Child training: obedience

“The representative of God …… did not say ‘You shall choose God’s service now; and if you deliberately refuse to do so God will break your will so that you do do it’; but He said ‘….Choose ye this day whom ye will serve’ (Joshua 24:15)” ~ Hints On Child Training by H. Clay Trumbull
“Many parents and teachers use the phrase ‘I’ve told you a hundred times.’ They need to realize that it is not the children who are dense. Children know what works for them. Adults need to learn that telling a hundred times is not effective.” ~ Jane Nelson “Positive Discipline
“Now, if the parent realise that obedience is no mere accidental duty, the fulfilling of which is a matter that lies between himself and the child, but that he is the appointed agent to train the child up to the intelligent obedience of the self-compelling, law-abiding human being, he will see that he has no right to forego the obedience of his child, and that every act of disobedience in the child is a direct condemnation of the parent. Also, he will see that the motive to the child’s obedience is not the arbitrary one of, ‘Do this, or that, because I have said so,’ but the motive of the apostolic injunction, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” (Charlotte Mason, Vol. 1: Home Education, p. 161)
“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work.” Titus 3:1

We all know that obedient children make our lives more smooth, and the days easier. But if you are anything like me the question of how to “make” them obey looms between the dream of obedient children and reality. I wanted to share some things I have found helpful in teaching my children to obey. But first I want to mention that these work better with young children. I am pretty sure your teenager will hate you (and me!) if you try these on them!
Obedience is more of a childhood habit you want to teach while they are young. As they grow older obedience is born out of respect for the authority making the request.

  • First, when my children are small, I teach them the “obedience game”. I state a command and they obey. At first the commands are simple and essential like “Stop! Walk.” “Sit. Come. Go.” As they get better and more capable I give instructions “Go to the fridge and open the door, look what is on the top shelf and come back to tell me.” “Pick up all the pink toys you can find between here and the door and count them.” We practice obedience this way so that when we are out in public or in the middle of the day, I can expect them to listen and know what to do. I give them lots of encouragement as they accomplish each task. “That is good stopping! you followed all those directions! Good job!” I try to focus on the job they did, with honesty, and not what I feel about it. So no “Thank you! I am so happy you obeyed me!” as this can teach them to depend on outside acceptance and praise rather than how they fell about themselves.
  • In the course of our day, when I need a child to do something I always call them to me first. I have learned that if I make a request from across the room I am setting both of us up for failure as they stop listening after one word or so, so ai have to make that one word count. I also have a game where they learn to look at me when I say their name. If, in the moment, they choose to ignore I remind them that we need to practice looking when I say their name. And then I say their name five to eight times, each time telling them to look away again. If they don’t come when I call, or are too involved in a game to respond to their name, I go to them, touch them and tell them to come. While they are with me, we practice responding to their name and then remind them that they need to come when I call. Then I allow them to return and practice coming to my call several times. All of this before I make my request. It probably doesn’t take as long as it sounds, and even if it does I feel it is an investment well made.
  • When they come to my call, I always look them in the eye to make my request. It shows respect for them and me, and it teaches a good habit. It also ensures that I have their attention.
  • I then make my request and have them repeat it back to me by asking “What did I just ask?” or “What are you going to do now? This helps with their follow through. If up till now they have only been going through the actions, they finally get their mind and heart involved by repeating what their plan is now.
  • There is always times when you don’t follow all these steps, or even through the steps, obedience is not observed. When you feel guilty that you didn’t do it right, does this justify the child in not obeying? No. These times you can take the child aside and explain to them that you require obedience always. That they need to remember the good habits you have taught them, and implement them in their lives so that they can become useful and pleasant people. It can also be a good time to talk about obeying cheerfully and the quote from Titus 3.
  • One more thing that you can do in moments where they don’t listen or obey is a do-over. Simply say “Wait! lets try that again!” Try for eye contact and state your request again. Hopefully you will have a better outcome. If not, it may be time for a bigger talk about what is bothering them. (By the way, this one applys well for teens!)
  • As always thanks for reading! Here’s to hoping for more obedience in your Daily life!

