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

Posted by: mamaamy | September 3, 2009

Question 9: Some book recommendations for children

Do you have any books you’d recommend for young boys? I mean longer books than the usual board books and what-not. I’d like to use at least 1 nursing time during the day to read a book and have them sit quietly but it’s hard to think of something they’d follow.

We love to go to the library and pick up a pile of books.  I have a cabinet where we keep the library books so that they don’t get mixed in to all the other books that we have.  The children like to go and pick out their own books, so I have shown them where their favorites can be found and then they just go there when we get to the library. They also know how to ask for assistance from the library aids.

Here are some great authors and illustrators and the titles of some of their books:

William Joyce:  Leaf men and the Brave Good Bugs, A day with Wilber Robinson, Rolie Polie Olie, George Shrinks…some of his books have been made into cartoons and movies.  The boys especially like these.

Jan Brett:  anything illustrated by her especially Three Billy Goats Gruff, Berlioz Bear, and The Mitten.

Tomie de Paola:  there is a wide variety that is written and illustrated by him—some stories are more superstitious but others are really beautiful and interesting and often have a “old world” look and history. The Clown of God is especially good.

Virginia Lee Burton:  Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel (all my boys love this one.) It’s a classic.

David Kirk:  He does the Miss Spider’s Tea Party and others.

Max Grover: Accidental Zucchini and others

Ian Whybrow:  Quacky Quack Quack

Eileen Christelow: The Five Dog Night and others

Thomas The Train books are great with some simple lessons

As our children got a bit older than yours are now, we started reading from chapter books in the evening before they went to bed.  We continue to do this. It gives us time to have them on our laps and also train them to sit still for a while and listen.  We read one chapter and then talk about what we read, the choices the characters made, the things that they found important, etc.  Some of the books that I highly recommend for this are:

The Little Britches series by Ralph Moody are excellent!  It is for older children—maybe 6+.  The father of this young man passes away at the end of the first book, but the story is how the boy becomes the man of the family and how he matures and handles life. It is along the lines of the Little House series, but from a boys perspective.

The Redwall books by Brian Jaques are also a great adventure series for boys ages 8+.  They are about woodland creatures that are like knights that battle vermin with swords.  Boys especially love these. (Girls like them as well, I think that with all the sword fights and vermin, the girls weren’t as interested.)

All of our kids have loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder “Little House” series.  Farmer Boy is especially geared for boys but all of them are great.  Our family reads The Long Winter every year near Christmas-time and we discuss how grateful we are for all that we have.  (Age 5+)

Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn by Mark Twain are hilarious (although not very PC.)  We have these on tape with a really good narrator and all of my kids and Mitch and I absolutely love them.  (Age 7+)

C.S. Lewis wrote the fabulous Chronicles of Narnia.  Some are a bit deep for the little ones, but The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is a good one to begin with.  (Age 5+)

I hope this helps you get started!

Mama Amy

Posted by: mamaamy | July 26, 2009

Question 8: Demanding children

  • C is yelling a lot and making demands- I tell him no to whatever he was asking for but it still continues.  I have been talking to him about “angry words” and “kind words” and speaking with a “happy heart” but it doesn’t seem to be sinking in.  How do I fix this?  On the same topic, I was thinking through tonight about telling him about how our mouth speaks what is in our heart.  I wasn’t sure whether it was good or bad to illustrate that if angry words are coming from your mouth, it tells me there is anger in your heart b/c I kind of wonder if it matters- Jesus was angry, he just didn’t sin.  So what is the root issue I’m dealing with here, do you think?  Just call it sin or define it or…?

