How I Do It–The Basics

 

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“How do you do it?” When people see how many kids I have (5), and how close they are, (between 1 & 8 years old), a question I’m often asked is, “How do you do it?” “I don’t know, I bribe them,” I respond. But deep down, I am thankful they are well-behaved. I’m not bragging. No one’s perfect over here, and I apologize to my kids a lot. But if there’s something I’ve learned that can make your parenting experience easier- no delightful, here it is:

This is the very basic foundation of all my kids behavior. I teach them to obey when they’re young. I’m talking like one-year-old young. The one basic command that they learn before they can even put a spoon of cheerios in their mouth is, “Don’t touch.” That’s the main thing that 1-year-olds do wrong is they they touch stuff that they’re not supposed to.

And good news- teaching a one-year-old not to touch is easy! You can do it like 10 minutes. And if you consistently enforce your “don’t touch” rules at home, people will be flabbergasted how well behaved your kid is. However, if you wait till they’re 3, 4 or 5 years old to obey, it may take months to instill this principle in their hearts.

Whenever my toddlers go after the books on the shelf, or light sockets, or knives in the open dishwasher, I tell them “Don’t touch.” I have a rubber spatula that enforces my voice. If they touch after I’ve told them not to, I grab their hand and tell them, “Don’t touch this,” and spank their hand. They cry, I hug them and kiss them, tell them to say, “Yes, ma’am,” (no, they don’t actually say this yet, but it’s for future training) and let them give me a kiss back. Repeat this process as many times as it takes until they stop touching it. And when they finally stop touching it, do not forget to praise them! “Yay! You did a good job! Good boy!” And throw in some extra kisses.

Does a one-year-old understand? Absolutely! If you stick to it for 10 minutes or so, you will see your toddler pull his hand back when you say, “don’t touch.” Your kids are so intelligent! These are not dogs or horses learning tricks. These kids are human beings, made in the image of God, and they learn quickly! I have often times seen joy in their eyes after learning to obey. It’s almost as if they are proud of themselves for listening.

What do I do if they just keep touching no matter how many times I spank their hand? You are probably doing one of two things wrong: 1) You aren’t spanking their hand hard enough. Simply put, the pain you’re inflicting is not enough motivation to convince them to obey you. Increase the force, and they will cry. But don’t waste those tears. Pull them close, hug and kiss, them and reinforce your rule: “Don’t touch.” 2) You might have too much irritation in your heart. If you are angry and irritated as you are disciplining them, it’s better to just leave it alone. Take a break, and revisit it when you can control the emotions of your heart. Disciplining in anger is something we never want to do. Make sure your heart believes in them, is patient with them, and sticks around to follow up with the hugs and kisses. If you are barking, “Don’t touch!”, spanking their hand, then walking away, it will not work.

Isn’t it mean to spank them? No. What’s mean is never helping your kids develop self-control. Kids with no self-control are hard to be around. Also, kids are unreasonable. You may have noticed that your toddler gives no mind to your convincing argument why sticking a fork into the light socket is bad. But a quick sting will teach him the lesson in 5 seconds. Your kids will be safer and more likable as they grow in self-control.

This whole thing is so important, not just so you don’t have to follow your toddler around picking up the stuff they’ve pulled off the shelf, but because it teaches them respect. They will learn respect for authority and respect for things. A one-year-old who obeys will be a two-year-old who obeys, who will be a three-year-old who obeys, etc. It’s easy to teach this to a one-year old! Not so much for a five-year-old. So start as young as you can!

Ending note: If your kids are older, and you never started them out on these basics of obeying. Don’t worry. You may have to work harder to teach them to obey, and it will take longer, but it is possible. The principles are the same, if they don’t listen to your voice, there will be a consequence that “stings.” Be consistent, and don’t discipline in anger. And always go out of your way to praise them for doing something right.

Lying

Every kid tries out lying at some point. Some learn it’s wrong and stop. Others find it handy and perfect their deception. Here’s how I train my children to be truth-tellers.

1. Catch it young. Once kids start to learn language, they can learn to lie. A child as young as 1 or 2 can perceive that admitting he threw a toy at his sibling’s head is going to get him into trouble. And he doesn’t want trouble, so he lies. Catch it now, and tell him that lying is wrong.

2. Truth-train. “We always tell the truth, even if it gets us into trouble,” is a common saying around here. Usually, I preface interrogating the guilty child with reminding them importance of telling the truth. Stress the importance of telling the truth: telling the truth is right; lying is wrong. It seems simple, but it will reinforce their God-given conscience.

3. Firm consequence. Even a well-trained child may choose to still lie. A time-out, spanking, or loss of privilege may be an appropriate consequence for lying. Enforcing a consequence will help them exercise self-discipline next time they are tempted to lie.

4. Set an example. Give them a reason to believe all your talk about telling the truth. If they see you tell the truth when it’s hard, they will do it, too.

