Training Children (and Parents!)
by Tamara Eaton
The first key to successful Biblical child-training is PARENT-TRAINING!
"Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself?" --Romans 2:21
It all starts with us--are we seeking the Lord for wisdom? Do we have a positive attitude toward our child or do we view him as a burden or a problem? Are we disciplining calmly, in love, or are we giving into anger and raising our voices? The Lord delights in working in our own hearts as we strive to be responsible, loving, godly parents.
We can look to Him for help in being consistent and reasonable in our expectations, too. Failure often results from a lack of parental consistency or from unrealistic expectations. We should neither write off negative behavior as "just a stage", nor expect our children to behave as miniature adults. (After all, even adults aren't perfect yet!) We need to pray for wisdom and discernment in parenting-- the Lord understands our child's heart and will help us train him in the way that he should go!
Here are some helpful tips gleaned from Andrew Murray's excellent book, How To Raise Your Children For Christ.
- Don't give too many commands at once; begin, if need be, with only one. If you secure obedience to one, your own and the child's consciousness of your power to rule is established.
- Don't command what you cannot enforce or what the child has not the power to obey.
- Prove your authority when it is easy for you to secure obedience and for the child to render it. In all learning we proceed from the easy to the less easy.
- Let the command be given in quiet, deliberate tones, with full self-control; hasty, ill-regulated injunctions lead to disobedience.
- Self-rule is the secret of all rule; as you honor the law yourself in self-command, others learn to honor it, too.
- Remember you are God's minister, doing God's work. He loves the children, and wants them trained for Himself. Depend upon Him for your help and strength. Yield yourself to Him.
- Don't just pray for help, believe most certainly it is given. Act in the assurance that it is given and is beginning, little by little, to work in you.
- Say to your Father that you desire to do your duty at any risk, and to honor Him with your children. And in the spirit of a quiet, restful assurance, you may count on God's strength working in your weakness
A Glimpse from the Past
[This was written years ago when I had a new baby, active toddler, and was busy homeschooling four older children.]
I love homeschooling my children, but there have been challenging days when I've had to ask the Lord to help me overcome feelings of frustration and inadequacy--and I've often asked for an extra measure of GRACE! I have found in Him all I ever needed. He never allows more than I can handle--sometimes I just find I can handle more than I thought!
If everything seems overwhelming, I stop and analyze the situation to determine the causes...sometimes it's that "Wha! Wha! Wha!" in the background from a baby who is tired of playing and wants to be fed and put to bed. Other times (often this has been the case lately!), it's my two year old getting into things and not obeying me when I tell him to stop. It's not easy to be consistent and stop what I'm doing to take him in hand--especially when I'm nursing or extremely busy. But if I discipline myself to be consistent with him, peace reigns once more!
He is such a sweet, cuddly, precious little two year old but he is also very curious, active and likes to do whatever his older siblings are doing, or get into things. He is strong-willed, but I have to make sure my will is even stronger and that I don't give in to his disobedience or make excuses for it saying, "That's just how he is!" The Lord wants to use his determination in a positive manner, and it's up to me to make sure I don't allow it to be bent in the wrong direction!
Sometimes that means redirecting his energies by a big hug, cuddle and prayer, then finding something better for him to do. Other times it means disciplining him, in love--calmly letting him know that his disobedience is not going to be tolerated. I also make sure I focus on all his positive qualities and activities, instead of viewing him as a "problem child". I plan fun things for him to do with me and try to include him, as much as possible, in our homeschooling.
We believe it's very important to train our little ones by acting out various situations and teaching them the correct response, instead of merely reacting to wrong behavior. So we have had "toddler training" sessions for all our children. I would tell them-- "We are going to practice obeying the first time you're told."
They would take turns practicing coming when called and following simple instructions while the other children applauded and cheered them on! I would tell them that they had done a terrific job, and this was what I expected every day. Usually we ended with refreshments to celebrate. We would tell Dad about it when he got home and he would tell them how happy he was to hear that they knew how to obey right away! We always enjoyed giving Dad the good reports of the day, and made sure he didn't just hear what all went wrong.
I also try to keep them on a positive track-- instead of just reacting to negative behavior. Sometimes that means finding interesting things to do if they're getting fussy--like "putting on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness" and listening to uplifting music and letting them dance to it! Or exercising with an exercise video for little ones. Or taking a run around the yard--a change of pace works wonders. Hugs and kisses and laughter go a long way, too! Maybe they're tired and need a snuggle and a story or a soft song--sometimes we all need a break and a few minutes spent in the rocking chair restores the calm.
Our little ones NEED our time and attention. We must make sure we're not always pushing them off, trying to get "more important" tasks done.
