Posted by: mamaamy | July 26, 2008

Basic Training

Those of you who know me, have read other entries on this blog or have heard me teach know that I believe that we are made in the image of God. You may also know that I illustrate this belief with the diagram below. I believe that the circles on the right represent the triune nature of God and this corresponds to the circles on the left that represent the triune nature of man. It is in this way that we are made in His image. No other creatures in heaven or on earth are made in this way, and that is why we can become the sons of God. Like Father, like son.

The bible makes it clear that Jesus was made in this same way (except that He was born with the Holy Spirit in Him.) He had a soul (mind, will, emotions) just like you and me. And like you and me, he had to submit His human soul (mind, will, emotions) to the Holy Spirit. He did this perfectly. (Remember: “not my will, but thine.”)

When we are “born again” we are given the same Spirit as Jesus. The Holy Spirit replaces/fills/”baptizes” our spirit, so our spirit is now the Holy Spirit. Our spirit has been made new or replaced by the Holy Spirit of God.

Then why don’t I behave perfectly…like Jesus?

Like Jesus, we must choose to submit our souls (mind, will, emotions) to the Holy Spirit within us. This is not easy, as my soul wants to “rule”, to exercise authority, just like my Heavenly Father; consequently, our souls (and the souls of our children) must be trained to submit to the Holy Spirit. Our Heavenly Father is faithful to complete the good work begun in us and He will see it through to completion, and so…He trains us.

The scripture says that God’s will is our sanctification. To be sure, the Holy Spirit within us (assuming we are “born again”) requires no sanctification. So this scripture must be referring to the sanctification of our soul. With that in mind, I am convinced that the purpose of time is to train of the souls of the children of God, both young and old.

Our Heavenly Father uses time, situations and experiences to train our souls. Contrary to what many of us have believed, these situations and experiences are not just trials and tribulations. Like any good father, the Father God, is teaching and training us as we lie down, rise up and walk along the way. That is to say, He is training us all the time, in a variety of situations and experiences. Some we call “blessings” (good) some we call “trials” (bad), but the truth is…being trained by The Father is always good.

Theoretically, EVERY situation and experience provides an opportunity for soul “teaching” and we should be vigilant to look for these opportunities and how we might leverage them; however, it is my goal to provide soul “training” for my children (like my Father does.) Training differs from teaching, in my mind, in the following way. We can teach about exercise by telling someone about its benefits and then that person has an understanding of the general concept of exercise. Training, on the other hand, is most effective when it can be repeated, consistently, over time. Jogging one mile every morning produces much better results than jogging 7 miles once per week or, more illustrative, 30 miles once per month. With this in mind, I am looking to create experiences and opportunities for soul training. This is in order to make a real change in the soul of the child over the course of consistence.

The fact is, we are always training. Consider physical (body) training. If you sit on the couch and eat Twinkies all day, EVERYDAY, your body will adapt to that form of training. To the contrary, during the seven years that Lance Armstrong was dominating the Tour de France, I read that he took only 3 days off from riding his bike. His body adapted to the consistent training of riding each day.

Soul training works in this same way. It is happening whether or not we are cognitive of it or intentional about it. Mama Amy and I choose to be intentional (see the introduction) and try to create soul training opportunities or experiences. Kind of like creating an exercise routine. We look for the soul strengths and weaknesses in each child and consider what characteristics need training, then we set up training situations that will have the desired effect.

These training “exercises” begin around 9 months old, or about the time they start “pulling-up” on the coffee table. Each night after dinner I would get on the living room floor with the baby. We would play and tickle and snuggle and eventually “pull-up” and balance at the coffee table. There, in the center of the table was an arrangement of candles. These candles were colorful and attractive, and provided an excellent training situation.

As the baby was attracted to the candles and reached out to grab them I would say “no, no, don’t touch” of course the baby, being a language learner in the earliest stage, would touch the candles. When the baby touched the candles I would administer some minor pain and repeat my command, “no, no, don’t touch.” This minor pain was in the form of a thump on the hand. When I did this the baby would look at me with a down turned mouth, bottom lip protruding, and withdraw his hand from the candles, but only for a moment. Like a weightlifter making another repetition of an exercise, the baby would repeat his reach for the candles and I would repeat my command and then the thump accompanied with the command. Within a week most of my 8 children learned to obey my command. For one or two it took longer, but that’s another story. EVERY night for a couple of weeks, we would engage in this training routine, and before each of my children could walk or talk they were trained to obey my command “no, no.”

