Saturday, November 3, 2012

How do I Get My Children to Do all of this?

DISCIPLINE, n. [Latin. to learn.]
1. Education; instruction; cultivation and improvement, comprehending instruction in arts, sciences, correct sentiments, morals and manners, and due subordination to authority.
4. Subjection to laws, rules, order, precepts or regulations; as, the troops are under excellent discipline; the passions should be kept under strict discipline.
5. Correction; chastisement; punishment intended to correct crimes or errors; as the discipline of the strap. 

1. To instruct or educate; to inform the mind; to prepare by instructing in correct principles and habits; as, to discipline youth for a profession, or for future usefulness.
2. To instruct and govern; to teach rules and practice, and accustom to order and subordination; as, to discipline troops or an army.
3. To correct; to chastise; to punish.
4. To advance and prepare by instruction.
 Noah Webster’s original English Dictionary. 1828

First of all, you must have the attitude that you are the boss and have the right and responsibility to expect obedience. This is good for your children. They will feel more secure knowing that an adult is in charge. 

Think about how scary it would be to know that a small, inexperienced child was the boss. This frightens children just as much as it would you. 

You expecting obedience will also train them to deal with bosses later in life (God being the Ultimate Boss!) These kinds of lessons are easiest to learn when a child is young. The longer a person is in the habit of being in charge and doing what they want, the harder it is to change.

A child must be taught how to obey. Trained, just like a pet or soldier needs to be trained. I know that analogy sounds horrible, but it is true. 

Though my children are far smarter than any animal, they can and should be trained to obey and have a cheerful attitude

“A dog can be trained to come, stay, sit, be quiet or fetch on command….everyday someone accomplishes it on the dumbest of mutts." To Train Up A Child by Michael and Debi Pearl

Our children deserve at least this much attention from us.

How to enforce? I have a number of strategies depending on the age of the child and what part of life we are talking about. 

I use natural consequences when I can (“You can‘t go play until your work is done. 30 minutes or an hour, doesn‘t matter”), but I put priority on heart attitudes. 

For example, if a child is dawdling at their work often, I evaluate the situation. Are they sick? Getting enough protein (brain food)? Sleeping well? Is a sibling bothering them unnecessarily? 

If the answer is no then it leaves two areas. The child can’t do the work or won’t do the work. Prayer really helps in determining which one I am dealing with. 

If they can’t do the work, then I find out why. Did I go too fast in my teaching? Is the curriculum a bad fit for that child? I then fix it. 

If, however, if I determine that I am dealing with “won’t do it” than that is a whole ‘nother thing. 

The primary purpose of education is to prepare the child for life. Real life. The one we will have in Heaven. 

Letting them grow up believing bosses can and should be manipulated is NOT good preparation. 

As I told one friend who was having trouble teaching a teenage child, “Academic subjects are just the tool you use to teach good character.” Our job as parents is to teach them to have the right kind of heart attitude. 

My kiddos know they can depend on me. I don’t lie to them. If I tell them they will be punished, they know they will be. If I tell them they will be rewarded, then they will be. Whining, arguing, or throwing a fit will not get them anywhere. In fact, such a response would tell me I have an additional heart area- rebellion and selfishness- to deal with.

These behaviors are signs of the sin nature. The Bible says “Rebellion is as the sin of Witchcraft” and “Children obey your parents.” 

This is serious stuff. 

To disobey your parents as a child is to disobey God! Not that parents are God or God-like, but because God said to obey. I have come to believe that rebellion is the worst and most common sin in the world and it is also very much a habit. 

I begin teaching my children at very young ages to have sweet hearts and discourage the habit of rebellion. The attitude a child obeys their parent with is the attitude they will obey God with. Do you want your child speaking to The Almighty the way he speaks to you?

I choose spanking as my main disciplinary tool. The first reason for this is that the Bible commands it.

“Foolishness [is] bound in the heart of a child; [but] the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” Proverbs 22:15

“For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son [in whom] he delighteth.” Proverbs 3:12 (If you don’t discipline your child, you don’t really love them.)

“He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.Proverbs 13:24

“Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.Proverbs 19:18

“Withhold not correction from the child: for [if] thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. (If you do not, he will die.) Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.”  Proverbs 23:14       

“The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left [to himself] bringeth his mother to shame.”  Proverbs 29:15 (Ever notice that well behaved children have great fathers, but bad children have bad mothers? This isn’t a fair attitude, but since Solomon mentioned it 3000 years ago, and it is still around it must be human nature to think that way.)

 “Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.” Proverbs 29:17 (The “male” pronouns and other words in the English language mean human. Only females get words devoted just to them. Thus, “discipline your son,” linguistically, means “discipline your child.”)

 “Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me…” Psalms 23 (The staff was used to guide the sheep and pull them out of crevices, but the rod was used to correct them when they got out of line and to protect them from predators.)

