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!

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!

Why do kids test us?

At some point pretty much every parent wonders why kids test us and “push
our buttons”. Why, when they know it brings out the worst in us? Have you ever noticed they test more when we are busy? Or why when sometimes we have made a concentrated effort to change how we respond to them, for example, trying not to yell, or trying to exercise patience, do they seem to purposely try to push us to our limit? So why when we are trying to be better don’t they try to be better too? Don’t they appreciate us trying? Or do they just like being yelled at? Do they like to see us so angry that we lose our self control and become a scary monster to them? Well maybe. I have watched kids push buttons and have felt my own have pushed mine. Based off my observations and some insight from my own childhood memories, I have come to a few conclusions. I wanted to share them here with you today.
First, kids don’t really like to see us angry. Their behavior is actually a cry for help. Often they act out when we are busy because they want to know if we care about them. They wonder if what we are working on is more important than they are. Therefore they “test” us to see if they matter to us in that busy moment. They are looking for security. Yes, it is terrible timing. We wish they could just “be good” until we are done. And truth is they can be! Just a patient answer and a little love can go a long way in those tense moments.
Now, please remember I am sharing this not to make you feel guilty in any way! I just wanted to share my insights to possibly help someone who may be at their wit’s end to understand their children and know they are not a bad parent.
Next, if children are used to us reacting in a certain way, they feel a little insecure if we start to be patient with them. Odd, isn’t it? But don’t stop trying! Try to understand that our old reactions always left them with a bad feeling, like maybe that they were bad kids. They have sort of figured out how to cope with that feeling by shutting off a part of themselves, at least from us. So when we start to be more patient, or thoughtful toward them, they wonder if they can trust us. Are we still that person who is going to make them feel bad? Or are we trustworthy now? So guess what? That’s right, they test us. They push us as far as they can to see if we will turn back into our old selves. If we do, we prove them right, that we are not worthy of their trust, and they continue to shut themselves off from us. And then we parents wonder why, as teenagers, they don’t want to open up to us. Odd, isn’t it? But if we can understand, be strong, try harder and hold on, we may win their trust to a whole new level. So keep on keeping on! Once we have proven ourselves to them, and prove to them that they are worth it, the misbehavior mostly corrects itself. It wont be a battle forever. I’m not saying that they wont ever misbehave again (but wouldn’t that be nice!). I’m only saying that if we win their trust, they will have more of a tendency to trust that we have their best interest in mind. Therefore they listen more, take instruction better and come to us with problems and for support.
So in all our living of daily life, let’s remember that misbehavior has reasons. Keep looking for the reason behind it! Good Luck!

One day with a “soft voice”

Proverbs 15:1 tells us that a “soft answer turneth away wrath.” It always made sense to me that if you answer softly you wont provoke your opposition to be more angry than they already are, but I never thought it might also be talking about your own wrath.

As I sat contemplating one day, about how to make the atmosphere in our home more peaceful, I thought about that verse.  I decided to try it, and see how much it would turn the “wrath” out. So for one day i made it my number one priority to use almost a whisper at all times.  No yelling through the house for my children to come, no sharp reprimand, no getting louder to be heard over the crying.  I would never have guessed what i learned in that one day.
The first thing I noticed was that the house was quieter altogether.  I could hear contentment I hadn’t heard before.  I heard more laughter, more happiness and joy than on a normal day.  Was it there, and I had never been quiet enough  to hear it before?

Next I noticed how I felt. I felt less stressed. I felt I had more energy for connecting and caring. In fact I felt more connected and full of compassion all the way around! When the kids had a problem I felt I had time to listen and care. When I needed  their attention, I approached them rather than call them, and put my hand on their shoulder or back before I whispered in their ear. As a result, they were very responsive and obedient.   When things did get loud, I kept my voice the same or even more quiet.  And, as if miracles would never cease, the loud got quiet so they could hear what I was saying!  I even had the toddlers stop crying so they could hear me!

I felt more happiness in that one day than a normal day. Was it there all along and I just never could hear it because I was too loud? Or was it just a “good day”? I might not ever know, but needless to say, using a quiet voice is definitely my goal now. I am far from perfect at it, and I don’t always experience such benefits as that day, but I believe its worth working for in my daily life!