Friday, May 23, 2014

Train Them While They're Young

There seems to be a few parents these days who are clueless about how teachable children are when they are very young. Many fall for the lie about the "terrible twos". They think that their kids can't learn right behavior until they are old enough to understand. This is a HUGE mistake. Infants and babies may not have the sophisticated understanding of verbal speech yet, but they are plenty teachable.

Birth to age five are very precious years to instill obedience and routines in a child. Kids are like sponges and they learn very, very quickly from ages 0-5.  But the window of time to really ingrain simple but crucial behaviors into them passes rather quickly. It requires a good measure of selflessness and forethought by the parent.

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

It may seem like forever when we're in them, but the early years really do go by fast. Having a plan is super important. It's been said, "If you don't know where you're going, you're certain to end up there." True words. Decide how you want your kids to turn out when they're grown, and then train them with that in mind when they are little.

Proverbs 22:6 - Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Babies are innocent and adorable and the "wrong" things they do are dripping with cuteness when they are tiny. But it's not cute when they are 12. Kids are born self absorbed and need to be taught generosity, selflessness, goodness, kindness, gentleness, etc.  So we mustn't be surprised when we see selfishness rear its ugly head. Instead, train them and treat them like you'd like to be treated. And when they deliberately cross a known rule, deliver swift recompense to their seat of justice. :-)

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

There are two things that produce a mature adult faster than anything else in the world - marriage (between a man and a woman) and parenthood. Both require selfless love! For parents that means we must teach them in love and kindness and correct them appropriately when necessary.

Ephesians 6:1-4 - Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.  

I sought to train my children in order to minimize the need for spanking. But when spanking is necessary, it's best done with all the sobriety and care possible. Never to excess and under no circumstances in anger. When they're a little older, a chart that clearly states how many swats a clear offense warranted is beneficial. Then they know in advance what to expect. Can you imagine how frustrating it would be to play Monopoly without knowing all the rules? And every time you turned around you were being scolded for something?  It's the same with kids. It's vital to teach them the rules from the very beginning and then train them to obey them. In joy. It is not a sad or mad thing. You are happy to show them around planet earth. This is a hot stove, don't touch! This is a lovely flower, smell the fragrance?  Never pet someone's dog without permission. Kids need rules and consistent action when they break them.

I trained mine to not touch something by setting up an object somewhere common, like our coffee table or the middle of the living room floor.  I'd bring them close to the object, point to it and say, "No touch." To drive the point home, an older child can pretend to touch it and then recoil at a mock sting to the hand by mom, modeling the correct behavior. The object could be anything from a pair of glasses to a book. And the point wasn't to set the object as "off limits" although that worked, too. It was more to train my children to obey the command, "no touch".  If/when they deliberately touched it, I'd calmly give them a light switch on the hand and restate the command, "no touch".  On the first offense, I'd smile at them because I was training them to do right and that's a good thing. If they repeated the offense, I would give a look of caution. But I never removed the object until they were successful at leaving it alone. It would sit there for days if necessary. The entire goal was to instill obedience. The object could even be something unbreakable and desirable, like a stuffed animal.  Some parents may be tempted to think that it's a bit on the cruel side, but nothing could be farther from the truth.

Think back. Way back to Genesis. What did God place in the MIDDLE of the Garden?  The tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil.

The fruit of this exercise paid off for us when we visited a big city or someone's home, etc. If there was something vile, delicate or dangerous, we only had to say "no touch!" and our kids would back off. No arguments, no yelling, no anger.

Love = training = security.

I kept our training sessions lighthearted and smiled warmly when I issued a command. And no matter how many times it took, consistency was key. Parental authority rises or falls with consistency.
I wanted my kids to believe me when I said no.

No never means "maybe". No never means "if you beg enough then it's yes". No never means "if I'm too busy I'll cave in and then it's yes".  Even if it means personal inconvenience - ending a phone call, pausing a recipe, leaving a store - take care of any issues right away so they understand no means no. Not a frowning, mean, ugly no.  Make it a smiling, confident, calm, authoritative no.

Proverbs 29:15 - The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.

If you give cheerful reminders before leaving the house about staying by your side, not touching things, proper traveling behavior, etc, the chances for a fun day are high. Rules are not prisons, they are freedom. They are knowledge. When you know what you can't do, it clears up what you CAN do, too. It results in secure, confident kids. You won't have to yell or spank them in public. And they always bring you great joy. Mine still do even now in their teens. God's way works. :-)

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

Proverbs 23:13 - Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.

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