The age of your children requires that you continue to develop their language.  All along, I have been talking about respect.  This is a new concept that you are beginning to understand and incorporate in your family.  Your children are probably beginning to understand this term and how it is applicable to many situations in their lives.  Self control is another term that your children will learn if this becomes a standard in your home.  In this particular instance, yelling, self control would apply.  A child may feel angry.  This isn’t bad in itself—as you mentioned Christ was angry—but even though the child feels the emotion anger, self control is needed. This is the opportunity to train him in self control.  Help him understand that he can yell or choose not to yell.  “Yelling is disrespectful to those around you, so it is inappropriate to yell in the house.  Please do not yell in the house.  Do you understand?  You may not yell.  Please use self control to not yell.  You can control your self—discipline yourself–or I will have to.”  You can’t change what is in his heart and manipulation of his emotions (angry heart, happy heart) will not accomplish a change.  The issues are self control and appropriate behavior, (maybe even authority if it comes to disobeying your word to not yell.) (The concept of illustrating that out of our mouth speaks what is in our heart might be much for his age, but you can decide if that would be good.  And once you establish that what he has is anger in his heart, the utilization of self control and appropriateness are still necessary.)

Here is an excerpt from one of the blogs, “Peaceful Naptime and Quiet Crying”:

When a child experiences emotion like frustration, disappointment, discouragement, anger, jealousy, etc., three things are needed.

  1. Vocabulary development in the presence of “comprehensible input”
  2. Background building
  3. Instruction in the proper response

First, an interpretation of their feelings is needed for comprehensible input. For example, if a child does not get something that he wants, the parent should interpret the emotion he experiences from being denied what he wants by saying, “Right now, son, the emotion that you are feeling is called disappointment….” Second, after providing the interpretation and developing vocabulary the child needs for us to build background –to provide some stories about other times when he was disappointed, or to testify about when we were disappointed. Finally, he needs to be instructed as to how we properly conduct ourselves when we feel like this, “…and the proper response to “disappointment” is to say, ‘Oh well, maybe next time.’”

Once he has been equipped to manage his emotions, through vocabulary development, background building and being instructed in the proper response he may manifest his emotions through the exercise of his will. At this point we can assess what soul training is necessary.

If he is tempted to express his emotion by crying out, fit throwing, or screaming, we recognize this as an opportunity for soul training–specifically training the will (not the emotions.) Their will must be trained in self control. We do not spank a child for being disappointed, but we may for not using self control and for being disobedient. At the point one experiences an emotion one has a choice to exercise the will or let the emotion “high jack” the will. If one doesn’t know the proper response to the emotion he feels and is not trained to exercise his self control over that will, then he will likely cry out, throw fits or do whatever thing he feels like doing.

Mama Amy

Posted by: mamaamy | June 8, 2009

Questions 6 & 7: Co-sleeping:when and how?

What’s a good time to tackle the co-sleeping? I was thinking it might be less stress to do it while S is on a trip (he’s going to be gone for a whole month this summer) but will I be compounding the difficulty if I do? In my opinion it would benefit everyone to have the boys together as soon as possible.

Co-sleeping, I believe, really helps to bond brothers and sisters. It helps, by the direction of the parents, to encourage care and affection toward one another. If one wakes in the night, the other can help quiet and secure the other. My experience is that when I hear a little one cry in the night, I often am beat to the aid of the child by one of the other kids shushing and comforting the frightened one to sleep. I just know that I don’t want to sleep alone every night and I am sure that kids don’t either. It is always a comfort to have a warm body close by. When we have had our children sleeping with us during the nursing years, the children would sometimes wake in the night, cry out briefly, but then see that we were there next to them and, then lie down usually touching one or both of us–totally comforted. I believe that this breeds an overall sense of security. Although this is really not something that can be measured or tested, I am convinced that having the children sleep with us and then with each other has contributed to the pervasive security and well-being in our children. As with any other training, once you move the boys in together it will take a week or so of consistently setting the expectations of what sleep time “looks like” and then enforcing it. Once they understand the standard (or expectation) and they know that you intend on helping them uphold it, you will find that bedtime is a peaceful and enjoyable end to the day.

Both for now and when we move the boys together, should we have them nap/sleep with their doors open or shut? I’ve always shut them so that they aren’t woken up by me but I think I miss some misbehaving when I do (C getting out of bed to grab a toy and then getting back in bed- that sort of thing). I’m trying to think ahead to when they’re in the same room too…

In our family, we have an open door policy—especially for the younger kids. (Now that we have teens, they sometimes need a bit of quiet away from the family to study and read and talk, so we allow them to close their doors more often, though we have easy access and check on them at random times.) For the young ones, we keep the doors open. We talk about respect in this area as well. Those in the house must respect the freedom of the “nappers” to be able to sleep in quiet. (I have never tried to keep it really quiet around those that are sleeping, though, so that they didn’t require quiet in order to sleep. It seems to make them more flexible.) In your situation, when you do put them down for naps (and bed) I would stay close by the bedroom and really pay attention for several days in a row and really train proper behavior (no toys, etc.) consistently for a while, till they “get” what nap time and bed time are suppose to be like in the household. Once they seem to understand the sleep time standard, then you will be able to have some freedom during their times of rest.