I know discipline doesn’t always mean spanking. In fact, our word discipline comes from the Latin word for disciple. We are to “disciple” our children; carefully teach them, lead them. 

But correction is an important part of disciplining. And the Bible clearly endorses the use of the rod, even commands as in the above scriptures. There is good reason for this and for the reasons that spanking has lasted for thousands of years, despite many attempts to get rid of it.

Spanking is quick. This is probably my favorite reason to spank. 

The child commits a transgression; the parent discusses it, administers punishment, comforts the child, and gives further instruction. 

Then it is all over with. 

The crime/sin will be remembered no more. Life goes on with a clean slate and the child’s soul is cleansed because the debt created by disobedience has been paid. 

With other methods of punishment, the transgression is remembered over and over, often for days or weeks. “No you may not go to Bobby’s house. You are on restriction for breaking my vase playing ball in the house two weeks ago. Remember?” 

Even for a time out…”no you may no get up yet. It has only been five minutes and you have to stay there for ten.” This is not good for the parent /child relationship, nor the home atmosphere. Home should be a place of refuge from the world, not the place you go to be punished, (as it often becomes when restriction is used). 

Often the parent ends up as punished as the child or giving in because they are tired of remembering the bad things. Spanking is over with in a few minutes. Done, Finished, Complete.

I am able to use it at an earlier age than other methods. I believe that a child’s natural state is one of rebellion- Sin (they are not under the condemnation of sin until they are old enough to really understand right from wrong, but they do have the NATURE of sin from birth). The longer we wait to begin teaching them right from wrong, the longer they have been in the habit of being selfish and rebellious. The longer a habit lives in the child the harder it is to change, and the more extreme you have to be to get rid of it. 

If you don’t discipline your children right, God will have to take over when they are adults, and His spankings REALLY hurt! 

I begin before they can speak English, but do understand physical discomfort. Spanking is a way to communicate with a small child in a way they can understand.

I teach them to lie still while I am changing a diaper. Very quickly, they learn that they must be still during diaper changes, but are immediately free to go as soon as I am done. I have never had to sit on a one or two year old to change them, as I saw one mother do. I mean it. She had to SIT on the kid to keep him still enough to change! One big benefit of this is all but the messiest diaper changes take a matter of seconds. The child hardly stops playing before he is back to it. The most important benefit, though, is that they now know the meaning of the word “no” and how to deny themselves for a few seconds.

My Jennifer, at eight months, reached for a wire connected to a small appliance that was not stable on the counter. She could have easily pulled it off on her head. (I don’t leave cords out where my little ones can get them. That is just common sense. One of the older but not “old enough to know better” children had put it there and I just hadn’t noticed it yet.) 

I was too far away to get to her before she pulled. I calmly but firmly said “Jennifer, no.” 

I did not yell. She looked at me, looked at the cord, and sat down to contemplate this. By that time, I was there and moved the cord. Her earlier training may have saved her from serious injury, or even death.

I once saw a mother open her car door in a parking lot of an apartment next to a busy, poorly lit street at dusk. The street was lined with large trees, so drivers could not possibly see anything headed for the street until too late to stop, even in the best of light. 

The woman’s two year old slipped out of the car under her hand and took off. She yelled, threatened, chased, did everything she could to get her son. He flat ignored her, and since she was very pregnant, he ran faster. 

The rest of us were not close enough to help. 

Thankfully the boy turned right instead of left or he would have been dead long before anyone caught him. 

When my children get out of the car, I have taught them to stand right by it with their hand on it. If they forget and take off, even if they are still small, I call them and they immediately come back to me. I have taught them this at the earliest possible age (one or so) FOR THEIR OWN PROTECTION. 

How much better to make the little thigh sting for a few seconds than to take a child to the hospital? 

How much better to make them cry over not being able to touch Grandma’s cookie jar on the bottom shelf, than to cry yourself at the morgue? 

This world is a dangerous place and we can’t remove all the dangers from it. 

Our small children simply don’t understand danger, so we must do what is necessary to protect them. That is why God gave them parents. The best way I have found is to teach them to obey me instantly, and ask questions later.

Some may say a child this young is too young to understand. Most children this age don’t understand, but I believe it is because no one has taught them to, not because they aren‘t capable. 

Think about this: How young does a child learn the meaning of the full, complex sentence “Do you want a piece of candy?” I have seen one year olds that knew what this meant and I don’t think I have ever seen a two year old that didn’t. 

In fact, most two year olds I have met were quite capable of understanding and answering the even more complex “Do you want candy or a cookie?’ (Usually with “Both!”) Understanding the command “No” takes no more cognitive development, and maybe not as much.

Because my children know to obey me instantly and because I have taught them to control themselves, we take them anywhere we want to. Now, the logistics of taking nine (11) people anywhere does occasionally interfere with what we might otherwise do, but our children’s behavior never stops us. 

