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.

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

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

The Opportunity To Sin

IMG_3323One of the most effective strategies of training my children to behave is by allowing them the opportunity to sin.

Especially when I’m busy, I find myself correcting my children, and then taking away their opportunity to sin. “Don’t touch this!” I say, then I take it away and set it on top of the shelf where they couldn’t touch it if they wanted to. It’s immediately convenient for me because I don’t want to have to deal with their disobedience. However, I’m also taking away their opportunity to practice obedience.

When I’m focused on getting stuff done, I remove my children from situations where they can get into mischief. When I’m focused on training them to obey, I let the opportunity for mischief stare them in the face. Because an opportunity to sin is an opportunity to obey. 

As my toddler attempts to topple my pile of freshly folded laundry, I tell him, “Don’t touch…” I don’t redirect his attention. And I don’t remove his temptation to destroy my hard work. I leave it all there right in front of him and wait to see what he will do. He ignores my warning and grabs the pile. He then receives the reproof- a spank on the  hand. I remind him, “Don’t touch…” and I wait. I wait to see if he’ll obey. He goes for my folded pile again, and I spank his hand a second time- a little harder. I’m ready to discipline disobedience, and ready to praise obedience. Each time he grabs the forbidden pile of laundry, he gets spanked. It’s not even about keeping my stuff orderly or completing my tasks anymore. This moment is all about training him to be a good boy, so even if it all ends with laundry strewn about, it’s worth it. Finally, he submits. He sits back in his new-found self-discipline, and leaves my laundry alone. Whew! 

There was no anger. No drama. Just training. Training them to obey by allowing them opportunities to sin.

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2:16

Hitting

IMG_4170[1]Yesterday my one-year old son took a brave swing at a 30-year old man. It wasn’t a cute “Oops, I was just playing, and I didn’t know hitting was wrong.” It was a definite, “You took my laundry basket, and now I will get my revenge by physically assaulting you.”

Occasionally hitting can happen out of curiosity, or by accident. But usually it’s because the child is angry and wants to hurt someone for wronging him. It’s easy to overlook when the blow you endure is delivered by a tiny chubby arm, and hardly felt past the fabric of your pants. But what will take root in his little heart when he gets away with vengeful hitting is violent selfishness, and violent revenge. If allowed to grow, that weed will ruin his life. Just consider any adult you know with those negative characteristics.

We follow this model whenever we see our kids hitting:

  1. Immediate Correction.
  2. Prompt Discipline.
  3. Opportunity for Reconciliation.

As soon as I caught my one-year old attack our house guest, I scooped him up and took him to a private place. There, I firmly corrected him, “We do not hit!” He then received his discipline, a spanking. (There’s a lot of confusion when it comes to spanking, so let me just say that it needs to be hard enough that he feels a quick sting. But not so hard that you’re being mean.) And then came his opportunity for reconciliation. I reaffirm my love and forgiveness for him by hugging and kissing him. After all, it was my rule he was breaking. Then we approach his victim, and I encourage him to apologize for hitting. His vocabulary is limited, so his apology is not much more than offering a hug. But that’s okay because repentance comes from the heart. Not just words.

If you think this whole thing is going a little overboard with a one-year old, consider the social skills, spiritual disciplines, and ability to deal with conflict that you are teaching him at a young age. So young, that he will probably be unable to remember a time where he wasn’t practicing repentance, forgiveness, and self-control.

His trouble shall return upon his own head, And his violent dealing shall come down on his own crown.   Psalm 7:16

When [Jesus] was reviled, [He] did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed [Himself] to Him who judges righteously…   1 Peter 2:23

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

Dealing With Tantrums

IMG_0702I saw a poor woman yesterday in the grocery store. It’s the same woman we all see and pity. Her child is on the floor. Defiant. Screaming. She’s embarrassed. Trying to maintain an appearance of control, she impotently orders her child to get up. “Stop it. Let’s go. I mean it. Stop it right now. Get up. I’m going to leave. Fine, I’m leaving now. Bye. I’m leaving! Stop crying. Get up!” But her child’s behavior reveals who has the control.

Tantrums. You have got to get on this one early. They’ll start at age one, and you have to stay on top of it for years. The best thing I believe you can do is tonot allow them. That’s not to say they won’t happen. But your children should know what will happen each and every time they attempt to throw a tantrum.

My one year old screams when his siblings take his toy away. And he doesn’t stop until he gets it back. He may have been wronged, but if I don’t deal with his reaction now, he will learn it’s perfectly acceptable to throw a fit every time he finds something unpleasurable.

The issue in his heart is selfishness. He wants what he wants, and if he doesn’t get it, he’s going find a way to make me give it to him. It’s the selfishness that you want to teach him to control. His selfish reaction maybe annoying now, but it will grow with him. By time he’s 18, if I haven’t taught him how to deal with his selfish heart, he’s going to be a very hurtful, destructive man.

The rod and rebuke give wisdom, But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. Prov. 29:15

Children are like cars with a brick on the gas. If someone doesn’t crawl in the car and grab the wheel, they are going to destroy themselves and others.

