Nip It In The Bud

20130829-113142.jpgI’d like to take this posts’s space to stress the importance of training your children while they’re young. Teaching kids not to hit, grab, scream, and throw tantrums should begin as soon as you see it. Usually you start to see them begin to demand their own will around 1 year old.

Don’t be fooled by the powerlessness of your toddler. It might come across cute or the at the very least amusing when they’re this tiny chubby person impotently demanding their own way. In about 5 minutes, they’ll be in elementary school with the same attitude, but with a lot more strength and a larger vocabulary, doing their best to get you to do what they want… unless they learned previously not to act that way.

It’s a lot easier to nip bad behavior in the bud than to try to undo it when the kid older. My son used to hate having his play interrupted for a diaper change. At 11 months old, he would slam his legs down on the changing table in defiance. I would then give him a stinging swat on the bum. The purpose being that I want him to learn as early as possible the attitude that drives us to swing and hit, hurting ourselves or damaging things is never acceptable.

“If I discipline my kids for this stuff early, does that mean they won’t throw tantrums, hit, grab or scream when they’re older?” No. I wish! But the idea that those things are wrong will have already been planted deep in their hearts, and that in and of itself will make life a lot easier. Instead of trying to drive a car that’s out of control, you’ll be constantly and consistently nudging them back on the course that they already know is right.

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

Cut Out Whining; Use A Timer

20130905-091125.jpgYou know that loud, whiny protest you hear when you announce to your kids that it’s time to clean up? Or when it’s time to leave? Or when it’s time to turn off a video game?

Oh, I do.

The anticipation of the crying, “Noooo’s” and “I don’t want to’s” are enough to make a mom want to lock herself in the bathroom surfing Pinterest on her phone instead of having to deal with disrupting the kids by telling them something they don’t want to hear.

One helpful tool for avoiding the dissent of your children is a timer. My iPhone’s timer works great. Give your children a fair warning before it’s time to change gears by announcing, “In ten minutes it’s time to clean up our toys!” I often spell it out for them so there’s no confusion: “As soon as you hear the bell go off, that means you have to stop playing, and start putting your toys in the box!”

You might be surprised how a little countdown followed up by a bell curbs your kids’ whiny objections!

And here’s a little bonus timer-tip for free: Use the timer to motivate children who are dragging in cleaning up a room. Tell them, “Okay, I’m going to set the timer for 7 minutes, and when I come back all the toys should be put away! See if you can finish before the timer goes off! Ready? GO!”

Encouraging Sexual Purity

“I really believe that hugs between fathers and teen sons and daughters could do more to encourage the development of sexual purity in teens than any other single factor… There is awesome power in a simple thing like a hug, a wink, and a whispered or pantomimed, “I love you!”

-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

Coaching Respectful Talk

IMG_4169[1]One of the most important things I’ve learned to do with my children is to coach them on their speech. I’ve oftentimes disapproved of their speech without teaching them what to do instead. It’s easy to fall into the bad habit of barking rebukes at them:

“Don’t talk to me like that!”

“Stop fighting!”

Or my one year old sits on the floor and screams while I silently and obediently get him some milk.

In all those cases my one goal is to stop the peace-arresting noise of conflict and displeasure. Instead, my goal should be to teach my kids how to communicate kindly, graciously, and effectively. 

My kids’ problem is that they’re just responding in ways that are natural for them. They won’t know how to act any different unless someone shows them. I need to get down on their level and  communicate gently that their current response is unacceptable, and demonstrate with my words and tone what is. 

“That way you talked to me is very disrespectful, and that’s not allowed in this house. Why don’t you say, ‘Mom, may I please watch the end of this show, and then I’ll clean up?'”

“Hey, let’s not fight. Don’t scream and grab. Say, ‘Can I play with that toy, please?'”

And to my one-year old, “No, we don’t need to scream’. Say, ‘Mommy… I… want… milk… please…'”

Now we’re giving our children something to replace their bad behavior with. We are giving them their best chance to learn to talk respectfully and kindly if we take the time to coach them on it, word by word.

Let your speech always be with grace…    Colossians 4:6

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

Selfish Children

076Other people’s selfish children can be annoying. But when it’s your own child being selfish, it can be downright disheartening. It’s embarrassing to see your child shamelessly display incredible self-centeredness in public.