Mama Amy

Posted by: mamaamy | May 22, 2009

Question 5: Where do I begin?

Right now things seem so out of whack, should I just focus on 1 or 2 behaviors and tackle those while letting the others slide until we’ve got them under control or just go for the whole shebang?  Where do I start???

Focusing on a couple of areas for the moment sounds like a good strategy, especially since you have a new babe to care for as well. So if you would like to focus on authority and establishing domain, this would be a worthy beginning.  In our minds, a recognition of and respect for authority are the highest ideals of the Kingdom: our recognition of the King and His delegates. We define authority as right and responsibility plus service.  The foundation of a child training pyramid (see below) reflects this definition of authority.  By understanding your authority in the lives of your sons, you then have the right and responsibility to begin serving by developing your relationship with your sons.  It is bonding with them, enjoying them, and playing with them. It is also building the assurance in them that they are provided for and protected–always. You and your husband are their all in all. You will take care of their every need.  And it is training the foundations of obedience to your authority. These are the basics and a place to begin.

Here are a few ideas: while the baby is napping or occupied, you might set up some training sessions to help establish your word as the authoritative word.  I used to play a game with my children called “Mother May I?”  It basically is Simon Says, but it reminds children to respond appropriately.  I would give a command and they would say “yes ma’am” and then obey.  We also set up candles (unlit) on our coffee table and as soon as they were old enough to pull up, they began to try to touch them.  We would spend the evenings training them in the word “no” and thumping their hand if they tried to touch them after the word was given.  Creativity is useful when coming up with training sessions.  They should be positive and fun and the parent’s attitude should be good.  Again, if the parent is looking for chances to develop schema and train in obedience, then it is much less a burden than an opportunity.


Mama Amy


Posted by: mamaamy | May 12, 2009

Question 4: the strong-willed child

As far as the sessions to work the rebellion out of their hearts, you mentioned you’ve only had to do this 1-2 times for each child.  Um, either I totally screwed up with C or he is one tough cookie because I’ve had to do this many times (6 at least probably).  It hasn’t been recent, let me rephrase that- it hasn’t taken a long time recently (one time it was almost 3 hours to get him to comply but lately the most has probably been 5-10 min) but am I totally missing something or is it just him?  I haven’t had to do it with K at all yet.

A weekend past, it was snowing and cold, so we spent some of our days watching home videos.  It is always so fun to look back at those videos of when the kids were small.  We all just laugh.  It reminded me of is what it was like back when I had 3. My third child was/is my “strong willed” child.  Sam was a stinker from the beginning. Just looking at him in those videos brings back many memories of the difficult time we had with him.  We had training session after training session and I would call my husband crying that I just couldn’t make him do anything he was supposed to do.  Mitch would say, “Keep it up, I’ll be home to take over soon!” The training of his soul required many more of those extended training sessions than the rest of my kids.  He just had such a determination about him that it took more to get it through to him that I required him to obey my word and disobedience was never acceptable.

I say that Sam is my strong willed child still, but through those years of determined effort, he is now well trained in self control and obedience.  His determination and strength are used to race bikes, rollerblade, juggle, learn piano—to learn to do what ever he puts his mind to.  He is amazingly disciplined.  He’s the first to have his homework done, he always takes his vitamins and eats well, and he keeps his room and drawers very organized and clean.  He’s a great guy who is happy and fun to be with. I know that God made him with this personality for a purpose. I could see him winning the Tour de France someday!

