Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Training Children

   I get asked sometimes what we do to teach our kids to be obedient and listen "so well".  First off let me say my kids are NOT perfect!!  They do not ALWAYS listen.  BUT they do listen 98% of the time without me needing to holler or yell.  It is NOT because they were born that way!  I've had people tell me I was lucky to have children like that.  I usually bite my tongue and say, "It was luck huh?" and leave it at that.

   To be honest it wasn't luck, it was work.  We work and learn to obey mom and dad.  How??  We have "training time" or "Yes Mom" time!  It's silly and fun and it works!  I've done this since my oldest two were 5 and 3.  We do it more when we have a toddler in the house.  Addison just turned two and her opinions are starting to get loud and demanding so training time will be happening often here.  Something about a 1 year old crying for something and then smiling when they get it is cute... not so much a two year old.  Especially when it's no longer frustration but demanding and rude!

  So what is "training time"?  Well, ours involves about 5 minutes a day and these....

   Yup, m&m's!  Gotta love em!  So this is how it goes.  We sit in our front room and we do one of two things.  Either I'll give them simple instructions, "Addison, put your hands on your head." and if she does and says, "Yes Mom!" when she does, she gets a m&m.  How does she know what to do??  Well, for her she has silly siblings who always want to play "Yes Mom" to get some free candy!  But, when I didn't have older ones to show them how I would just help them.  I would say, "Put your hands on your head" and do it to myself and smile and say, "Yes Mom" or help them put them on their head and tell them to say it.  Soon as they do I'll give them an m&m.  They catch on quickly and think you're being very silly.  The other thing we'll do is I'll tell them to, "Go away" and I'll shoo them off.  They run down the hall to the bedrooms and I'll call them by name in a very light sing songy way.  When they here their name they need to say, "Coming Mom" and come right away.  Again, they get an m&m.  Once we have coming mom down really good at home I actually plan times to go out and practice in public.  Nope, not kidding.  I pack a small bag of m&m's and head to a park or the mall with no intention other than practicing coming when they are called.  Now they don't know that's why we are going!  They think we're just going to play but mommy has other plans!  My girlfriend and I use to go out together to do this.  The kids think it's pretty funny when they see their friends getting called too.

  Why do I do this and why does it work??  Well, I do it because it works and I learned about it from a book years ago that took to heart
Proverbs 22:6
Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it

   You see training a child is very different than disciplining afterward.  It's kinder!  I'm telling them what I expect of them before a time of conflict.  I'm doing it in a fun and loving way that doesn't seem controlling or mean.  Then when they argue or become defiant I can ask them what they are suppose to do or say when Mom tells them to do something.  I don't get a blank stare, they know they are to do what mom says and say, "Yes Mom".  They also know when I call them I expect them to say, "Coming Mom" and come!  The funny thing is that they are so use to doing it when we play, that it's a habit when they're not.  If there are a million kids at the park I really can yell, "Carter, Caleb, Elijah, Hannah" and they will all actually stop, look and say, "coming Mom" and come.  I've had girlfriends see it and look at me and tell me they don't like me :0)  The funny thing is, if I say it in an angry or flustered voice they don't always "hear" or respond.  If I say it just like when we play they come without thinking.

   We have established a habit of joyful obedience.  It does take time and some creative thinking but it makes for joyful kids and joyful parents.  Really if you think about it, your anger and frustration with your children comes with your repeating.  "Joe, don't do that.  Joe, I told you don't do that. JOE!!  Cut it out!  JOSEPH don't make me come over there!"  See the anger rising??  What if you said, "Joe, don't do that." and Joe says, "yes Mom" and stops!!!  Then you take the time then and several more times during the day to smother them with hugs and kisses and tell them how awesome they are to listen to mommy!  You tell them, "YOU ARE a delight to my soul!!!"
Proverbs 29:17
Correct your son, and he will give you rest; Yes, he will give delight to your soul.

   Until then, think of some expectations you have for your kids.  How can you practice them in times of "non conflict"?  Want them to sit quiet at church?  Practice everyday sitting for 2 minutes, then 5 then 15 and so on.  Make it fun.  Want them to stop dead in their tracks when they are running?  Practice it.  Find a word you use only when you truly want them to stop like "freeze" and play.  It helps if Dad will help.  Paul will often go with our toddlers down the hall and when I call he will take their hand and run to me calling yes mom.  I will do the same as he practices with them if the kids aren't around or don't want to play. 

  When you think about it, it's how God teaches us.  He gives us His Word to learn what He expects, what He wants and what we are to do.  He tells us to love our neighbor, obey Him etc.  He doesn't just send us out and then smack us when we mess up!  Sometimes I think kids look stunned after discipline.  Sometimes they really don't know why we're angry with them or didn't know what they were doing was wrong.  How much better to say what you expect FIRST!  I think I would say my #1 parenting tip is to lay out your expectations and find ways to practice them joyfully.


Carrie Roer said...

So when you're doing this "for real" vs "practicing", do the kids expect candy for obeying? Like when you do ask them to come to you when they're running around the playground, if you don't have that stash of m&ms do they get upset they don't have a "reward" for doing what you asked?

Tami said...

No they kind of catch on when it's a game and they are getting a treat. I won't call them a million times to practice if I don't have m's. I'll only call them when it's time to eat or leave. So they smirk if I start calling a lot because they know we're practicing and they're going to get treats. They've never questioned "where's my treat" when it's not there. It just becomes a habit that they come when they're called. Does that make sense??

Tami said...

I should also add I'd like to do this everyday but we don't always find time. And I don't always use candy if we are practicing everyday. Sometimes we'll just play a quick game like Simon Says but they have to say "Yes Mom" and do what I say. Something like that I don't do candy. The candy is mostly used for coming when called and when we practice I make it a ridiculous game. Like before they are half way back to a slide I'll call them again, or they'll turn around and I'll already call them. Then I'll let them play for awhile and do it again. My goal is fun not frustrate. Keep it light. Hope that helps!

Carrie Roer said...

Makes sense! Thanks!

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