I believe the best way to teach your children generosity is by example. Jesus is the ultimate example of generosity, and if you are not following His example, probably your children aren’t either. Do your children hear you calling them, “Hey guys, come here! I have a treat to share with you!” Or are they used to, “No! Get away from that! That’s mine, don’t touch it!” Does your home teach your children the joy of generosity, or the burdensome task carefully guarding your stuff for yourself?

Secondly, children need to have the freedom to be selfish if they are to learn genuine generosity. If they are being forced to share their stuff with others, then they are not really learning to do so. They will likely spring back to selfishness as soon as the authority figure leaves the room. They need to know their stuff is theirs. Theirs to keep. Theirs to give.  

When selfish hearts get vocal at our house, the envied toy automatically goes to the person to whom it belongs. The other child may then politely ask for permission to play with it. The owner of the toy gets to make the ultimate decision whether to share or not, but they are strongly encouraged to do so. Here are some questions I often ask to get them thinking about generosity:

  • “Do you like it when I share my ice cream [or other item you’ve recently shared] with you?” (Of course the answer is, “Yes.”) “Then you should also share your stuff with your brother.”
  • “I think it would really bless your brother if you let him play with it. Would you like to bless him by letting him play with it for a little while?”
  • “You can say ‘no’ if you want to, but that’s called ‘selfishness.’ It’s wrong to be selfish, and it makes Jesus sad when we’re selfish. Would you rather share like Jesus shares?”
  • “Jesus is very kind to us, isn’t He? He always shares His stuff with us, and He says that we should be like Him and share our stuff with others.”

When children are given the freedom to share and the freedom to be selfish, they will better own their decision. As you point to Jesus’ example of generosity and imitate it yourself, you will likely see your children follow in your footsteps.

And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us… Ephesians 5:2

Six Tips on Potty Training

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After potty training 3 times, here are some pointers I’ve collected along the way.

1. Toilet seat lips. The cute character-themed toilet seat lips are not worth the trouble. They trap urine in the crevasses, and have to be cleaned constantly to avoid making your bathroom smell like urine. You’re continually taking them off for the adults, and putting them back on for the kid. Also, where do you store those things? Mine was an eye sore in my bathroom. Storing it on the side of the toilet was usually what I did, but it was bulky and awkward. I was always worried that it was secretly dripping urine on my floor. Turns out, my 2 year old can balance perfectly on a adult-sized toilet without falling in! Skipping the toilet lip saved me a lot of hassle and messes this last time around!

2. Incentive. A little treat each time they go to the restroom will help with motivation. I think a small edible reward is a good little prize for going on the potty. I like to hand out something like Goldfish Crackers. It’s not as unhealthy as candy, but fun enough to get them excited. It’s small enough that you won’t mind giving them one each time they potty on the toilet.

3. Bare bottoms. Toddlers are more aware of their plumbing when they’re bare (or mostly bare). They will be more likely to notice the sensation of needing to use the bathroom if they don’t have diapers, or layers of clothes “padding” them from the consequences. If you go hard on this method for a few days, you could potentially have your toddler potty trained in a weekend.

4. Salty snacks and favorite drinks. Let them go crazy on their favorite salty snack. Popcorn is good, because it’s so light, and they can eat more of it. Then pump them full of fluids. Get them excited about getting their favorite drink in their favorite cup. You can do juice, milk, chocolate milk, tea; however, I never advocate kids drinking a lot of soda which lends nothing to their nutrition. Doing this is especially helpful if you are trying to potty train in a short amount of time, and you want to increase their trips to the bathroom.

5. Diapers over Pull-ups. Pull-ups are fun and cute, and a little more convenient, but they are pricey and not completely necessary. You can get the same use out of your diapers, just by fastening them slightly looser than normal. That way you can pull them up and down with ease. You can use up the rest of your diapers and save a little money by bypassing the Pull-ups.

6. The casual method. The more casual method of potty training may look like taking your toddler to the toilet whenever you have the chance, not really worrying about accidents. You keep them in their diaper all day, praising and rewarding them when they actually drop something in the toilet. This method takes longer, but is more convenient if you don’t have the opportunity to stay glued to your toddler’s side, watching him like a hawk for several days.

What are some potty-training tricks that made your potty-training experience successful?