Posted by: mamaamy | January 26, 2010

Getting back on Course

T and I read “To Train up a Child” and many of the other training books when J was a baby. We were inspired and did a good job of training him in the early years. We never baby-proofed the house and talked to him a lot about gratitude, respect and obedience from the early years. We did the same with C. Both boys are good and we get positive feedback from others on their behavior.

That being said, T and I lost focus and consistency with our training. We accept full responsibility for that. Now, J is 10 and C will be 7 in Feb. They have become willful, disrespectful at times and not obedient 100% of the time. I’m seeing a lot of complaining, negative attitudes, arguing with us and each other, etc…So, where do we go from here? How do we restart the training efforts? Right now, we are in reactionary mode. I know we need to be more proactive and not reactive, but I find myself constantly reprimanding and punishing. What is the appropriate form of discipline at this age? We still switch, although I feel they are really getting a bit old for it. We also remove privileges and do time in the corner, or being sent to their room.

Overall, we are a close family. We spend a lot of time together and we all love each other. But, I feel like we really need to step up our training efforts and nip these negative behaviors in the bud before the kids get any older. Also, we want S to be following a good example set by his brothers and his parents.

Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

Hello S,

Thanks so much for your note, and again I want to say how proud I am of you and T for your work with your kids and for your efforts to stay on course with their training.

As I have been thinking of you all and praying for you, this is what has come to me:

Let’s say that there is a guy named T and he is an athlete—a runner.  He is a great runner that has trained hard and succeeded in many races.  He is in great shape and feels healthy.  He is rarely sick and is able to achieve much. But, over time, his work schedule and his life have distracted him from his focus on running.  He has gotten out of shape and basically just given up on trying to stay fit to race.  Eventually, he sees that his back is hurting, he doesn’t sleep well, he gets out of breath walking up a flight of stairs, and he is gaining weight. In general, he’s still looking better than most guys his age, but he knows that he is not where he wants to be.  What would he do to get back on track?  What would it take? Well it would take going back to his original training program.  Now he wouldn’t be able to start where he left off.  He would have to go back to the very basics to ensure that he didn’t injure himself.  He would consider what his goals are.  He would make a commitment to achieve those goals. He would make a plan of attack, and then, he would start to slowly and gradually build up his fitness level until he could run those marathons again.  It would take time.  It would take a bit of minor pain.  It would take denying himself certain things like high fat, high calorie food, tv watching, sleeping in, etc.  It would take keeping the goal in mind and working toward it everyday, consistently.  But eventually, all of the training would be evident and he would be able to participate in the joy of racing and fitness again.

This story mirrors what it means to get back on track with child training.  You and T know that you were faithful with the training in the beginning and there was success.  You all reaped the benefits of the efforts that you made to train your children.  Eventually time and life distracted you from the work of training and the kids are beginning to show signs of the lack.  Poor attitudes, argument, disrespect, disobedience are all creeping into the home.  The boys seem better than most other kids, so it’s not too bad, but you know that they are not where you ideally want them to be.  They are not “fit.” So what will it take to get you all back on track?  Well it will take getting back to the original training plan.  It will take slow, patient, consistent effort.  It will take you and T deciding what the goals are and committing to them.  It will take making a plan of attack. And of course it will take work to make it all happen.  It will mean denying yourselves certain things and denying the boys certain things.  It will mean a little minor pain. It will take keeping the goals in mind and training everyday to meet those goals.  Eventually, you all will see the evidence of the efforts and will be able to participate in the joy of obedience.

In general, this may give you an idea—a picture of what needs to happen.  Now I will get into a bit more detail.  But before I do, let me say this.  To be a trainer, you have to understand what it means to be self disciplined.  You and T will have to be disciplined to do the work.  The self denial it takes to get up from where you are comfortable or to drop what you are in the middle of in order to carry out the training program for your kids is essential.

So the first thing that I would encourage you and T to do is set the goals.  This means that you and T must choose what the standards of the D family are.  It is best to choose a few that encompass much.  Mitch and I have about 5 standards which I am sure you have read about on the blog: respect, obedience, love, gratefulness, appropriateness. These have been great for our household but they are not necessarily for everyone.  We know other people that have some variations and some additions. The key is that you and T spend time thinking about what you want your family to be like.  Try to abstract time and look at the future…what kind of teenage boys do you want to have living in your home?  Get specific.  How do you want them to act at the table?  What do you want your house to sound like? What do you want your evenings to be like?  Do you want boys that will talk to you about anything? Do you want them to spend most of their spare time with you or with friends?  Do you want to be a judge over all of their disputes or do you want them to know how to work things out? Do you want boys that know how to clean house, make dinner, and do dishes, as well as work on cars or bikes, build fences, and rake leaves?  Do you want young men who will speak with respect to their mother and consequently all the women they encounter?  Seek the vision for the D home.