Just last evening, we went to fellowship with some friends. A man there who doesn’t know Sam and his history very well felt led to pray for Samuel.  And in front of everyone, the man spoke these words to Sam, “Purpose to set your heart to be trained by the father…you have been known by your brothers to be stubborn and strong-headed, but this is a gift…so you know when to stand in the Spirit and not in your soul…there is no condemnation but you have been known as bull-headed, again this is a gift to sharpen you so you are equipped to learn the deep things of God…You  have a father and mother that are training you for mighty things to happen.”  The Lord really confirmed what we have felt about Samuel.  It is true that the Lord has indeed given him this character trait for His purposes.  Our cooperative training of Samuel’s soul is essential to his growth and maturity in the things of the Kingdom.

I share this to encourage you to continue in the good work of training C. Your C may be a tougher kid, but God may have made him that way for a purpose as well.  If so, then it is essential that you continue to train him until he can use his self discipline and self control.  He will in turn lead the other kids into obedience and be a joy to you, your family and all those he has relationship with and be equipped for the purposes that God has intended for him.

Mama Amy

Posted by: mamaamy | May 1, 2009

Question 3: training or discipline?

How often should I be spanking and how can I be certain that spanking is the necessary intervention rather than coaching, etc?  In other words, how do I define when an occasion is meant for training and when it’s meant for discipline?  I feel like I never stop spanking C and wonder if I’m doing the right thing or pushing him too hard to “get it” before he is truly capable.  What’s normal?

This is an excellent question.  As children grow up, they try to understand the world and put it in order according to their understanding.  If, within this understanding, they learn about what behavior is appropriate in a situation, it becomes part of the order of their world.  It becomes part of their schema–the schematic in their brain that informs future behavior.  We are forming the schema of our children from their birth.  In our children, their schema reflects the understanding that disobedience brings sadness, obedience brings joy.  We have been training this in them since they were a few months old.    We are always coaching the children along the way, we are always talking of appropriate behavior, we are always defining the boundaries and interpreting situations, we are always training the children.  (In fact, not doing anything is training.)  Part of our job as parents is determining when disobedience/rebellion is in the heart of the child or if they just made a childish error. In our home discipline is reserved for disobedience–when a child knows what to do and does it not.  (It is like sin, when someone knows the thing to do and does it not, to him it is sin.) Consistent discipline for disobedience continues to inform the child’s schema that disobedience brings sadness—every time. It is a law.  It is a truth. You reap what you sow.  If you sow disobedience you reap sadness.

Training is different than discipline.  Training is proactive.  Think in terms of an athlete.  He trains his body to prepare it for the race.  It is a consistent work that alters his body over time.  Training is scheduling and setting up opportunities to develop behavior patterns, which may involve minor pain (an athlete suffers some during the training process) but it is not the same as discipline.  If you are proactive in training, then discipline is needed much less often.  Training is to form basic behavioral schema—what is appropriate behavior.  Discipline is reserved for rebellion/disobedience. For disobedience, a consequence is absolutely necessary.  Perhaps spanking is appropriate. For the most social of my children, sending him to his room by himself is more effective.  It is what you choose as the consequence and it must be consistent and immediate to be effective in altering his schema.  Disobedience brings sadness every time. (Not just for the child, but for everyone around him.)

In our family, we worked with our children on training with training sessions, and we disciplined for disobedience.  On rare occasions (once or twice for each child) the child would go through a major session of working out the rebellion in his heart.  The most recent time was with my youngest (when she was 2 or 3).  I was schooling some of the kids when I gave Moriah a word and she refused to do it.  I told her again what to do and she said “no.”  At that point, I could see that she had rebellion in her heart and I had to help her fight it.  (Btw, we teach the children that you fight rebellion with obedience.)  I told the other kids, that I needed to spend time working with Moriah, so school was finished for a while.  For the next hour I continued to give her a command and she continued to say “no” so I would give her a little switch, reminding her that it is my job to teach her obedience and that obedience brings joy.  “You have sadness right now because of the disobedience.  Please obey my word.  Obedience brings joy.” This went on for a long time.  Eventually she did the original thing I had asked, so I gave a different word to test if she was fully obedient.  She chose to say “no” to that word.  So we started the cycle again until she complied. After compliance, I would always alter the command to test what was in her heart and I didn’t stop until she would say “yes mama” and obey with a happy attitude.  (Keep in mind, my response was always a matter of fact—never in frustration or anger.  I was given to her to teach her. I was on her side.)  Once we established that obedience was required every time and that I was determined to help her obey because of my love for her and desire for her to have joy in her life, then she went for a long while without a challenge.  As I said, each child has gone through at least one of these sessions, but each one made a huge step in his understanding that my word has value, that obedience is absolutely required and that there is no option for disobedience.