5. Tell them why. Tell them why telling the truth is important. I love what Josh McDowell said in The Father Connection, “I want my children to understand that God is true– that whatever is like God is good. Whatever is unlike him is evil.” Go beyond “Telling the truth is right, lying is wrong.” Plant a desire in your children to discover morality by discovering who God is.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”      John 14:6

The Public Restroom Dilemma

20140723-141624-51384332.jpgMy kids are terrified of automatic toilets. It all started with my first child. The noisy crash of water swirling and splashing about sent her into sheer panic. Her toilet-terror must have been hereditary because all her potty-trained siblings followed suit. If they peeked into the stall and saw there was no handle, I’d immediately have little ones clinging to my legs, begging me to not make them go. Every trip to Target and the zoo included one of these dramatic episodes. I tried being stern, silly, and nonchalant about it, but rarely could I convince them to go.

Amazingly, my husband came up with a solution. It was pure genius. Cover the motion sensor with a piece of toilet paper. Now they can tinkle in the potty with care-free finesse.

Do you ever have trouble getting your kids to use public restrooms?

Training VS. Controlling

This is probably the most challenging lesson I am learning in motherhood.

It was like I was looking into a mirror when my six-year-old daughter, frustrated to the point of tears could not get her three-year-old brother to be quiet. She wanted to prepare the room like a “movie theater,” and with the lights dimmed, she instructed all her brothers to be quiet. Well, one wouldn’t. He made a goofy little sound after each shush, and she. could not. handle it.

Is that what I act like, I wondered? Her desperation and tears seemed all too familiar to me, particularly when I’m trying to control my children. Where did this poor soul learn to be so controlling? She was freaking out over something that’s so small! Oh, dear. What am I teaching her? Instead of my, “Stop freaking out, it’s not a big deal, response,” I compassionately pulled her close. I knew I was to blame.

Too often I get irritable, snappy, and exasperated trying to control my children’s behavior and responses. I’m constantly reminding myself: Loosen up. Don’t be so uptight. Enjoy the moment. Have a grateful heart. And delight in your children. Here are a few things I’ve noticed about training and being controlling. Do you struggle with being controlling?

Training: proactively sets an example and leads by it.
Controlling: reactively snaps at annoying behavior.

Training: gently corrects bad behavior, and nudges them back on the path of good behavior.
Controlling: permits one small spectrum of behavior, and tolerates no other.

Training: consistently and patiently teaches good habits.
Controlling: consistently disappointed and frustrated with current habits and failures.

Training: expects the consistent training of today to reap good behavior in the future.
Controlling: expects sporadic correction to yield perfect behavior now.

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

The Message You Send

Boise Trip-HQ-11If [the father’s] verbal and nonverbal language is saying, “Get away from me,” “Don’t bother me,” “I prefer the companionship of adults,” “I don’t have time for you,” “I think you’re stupid,” “I don’t particularly like you,” “You’re a nuisance,” “I won’t consider your views or feelings,” he will alienate himself from his children and force them to search elsewhere for the comfort and support they need.

Josh McDowell, The Father Connection

Respect The Little Guy

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Here, Jane’s “great idea” was constructing a disguise with paper and glue.

He didn’t want to go to Sunday School. “I don’t like the teachers because they talk to me like a baby,” said my friend’s 3-year old. My friend treats her kids ages 3, 1, and 6 months with more respect than I’ve seen almost any mother treat her children. She doesn’t brush them off, or baby-talk to them all day. She treats them like young people who have something interesting to say. Her 3-year old son was perceptive enough to notice when he wasn’t being treated with the respect he was used to.

Did you know that our kids need our respect? We live in a culture that doesn’t value children all that much. They’re kind of annoying, inconvenient, messy little people. Why give them our undivided attention when half the time they don’t even make sense?

These little people may have indiscernable accents, a small vocabulary, and know very little about life, but they are still people. They can sense being brushed off, being mocked, or treated like they know nothing. Treat them like they have nothing valuable to say, and they will grow up to be very insecure adults. Or, treat them like equals who have something intelligent to say, and watch their confidence grow.

Here are a few ways we can treat our children with respect:

1. Don’t mock them. As Mark Driscoll once noted, “They have little ears, but they’re functional.” A 2 or 3-year old can sense being made fun of (and can have their spirits crushed by it). Don’t laugh at their expense; you may be doing more damage than you realize. Treat them the way you like to be treated.

2. Praise their efforts. Every time you praise them for cleaning up or doing a math problem, you are giving them a token of motivation that they will be able to use in the future. If you’re stingy with your praise, your children will lack the motivation to attempt new challenges. They need affirmation as much as you do.

3. Listen to the whole story. Sometimes kids’ stories seem to go on forever. Give them the attention you’d like to have when you don’t quite have the words. Stay focused to the end.

4. Expect them to understand. They won’t always, but put the bar up there, so they can rise up to it. Use words they’re unfamiliar with on purpose. Talk to them like little adults, so they can get used to interacting with people in a mature way.