Similarly, I would sit with the 9 – 12 month old, nursing baby in my lap EVERY night at the dinner table. When the baby would reach for my plate I would say “no, no, don’t touch” and repeat the exercise described above. Doing this provided another context for training the baby to respond to the same command. Providing a different context, but using the same words helps create meaning for the baby. This becomes really important as the baby becomes more mobile and you need to issue that command in a variety of situations or contexts and have the baby obey. Mama Amy would also be providing opportunities and context to train as well, so the person would change also, therefore helping the child’s brain to be formed to respond immediately to the command in all contexts and any person.

Some may ask, “why not just move the candles, or sit the baby where she can’t reach your plate?” The issue is not the candles or the plate. The issue is my child’s soul training. We have never, “baby-proofed” our home. The world is not “baby-proofed.” Instead, we have intentionally used the environment of our home as an opportunity to train our children to obey our word, so that when we went out into the world they could safely experience it under our protective oversight.

Obedience is a major component of the soul training foundation. Without obedience you cannot train the higher level character traits of the soul. Imagine trying to train a young man to have responsibility or integrity without his first being trained in obedience.

There several components to any effective training (body or soul) plan:

· Stress (minor pain: the amount of pain involved should not exceed that of normal exercise. Also, as the child grows the type of stress changes and even the source of the stress may change as it has with my 16 year old.)

· Intensity (during the foundation period the intensity is low)

· Frequency (during the foundation period the frequency is high…consistency!)

· Duration/Volume (during the foundation period the duration/volume is high…think long, slow jog.)

· Recovery (inversely related to intensity)

· Discipline (all involved must use discipline…especially the parents)

Perhaps we will post an article on these training variables soon. In the mean time, please meditate on these and how they affect the training regimen. You may find it helpful to consider how these apply to training an athelete and how they may transfer to soul training.

This training pyramid is a very generalized guide based on our experience with our 8 children. Please know that the most effective training programs are individualized. To be sure, our Heavenly Father does not have one training plan for all of us. He knows each one and arranges situations and experiences tailored to the needs of our individual souls. But please consider the diagram and all its aspects. It is a good guideline according to our experience.

Before a child is “born again” we must train his soul to submit to the Holy Spirit. You may say, “but he doesn’t have the Holy Spirit if he’s not born again.” Right! The child must be trained to submit to the Holy Spirit within us! We are the ambassador, the delegated representative of God’s authority to the child, and the one commissioned with the responsibility to train his soul to submit to the Holy Spirit. So we train him to submit to our authority and obey our word. Many parents want their children trained so that they are not an inconvenience or an embarrassment. The training of our children’s souls is MUCH more important than our being embarrassed by or proud of their behavior. We must be mindful of why Jesus, the man, was perfect…He perfectly submitted His human soul to the Spirit of God within Him, and remember that He is the first born among many brothers.

Mitch and Mama Amy



  1. thanks for reminding me of your training models,
    the diagrams are very helpful!
    after i commented with questions earlier, i did an experiment with justus,
    the next opportunity that came for training, i abandoned the thumping on his hand and went straight for the switch. it worked! i guess the thumping just wasn’t painful enough for him like it was for my others.

    which reminds me of something i learned in behavioral psychology back in the day… for any punishment to be effective it has to be 1.swift (timely) 2. sure (consistent) and 3. strong (painful). i was getting the swift and sure, but just not strong enough.

    thanks again for your post, i’ll be directing lots of parents this way!


  2. one more question,

    when and how do you train a little one to “cry quietly” or “be still” for diaper changing, etc.?

    at 14 months old, i don’t know if justus can understand “cry quietly” or “sit still” as spoken commands. with “don’t touch” we switch and move his hand, pretty clear. with “come to mama” we have another adult gently guide him over to me until he understands the idea… what do you do to communicate what “cry quietly” means? or sit still?

    thanks so much!
    we love you guys!

  3. Oh, Thanks! Really interesting. Greets.

  4. […] he is protected and provided for. This is a basic component to child training. If one looks at the child training pyramid that Mitch made, it shows that the base and foundation of child training is relationship and showing […]

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