You won’t get far explaining selfishness to a one year old, but he’ll get the idea if you deal with him swiftly. As soon as I see him begin to scream, I calmly tell him in his ear (because he won’t hear me over his own screams otherwise) not to scream or he’ll get a spanking. He continues screaming, so I take him into a private place, and give one spanking. I then tell him what to do instead of throwing a tantrum. If you don’t instruct along with discipline, your kids will keep screwing up because they will always know what they are doing wrong, but never know what to do right.

“Don’t scream,” I tell him. “Say, ‘Can I have that back please?’” He does his best to parrot what I instructed him, and I reward him by granting his request. I praise him for responding calmly and unselfishly. “Good job! That’s right! That’s a nice way to react!” Make a big deal about his obedience; give him a hug and tell him you’re proud of him.

As their comprehension grows, you can actually teach them what selfishness is. My older children understand it as “not sharing.” We’re steadily moving from that concept to “not throwing a fit when we don’t get what we want.” Give them alternatives to freaking out. Instead of crying, talk normally. Instead of screaming, ask politely. Instead of hitting, go find an adult.

Keeping children from throwing tantrums is a 24/7 job! I will reiterate my point from earlier. You have to correct them every time they throw a tantrum. Let them know every time that it is unacceptable. If you ignore it, because it’s too unpleasant or inconvenient to correct them, I assure you that they will become increasingly demanding before bedtime. If you go days or weeks without correcting tantrums, you will find yourself dreading taking your kids into public. If you go years, your child will be on You Tube as an adolescent throwing a tantrum because his video games got taken away.

One last powerful point is to appeal to authority. Tell them, “We don’t throw tantrums because Jesus wants us to be thankful. It dishonors Him when we are selfish. If we love Him, then we want to obey Him. Being thankful is saying ‘Thank you’ to Jesus for everything you have.”

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. Psalms 100:4

What Spanking Is Not

If you’ve seen the video of the Texas Judge, William Adams beating his daughter with a belt, you were most likely appalled at this man’s sense of cruel justice. If you haven’t seen it, please be warned that it is a disturbing 7-minute scene of a father relentlessly whipping his 16-year old daughter.

It’s tragic when parents empty their rage upon their children, and then call it a spanking. The Bible is clear that spanking is an effective tool used in disciplining our children. But ‘spanking’ has been so closely attached to child abuse in our culture, that many parents forbid the thought to enter their parenting philosophy.

As a mother who successfully uses spanking in her parenting, I’d like to clarify that spanking is not smacking, intimidating, or abusing. What occurs in the video of the Texas Judge is abuse, not spanking.

Spanking is not a beating.

The number of spanks or swats depend on the severity of the crime. Usually for typical disobedience it will only be one. But if it’s something severe, like maliciously attacking a sibling, it will probably be more. It’s not “losing it” on your child. You should verbalize the number of swats your child will receive so that they know what to expect. They should recognize a consistency when it comes to the number of swats and the severity of the offense.

The point of a spanking is to give a quick sting. If spanking “doesn’t work with your kid,” it’s probably because spankings are given too inconsistently, or because it doesn’t hurt them. By giving them a quick sensation of pain, you are teaching them this message: Sin has negative consequences. They can’t comprehend this at a young age, and that’s why Proverbs says:

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

The pain should not be severe, as it’s not punishing them for their sin. Christ has already paid for their sin on the cross. It’s just a quick sting, to help correct their thinking; to train their behavior.

Spanking is for small children. Not for teenagers. Hopefully we have enough of our children’s respect that by the time they’re 16, all we need is to have an “I’m disappointed in your behavior” talk.

Spanking is not bullying. 

Don’t intimidate your child into submitting to you. It’s just mean, and they will hate you for it. No one likes it when authority figures to push their power into your face. Don’t “beat them into submission.” Be a humble disciplinary. Don’t spank to control your child’s every action. Spank to help them make good decisions. For their sake, and for the good of their own future.

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering.  Colossians 3:12 

Spanking is not getting revenge. 

Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord. Romans 12:19

Who’s really going to want to admit that they are seeking revenge when they spank their child? Perhaps it’s revenge for making you so angry, ruining your stuff, or embarrassing you in public. We know revenge has become part of our disciplinary process when we don’t care if the child has learned his lesson. We just want him to pay for what he did.  It’s crucial to realize that it’s not our job to punish them for their sin. We believe all our sin was punished in the body of Jesus. Spanking isn’t payment for the child’s sin. It’s a tool to train their behavior.

And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. 1 John 2:2

Spanking is not for satisfying your anger. 

Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Selah Psalm 4:4

You’ve had it up to here, and your child still just. won’t. listen. There will always be that temptation to take your anger our on him either verbally or physically. Don’t do it! You will wound your child’s trust in you. If your patience has been exhausted, it’s better to let them get away with it than to angrily punish them.

A fool vents all his feelings, But a wise man holds them back. Prov. 29:11

A spanking should be given by a patient and calm parent. Would you believe that it can even be done with a smile on your face? Not a smile because they are finally getting what they deserve, but rather, a smile that looks forward to how these little corrections are going to shape them into the responsible, considerate people they will grow to be!

There’s no perfect parent. We’ve all lost our tempers, and done things we regret. If you are thinking that you’ve really screwed up in this area, just say you’re sorry. First to Jesus, and then to your child. I am convinced that the best thing you can do after a mean-mommy moment is to apologize for losing your temper. Their hearts will be healed as they see your remorse and humility.