We have taken them to county fairs, rodeos, sit down restaurants (my husband answered one inquisitor’s socialization question by saying he wouldn’t hesitate to take them into the fancy restaurant he and his friend were lunching in), relative’s houses, camping, hotels, museums, anywhere we can think of. 

They have had so many more experiences than unruly children have. 

This alone is highly educational. 

And other people enjoy their company because they are polite children. Oh, they can bounce as much as the next guy, but they can control themselves when they need to, too. 

Because they are so well behaved, I try to do my best to make everything possible enjoyable for them. I provide time at parks and playgrounds and other places that they like. I take pleasure in treating them because they seldom cause me any grief.

This carries over into the older years, especially if you make sure you teach them to have a cheerful attitude. I have sadly sat and listened to so many parents talk about how horrible their teenagers are. 

This nearly makes me cry or scream! It only would have taken a handful of spankings, extra hugs and gentle guidance between two and five to have prevented this! But nobody told them how to do it, when to do it, nor even that they should do it; or they just didn’t listen. Now the child is paying for it as well as the parent.

My child rearing ideas were learned originally from my mother. My parents raised two of us without ever having any serious problems, as well as counseling many, many other parents in raising their children. Not that life was perfect, but neither my brother nor I rebelled or got into trouble with school officials much less the law. We maintained a loving relationship with both of our parents through and past our teen years (and it is still that way, or even better today). 

I have seen other families that believed in continuously teaching against rebellion, hateful and ungrateful attitudes, and other bad character traits that had the same results. 

I have seen other families where the parents would even insist on obedience, but not teach good heart attitudes and their children rebelled. 

This is about more than “applying the board of education to the seat of knowledge.” You must put as your priority teaching (disciplining) your children to have the attitudes that please God. 

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” 3 John 1:4 must be your priority. 

This involves first being the best example of this to your child you can be. Oh, none of us are perfect, but attitudes are habits and we must practice them, just like we practice our Times Tables. 

When our children see us trying to be more loving, calmer, honest, and less selfish, it impresses on them the importance of these things even when we have a long way to go to achieve them. 

They learn that good attitudes are important enough to work for. It shows them the adult way to handle our flaws, just as reading for fun to ourselves shows them that reading is a grown up thing to do.

For a much better explanation of the whys and hows of child training see To Train Up a Child by Michael and Debi Pearl ( This couple has helped many, many families learn to love and enjoy each other.

I teach my children to work reliably alone in everything possible as soon as possible. I have heard of moms who still had to sit by their ten year olds the whole time they were doing their work to make them do it. This is a waste of a family resource- mom’s time. 

When they are young (5-7 years old) I begin by explaining to them what they are to do, making sure they understand, and walking away while they finish the assignment. 

Expect to be called back frequently to help at first, but gently encourage them to try to figure it out for them selves when ever possible. 

“You don’t know what to do on this line? What did you do on the last line? Are there any new directions between lines? Would the same thing work for both lines? What do you think you should do here?” 

Talk them through it and guide them in thinking about it. It will take time, but you are actually teaching them logic and self confidence this way. It is a scary thing to be faced with a new task (job, problem, relationship, etc.) and not have the tools to figure out what you are supposed to do because you are used to someone spoon feeding you instructions. Teach them to solve their own problems as well as be reliable in their work without constant supervision. Their future bosses will love you for it.

We must form a relationship with our children. One of love and trust. We must put forth the effort to know them. Not be their friend. That is not appropriate for a child/parent relationship (though it can and should morph into that when they are nearly grown). 

But more of a mentor/ disciple relationship. We must look at them and pay attention to them. 

I am not talking about taking them to the movies every Friday and feeling like you have done your job. 

But really paying attention to what they say and what is happening to them. It is your responsibility to hear the very first inklings of a wrong thought pattern and to gently correct it, or the beginnings of gentleness and compassion and encourage it. 

Once a child hits six or so there should be few times of true punishment. There will be some, but they should be few and far between if you have done your ground work and trained them. (For example, I haven’t punished my oldest in any way more than a mild rebuke, such as “that was not a good idea, was it?.” or “Why did you do that? What should you do to fix it? How would you feel if…” in years. And it has been nearly as long for my second. 

Even the babies seldom need spankings if I teach them right from the first instead of letting them do things that wouldn’t be a good idea when they are older and trying to make them change later, (“Hmmm, it doesn’t hurt anything for my toddler to tell me “no” because I am bigger and can make him do what I want him to [and it is kind of cute], but when this child is thirteen, it won’t be so cute. He will likely be bigger than me (Uhh, yeah, all but two have been), and his whole future and very life may depend on him doing what I tell him to. I had better teach my toddler to not tell me “no” now; the first time he says it, while it is easier.”)

This is a hefty responsibility we have, to “Bring up (our children) in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” If we are faithful, though, God will help us.

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