Another important thing to consider; when it comes to training children, we look for opportunities for training.  When they do something that is not upholding the standards, we take it as an opportunity to train.  It is a good thing.  It is a positive thing. It is important Kingdom work that I have been given to do.

Mama Amy

Posted by: mamaamy | April 26, 2009

Question 2: yelling kids and snatching toys

C is often (and I mean often, more times than not for no reason) yelling at K and is also quick to take his toys, etc (which K rarely minds but still…).  Is this a matter to switch/spank for or is it again something to verbally train.  I’ve tried a bit of everything- coaching how to say it appropriately, commanding silence, spanking, etc.

Again, this is an area where explicit instruction is essential, and then consequences should be understood and then followed through on.

I think these are 2 separate issues but both would be infractions against the standard of respect: yelling and snatching toys.

If the yelling is a means of “disciplining” on C’s part it is like the issue from Question 1 and would need similar training.  If the issue of yelling is random and unexplainable, then it is a matter of respect that needs training.  Yelling is disrespectful of everyone’s freedom to live in a peaceful home. Perhaps I would say, “C, it is not appropriate to yell, please respect our freedom to live in a peaceful home. Do not yell.”  (if it is the first or second time that I am introducing a concept then again I would make sure that the child understands the offense—disrespect—and then I would let him know that I will have to discipline him if he doesn’t use his self control and be respectful.)  Then, I would take every opportunity to help him understand the concept of respect.  If we are out in public and another child is yelling, I would point it out and tell my son that the child is being disrespectful.  If we are at a restaurant and someone’s child is running around or yelling again I would say something like, “See, C, that child is not respecting our freedom to have a nice dinner.  That child is disrespectful.  Isn’t that an awful sound!  Thank you for being respectful and sitting quietly.”  If they can learn experientially what disrespect and respect are by me pointing out a number of different contexts where other children are disrespectful or respectful then they begin to understand the concepts.

Snatching toys is another form of disrespect–especially if ownership has been established.  In our household, each toy is “owned” by someone.  He has domain over that toy.  If someone else tries to snatch a toy, then I can ask whose toy it is.  The one who owns it, gets it.  “You may not snatch toys from each other.  It is disrespectful.  Disrespect tears down our family, respect builds up our family.  Please respect your brother’s freedom to have his toys without them being snatched away. Please go and find your own toys to play with.”  I would also perhaps take the opportunity (now or in the near future) to talk about sharing.  “If you would like to use your brother’s toy, then ask nicely to borrow it or use it.  If he lets you, then say ‘thanks, brother, for sharing’ if he chooses not to share, say ‘maybe another time.’”  He has authority over his own toys and he can choose to share or not.  We hope that he will share and encourage that act of loving the brother, but if he has reasons for not sharing, we must respect them.

This area of respect is an important standard in our family and we continue to train it in a variety of contexts.  When you have these types of standards, rules against innumerable infractions become unnecessary and child training becomes much simpler.  Every action can be defined by one of the standards. Once they understand the standards then they can begin to recognize and extrapolate how to alter their behavior based on those few standards.

Mama Amy

Posted by: mamaamy | April 19, 2009

Question 1: training obedience

When C (age 3) corrects K (age 2) while I am already correcting him, I’ve been telling him that I have authority here and he needs to be quiet like you suggested.  He is quiet but then the next time I correct K, he’s chiming in again.  Is this something I should correct as disobedience at that point or is it just another occasion for a verbal reminder?