One exhausted homeschooling mom described her toddler as extremely active, never content with anything longer than five minutes, and to top it off--she "communicated" by screaming.
Pray for wisdom in dealing with your child. She needs to understand that screaming will not be permitted, and that she will not, under any circumstances, get her way by resorting to such measures. If you're serious about her not doing this, no matter how determined she seems, you're just going to have to be even more determined.
Determine your response beforehand and let the discipline be consistent each time so that your child knows exactly what to expect. Then concentrate on training her in this area--try not to have too much on your schedule for that day so you can nip the problem in the bud!
Create a positive atmosphere in your home and plan fun activities together, but if that behavior manifests, then instantly deal with it-- calmly, firmly, and lovingly. Soon the little one will get the message that Mom and Dad love her too much to allow this negative behavior to continue!
It's important to follow through the rest of the week, month-- however long it takes. It doesn't take long for children to learn that certain things are just not acceptable. (And both parents need to be in agreement on how to deal with it so they can be equally consistent!)
Don't worry about trying to find ways to make her attention span longer at this age, instead, have a safe, pleasant environment for her and rotate various creative toys. Spend time directing some of her activities and playing with her, but allow her to have time to learn to entertain herself, too. Little ones (especially youngest children!) have to learn that someone isn't always going to be entertaining them, that they are responsible for playing by themselves sometimes, too.
One thing we tried to convey to our little ones from the start was that they were loved so much, and welcomed into our home as a precious gift from the Lord, but our whole life didn't revolve just around them. There were times they had to fit in with what the family was doing. Now, don't get the wrong impression, we also really treasured our times spent taking care of them, nursing them, playing with them, rocking them, carrying them around the house while doing things, etc.
By taking the necessary time to train them, we had even more time to enjoy them because we weren't constantly having to deal with negative behavior. It just didn't make sense for one child to be allowed to constantly spoil the whole family's activities, or the atmosphere of the home.
The children quickly realized that "power plays" didn't get the desired results and it was a total waste of their time and energy. On the other hand, we taught them how to clearly make their needs known in a pleasant manner, without screaming, whining, fussing or crying (we're talking about toddlers here.). And we taught them that there were times that they had to wait a few minutes for their turn to get our attention. (Although we were always available if there were emergencies!)
We pray that you and your husband will have an opportunity to sit down and make specific goals and discipline strategies for your extra-special two year old, if you haven't already, and that the Lord would clearly lead you in the way you should deal with your child. We've always felt that's why God gave us principles in His Word, more than just lists of do's and don't's--He wants us dependent upon His leading and has given us His Holy Spirit to help us discern His Way.
"Home life is a school as much for training parents as children....As we think of our love to our children, the joy they give us, the tender sympathy their troubles wake, the patient kindness their dullness or waywardness requires, the ready response with which their needs and requests are met, Jesus wants us to look up and calculate HOW MUCH MORE all this must be in God, the good and perfect One, the Fountain of Love. He wants us to banish every shadow of unbelief from the heart, and live our life in the sunshine of God's love."
"True authority has its root and strength in a life in which we exhibit ourselves what we ask of our children. A life of childlike trust in the Father's love, of submission to His authority and surrender to His training will make itself felt through the home. It will awaken our sympathy for a child's needs and failings. It will awaken their sympathy with our teachableness of spirit and our quiet restfulness in the divine rule. And the nurture of our children will be to ourselves and to them truly the Lord's nurture--God's nurturing us by means of them that He may nurture them by means of us."
--Andrew Murray (1828-1917)
Oh how we need the Lord, and how He delights in giving us wisdom in this area! He knows our child better than anyone and He makes Himself available to us every day, if we'll just trust Him.
"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with not doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind." --James 1:5-6
"Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." --Ephesians 6:4
"Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it." --Proverbs 22:6
[For more articles on child-training, see Homeschool Boot Camp: Dealing with Attitudes! (Biblical Child Training Principles), and Living in Harmony. For additional tips on toddlers, see Homeschooling with Toddlers! ]
© Copyright Tamara Eaton 1994-2000, all rights reserved.
Permission is given to reprint any of Tamara's articles in non-profit publications as long as the article is reprinted in full and contains the copyright information and website address. Please send a copy of the publication to :Deeper Life Family Ministries, P.O. Box 909, Killen, AL 35645.
We have always homeschooled our six children (elementary through high school and beyond!) and enjoy encouraging other families in their homeschooling, parenting and in the Lord! For more help and information, please join us on the Christian Homeschool Fellowship Message Board.
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"And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord;
and great shall be the peace of thy children."