5. Engage their ideas. Our 6-year old daughter is often declaring to us that she has “a great idea!” Listen to their ideas and run with them. It may not be physically possible every time, but don’t shut down their ideas so often that they stop having them. Show them you value their creativity by employing their ideas.

Then little children were brought to Him that He might put [His] hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”    Matthew 19:14-15

Picky Eating

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It can be frustrating when a child refuses to eat their food. I’m particularly prone to bitterness when I’ve worked hard on a healthy meal, and the response I hear from tiny little voices is, “I don’t want that!”

Most of us are blessed enough to be able to eat 3 meals a day, plus snacks. Meat is an everyday event; cereal, chips, and baked goods overflow. It used to be that only royalty had the means to obtain a pineapple, and they had to send ships halfway across the world to get it! We are overly blessed to have an abundance of food at our disposal, and my kids have no idea.

I know I have to make a concerted effort to instill thankfulness in their hearts. And oftentimes lack is what produces hearty thankfulness. So when I hear, “I don’t want that!” I don’t play the, well-what-do-you-want game. The rule in our house is, you don’t have to eat it, but there are no substitutes, and no snacks until the next meal. If they choose to go hungry, by the next mealtime they are ready to be thankful for what’s served them! Hungry kids aren’t picky!

We talk quite a bit about being thankful for our food around here. All the kids know that the best way to show that we’re thankful for our food is by eating it!

…in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.    1 Thessalonians 5:18

A satisfied soul loathes the honeycomb, But to a hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.   Proverbs 27:7

Stop Repeating Yourself A Gazillion Times

20130421-233827.jpgWe’re usually blowing a head gasket before we realize we’ve been repeating ourselves for the last hour. It creeps up on you. You may be giving out a task to your children as you go about your business, but you don’t realize it hasn’t been completed until you pass by your child- still idle. You remind your child of the task again… and again, only to find out it’s still not accomplished. Eventually, your blood pressure rises and you find yourself asking, “WHY ARE THERE STILL TOYS ON THE FLOOR!?!”

1. Make sure your voice isn’t background noise. Put your hand on their shoulder, squat down, and look them in the eye. Once they are looking back at you, then give them direction.

2. Go for the awkward silence. After making eye contact and giving them their chore, keep looking at them and wait for them to start. They will realize that you are waiting for them to get on it, and begin to move.

3. “Yes Sir/Ma’am” Chart. I got this idea from the Duggars. That fantastic family of 19 well-behaved children. Each child gets a blank chart, and every time they respond with a “Yes, Ma’am!” or “Yes, Sir!” they get to mark an “X.” If they fill up all their boxes, they get to choose a prize out of our “prize bucket” (which I fill with dollar store treasures). This has two great effects. First, it teaches your child that beautiful phrase, “Yes, Ma’am/Sir,” and secondly, it encourages cheerful obedience.

4. Check their work. Create a habit of following up on their work. The more often you check to see if they did it right (or at all), the more often they will follow through correctly.

5. Mean what you say. Let’s admit it. We say a lot of things that we don’t really mean. Ask yourself, do you really care if they follow through or not? If it’s not that big of a deal that they pick their blanket up off the floor, communicate it that way. “I don’t really like looking at your blanket, would you mind putting it away?” But if it’s essential, choose your words differently. Use your “Please go do this now” tone sparingly. If your serious tone is overused, then it won’t be taken seriously.

6. Enforce. Name a consequence that will be given if the chore is disobeyed or ignored. Maybe a spanking, or a removal of privileges. If they don’t complete the task in the allotted amount of time, follow through with the consequence. (But remember, don’t threaten if you don’t intend to follow through!)

7. Praise generously. Nothing will motivate them to want to work hard for you like making a big deal out of their obedience. Hoop and holler, give out hugs, kisses, high fives, and loud “Well Done’s!” They will learn to take pride in their work if you are proud of their work.

Spanking Doesn’t Work With My Child

I appreciate Tedd Tripp’s perspective concerning children who don’t seem to respond to spanking. Here’s his wise and insightful advice for those who would say, “Spanking doesn’t work with my child.”

“This objection requires further examination of a parent’s specific practice. Years of pastoral experience have persuaded me that cases of the rod not working can be summarized as follows:

  1. Inconsistent use of the rod. The child never knew what would elicit a spanking. Therefore, he was always testing the parent.
  2. Failure to persist. Some folks never try anything long enough for it to work. They give the rod a couple of days. Their children are not transformed overnight. They give up in discouragement.
  3. Failure to be effective. I have witnessed spankings ministered through a double layer of diapers to a child who never stopped moving long enough to know he had been spanked. The spanking was ineffective because the parents never made the rod felt.
  4. Doing it in anger. I have always been amazed at the innate sense of justice in a child. children will not yield to correction administered in unholy anger. They inwardly resist submitting their hearts to a parent who bullies them.”

From Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him. Proverbs 22:15