I think the important thing here would be to discern what’s in C’s heart. When we correct young ones often it takes awhile for them to change a habit or get the idea. If you can discern that C didn’t understand or didn’t get it the first time, a verbal reminder is ok, but I would perhaps say, “C, thank you for trying to help Mommy teach K what is right, but when Mommy is correcting K, you may not do this. C, do you understand? Mommy has authority to correct K, you do not. If you continue to correct him while I am correcting him it will be disobedient and I will have to discipline you. Do not correct K while I am doing it.” Then if he does it the next time, remind him of your word, “C, I told you not to correct K while I am doing it and you disobeyed my word, you didn’t use your self discipline to obey, and now I must discipline you.” And then as a matter of fact, discipline him for disobeying your word.

It is always important to be explicit with what your word is, and the consequences of disobedience to that word. Once you are clear that they understand your word, then you must be disciplined to discipline when they disobey. They always have a choice: to use their self-discipline (and/or self control) or you must discipline or control them. It becomes a simple (although not always easy) matter of fact. They know what to do and if they disobey, then they must face the consequences. I think giving them the option of using self control or self discipline is a key factor in training them. They will, over time realize that they can do it themselves and don’t need your intervention. It is training in them an invaluable concept: “I can control myself with self discipline.” (We are really seeing the value of this training with our teenage boys…they fully understand the concept of self control and they are a pleasure to have around.)

Also, at another time, perhaps, you may want to talk to C about what he does have authority to do. For example, I often tell my 6 year old “You don’t have authority to train or discipline Moriah (the 4 year old), but you do have authority to encourage her to do the right thing and be a good example for her. If Moriah won’t listen and continues to do something she shouldn’t, then you can let Mommy know that you tried to encourage her, but she isn’t listening.” Then I will take care of the situation…

Mama Amy

Read also: Basic Training

Posted by: mamaamy | April 12, 2009

Greeting: Authority and Respect

Hey Amy!  Thanks again for talking with me the other day.  I’ve been thinking and praying a lot about what you had to say and seeking God on the direction for our family with standards, etc.  I know for sure that obedience, respect and love fit for us although respect seems a little abstract for me to try to teach so I’m working on defining it more concretely in my own mind.  I’m also thinking through the idea of thankfulness/contentment and maybe wisdom being other standards but am still praying about those- any thoughts there?  So here are the other questions I’ve had as I’ve been thinking all this through:

Hello KC,

I am so proud of you and your efforts to do the labor in the Kingdom of training your children. You have asked really good questions and they prove your thoughtful consideration of the experience that I shared with you. The standards that you have named are excellent and I know that as you and your family uphold these, you will reap the harvest that they cultivate in the home. As Mitch and I have been studying/seeking first the Kingdom, we have been asking the Lord what the highest ideal in the Kingdom is. We feel that right now He has shown us that submission to and respect for authority is the highest ideal. Because it is a Kingdom, we must honor the authority of the King foremost because that is what holds the Kingdom together. We then must respect the hierarchy of authority that He has given us for our good.

Included in this ideal is the term respect. To develop understanding of this word, let me share with you a revelation that Mitch and I had a few months back. We were talking about how God respects the domain that He has given to man. As we discussed it, we remembered the verses that have been ingrained in most kid’s heads but have little been understood: The Lord’s prayer:

“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We started to think about this from the Kingdom perspective and we asked, “What is a trespass?” It is entering someone else’s property without their consent. It is disrespecting their domain. If you think about it, God has entrusted us with domain in his Kingdom. The first domain that He gives us is ourselves and then He eventually entrusts us with more. We must “rule well” with the domain that He gives us if we are to get more. “He who is faithful with little will be given much.”

With our children, we encourage them to rule well over themselves from a very young age and then we begin to give them other bits of “domain” as toys or stewardships. We then encourage them to rule well over those things. “Respect” is recognizing the “domain” and understanding who has the “domain” and not trespassing into that domain. It is disrespectful to trespass into another’s domain without their consent. In fact, it is something that the Lord demonstrated the need for forgiveness for. (We feel that this is a concept that many Christians do not understand—many trespass into domain’s not given them in the name of ministry.)

I hope this clarifies the term respect a bit. . I really encourage you to read the article on the blog Training God’s Heirs about Rules vs. Standards. It may illuminate this topic a little more.

Mama Amy

(More Questions to come)

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