Once you have decided what the goals/standards are, then it’s time to strategize as to how to attain those goals.  What forms of training will you use?  When the kids are little, a little thump on the hand may be the minor pain needed to get the signal to the brain to stop what they are doing. But as the children get older, it is necessary to train them in other ways.  (A runner may get up early on a cold morning and go run 6 miles one day.  The next day he may do sprints, the next he may do a longer endurance run.  Each time it is a bit painful.  He is training his brain that this is what to expect.)  For training a youth, it may be denying them something that they really enjoy, it may be denying them the fellowship of the family, it may mean sitting and holding hands with the one he was fighting with, it may mean giving them some labor or job.  Whatever the form of training, it should always be done immediately after the standard is ignored or broken and be appropriate for the infraction.  As a friend of mine says, “it must be swift and sure.”  It must have its effect or it will be mocked by the child and consequently worthless.   (If a runner who wants to run marathons but only goes out for two mile runs everyday, he will not be prepared for the race when it comes; it is not training him for the race ahead.)

Once the standards of the household are decided upon, and the means by which to uphold the standards are considered, then it takes commitment.  I would encourage you all to sit down as a family and discuss the new standards, ask the kids what they think and talk about the results that you will all enjoy—living in a household of peace and joy.  Perhaps you can all commit together to uphold the standards.  This will help the kids understand the purpose for the training.  (If a coach told a runner to go out and jump on his toes for a while but didn’t explain that it is for the purpose of agility that he is doing it, he may not be so enthused to obey the coach.) Keeping the kids in the loop as to the goals will help them have ownership.  As you help discipline them, you can remind them of the standards and they will understand.

The next step is to begin. Make training your daily goal, knowing that trained children are healthy children.  They live with the assurance of your commitment to their best interest. You are on their side to help them uphold the standards so that they will live in a household of peace and joy. It is work.  It is self denial. It is creativity. It is commitment.  It is up to you.  You must keep in mind that what you are achieving in training your kids to high standards of obedience, respect, love, etc., are characteristics that your children will take with them their entire lives.  They will teach their children.  As you labor in this work, you can be sure that it will yield fruit continually.

The present work will eventually help you achieve those specific goals for your household as well. Practically speaking this means choosing a specific aspect of one of the standards and really working on it for a while.  At times, we would choose a week and say, “This week we are going to work on immediate obedience.” Then we would really focus on that one thing and be consistent until we got an immediate response every time a word was given.  Another week we would work on no fit throwing, or crying quietly, or going to bed when told.  Take each of your specific goals, for example, what you want it to be like at the dinner table, and figure out what it is going to take to make that happen.  I can give you a case in point.  For our meal time, we decided that we want our children to be able to dine with kings.  We feel that if we train them at home then whenever we go out to dinner they will know the standard for dinner behavior and will naturally behave that way.  Our goal is to have a calm, peaceful dinner with nice music, good healthy food and great conversation.  For our family, this is an ongoing area of training.  We are constantly reminding everyone of this goal and continually training to this end. Our standard is that everyone serves until the meal is on the table, and then everyone sits and behaves like kings at the table.  This means serving to get all that is needed on the table so that once everyone is seated there is no need to get up again.  Everyone sits appropriately for the remainder of the meal.  (If people are constantly getting up and sitting down, it becomes chaotic.)  It means listening when others are speaking especially to the elder ones at the table. This is an opportunity to listen and learn.  It means not reaching to get what you want but asking nicely for things to be passed.  It means no arguing or loudness.  It means no silliness.  It means waiting to be excused before leaving the table for any reason. With our continued efforts, mealtimes tend to be where much of our deep and meaningful conversation begins with our kids—especially with our teens at this point.  The fruit of our labor is sweet.

This already gives much to think about I am sure, but I just want to mention a few things that will really aid you in your labor once you renew the training: eating right, getting plenty of sleep, giving your brain a rest from clutter.  Isn’t it amazing that all of these would be important to an athlete in training as well? It is true.  A child that is eating healthy food without chemical additives, colors, preservatives, estrogens, etc. is much more apt to behave well than one given the garbage that is in most “food” that is being sold in grocery stores today. Training a child to go to bed at a decent hour (for us it is 8pm for anyone 12 and younger) is good not only for the child but great for the parents as well.  Keeping the clutter of tv and video games out of their brain is also essential.  If you are competing with media you are in a loosing situation.  Media will always win out over whatever you want them to do.  It is a huge time waster and a major distraction from real life for both the kids and the parents.  I cannot stress enough how much of a thief it is.

Finally, I encourage you and your boys to listen to or read out loud the book called The Lost Prince by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  It is a great story of how a father trains his son to be princely, even though their present circumstances reveal them as vagabonds and poor, because the father knows that his true identity is that of heir to a kingdom. He is one of many descendents that has been trained over the generations to be prepared to return to his warring country and be reinstated as rightful king.  And he has been training his son to do the same.  It is truly worth reading to inspire you as you develop standards for your household.

I hope this helps.

Mama Amy



  1. thanks for posting this amy! T and I have read and re-read it several times, with lots of discussion and planning along with it! You are helping countless lives. blessings

  2. Your response was so helpful. Still working on getting it right. Thanks.

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