My Story: The Meaning of Discipline

When I first started parenting, I felt  was in uncharted waters. Not only had I never had my own kids before, I had definite ideas of how I wanted to parent that were very different than what  saw a lot of around me. As I went throught those first few years, I swung like a pendulum, from permissive, to authoritative and overbearing. I could never feel secure about what I was doing and Though I could see my goal, my perfect picture, I couldn’t see the road to get there.

I loved parenting books and read several trying to find my guiding style. I first had the opportunity to look into love and logic. I took classes, and started implementing it with my 18 month old daughter.  I can say this, it definetly brought results! Ones I wasn’t sure I liked. I still wasn’t the mom I wanted to be. I Found myself spending too much time thinking of consequences, and then not wanting to follw through on those consequences because they felt unfair to me! I kept at it, thinking it was the only way to discipline without spanking. When my daughter was four years old she didn’t like me. She didn’t even acknowledge when I said her name. And she certainly wouldn’t do anything for me.  I realized it was time to throw out the idea of discipline and go to reaching her heart once more. I didn’t even ask her for anything, I just filled her poor, empty, dry, little cup. Within a month or two she started responding to me again, and even doing things I asked.

I am not saying Love and Logic is bad, I am saying for me, the way I was using it, was. I manipulated my little girl in the name of discipline until she was so hurt that she wouldn’t even listen to me.

I looked for something else. I admired my friend’s children’s behavior, and talked to her.  She spanked. I felt torn. I knew I didn’t want to spank, but I wanted kids that obeyed like hers did. I finally decided to give it a try. I read the books she handed me and dove in. It was wonderful!…… for the first few months. The kids obeyed, I hardly ever had to spank. It did help me feel a little more empowered as a mom, which I needed at the time. But I still didn’t like the mom I was. And it only got worse.  I realized I couldn’t spank anymore when I would feel calm at the beginning of the spanking only to lose control during it, and hate myself after.

So I threw all ideas of discipline out. I prayed, which I should’ve done more of before. I decided that the most important thing  was to keep my Heavenly Father’s Spirit with me. So anything that didn’t produce His fruits (love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperence) wasn’t ok anymore.  I didn’t let myself get caught into anymore books to read but I prayed to find the path I still knew was hiding somewhere. I was determined to find it even if I had to pave it.

I began to study the meaning of discipline. I found that it came from the latin word disciplus  which meant ” to teach”.  A disciple was a willing convert. How I wanted my children to become willing followers! But I needed to take the time to convert them. And how do I do that effectively?

Next I thought about this “rod” spoken of in Proverbs. I felt there was more to it than just a stick. I felt it was reasonable to asssume it was talking about a shepherds rod, and imagined a shepherd with his sheep. Now, a shepherd does not hit the sheep with his rod, or they learn to run away from him. (Could that apply to children as well?)  They only use their rod to guide the sheep. I was liking this train of thought,and wondered what else the shepherd uses the rod for. I imagined a shepherd walking up a steep mountain, using his rod for stability and strength.

“So the shepherd also uses the rod for himself!” I thought. Thats when I realized the rod was talking about the Word of God. It felt like an major epiphany, and I was excited. If I took the true meaning of discipline and put it next to this I got “Discipline is to teach the Word of God.” What a statement! It completely changed how I looked at discipline. It is not about making a child suffer so they “won’t do it again.” It lined up perfectly with everything I had learned.

About the same time I started homeschooling. I felt it was not for the education, but that it was very important to keep my kids close to me. When I heard the term “attatchment parenting”, I decided that was worth looking into, as it was what I was after, right? I prayed about what book to buy to learn from and decided on Attached at the Heart Publisher: iUniverse Star. I related to every principle in this book and wanted to know more. It mentioned Positive Discipline as a way to discipline the children in a way to preserve that connection, and it gave some principles as guidelines. I needed more, I knew. So I prayed to find more material on it. Within the next two weeks sometime I went to a booksale of discarded books. There on the table was the a book titled Positive Discipline: The Classic Guide to Helping Children Develop Self-Discipline, Responsibility, Cooperation, and Problem-Solving Skills. It was the best fifty cents I ever spent. This gave me a starting place. It put into wordsw every goal I had made for myself and it gave me a pathway to get there. I suddenly felt I really could be the mother I wanted to be! It wasn’t just a vain hope. I kept looking for supporting information and came across If I Have to Tell You One More Time...: The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids To Listen Without Nagging, Remindi ng, or Yelling. This held a plan on how to apply the information without being overwhelmed. It helped so much in making a huge change in how I responded to situations and in the atmosphere in our home. I was finally training myself to be the mom I saw in myself! I am far from perfect, and so are my kids, but I have so many more tools now. And just as with physical work, and the tools that make it easier, I feel these tools have encouraged me and made my job more enjoyable. I hope you too can find more tools to help in your Daily Life!!

