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

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

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!”

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

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

Telling Them “No”

2012-09-29-14-51-51.jpgDo you ever find yourself turning your kids’ requests down? Then come the inevitable appeals of whining, crying, arguing, tantrums… You dread everyday situations where you have to tell your children “no.” You simply don’t have the energy to fight the battle you will face when you have to tell them they’re not getting what they want.

I deal with this in a few ways. I try to say “yes.” I explain the reason. And I do not permit crying (this includes tantrums) when they don’t get what they want.

I try to say “yes” whenever I can. This means I will sometimes alter their requests so that  I can say “yes.”

“No, you cannot have anything else to eat before bed, but when you wake up, we can have pancakes!”

“No, you cannot wear your Spiderman costume to church, but as soon as we come home, you can put it on.”

“No, you can’t have any candy before dinner, but if you help clean up afterwards, I’ll give you one piece.”

Having this attitude of wanting to grant their requests teaches them that you want to bless them. Sometimes their requests are unreasonable. And if we say “no” to everything, they can get discouraged. Developing an attitude of wanting to grant their requests is a good alternative to snapping at them, “No, you can’t!” It is also representative of God’s character, who humbly blesses us with every good gift.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.      James 1:17

I also try to explain to them the reasons for declining their petition. Try to help them to understand what’s best for them.

“The reason we can’t eat too much candy is because it isn’t good for us, and can make us sick. Do you want to be sick?”

“The reason you can’t step into the street is because cars drive there, and you can get very hurt if you get hit by one.”

“The reason you can’t watch another TV show is because when you watch too much TV you get a bad attitude. I don’t want you to get a bad attitude, so let’s turn it off and find something else to do.”

Explaining our reasoning to our children helps them know that we aren’t just trying to rain on their parade. We train them to think the same way we do, so that they start making these same decisions without us constantly having to get on them.

Finally, I don’t put up with crying when they don’t get what they want. Even if I’ve tried to be positive about what they can do, and I’ve explained reasonably why I must decline their request, they may cry, whine, argue, or throw tantrums. They do this because, just like me, they are selfish human beings who want what they want. For any of these actions, they receive discipline and a consequence. The idea is to help them recognize their selfishness, and encourage them to respond respectfully. Even as early as 2 years of age, it’s important for them to begin learning that it’s unacceptable to cry when they don’t get what they want. The sooner you instill this in their hearts, they more you will enjoy your children as they grow!

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! Mt 7:11

Behaving In Public

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Teaching your kids to obey in public starts with teaching them to obey at home. Keep the standard high at home. That way they know what’s expected in public. It’s not fair to them to let them talk back, disobey, or disrespect things at home, and then get angry when they act the same way in public.
If they see you keep a low standard at home, and then suddenly see you raise the bar when your friends around, they are going to become confused and frustrated with you.

If you don’t want them to jump on the couch and throw things when you’re invited over to a friend’s house, don’t let them do that at home. If you don’t want them to run away from you in the grocery store, expect them to come each time you call them at home. And if you want them to respect you in public, shower love on them at home.

It’s true that even though you have a high standard at home, children will still push the limits in public. It’s almost as if they know that you are powerless to enforce your authority in isle 10 at Target. In that moment you could take them to a semi-private place to try to discipline them, like the bathrooms, or back to the car. But for me, I’m hauling 4 little ones every step of the way, so I try avoid as many detours as possible. So when my children misbehave in public, I will usually get down to their level, and quietly tell them their consequence in their ear. It may be a spank, a time-out, or a privilege taken away that will occur when we get home. My kids usually respond by loudly protesting their future repercussions. By that time, it’s more important to hold your ground than to keep them from embarrassing you.  The objective is not merely to keep them quiet; it is to teach them respectful behavior.

For this method to work, they must believe you. And in order for them to believe you, you must follow through. When you get home, remind them of what they did wrong while in public, and give them the consequence. After a few times of practicing this, they will have more respect for your warnings.

The last time I had to do this, my 5-year-old’s behavior changed immediately. Even though she knew her impending judgment, she determined to not rack up any more negative points while we were out. Two hours later when we were driving home, she was the one reminding me that she needed a consequence when we returned.

Also, before you enter a public place, give your kids the low-down on what’s expected of them. Remind them what behavior is expected, prohibited, and what consequences will occur if they transgress your rules. Before entering a grocery store, I usually have a conversation with my kids that sounds like this:

“Okay everybody, we are going into the grocery store now. How are we supposed to act?”

“Be calm and obey,” they respond.

“Can we touch things that you see without permission?”

“No.”

“Can you cry if you don’t get what you want?”

“No.”

“What happens if you break the rules in the store?”

“We get spankings or time-outs.”

“How are you going to choose to act when we go in?”

“Be calm and obey!”

“That’s a good choice!” I affirm with a smile.

Your children long to please you. You can help them succeed in doing that by clearly outlining what is expected of them. And if your expectations are clear, you will be more confident in disciplining and rewarding your children.

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