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.

 

The Way to My Son’s Heart

I could tell he was mad. I suspected that it was at me. I felt his angry glares and backstabbing looks all morning. His anger leaked out into his behavior as abuse of my other children so I had to send him to his room, reassuring him I would follow later as I soon as I could.

His tall, lanky, ten-year-old body lay on his bed as I entered his room a few minutes later.  I watched him for a moment that seemed like an eternity. Ten years old. I was a little intimidated that he was already that old. Where has the time gone?  Did we have a solid enough foundation to last through the coming teenage years? His behavior had, of late, been very challenging for me.  And here we were yet again. What was I going to say?

I said a quick prayer in my heart and strove to remember the things I believe in as a parent.
“Connection  before correction,”  came to mind. He certainly needed connection. But how do I start? He was in no mood to accept a hug.

“Hey bud.” I started out, still not knowing what to do.

“What?” His reply was sullen, but he fought a smile. I pushed aside the fear that he was just manipulating me, and chose to believe that his apparent cry for help  was legitimate, and the smile just relief that it had been heard.

“What’s wrong? Did something happen? You are not usually sour and angry.”

“I don’t know.”  “Hmm. Now what?” I thought. I decided to keep walking toward him and keep talking.

“Did I do something to offend you?”

“Maybe, I forgot.”

By now I was close enough, and I spontaneously started to try to tickle him a bit. It quickly turned into a wrestle.  I laughed as he tried to hold my hands. I easily pulled free and wrapped my arms around him so I had him pinned to me, backwards. He fought against me, and even put his teeth on my arm as if to bite, but didn’t bite down.

I pretended it was kisses and I said “Oh, I love you, too!”

“NO YOU DON’T!” he yelled at me.

“Why don’t I?” I asked, feeling I had hit on something.

“Because you sent me out of the house last night with the other boys, and the fight wasn’t even my fault!”

The night before, I had had friends over, and was frustrated at the constant screams from the boys’ room. I had finally sent them all, in exasperation, out the door to go find their dad next door where he was hiding while I had friends. I hadn’t taken the time to listen to the pleas my oldest son had made to me, and it had taken a toll on our relationship.

“You’re right,” I said. “I didn’t listen. I’m sorry. What happened?” I listened as he told me the account of the happening, and then said “So you don’t feel like it was fair that I sent you out with the other boys?”

Of course, he said “No.” “So next time I will ask to see who needs to leave, instead of tell everyone to leave. Sound good?”

“Yeah.”  He sounded relieved. Then without any prompting he added “I’m sorry that I was mad at you. Will you forgive me?”

“Absolutely.  Will you forgive me for not listening to you last night?”

“Yeah.”

“Thanks bud.” I gave him a hug, as it was now acceptable. And we left the room friends, made better through the storm.

This was a small moment of success for me. I wanted to share it, hoping it will encourage you. Its all just Daily Life!