How I potty trained my daughter easily

Potty training can make the most stalwart parent tremble. I know, because I was one. I confess, life gave me the neccesary experiences to make me a little gun-shy. But I did gain humility! And a lot of understanding.

My first daughter was not quite two when she showed interest in the potty and I figured she was ready. Besides we had another baby in diapers by then.  So we began. I gave her a small m&m when she went to the potty and I gave her the chance every 30 min. She did great!  She told me potty, she kept her pants mostly dry, and I felt like a succesful parent……… For two weeks.  Then her accidents became more frequent. It annoyed me, and I hated that it hurt the bond we had had through the process. So began the accident battle that lasted FOUR YEARS!!

My son came along, but I wasnt going to try until he was older. I had heard boys were harder, so I waited. I had also heard that it was good to catch the window of time that they were interested, so I didnt wait too much longer. Since I was still struggling with accidents in my daughter I sought more counsel from other mothers. I decided to try putting a large T-shirt on him and leaving him bare.  I might have been lucky but he did NOT like making a mess on the floor. So he quickly learned to go to the bathroom where I had a little potty set up for him.  He was trained in two weeks and did not regress as my daughter had done.

My third child, my son was trained in nearly the same way by his grandma while I was on a trip.  He also did not regress or have accidents. I started to feel a little more confident in the potty training arena again.

Then my second daughter turned two and again showed signs of being ready.  I tried the same tactic that had seemed to help my sons be so successful. It seemed to work magic again and she had enjoyed it. ……… for two weeks.  Then she apparently decided it was not just fun, it was work to go potty. And again we were in a battle of wills and accidents for another year. Again our relationship was damaged. Again I hated it.

My third son was potty trained quite easily and I decided that the saying about boys being harder was absolutly wrong.  So far my girls were much harder. Impossible might be a better word.

So my darling third daughter and sixth child I was not going to tackle so early. At 22 months, however she had different plans.  I would find her playing in the toilet with her cothes off more than once a day. She told me potty all the time. she loved to go sit on it. In the middle of church service she would say “Mommy! I need the potty!” Everyone would look at me, expecting me to take her, and so I would.  I was rather annoyed and I decided to train her as she seemed so determined. I put her in a long dress and left her bare, but took her to the bathroom every half hour.  She seemed to purposely wait until she was in the kitchen, just after we had tried to go potty, to make a puddle on the kitchen floor. And her brothers thought it was so funny. It was a really bad combination. She got tons of attention for having accidents, and nothing I could do could out weigh it.  I tried to put her back into diapers only to have her take them off and make puddles for her siblings to laugh at. It was a nightmare, and I felt helpless.

I decided to try a new approach. By this time she was two and a half, and my patience was thin. I tried to not let it come between us and strove to not react negatively when I changed her.

One day I had a lot of energy and was teasing her and laughing as I changed her. I said “I Love you!” as I let her go. She turned around to say “Yep, but you dont like me when I wet my pants.”  I felt shocked. She must’ve still gotten the vibe of my feelings of frustration that I had tried so hard to hide.

Since I was learning a lot about positive discipline a couple months after the afore mentioned incident, I decided to try talking to her about her accidents. I started by saying I was so proud of her for trying to go potty and keep her pants dry. (Even though it didnt feel like she put forth effort, I still tried to acknowledge her possible efforts.) Then I said I noticed that she had some accidents. how did she feel about it. She sighed like she was emotional and said “I just am playing and I dont want to miss anything. Then my pants are wet even though I go potty!” I gave her a hug and said it is really hard to miss the playing while you go potty. I added “I know that you will get better at leaving your play while you go potty so your pants can stay dry. You are getting big and thats what big girls do. I am so glad you are trying to be big.” After our talk she did an AMAZING job of keeping her pants dry. She still had about one accident a day, but I could tell her efforts were doubled.  She started doing preschool with me this year and that helped her feel bigger and more successful as well. So her accidents are more rare now, and when she starts again I know she needs a shot of confidence. A reassurance that she is getting big and that I love her for who she is, not what she does. Can you blame me though for being a rather burned out when it came time to think about potty training my next daughter, who came right after her?

