I'll cut to the chase, because if you have a 2 year old or younger, you've got like 2 min or less to read this post!
Look around you. What do you see? A table, chair, dog, street? These are concrete nouns. What about love, peace, courage and joy? These are abstract. We cannot experience them with our senses.
Little children understand concrete commands, but may have more trouble with abstractions. But here's when I see parents get confused: They believe words like "no" or "obey" are abstract and therefore, their children aren't ready until after they are 2 to respond to formal commands.
But I'm here to tell you that even a 9 month old can learn "no" & "obey." How?
They learn these words by context. "No touching the stove." "Obey, be gentle." When we tie it to a concrete object, it becomes a specific command that can register.
The most common reason I hear young moms give for not wanting to discipline their young children is that they "don't understand."
Just last night I asked my almost 2 year old daughter to lie down in her bed. She went to her bed and did what I asked. But then, like most children, she tested the command and got up 30 seconds later.
I could almost hear her thoughts, Maybe she just meant to lie down and then I can get up. How long does she want me to lay here? Thirty seconds must feel like an eternity for a child!
So I said, "Stella, obey. Lay down." And she realized, after a few tries, that Mommy wants her to lay down until further notice. Over time she has learned my expectations. But it's taken a lot of security on my part to believe that she is capable of understanding. And here's the key:
She's learned my expectations because I follow through with discipline in the moment.
What if I had let her get up and then I just reminded her? "Stella, Mommy said lay down. You need to lay down." That's fine, but think about what you're setting yourself up for in the future.
I've seen the longer term benefits in my 11, 9 & 6 year olds. When I say to the boys: Boys, you can go ride your bikes for 45 minutes. I don't have to say the word "obey" anymore because they know it's implied. When I tell my daughter to entertain herself, she knows what I mean and for how long (until I tell her she's done).
more complex instructions all rest on their belief that I mean what I say with simple commands
If I'd been dragged into the repeating or nagging game, I couldn't trust them to take my words seriously. It's win/win. It helps my attitude and theirs to know we aren't playing games with each other, picking words apart and trying to find loopholes. We're working toward mutual respect in this way. But it doesn't come without major effort, and it starts as early as 1 year old.
I urge you to let go of the paperwork that pediatricians or child psychologists give you (or family members or friends!) that claim children cannot understand simple commands such as "no" or "obey." They can. It takes consistency & patience, but it's worth it.
You can expect first time obedience in a young one.
It's worth your time to train them to listen to your calm voice, ask them to obey and discipline/train them to respond.
I'll share more on the process we use to do this in the future, but for now just know...
it's worth your time and they can understand!