All day long we are called to the godly training of our children. (Deuteronomy 6:6,7) And yet, I would HOPE we are not spanking all day long! As was said previously~ if you have been diligent in your godly trainingfrom the get-go, you likely aren’t punishing often at all. So-what about the rest of the time?
Here are some practical insights.
- If children have done something wrong that they have never done before, this is simply a matter of teaching. We explain to them why it is wrong that we will not expect to see that anymore. It would be unkind to punish them for doing something they never KNEW was wrong in the first place.
- Sometimes, children really do FORGET what it is you asked them to do. I encourage them, then, to obey IMMEDIATELY so as not to get distracted. If you must keep your eye on them to help them focus on their task , then so be it. Our older children have the responsibility to take their own folded laundry upstairs and put them away. Occasionally, on the way downstairs to get a different pile of clothes, Andrew will spy a book on the floor, or a toy that he picks up. I can see his little mind losing focus. He is not trying to disobey, but his little mind gets distracted easily. I keep an eye on him and if needed, a quick “Don’t forget where you are heading” is all that is required.
- Sometimes, disobedience stems from misunderstanding, maybe you have to teach them what your request is going to look like. If you have asked your girl to fold the clothes three times and it still isn’t done, maybe you have to take a step back and show her HOW to fold them because, it turns out, she wasn’t NOT folding them out of disobedience, but out of lack of knowledge.
- Babies are a special case altogether. You can wonder what they understand or think them too young to really comprehend but I think in the case of babies, generally speaking, we tend to UNDERESTIMATE them, not the other way around. I start talking to babies from the get go with a stern word while still considering their frames. They may not really "get it" for a while, but you are preparing a way for them to grow INTO wisdom. In the beginning, I flick their cheeks if they scream loudly on purpose or bite me (nursing). Little flicks are super emotional to babies (and to me, because it is a sad day when you realize, OH YEAH! This perfectly angelic little sleepyhead/nursling actually has a will) I tend to flick them to teach them what not to do when they are first learning. Once it becomes a battle of wills, though, flicking just doesn't seem to cut it. It is obvious when babies begin to understand defiance. Our Adele' is the most stubborn, hot-tempered girls (you wouldn't know from the pictures, eh?) and the most....difficult...case of the three so far.
I remember the first time I knew Adele' was acting in defiance. She was heading for the stairs and I told her not to go up them (we don't use babygates) so she came back. A moment later, she was there again-but when I called, she came. I praised and hugged on her. Just another moment later, there she was again-on that bottom step. I told her to come back and she poked her head around the corner, smiling but she didn't come. I went to her and she was halfway up the stairs. She had justt learned to walk and is already petite, but the girl got a firm smack on her leg for that one because she knew precisely what she was doing and decidedly disobeyed.
The end of babyhood and beginning stages of toddlerhood marks an interesting era. Tantrumhood. Some more terrible than others, some more frequent than others~no tantrum should be tolerated. The earlier this problem is addressed the better. Adele' has tried to lay on the floor and kick her feet several times (once even at CHURCH, egads!) . Children, yes-even babies, need to learn self-control. I will ask her to stand up again. If she obeys, I will cradle her head in my hands, look her in the eyes and sternly say "You DON'T put yourself on the ground when you are angry!" If she does not, she gets a spank and the same.
Some children are more stubborn than others and may take longer to finally concede, but if you are stern and consistent, it WILL happen eventually.
- It is far easier and more likely for children to be obedient when their needs are fully met.
Apparently, I am not the only one who feels this way. I just started reading a book called For the Childrens’ Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay. I am only on chapter 4 so far, but when I stumbled upon this quote I couldn’t help but Hurrah!
Listen to what she has to say:
In my experience, children obey best when their lives are as fully satisfying as possible. If minds are interested, skills are being learned, loving relationships are enjoyed, creativity is encouraged, beauty in nature, art and music are appreciated, hours are spent in free play, and the children learn to climb, swim, ride, canoe, ski, or skate-why these children will be well on the way to having their sinful natures put in the backseat! Sinful natures expand like a malignancy at any age with loneliness, mental poverty, boredom, passivity, hunger, tiredness and deprivation of daily contact with the rich source material of goodness-the Word of God. When you think about it, many children today have hell on earth. Are we surprised at what happens?” (pg. 55, 55)
If we as parents take our focus off of ourselves and place it squarely on our children, we will learn what makes our children tick, we will know our childrens’ weaknesses, we can understand more fully their dispositions and we can anticipate unspoken plans and either thwart them or encourage them. We can consider their frames (sound familiar?).
