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

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?

Decoding Your Infant’s Cry

20140402-070406.jpgOne of the worst things ever is having a crying baby and being clueless on how to fix it. It’s terribly stressful! Now that I’m on my 5th bout of caring for a baby, I’ve come to notice a method I’ve developed for figuring out what’s wrong. Here are some of the clues I consider when I’m consoling my little ones.

1. Are they hungry? This is usually an easy one to figure out. They start rooting. They’ll turn their chin towards their shoulder and try to find something to suck on. Often times their crying is interrupted by an anxious gluttural stop. This is hard to explain, but imagine the non-verbal sound a toddler makes when he’s extending his hand, trying to reach something he wants. Kind of a repeated, “Ah-ah-ah.” Another test is to see how they react when you insert your finger or pacifier in their mouth. If they start sucking excitedly, then they’re probably hungry.

2. Are they sleepy? Yawning and heavy eyelids are easy tell-tale signs of tiredness. Try comforting them and swaddling them before you lay them down for a nap. If I see my baby having a hard time getting settled in his crib, especially if his arms are flailing around while he cries, I know he probably wants feel more secure. Re-swaddle. Re-swaddle almost like a straight-jacket. Put his arms down at his side, and wrap tightly so he can’t bring his arms up. Babies like feeling secure and being held tight- especially when they are trying to sleep. (Although, this usually only works for babies under 6 months who haven’t learned to crawl yet.) If your baby still does not settle down, pick him up, and let him be comforted by simply looking into your smiling face for a while. It’s amazing how a little focused attention can be calming for a baby.

3. Do they need a diaper change? Usually if the first two don’t seem to be the problem, it could be that they are uncomfortable. Nobody likes to be sitting in their own… you-know-what. If they have a diaper rash, they might be crying rather angrily. Dry up and soothe that poor bum with some baby powder and zinc oxide. If it’s really bad, you might want to give them a warm bath, and let their rashy bum air out while you hold them in a towel.

4. Are they gassy? Usually gassy babies will cry, grunt, then cry, then grunt some more. They’ll stiffen up their bodies- especially their legs. Their discomfort also makes their cries sound pretty angry. Try running their legs while they’re lying on their back on your lap. It will be like massaging their tummy with their knees. This helps get that gas out and provide them some comfort. You can also lie them tummy-down on your lap while you gently bounce your legs. This will help relieve their gassy discomfort.

5. Are they tired and hungry at the same time? This is a tricky one because they can be too sleepy to eat, but too hungry to sleep. It’s what I call “The Perfect Storm.” These babies are nearly inconsolable, and their parents are stressed out! I always suggest that the babies get their sleep first if they can. Rock them, wear them, do whatever to help them sleep. Then as soon as they wake up, give them their meal. They’ll be awake enough to get a full tummy. And try to never let those two needs cross paths again! A book that has helped me understand my baby’s needs and taught me how to have a happy, content baby is Babywise by Gary Ezzo. Check it out!

5. Do they just want to be held? I’ll notice that sometimes my babies just want to be held- especially 30 minutes or so before a nap. They’re not tired enough to sleep, but they’re not content enough to lie there by themselves. Baby-carrying is really great for this part of the day.

6. Are they hurt? This cry is easy to decode since it’s usually a sudden, loud, high-pitched scream. The baby will sound alarmed. Maybe another child dropped a toy on them, or they got bit by a bug. It could be any number of things. Look them over to see if they’re injured.

Good luck with your baby!

How To Not Freak Out

20130829-113208.jpgOh, the guilt after losing our temper with our children. We may have said some harsh words, grabbed a little arm too tightly, muttered a threat between clenched teeth, or spanked in anger. Whatever you did to cause your mean-mommy-guilt, there’s hope through repentance and forgiveness. 

I really appreciate Michelle Duggar’s (mother of 19) advice on not losing it as a parent. Here’s a little video she did on how to not freak out on your kids. 

I always encourage parents never to hesitate to apologize to your kids if you’ve sinned against them. Nothing heals that relationship like a parent humbly asking their child for forgiveness.

 

But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.     Colossians 3:8

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

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!”

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.

You’re The Gardener

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“As soon as my husband came home, I’m like, I’m outta here! Have fun with the kids!”

This is something I once heard a mom jokingly say. In fact, I regularly see moms demonstrate irritation with having to deal with their kids. We laugh about how annoying our kids are, how we can’t wait to get away from them, and compare their absence to something like Heaven.

Truly, parenting can be tough, and it’s sometimes tempting to pity ourselves for having to deal with unruly children. But in reality, your children are the garden, and you’re the gardener. If weeds are growing wild in your garden, making it unattractive to spend any time there… You’re the gardener. If animals are coming through, stealing all the fruit you’ve worked hard to grow… You’re the gardener. If your plants are bearing fruit that you weren’t expecting… You’re the gardener.

As parents, we need to take responsibility for our children’s behavior. 95% of the time, their behavior reflects our parenting.

Don’t try to be the parent who is constantly trying to escape her responsibility to tend her garden, secretly (or not so secretly) hoping that someone else will come over to weed. If your child is a “problem child,” then get to the root by starting to examine the ways you’re interacting with him. Humbly correct what you’re doing wrong first, and then watch your child follow in your footsteps.

Your wife will be like a fruitful grapevine, flourishing within your home. Your children will be like vigorous young olive trees as they sit around your table. Ps. 128:3