“Yes, mommy”

Do you feel like your child just doesn’t hear you? Does your child ignore you? Do you feel like there are days when all you do is discipline your child? “Yes, mommy” can change all of that in a matter of days or weeks. You will find yourself disciplining less and your child will be much more compliant and responsive to your instructions. It’s so simple yet so powerful.

“When your child gives back to you a ‘Yes, mom’ an amazing thing happens. Your child hears himself commit to obey. He draws the line in the sand himself. There’s just something about hearing himself agree to something that elicits an internal compulsion for compliance.” (Childwise, p. 123)

Here’s how it works:

  • You stand within a few feet of your child and make sure he can hear you.
  • Call his name. Don’t say, “William, come to mommy.” Or “William, I’m calling your name.” Just say, “William.”
  • Then wait. Some days you might be waiting longer than you think you should, but just wait nonetheless. Don’t repeat his name.
  • His response is to say “yes, mommy” and look you in the eye. The eye contact is key.
  • Then while he is still looking in your eyes, give your instruction. Don’t let him look away until you have given your complete instruction.
  • Have him say “yes, mommy” again to indicate he heard your instruction and that he will comply.

Here’s how the dialog goes in my house:

Me: “William.” (I’ll do this even when we’re in the middle of a conversation, if I want him to pay particular attention to what I am saying.)
William: “Yes, mommy?” and looks me in the eye.
Me: “You need to pick up your toys.”
William: “Yes, mommy!” and he starts picking them up.

Here’s how it works if we forget to call his name:

Me: “William, you need to pick up your toys.”
William: No response.
Me: “William, I said you need to pick up your toys. Now stop playing and start cleaning up.”
William: “But, but mommy, I’m not done yet. I don’t want to pick up my toys.”
Me: “Do I need to take these toys away? If you don’t start putting your toys away right now, I will take them away.”
William: He starts to put them away half-heartedly and with an attitude. The entire process is painful.

If you have a child who consistently ignores you or is generally disobedient, you may be thinking, “Yeah, right. How am I going to get him to say ‘yes, mommy’ if I can’t even get him to wash his hands when I ask him to?” I have been there. Trust me, it works but it takes patience and resolve. Here’s how it works if you are just starting:

Me: “William” while standing right in front of him.
William: No response.
Me: Lift up his chin and look him in the eyes while saying “William, you need to say ‘yes, mommy’ when I call your name.”
William: “Yes, mommy”
Me: “Good job, William! You’re learning to obey mommy!”

You might end it right there without moving on to giving him an instruction he won’t want to obey. Give it a few days’ practice of just saying “yes, mommy” and then you can move on to giving your instructions. You want it to be a positive experience.

Also, in your first few weeks of this, you will want to give your child the benefit of the doubt and find a good time to call his name. Don’t call his name when he’s in the middle of his favorite TV show or completely engaged in an imaginative game. Start at a time when you are sitting down at a meal or reading a book together. Find the lull in your day and do it then.

And balance the negative with the positive. Call your child’s name when you are offering something he wants. Don’t get in the pattern where every time you call his name, he knows you will be asking him to do something he won’t want to do. He will stop responding. Call his name and require him to say “yes, mommy” before you say you are going to the park, offering him a cookie, or giving him a hug. Mix the positive with the negative.

Even if your child is not yet verbal, you can still work on this process. Do as I say above with lifting his chin. Have him look you in the eye and go through the motions. Or if he is walking or crawling and not yet verbal, have him come to you when you call. If he tends to run in the other direction when you call his name, don’t say anything. Just go get him and bring him back to where you were sitting or standing. Then reiterate that he needs to come when you call and look you in the eye.

If you are beginning this with an older child who is regularly out of your sight (maybe 5 and up), have him come to you when you call his name. That eye contact is so important. Although in your first few days and weeks, you will want to go to the room he is in so you know without a doubt that he heard you.

And of course, all of your child’s authority figures will want to do this. “Yes, daddy”, “yes, dad”, “yes, mom”, “yes, grandma” and “yes, grandpa” are appropriate responses.

Above all, be consistent. Your consistency is what will make it work. If you only call his name 5 out of 10 times, he will only respond half the time, if that. Call his name even when you think you shouldn’t have to. It will take practice on your part. Be consistent and give it time and it will make your lives so much more peaceful.



Filed under first-time obedience, prevention

17 responses to ““Yes, mommy”

  1. I’m just doing the eye contact right now because my son is nonverbal and it does wonders! I’m so glad I started working on “look at mommy” when he was really young. It certainly has paid back. I love the suggestion to wait after you say his name, wait for a lull in the day when begininng it and to use this for a positive as well as negative things. I never thought about thos things. I’ll be sure to look back here for reference when I begin using this technique. Great post! Thanks!

  2. Nicole

    This is a great overview. DH and I were just discussing how we need to get DS to obey us better the first time without delay. We are committed to expecting first time obedience! Thanks!

  3. Okay, a couple of questions because we really need to work on this here and I’m glad you have this blog because I’ve only read the baby books by Ezzo:

    1)What’s the wait time on older children in another room? How long do they get before they answer “yes, mommy.”–what’s considered immediate? 3 seconds ( counted to myself silently?).

    2) For an older child ( my oldest is 5), do you let them answer from where they are and then ask them to come to you? Or do you make them stop what they are doing and come to you? For us, we require the answer and if we waited for them to come first, we might not know if they heard us!