I had no motivation to start potty training my youngest girl. We had a great relationship and I was afraid of letting it be damaged again. So searched out a connected way of potty training. Meanwhile she learned to take off her clothes and diaper, signs I used to look for to determine readiness. I read enough that I was determined that she could potty train herself when she was ready, and I mean really ready.

I started by just talking to her about going potty, and taking her in with me when I went. I told her that soon she would be big enough to go potty like me. Sometimes I would ask her if she wanted to try to sit on it, and accepted her answer whether it was yes or no. I wanted to respect her on everything. There were times I felt a little discouraged and like she would never be interested in it, but I never let myself pressure her.

One day she said she didnt want to wear a diaper. She didnt like diapers she said, so I asked if she wanted to try wearing panties like a big girl.  She said yes. I helped her sit on the potty, put panties on her, and got her dressed. A few minutes later she had an accident. She cried, and said she didn’t like panties. “Panties make me pee!” she stated. I did not tell her it was not the panties fault. I just laughed.

It took her a couple weeks before she was ready to try wearing panties again. Most mornings I would ask her if she wanted to wear a diaper or panties and then respect her choice. I told her to not worry. Soon she would be ready to wear panties and go potty ike a big girl.  After a couple weeks she tried again, only to have another accident. But it didn’t take her as long to recover, and a couple days later she was back in panties. This time she did well. She even told me “Mom! I was going to pee but I stopped it!”

“Oh good! Then did you go potty?”

“No. I didn’t” She said, still holding herself

“Well after you stop it you have to go really fast! ” She said “ok” and darted off. Only  a few days later she was dry, and taking herself to the bathroom. I occasionally ask her, mostly if we are in a store, or outside, so she remembers to go. I don’t have to set any timers, she is completely self motivated to do it. Yes she is a little over three, but it was worth it to wait for her to be wanting it and doing it herself. I feel I didn’t do hardly anything to train her, and we both felt good about the process. It was respectful, peaceful, and connected.  She is now secure in her Daily Life.

 

Toddler Times!

Do you have a toddler? Then you know what its like to watch your little angel baby turn into an independent, control loving, person full of their own ideas and ambitions, which I might add, seldom line up with your own.  It can be a daunting, frustrating, and even hurtful experience. The intimate and beautiful bond you have shared becomes broken and lost, and it feels like they are just trying to push your buttons. The good new is they are not. They are simply trying to get their needs met in the best way they know how.

All behavior  is communication. When children act out they are trying to tell us something. They may be trying to say they are anxious, or scared. Or perhaps they need teaching or a boundary to feel secure. And of course we all know they need love. The only thing is they ask for it in the most unloving ways!

I do not claim to be a parenting expert, but I have have a passion to share what I have learned through books (lots of them!) and through my eight kids experience, even though I am still learning. So my goal here tonight, is to share my favorite responses to common toddler misbehaviors.  If you have questions, or if I left out the behavior you are struggling with please comment and let me know!

Obedience: Or rather disobedience, right? Toddlers love power. They love to test how much power they have, and how much you have.  So they run from you instead of come when you say. Or just say “No!”. They are wanting to see how you will help them obey. When they see us stand red-faced, angry, and helpless they feel powerful, maybe too powerful. They know they are misbehaving. They essentially don’t feel good about themselves and need our help to feel better. They know we are mad and even if they are laughing, they are scared. They need us to stay calm, cool, and collected while we handle them.