The above quote, I think, does lack one crucial element. That is, children who lack real responsibility become unsatisfied very easily, knowing they are not needed for anything. Children, like EVERYONE, enjoy feeling a sense of worth; that they contribute something so it stands then, that it is important for our children to have worthwhile pursuits, things that make them feel as though they are a benefit to the family. A child whose only job is to play, play, play can feel very worthless, and rightly so. Even the youngest of children appreciate and enjoy grown-up responsibilities.
We see this as even the littlest baby hands you wet clothes to put on the clothesline or the toddler tries to wield pudgy little fingers into submission as they attempt to fold a washcloth. It would be unfruitful to stifle that innate desire so that “children can just be children”.
- Often, our children act out for a lack of something better to do. Anticipating these things and redirecting them in order to divert wrongdoing is incredibly beneficial.
- During long carrides, the children can start pestering one another. One is humming, the other doesn't like it and starts complaining. One is tickling the other, who wants nothing of it. For this reason, we put a few books in the car and switch them out periodically. In this way, they have something that will captivate them more than bothering one another. It is amazing the difference it makes.
- When I begin to see Corynn and Andrew getting more energetic in the house and I know the next step is going to be acting like monkeys, running and jumping around the house (a no-no here), I ask them to come help me in the kitchen. It works every time. All of a sudden there is something more worthwhile to do and much more fun, anyway. I have just avoided a bad situation and replaced it with something good.
- If children become unkind to one another, it may just be to get some excitement stirred up. Perhaps now is the time to bring out the special paints you bought the other day or a new game. Give them a project to do, preferably together, so that their relationship can be strengthened.
The three principles we talked about yesterday cover a lot of territory when you stop and think about it but certainly there are many more godly principles that need to be learned throughout life, many of which can be taught simply by directing them to scripture. This can be a wonderful way to have your children memorize scriptures that are pertinent to their own lives.
- When children complain we remind them “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” Proverbs 17:22 Whenever you hear them complaining or detect a whiny tone in their voice say “What does a broken spirit do?” or have them repeat the verse back to you.
- We don’t expect our children to stare and point at people with disabilities or make rude comments about someone’s appearances, but rather to accept and embrace them because they are God’s creation and made in His image. Our children aren’t expected to do these things because it would be embarrassing to go to someone’s house and realize it is YOUR child who is the bully of the group or YOUR child is the one who is snickering and pointing to the lady in the wheelchair. You don’t want them to be good and kind just for appearances sake’. Rather, they must show kindness to others because God says to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27)
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.
James 3: 9,10
- Siblings ought to treat each other with respect and love. Here again, I have higher expectations for our family than the world has of siblings groups. For some reason, it is okay for brothers to treat sisters cruelly and for sisters to belittle their brothers. I was in a grocery store bathroom when two sisters came in, a teenager and a young girl about 7. The teenager was shouting and saying “Hurry up twerp. Ugh. You are SUCH an idiot.” My jaw hit the floor. Corynn and I looked at each other, even at six years old she knew that this picture was not as it should be.
Boys and girls are different, as much as we are told otherwise, we know this to be true. They have different roles, they have different insecurities, they act out differently, they have different needs. That is the way we have been made, and we were made that way on purpose. Naturally, the way we approach our children will look differently and it follows, how they approach each other.
Sisters ought to respect their brothers. In doing so, they are practicing giving respect and building people up. Men (and boys) thrive on respect, so Mama and sisters need to give the young men due respect in order to bolster their confidence. It will not only help boys, do wonders for the sibling relationship, but will prepare girls for respecting their husbands some day.
Girls thrive on love and adoration. Brothers can show they care for their sisters by showing kindness to their sisters; like putting their sisters before themselves. In this way, boys are practicing for the day when they have a woman to put first and they are helping to form a close-knit bond with their sister.
It would be an ideal world if there was never a time that siblings argue. That just isn’t realistic since we don’t LIVE in an ideal world. When those inevitable times come, it is important to have a real discussion about this and to redirect them toward holiness; to help your child understand WHY s/he is to love and treat with respect his/her sibling, what God expects of them and why, what you expect of them and why, and finally, refocus their perspective by helping them to understand that their siblings are the best chance at best friends they will ever have~ they are always there, always ready to play, always ready to listen and encourage…and that you just don’t treat your friends that way. In fact, you don’t even treat you ENEMIES that way (Romans 12:20).
Then they must make amends.
Tomorrow we will talk about this crucial aspect of discipline.
We are almost through! Hang tight~tomorrow is the FINAL installment in the series. (cue angels choir)
IF anyone is still reading...