Our son has great receptive language. He can follow simple commands easily. So when I asked him to put his book back in the bin and he didn’t, I knew he was choosing to disobey. He further ignored me when I asked him to move his toys out of the walkway the next day. His father was home to observe the behavior on the second day. After watching me count to 3, putting him in time out, and repeating the sequence, my husband questioned if our son understood my commands. When I removed our son from time out and repeated my instruction for a third time, my husband got his answer. My son complied with my request (as he had the previous day after two time outs). I modeled positive reinforcement for complying with my request and we went on with our day. On the third day I asked my son to put his toys away and he complied at my first request, to which I praised him immediately.
I used this example to explain to my husband the importance of beginning behavior modification now while our son is young so that we don’t have to deal with worse behavior later. I told him that it was important for us to consistently implement time out as a consequence for noncompliance once we start the three count (allowing 10 seconds between commands for the opportunity for compliance) for behavior modification to work.
Of course we pick our battles–when our son didn’t give us his water cup as requested, we just didn’t fill it (rather than initiate a potential time out sequence). The natural consequence was that he didn’t get more water.
We also need to be mindful that this process could take a significant amount of time so initiating a time out sequence before we need to go somewhere isn’t a good idea. We are approaching an age where it’s helpful that my husband and I are on the same page but the next step is filling in our son’s grandparents to ensure consistency across people and locations.
Wish us luck!