My children will usually cry even if I gently pick them up and bring them back to the place I was when I called them, but that is okay. I usually gently talk to them and say they need to come when mom calls. I can even say I am scared when they don’t come, or take the opportunity to teach that Heavenly Father wants them to learn to be obedient.  Then I take time to train the response I want. After they are done crying, and they are ready to try again I set them up for success by telling them they need to go back to where they were and come this time when I call their name. So they return and I call “Alyssa, come!” This short command is easy to hear and follow. If they come I am overjoyed and openly show them they were successful. A quick celebration with lots of hugs and “high fives” and then I ask then to run back and do it again. We repeat five or seven times.

If they do not come they may need a hand to hold while they walk to where you called them again. And another try. If they obviously know what you want  it can be a signal that they need something besides knowledge. They need motivation. The only motivation that really lasts is attached relationships.  So as soon as possible find five minutes to hold them and read a book. Or play a quick little tug of war over a blanket or pillow. Then as you settle back down, or close the book, ask if they are ready to try coming again. Soon they will come every time on the first call. I can still call my ten year old’s and they come right away.

Attention: It is so frustrating to be ignored. At first I didn’t know how to respond when my child ignored me. Now it is still frustrating, but I go to them, place my hand on them, and say “I need you to look at me when I call your name. Let’s try that again. Alyssa! Oh good job you looked at me. Look over there. Alyssa! Great you remembered!” We repeat in a fun way, looking at different areas about ten times.

Tantrums: These are the times when it can be hard to keep calm while our child melts down, -sometimes even in public!- And we feel a range of emotions ourselves including helplessness.  We cannot make that child stop crying. The thing is that their little brains are overwhelmed with feelings of loss and disapointment.  If we are honest with ourselves we have these moments too (sometimes right as our child is disolving into sobs!) and it takes all our efforts to hold ourselves together too. Realizing this in the moment can be helpful, as thinking helps get our brains in a more relaxed state, instead of in a reactionary one. Think, what do you wish someone would say or do when you feel this way? I would probably like to hear something like “Its okay. I love you. I know you are dissapointed. I know you wanted to stay and play more.  Its so hard to leave when we need to. Do you want to say goodbye? Don’t worry, I will help you out to the car.” And then either carry them or lead them out, while they tell you (through sobbing) exactly how they feel.

Cleaning up after themselves: It is important that Toddlers learn to pick up the toys they use, and the clothes they take off. It helps them feel capable. And when kids feel capable, they behave better. (Just like when we parents feel capable and successful as parents, we find it easier to behave well too!)  Teaching this skill can be as easy as showing them where their dirty clothes go. But with some kids, it takes more practice. More success. So do it over and over until they feel succesful at it!

Most other behaviors can be taught with the same idea of setting them up for success and repeating.  I base my ideas off the methods put forth by Jane Nelson.

If you want more ideas here is two of her books targeting toddlers and preschoolers. Good luck with your toddlers in your daily life!

Does Connection Matter?

Does Connection matter in parenting? I mean, its too much to expect parents to be connected all the time to their children, right? Parents are busy, plus they know whats best for their children. And you can get kids to behave without having a connection with them. So why am I always emphasising conection? Well, I am not an professional, but I have seen the benefits of it in my children and my relationship with them.And since you may be a science geek, I will try to sum up the scientific reason connection is vitaly important. It is based off the many books I have read on the brain and its development.

You may have heard the terms upstairs brain and downstairs brain. Basically, the upstairs brain is where the self-control center is. Where you make decisions, and do your thinking and learning. The downstairs brain, sometimes refered to as the “reptillian brain”, is where you go when you experience big emotions such as anger, fear, excitement, ect. It holds your ability to fight, or run in danger but it also is responsible for losing yor self-control when you experience stress. Now since the upstairs brain is where you learn, if you try to teach a lesson to a child who is frightened, or angry, its not going to sink in very well. Children can be frightened very easily. After all we, the parents, are several times bigger and stronger than them. They fully realize that should we have a mind to do so, we could hurt them very badly. But they also fear neglect, being forgotten, or not important. They avoid emotional pain same as we do. So if we base our acceptance off their good behavior, they have an underlying fear that if they lose control, or have a bad day, that their need for acceptance will go unmet. And that fear makes it hard to learn anything. The brain learns best if it is relaxed, and can just focus on the things at hand, not worry about whether or not they will be loved. So we help our children succeed by giving them an unconditional acceptance. (note:this is not saying we accept thir behavior at any time! Only the child).

