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Let me be the first to tell you that I am not qualified to tell you how to raise your kids. I’m no child training expert even though we currently have seven in our home. I am simply leading you to resources that we have found helpful over the years and that [we] probably need to revisit.
Patience is something I’m still working on, and I’m almost certain that I’ll be working on that til the day I die. Controlling my temper is also something that I struggle with. Kids know exactly which buttons to push to cause you to lose what control you do have quick-fast & in-a-hurry!
But I’m willing to share with you what we have learned. Understand that these are things we have learned through trial and error or searching out answers from Christian authors and the Bible.
7 Things We’ve learned along the way
Here are the top 7 strategies that have helped us over the years:
#1 Stop counting.
That little counting to 3 thing. That’s no good. We did it when the older two were little, but we listened to a sermon by Voddie Baucham where he went through Biblical child training. Counting teaches delayed obedience, which in turn is disobedience. We were very convicted about our parenting method because we felt that we were giving the kids mixed signals, so we stopped counting. And let me tell you, that’s easier said than done because when you’ve been counting for a long time (and we had been) it takes a while to break that habit.
#2 Enforce ‘listen and obey.’
If I have told my kids to listen and obey once, I’ve said it thousands of times. This piggybacks off of #1. When you stop counting, you must teach them to listen and obey right away. It takes time and training, teaching them the importance of doing what they are told, when they are told, with a respectful attitude (another of Voddie’s teachings). I’m not talking about training little robots; I’m talking about teaching them that Mama and Daddy know what’s best for them and those around them.
Imagine your little one running toward the road. They need to know that when Mama or Daddy tell them to “Stop!” they must stop. It’s a safety thing. Let’s be honest here, if they don’t obey you in the day to day, they are not going to obey you in a dangerous situation because they don’t perceive the danger.
#3 Time out is okay, but it’s not the cure all.
Sometimes a kid needs a break. We don’t call these time outs. In fact, we really don’t call them anything. If there is a wayward child, and I’m cooking dinner, I make said child come sit at my feet. I remove him or her from the situation that they can’t handle. I suppose you could call this a time in. The first time I heard of this was in the book Raising Godly Tomatoes by L. Elizabeth Krueger. The idea is to stake your children close to you to keep them from getting into further trouble.
#4 Send them outside.
Okay, use your judgement on this one. If you live on a busy street or in town with no fence (maybe even if you do have a fence), don’t send them out alone. But we live on 3 acres with a very large fenced in back yard and while our dirt road sees a fair amount of traffic, we are a good distance from the road. After a certain age, yes, I send them out to play. Generally if a big kid can’t watch them and I can’t watch them, they have to play in the back. They need time to play outside, to dig and build and climb and run. They are kids; it’s their job! Mr. Rogers (Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood) was right on when he said,
“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”
#5 Teach them to love one another.
This one is probably to most difficult one. Siblings fuss and fight. Kids hit and bite for no apparent reason except to release frustration. Our kids are no different. Sometimes I get really angry myself when they hurt one another. A couple of ours lately have said, “I hate so-and-so.” That hurts my heart, and I have to explain that hating means you wish the other person was dead. That’s not love. It takes time and teaching the same things over and over. And over. Yes, we make them hug when they hurt one another physically or emotionally. Usually, after that comes laughter, and play can resume.
#6 Teach them to love Jesus.
How do you do that?
- Model it.
- Read to them stories about Jesus and His love. We love Big Truths for Little Kids by Susan and Ritchie Hunt. When our big kids were small, we went through it and learned the catechisms and memory verses. Now, we are going through again with the little ones as part of their homeschool curriculum. They don’t think of it as school, and they really do love it! I am amazed at what they have already learned in the few weeks we have been reading it again.
- Talk to them about God’s goodness and love for us.
- Admit to them that you mess up, too, and that you have to ask for help and forgiveness.
- Use squabbles and the “I hate you-s” to be teaching moments.
- Pray for them in front of them (I admit, this is a weakness of mine).
#7 Be Consistent and follow through.
This may be the most important one because it goes along with all the others. You have to be consistent. The same consequence has to be in affect every single time when you are training a child. I’ll admit. That’s tough. I get tired and let things slide. Varied consequences teach my kid that they might have a chance getting away with something. For kids–like a certain little sister–who think the consequence is worth the thrill of doing the rule-breaking thing, this is freedom! Be consistent.
And you have to follow through. If you say that you are going to throw a toy away if little man throws is across the room again, you have to throw the toy away. If you don’t, you are a liar. I’m a liar, too, sometimes. I bark out empty threats to get them to do what I want them to do (even if they should be doing the thing anyway), and that’s no good. Eventually, they’ll call your bluff. Guaranteed. Strive to follow through. If you don’t like the consequence you are about to dole out, don’t dole it out.
Parenting is the hardest job
Without a doubt, parenting is the hardest job you have. Even at it’s best, it’s tough. You’re raising tiny humans to become adult humans that can function in society.
I linked to just a few books here that we have read and used. Remember that we’re not going to all agree on everything. There may be concepts in these books that you don’t quite agree with, but overall, I think that they are good starting points and offer great tips and strategies in child training and discipline.
*There are many, many more wonderful parenting books out there, these are just a few of our favorites.