Monthly Archives: March 2010

FTO and self-control

I recently had an epiphany about this first-time obedience (FTO) stuff. I was listening to the Mom’s Notes at the gym and came home and read the paper notes. I came away from that with an understanding about what is really at the heart of first-time obedience. Basically, if you teach your child first-time obedience, his self-control will naturally improve.

In the Mom’s Notes, they define first-time obedience as simply coming to the call of their name with an attitude of submission. Here are the words that inspired my epiphany:

“Submission is the first, and most necessary character quality your child needs to learn and it is up to you, the parent to teach it to him…. The wonderful by-product of teaching your child submission is that he will, in the process learn self-control. Learning to be quiet and still instead of throwing a fit when he is asked to do something he doesn’t want to do is demonstrating both self-control and submission. The two go hand-in-hand.” (Understanding First-Time Obedience, Mom’s Notes,

Is it self-control or first-time obedience?

I think about some of the misbehaviors I have seen in my children:

  • Running around in public places (Starbucks, library, etc.)
  • Whining or throwing a fit at bath time
  • Snatching toys from each other

I’m sure you would all agree that these behaviors leave something to be desired (to say the least). But what I discovered is that it’s not about running around, whining or sharing. It’s not even about self-control. It’s about first-time obedience. If we had 95% first-time obedience, these behaviors simply wouldn’t happen.

While I feel humbled by this, it also leaves me inspired. I don’t need to focus on 50 different misbehaviors. I only need to worry about one thing: first-time obedience. It’s all about laying that foundation that inspires self-control in our children. Once I improve my kids’ first-time obedience, everything else will fall in line. I won’t forget abut those many misbehaviors, but I will make first-time obedience my primary objective in everything I do.

It makes sense that the Ezzos and Carla Link (from the Mom’s Notes) focus so much on first-time obedience. It simplifies parenting in a big way.

FTO is the foundation to good parenting

Here’s more from the Mom’s Notes that really drives this home:

“First-time obedience is the foundation from which all your other training will be built off of. If you are settling for less than your child’s best effort here—you will see much less than his/her best everywhere.”

“Getting them to come at the call of their name is the foundation on which all future training/discipline will be applied. The weaker the foundation, the less effective your training, instruction, etc. will be and your child, over time will cease to comply cheerfully with your simplest requests.… We frequently get calls from parents, however, who are increasingly frustrated with their children’s behavior and attitude, yet resist applying this teaching. You can’t have it both ways. In other words—you can’t have a low standard of compliance in terms of first-time obedience (and the compliance you get is low because you are unwilling to consistently correct for it when you don’t get it) and have children who cheerfully comply with your instructions first-time. Instead you will have children who whine, negotiate, debate and openly challenge you in many different ways. There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground here. Think about it!” (Understanding First-Time Obedience, Mom’s Notes,

Very inspiring words, indeed! In my next post, I’ll discuss the mechanics of first-time obedience as suggested by the Mom’s Notes.



Filed under first-time obedience

Timeout success! (from a reader)

My friend Amanda just sent me this great testimonial after reading about timeouts the Ezzo way on my blog. Her son is 20 months old. Hopefully this will serve as inspiration for you.

I started implementing time-outs the Ezzo way and wow, big improvement! Instead of trying to goof off on time out Tobias quickly calms himself down and comes to me to tell me he’s sorry and give me a kiss! He stops himself from crying/throwing the tantrum, comes willingly, looks me in the eye, and says “shosh”, then I say “are you going to obey mama with a happy heart now?” and he says “kay” and gives me a kiss. Then he will do whatever I tell him. He doesn’t go right back to misbehaving, his obedience level goes through the roof (temporarily of course, lol!) and he’s so much happier. Heck, I’m happier because I’m not struggling to keep him in time out or listening to whining throughout the day. Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks so much for the tips on the Childwise Chat blog, they really helped me to pin down exactly what I was looking for from a time-out.


Filed under discipline

Bloggers on first-time obedience

Here are some of the best comments on the web on the topic of first-time obedience. Great food for thought.

First-time obedience sets clear expectations

Excerpt (emphasis mine): From a practical standpoint, the establishment of a high and clearly-defined standard is kinder than having a vague and intermittently-enforced standard. Why should my child have to factor in my mood, the time of day, recent history and the relative humidity when calculating how quickly to obey me? Better to make it clear and simple, so they can focus their energy on the important fun of being a child. My relationship with my son or daughter (like my relationship with my boss or my wife) will operate more smoothly and without resentment when expectations are clearly communicated.

Teach obedience and you don’t have to teach anything else

Excerpt (emphasis mine): When we start with just that one thing, we don’t have to do much else. What could be more simple? Once your child understands obedience, everything else is pretty much taken care of. Henceforth, you can simply ask him to come to you and he will. You can ask him to pick up his toys and he will. You can ask him to get ready for bed and he will trot off and do so. You can even ask him to “stop crying,” and he will stop. Simple. Obedience is really all you need to teach a little one.

Delayed obedience is disobedience

Excerpt (emphasis mine): We should expect our children to obey us. Period. Counting says to your child, “I need you to do this right now. But, I know my needs aren’t as important as yours so you can just do it when you feel like doing it.” I first heard the phrase, “Delayed obedience is disobedience” when my children were small. It served me well as a parent and I have shared it each year with the parents I work with at school.

Obedience and respect go hand in hand. By not insisting on first-time obedience, we are instilling in our children a disregard for authority. Without that respect, every request becomes a battle to be fought, and won, more often than not, by our child.

Teach your child to obey your word

Excerpt (emphasis mine): Always ensure that your word is obeyed. Expect first time obedience without argument, bad attitude or having to give several “reminders” (aka nagging). Do not accept partial obedience. Don’t limit your children with your own low expectations, they will live up to the standard you set, whether low or high. Make your word valuable by enforcing the rules, if you don’t, your word means nothing and your rules are meaningless. Your follow-through will make your words either garbage or gold. Never give a command you don’t intend to enforce. This concept of first time obedience is more difficult for parents than for children, but if we can train ourselves to be consistent with our follow-through, our children can learn to obey the first time.

Consistency is required!

Excerpt (emphasis mine): Through consistent use of this one-warning discipline system, children will learn to listen and obey the first time they are asked to do something. If a parent continues to be lax and only follow-through with the consequences some of the time, the child will continue to disobey and the cycle will continue.

Training comes first. Trust comes later.

Excerpt (emphasis mine): There’s the complimentary part to first-time obedience: trust. If we are loving on our children, responding in kindness, patient, and joyful, they will be trained to obey us out of their trust of us. That comes with a little time and experience, though, so in the earliest years, they do need to be trained to immediately obey.

If you’re on the fence about requiring first-time obedience in your home, perhaps these articles will help convince you. Read the full articles for more.


Filed under first-time obedience