I have heard a couple stories that illustrate this principle. There were two sisters. One got married, had a baby and of course was determined to do everything right. She made sure that baby had lots of tummy time so she could get her brain patterning, even though most of this “tummy time” the baby just cried. This baby had trouble learning to crawl, and crawled late. So the other sister gets married now, has a baby, and is determined not to let this baby cry. So even in the middle of tummy time she would pick the baby up if the baby was done and starting to fuss. She was told that her baby would have trouble learning to crawl, that she wouldnt get the brain patterning she needed. Well that baby learned to crawl early, and had no cordination problems at all. She simply felt secure enough that her needs would be met so her brain could relax and do the patterning it needed.

Next there was a mother who wanted connection with her children. She would talk about how she wanted to greet them with a warm greeting but because the child had done something childish that was dangerous as well, she felt the need to cuss them out so they wouldn’t do it again. She wanted her children to follow her beliefs and traditions, as we all hope for our children. So she spent lots of time yelling at them so they would hear what she said and be obedient. Well I hear her kids are grown now. And they have made decisions that she didnt want them to.

So does connection really matter? You judge for yourself. Simply stated “No one cares how much you know, unless they know how much you care”. Do our kids know and feel how much we care? If they aren’t listening, or acting out, maybe we need to check do we have connection in our daily life?

What do you do with an “out of control” 5-year old?

Home school was going well. Everyone was studying around the table. The feeling was an atmosphere of peaceful chaos. I did my five-year-old’s guided lessons, and then set him to work in his workbook. Upon checking on him a moment later, I discovered he was scribbling all over his page. After a few attempts to correct him, I realized he was not ready to do his work, so I set him down from the table telling him that he could return when he was ready. His attitude quickly spiraled out of control, and he began pushing chairs and throwing things to the floor. I sent him outside to cool off telling him he could return when he was ready. BAD IDEA!!! I guess I didn’t learn my lesson the first time.

A moment later I heard thudding on our front porch so I went to check what it was. To my horror he had a kitten in his hand, and was beating it against the support beam of the porch.  I felt at a loss for words, or actions or anything.  When he saw me he dropped the poor kitten, who luckily wasn’t badly hurt, and glared at me, but I saw something else too: fear. He was scared too, and that knowledge helped me stay in control of myself.
“What are we going to do?”  I asked it out loud, but it was more to myself than to him. Honestly, I was fighting to keep the control of my “upstairs brain”, and pushing away thoughts like ” Time to spank,”  or ” How would you like me to bang you against that beam?”  I got down on his eye-level and said ” I feel so sad that you treated a tiny kitten that way.  I can see you are having a hard time controlling yourself right now, so I will hold you until you can control yourself better.”  I took his hand, led him back to the kitchen, and pulled him onto my lap while I told my daughter, who was next in line for guided lessons, that we would have to work the best we could still.  My son predictably screamed, cried and wriggled to get free, while I instructed her on what to do next.  At one point I had to cover his mouth so I could be heard, but it wasn’t long before he quieted down again to just a cry.  His brothers tried to reason with him, telling him to be still so he could get free, offering deals if he would quit and trying to get me to offer some too.  I finally got the message through to them to let him be, and he would go free as soon as he regains his self-control.   I told them that they were adding to the situation rather than helping. Soon after they stopped, he quieted down, slowly letting himself stop flailing, and even get interested in his sisters lesson.  I held him as long as I sat there. He no longer fought me, and I could tell when her lessons were over that he would be ok to go.  I hugged him and told him I loved him before I stood up and let him go.  He ran off, his emotional balance restored, and feeling connected. The rest of the day he acted almost better than usual. He didn’t return to his poor behavior at all.

I believe in connection before correction (when I can remember that is :). I believe my 5 yr olds out-of-control feelings were scaring him as much or more than they were me.  I believe that he needed someone stronger than him to help him regain his control.  The fact that he didn’t return to his poor behavior tells me that his need for connection fueled his misbehavior, and when that need was met he didn’t need to misbehave any longer. I’ve punished children for the same type of behavior before, only to have to fight them all day long. I’m grateful to have learned a few more tools and i hope that sharing this experience will help you in some way. After all, we all could use encouragement in Daily Life!