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.

Cheerful Discipline

Boise Trip-HQ-11“Cheerful” isn’t usually the word most people use to describe when disciplining their children. A lot of the time we tend to think of discipline as stern and angry correction. And at times it rightly is. But because raising kids is largely training, we don’t need to be coming down so hard on them as often as we do.

Kids are still learning how to do life. They don’t know that what they are doing is unacceptable (okay, sometimes they do). Pulling your kid aside, and saying, “Hey, I know blowing bubbles in your milk is fascinating, but we don’t really do that because it makes a huge mess” will be more readily absorbed than barking at them, “Hey, stop that!”

Let’s say they do something that’s outright defiant. They respond to you by angrily chucking a toy and screaming, “NO!” That kind of behavior is unacceptable, and definitely merits a consequence. But we can correct them without losing it. Calmly take them aside, explain what they did wrong, then lovingly explain what their consequence will be, and swiftly carry it out. You might hold their hand, or affectionately have an arm around them as you explain to them, “Hey, throwing toys and screaming ‘no’ at Mommy is not okay. Every time you do that, XYZ is going to happen okay?” Your patient and loving tone will go a long way because it communicates that even though you won’t tolerate their defiant behavior, you believe in them, and are aiming to teach them–not get back at them.

…that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance      Romans 2:8

I Don’t Want An Epidural– Okay, Yes, I Do!

2014-02-24 02.30.06 HDR-1I had my very first baby at home. Halfway through the birth process, I thought to myself, “What in the world was I thinking doing this without drugs?!” In between contractions, I hoped that my husband would be okay with just one child because I was presently making the decision to never give birth again.

Having my first kid was brutal (as first births usually are). Forget everything I learned in my birthing class. I was just hanging on for dear life praying that it would be over soon. If there had been a doctor in the room offering me an epidural that night, I would have eagerly accepted.

Since then, I’ve had 4 more kids at home. (Having kids is a little addicting I suppose.) And I learned something from my first birth  that changed the way I labored for the last 4. If you’re a future-mama who’s hoping to give birth drug-free, here’s some tips I’ve learned along the way.

1. Be a Limp Noodle. My mistake with birth #1, was that I braced myself for every contraction. Just like they tell you to relax your arm before a shot, you’ve got to relax your entire body when you feel a contraction coming on. Lie there like a limp noodle. They say if you can keep from clenching the muscles in your face, you’re probably doing good with keeping the rest of your body limp.

2. Embrace the Pain. With birth #1, I tried to white-knuckle it through the pain. I thought I would be tough enough and grit my teeth till it was over. Yeah, I don’t recommend that mode of operation. At birth #2, I decided to embrace the pain. I didn’t mentally reject it; I welcomed the pain, submitted to it, and allowed it to take over. Let the pain do it’s thing, and before you know it, fierceness of that contraction will be done, and you’ll be ready for the next.

3. Don’t Rush It. At birth #4, I personally believe I was too anxious to get the kid out, and bore down too early (that’s when you decide to start pushing the kid downwards). If you do this before you’re at 10cm, it can result in your cervix protesting, getting inflamed, and keeping the kid inside even longer. Take the cues from your body. You feel like you wanna change positions? Do it. You feel like you wanna stay on your hands and knees? Do it. You feel like you wanna push? Do it. Follow your instincts. They’re there for a reason.

4. A Doula. You can hire a doula, or ask a friend. In my opinion, the presence of a sympathetic, experienced natural-birther does a lot for your psyche. Having the support of someone who has been through it before and made it to the other side is very motivating.

5. Do Your Homework. Education=Confidence. Take a birthing class. Read lots of birthing books. Even after I had 4 kids, I felt I needed a confidence booster. So I did all kinds of reading, researching, and relearning to be mentally prepared. Learn all you can about the birthing process, positions, and techniques to help facilitate giving birth. Education will give you the confidence you need.

What advice would you give to a future mama that wanted to give birth naturally? What helped you get through your natural birth?

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

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