Sounds too good to be true doesn't it? FIRST time obedience? Sign me (my kids) up!
We start this process in our home when the kids are around 15 months old but there is never a time when it is too late to start, it may just sound a little different at various ages.
This is how it works. You want to train your children to come to you every time you call their name. Not only that, you want to hear them respond with "Yes Mom, I am coming." Or something like it. My husband and I prefer, "Here I come mom," or, "Okay mom, I am coming." So, say 3 year old Joey is in his room playing and I call, "Joey" from down the stairs. Joey should be trained to respond quickly with words and action.... "Yes mom! (verbal acknowledgement of your call), I am coming (physical acknowledgment)." Once the child has come to you, you can speak to them rather than yelling up the stairs to say what you wanted to say. Then once you give your instruction (ex. It is time to pick up your sister from dance class, I want you put your socks and shoes on now), you can then wait for a verbal agreement (okay mom).
Side note: Results in successful follow through to a command is 95% higher if the instruction was given in a speaking tone and done face to face verses yelling from a distance.
You are looking to have them come to the call of their name 100 % of the time. This will take time and training but it is possible. Because of our natural sin nature you may want to bump that percentage down to 98% but aim high sin is no excuse. Once you have this established you will need to continue working on it. Just like anything we teach our kids, they need constant reminders and refreshers. The magic in this little game is it spills over into all other interactions all day long. The key is you get eye to eye contact and a verbal acknowledgement and in the end a verbal agreement. In Bible times verbal agreements are heavy and sincere commitments. We are looking to have our children obey and follow through.
As you are training them make a game out of it. Tell them, we are going to play a game to practice coming when I call your name. I want you to go over there (or into the next room - somewhere where they will hear you call) and I will call your name. When you hear me I want to you say "Yes mom, I am coming!" and then come running to me. When they do this (if they are 2 -5 years old) all they need is a great verbal reward for playing the game. My kids love it. I try to use different tones and sing songy sounds each time I call them. They come running and I give them a hug or a high five. Then when I call them and it is not the 'game' they seem happy to do it!
If you are training a very young one who can't verbalize yet. What you do is say their name from across the room and then go to the child take them by the hand and lead them back to where you were when you called them. And say, 'say, coming." or "okay."
Sometimes I will call them throughout the day just to see if they do it. When they get to me, I tell them, "I just wanted to tickle your belly." They eat it up!
Now, what do you do if they don't come or say okay mom. Well, if you really want to see first time obedience, you will need to decide on a consequence. For us, since they are all 3 and under I tell them, "Opps! That's not what you are suppose to say. Let's try that again." And they usually choose a better way the second time. If there is absolute defiance, I will have them sit on the couch quietly and when I decide, I will call them to me. Their response at this point will tell me if they are ready to move on.
It is fascinating to me that this one thing spills over into all other instruction you give. Eventually they will not only say okay to coming but they will say okay to the instruction you give once they get to you. And if they don't simply tell them how they should respond. This is training. We parents need not feel bad for putting words in their mouths. We are training their actions, words, thought patterns and attitudes.
When they are young tell them how to think, and what to think, what to say and how to say it. They need us! Now go train and have fun doing it!