance.
1) Don’t repeat yourself.
2) Don’t tag your commands with “please.”
3) Don’t say your child’s name over and over with an implied threat of punishment.
GOYB parenting is both a proactive and responsive
skill. It's proactive in that it teaches children that your words mean business. This
is one tool in setting the stage and foundation for a positive tone. As your children learn that when you do say something,
you mean it, there will be fewer discipline issues presented. GOYB parenting is responsive
in that it is used in the moments of real parenting (or care giving).
Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller (authors of some great discipline material) describe GOYB parenting as "having a tight
action point." The “action point” refers to the space between the command and your follow up.
GOYB parenting works in the way the program outline in the book Magic 1-2-3
"works" and why spanking can "work." The effectiveness of Magic 1-2-3 is not in the Time Out. The effectiveness of spanking
isn’t found in the act of hitting your child. What makes punishment work is the consistent action following your
words. GOYBP makes it possible to communicate “I mean it” without having to impose punishment.
Here are some practical examples of the GOYBP approach:
stay with me in the parking lot" is followed by taking his hand.
"Sue, put your shoes on – we’re leaving" is followed by handing her the shoes.
"Roger, get off the table" is followed by picking him up and moving him.
These are examples for very young children. If your child is this young and you begin GOYBP immediately, they
will learn quickly that your words mean business. Soon, you will be able to simply say the command and they will comply.
For older children, GOYB parenting takes a slightly different approach. It may mean turning off the TV, taking
away the Game Boy, or disallowing the next (fun) thing, until the task has been accomplished. Be careful not to withhold the next fun thing, as that is punishment. Instead, delay it until your child complies with the
Some examples for older children:
“Drew, it’s time to get ready for school” is followed by putting your hand out for the Game Boy.
“Lauren, it’s time to clean up the craft area” is followed by handing Lauren the trash basket.
“Camden, get your shoes” is followed by turning Camden by the shoulders in the direction of his shoes.
Inevitably, parents ask me: How long will this take? Isn’t this permissive? Why should I help them? Shouldn’t
they just listen?
How long will this take?
That depends on several factors, including the age and personality of your child, how closely to GOYBP you’ve
parented up to this point, and your consistency in using this tool. I’ve seen GOYBP turn around a negative situation
Isn’t this permissive?
This question usually assumes a child needs to be made to feel bad (i.e., be punished) in order to learn to behave.
Issuing a command and making sure it happens is the opposite of permissive.
Let’s take an honest look at spanking in this context. What is spanking but an attempt to help the child
obey? GOYBP offers help, but without the spanking. Permissiveness would be if the “command” were optional,
tagged with a lilting waver at the end. Permissive would be if the parent repeated the command or repeated the child’s
name in an effort to gain compliance. Certainly it would be permissive to abandon or change the command to suit the child.
Issuing a command and requiring obedience is not permissive. It’s just good parenting.
Why should I help them?
You should help your child learn to obey because that is your job as a parent. Children require an active, engaged
and consistent presence in order to develop self control and self discipline. It’s a long process and they will
require your assistance for years to come.
In the younger years, you can expect to provide hands-on love, protection, care, nurture and discipline. The move
away from the degree of hands-on parenting is a gradual one, spanning over years.
You should help them obey so that both parent and child are happier, and home life is a joy rather than a burden.
Shouldn’t They Just Listen?
Don’t you really mean: “Shouldn’t they just obey”?
That would be nice/wonderful/amazing/fantastic. But it’s not real. If the journey through childhood was
full of obedience, there wouldn’t be any need for this website. The need for teaching is apparent in all the message
boards, magazines, books, TV shows and programs out there offering to assist you. If children learned to obey easily,
you’d only have to spank once and the lesson would be learned, permanently and irrevocably.
GOYBP is an excellent way to communicate the expectation that your child will obey your commands. It’s kind,
firm, respectful and effective. It requires two things of you: (1) The willingness to Get Off Your Butt; and (2)
That you issue commands that are fair in nature, realistic in frequency and attainable by your child.