    3) How much training do you suggest before consequences? A day or two? Just a few times within the hour? What do YOU do as a consequence for not responding( 3yrs. and up) or coming (for pre/non verbal child)?

    I am excited to be following this blog!

  4. Maureen

    I’m glad you find the blog helpful. To answer your questions:

    1) When you start, don’t call him from another room. Go to the room he is in so you have no doubt that he heard you. Even check to be sure he will hear you (and that he’s not engrossed in a video game or whatever) before you call his name. Then you can progressively get farther away (a few days at a time). So first, be in the same room. Then, if he’s done well with that, swing by the room he is in to peek in on him and see what he’s doing but still be just a room or so away. Then once he’s doing well at that, you can start calling him from all areas of the house. But note that every step is dependent on the previous step. If the first step takes 2 weeks, so be it. Don’t move on until he’s ready. It’s all about practice.

    I would also take a progressive approach with what he’s doing when you call his name. At first, if he’s fully engrossed with something, wait until there is a better time. Then once he’s done well with that, you move on to calling his name when he’s playing with a toy. Then you move on to calling his name when he’s watching TV. Take baby steps and work up to it. You want to set him up for success.

    And to answer your specific question as to how long you should wait, again it depends on the child. When you are still calling him from the same room, watch him and see what happens. I watched my son the other day and there were two parts to this little toy that needed fixing. I could tell he wanted to fix them before he responded. So I let him. It took a little bit longer than usual, but I could see what he was doing and knew that he wasn’t challenging my authority in any way.

    2) If he is just one room away, I let William answer from where he is. Then either I go to him or I will ask him to come to me. I definitely want eye contact before I give him an instruction. But at 4.5, he is still often in the same room as me. If he is several rooms away or on another floor of the house, I will get up and move closer to him. As he gets older and has more freedom to move about the house, I will require him to come to me.

    For the older child who is often in another room, the Mom’s Notes suggest having your child come to you when you call his name. If you do this, he would say “yes, mommy. I’m coming.” You will have to feel your child out on this given his age. If you think he will respond to you from another room and come if you ask him to, that’s fine. But if he’s resistant or if it creates a power struggle or is another form of defiance, you will need to have him come to you. It also depends on how far away in the house he is. You don’t want to set up a habit where you’re yelling across the house to each other all the time.

    3) My contact mom suggested a few days of training before consequences. Again, this will depend on you. If you are 100% consistent and can call his name 50 times in the day for practice, a few days might be enough. And it depends on your child. Is he not responding because he has simply forgotten or is it a very real challenge to your authority? With my son, it is not at all a challenge to authority. He has no problem saying it. Usually, when he doesn’t say it, it’s more a reflection on us not being consistent enough. So with him, I choose not to give a negative consequence. I want to keep the whole idea very positive and just keep doing all I can to reinforce the idea. Practice, practice, practice! My contact mom even suggested making a game of it when we first started. Make it fun. And remember to offer the positive as well as the negative. You will also want to sit down with your kids (at a time of non-conflict) before you start and explain that you will be doing this and what is expected of them. Be sure they understand the rules of the game.

    Hope that helps!

    P.S., Go buy Childwise!

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  15. Aymee

    Hi: I like your blog, in fact I like all the BW books. I am wondering about implementing the “yes mommy” for an 18 month old. He comes (60% to 70% of the time) when I call his name “Elijah, come to mommy” (this is at home, when we are out at the park or even walking in the neighborhood I get 0% response, he just runs away the other direction). When we are at home he gets a swat for not coming when called, but I don’t know what to do when we are in public (and maybe that is why he takes chances then) other than holding him and bringing him back to where I wanted him. He also gets praises and hugs when he does obey and comes.
    I also notice that he doesn’t make eye contact when I call his name. How do I start training him? I believe in first time obedience, but it seems hard with a toddler. Should I start with calling his name and waiting for eye contact first before requiring him to start saying “yes, mom”?
    Thank you!

  16. Maureen

    Hi Aymee. That’s great that you’re getting a 60-70% response from an 18-month-old. As I’m sure you’ve read, you can’t expect 100% obedience from a young toddler. When you are out, I would react swiftly and sternly when he runs away in the other direction. It’s one thing to ignore you, but running in the other direction is direct disobedience. I wouldn’t spank, especially when you are out, but just pick him up and leave. If you are at the park, you pick him up and carry him to the car. When you are out shopping or on a walk, he loses the freedom to be on foot, so you put him in the stroller or shopping cart. Since it sounds like this is a problem, I would do a FTO bootcamp for being out in public. Since you are doing well at home, you just need to test him while you’re out. Go out with the specific intent of leaving when he doesn’t comply. Plan ahead for every place you go and decide ahead of time what you will do. You might go to the grocery store and let him walk. Then when he doesn’t obey, you put him in the cart or you leave. And before you get out of the car to go where you’re going, remind him of what you expect.

    As for eye contact, you will just have to practice. Always practice at home first. If he responds when you call his name, then you just need to lift his chin (gently) when he comes. Then tell him he is to look in your eyes. Just do it over and over until it becomes habit. Be sure not to give your instruction until he has given you eye contact. This might take some practice on your part, too.

    And don’t frustrate yourself. He is only 18 months. He will get there eventually. It won’t happen overnight. Do your best to train him and it will all come together. Good luck!


  17. Aymee

    Maureen, I had never thought of practicing FTO outside home, but leaving right away if he disobeys seems like a good option, I know he would hate to leave the park… which will help him to learn about the consequence of disobedience.
    Thanks a lot

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