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 Compliant Sibling

Kit's iphone 001 (5)I love gleaning from older, married couples who have adult children who still respect their parents. Occasionally, I’ll have the privilege of meeting a family where an obvious significant investment has been made, and Grandma & Grandpa are being paid the dividends of children and grandchildren who just adore being around them.

Today, I was making mental notes as this particular older and wiser man offered nuggets of wisdom: Don’t give the extra work to the more compliant child just because their sibling is harder to work with.

We’ve all noticed that our children have uniquely different personalities, and could probably identify right now which child is the more compliant one. He’s the one who just does it. He wants to please you, doesn’t feel the need to argue, and does the job the way we like it to be done. Then there’s the hard-to-put-a-saddle-on-child who has a tendency to complain and argue about the job that you know could easily be knocked out in five minutes by the compliant one.

Don’t give the headstrong child’s chores to the compliant child because it’s less of a fight.

If you run the easy route, and have the compliant child do his sibling’s chore because I just want it to get done! then you will be doing both personalities a disservice. The headstrong child will figure out, If I push back hard enough or perform poorly, I won’t have to do it. Their laziness will be rewarded, and they’ll grow up learning that “someone else will do it.” The compliant child will unintentionally be punished for being a better worker. He may grow frustrated or embittered for having to carry the weight for the majority of the work.

Instead, put your gloves on and zone in on your headstrong child. Discipline, teach, train, set an example, develop a warmer relationship; do whatever needs to be done to instill a better work ethic and a willingness to help out. Both personalities will be blessed by your effort to maintain fairness in the home.

Do all things without complaining and disputing…   Philippians 2:14

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.

What Do You Allow?

Yellowstone 2011 - Anthony's Pics (31)I often get frustrated and think, “Why are my kids doing this?!” Like when they talk back or argue, talk disrespectfully, or even just jump on the couch. “Don’t they know what they’re doing is not allowed?!” The simple answer is, I’ve allowed it. I let them do it once, or a few times. I’ve allowed it. I let them do it with no consequence whatsoever. In my mind it’s definitely against the rules, but according to my actions, it’s totally permissible.

Before I freak out, I need to reign it in, and think through if I’ve actually taught them not to do that. If I haven’t taken the time to discipline that sort of behavior, then now’s the time to begin.

If I silently disapprove of a behavior for too long, eventually I will explode, resulting in mean-mommy guilt, and a confused and hurt child. That’s why it’s so important to be aware of our children’s behavior. Stay engaged and on top of the situation at hand. Manage the misbehavior as it comes, so that you can constantly be at peace with your child, or presently working towards it.

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