Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Thoughts on Training, Discipline and Parenting

I've always seen myself as the disciplinarian of the family, although my husband has definitely stepped up in the last few years. But, I am home with the children 24/7 and it seems to just work out that way. I have many goals in my parenting pursuits (additional ones as a homeschool mom), probably too many to list, but I'll try:

*I want my children to love God with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength. (Mark 12:30)
*I want my children to display positive character traits. (Galatians 5:22)
*I want my children to be polite, respectful, giving, helpful, loving and compassionate to others, preferring others above themselves. (1 Peter 3:8, Romans 12:10)
*I want my children to enjoying being with family, be helpful and encouraging with younger siblings, be respectful and appreciative of extended family and have their parents be their greatest influence throughout their childhood into adulthood.
*I want my children to have a love for learning that carries into adulthood.
*I want my children to be well-educated, intelligent individuals.
*I want my children to develop in areas of strength in academics and spiritual gifts.
*I want my children to be able to well manage a home through training in upkeep of a home and financial peace.

Oh, there are plenty of others, but that's enough for now. With all of these goals, it's quite overwhelming raising 4, soon to be 5, little ones! Will I screw them up for life? Will they function well in society? I have read dozens of parenting, homeschooling and marriage books to help guide me. I have picked up great advice from many books, including:

Grace-Based Parenting by Kimmel
Siblings Without Rivalry by Faber and Mazlish
Bringing Up Boys by Dobson
Sheaparding a Child's Heart by Tripp
The Five Love Languages of Children by Chapman and Campbell
To Train Up a Child by the Pearls (read with some caution)
Finding Your Purpose as a Mom by Otto
When "No" Gets You Nowhere by Brenner
Creative Correction by Whelchel (haven't read all yet)

For the Children's Sake by Macaulay
The Charlotte Mason Companion by Andreola

I can't think of the others at the moment, but you can see I haven't skimped on my parenting "research." Most of this was good, and I have tweaked my parenting with each new "revelation" on how children think, respond and are affected by their parents, discipline and so on.

But, of course, my children are not perfect. But, neither are yours, right? =) Although I know they will never be perfect, I still have struggles with certain areas of my parenting and often the same heartaches with individual children. As all moms know, it can be very frustrating and defeating at times. I look at families like the Duggars (who have 18 children) and other large families like theirs and wonder how they are so different from my family. Although I think my children are pretty good children, they are not the saints you see in these families. The biggest difference I can tell (because I can't move in with them for a week to see how their home runs) is the mom. They are all quiet, soft-spoken, gentle, relaxed, sweet women. They never raise their voice, never scold their children, never seem to have to even "raise" their children. Their children seem to be born obedient, loving and pleasant. Now, I know that is impossible, but what am I supposed to think? And I am NOT that type of mom. I am opinionated, not soft-spoken, loud and firm. And it makes me wonder if I can raise the family that I want. Raise godly children who serve Christ with their lives. Raise obedient, selfless children.

Well, I came upon the greatest "revelation" in my parenting pursuits in the last few weeks. I went to a few workshops at the local homeschool fair and met (for the second time) a family from our church that has written a book called The Well-Trained Heart (Ray and Donna Reish). I heard them speak on their book last year at the homeschool fair and actually purchased their book then, but haven't picked it up since. I went to two more workshops with Donna this year and was reminded of the value of the book I already possessed. Also, she didn't seem like that common soft-spoken, quiet mom, but she had the family I wanted! I had hope! Encouraged through the workshops, I went home and immediately started reading their book. My whole parenting world seems to turn on it's side with just a few insights from the Reishes.

Although I have not read the whole book yet, and have found a ton of great information, the greatest of these insights is the difference between disobedience or disrespect and childishness. Disobedience or disrespect is purposeful rebellion against the parent. The Reishes would say this should be punished with spanking and is the main discipline for children ages 1 to 4. Childishness is behavior such as forgetfulness, sloppiness, procrastination, etc. The Reishes define this as "underdeveloped character" and say it should be trained with "reality discipline," and spanking is not effective for such training. For example, if your 7-year-old gets distracted watching a video game his brother is playing when he's supposed to be emptying the dishwasher, then it's childishness that needs redirected. Or if it becomes a regular infraction, it needs "reality discipline." Reality discipline is a punishment that fits the crime, or something that would likely happen to him as an adult if he displayed the same behavior. So, in this case, taking away some of his "free time" later in the day because he already took some of it would be a reality discipline. This would help to remind him next time to finish his chores before relaxing. But, if your 14-year-old stopped to shoot some hoops before doing his chores, he is likely displaying disobedience, not childishness. There is a big difference.

So, after thinking a long time about my oldest, Sid the Science Kid, who I seems to have the most trouble dealing with, it became apparent to me how much of his behavior is actually childishness, and not disobedience. Often times when I've disciplined him he would say things like, "But, mom! If you would have reminded me to do that, then I wouldn't have disobeyed!" or "Mom, I just forgot. I just didn't remember." He would often get angry when I would punish him and act as if he wasn't being treated unfairly. I clearly saw that he did something wrong, but in his heart he did not purposefully disobey me. Looking back at some of our interactions, it was actually quite heart-breaking.

So, taking this information, I started a new day. I watched closely to what my children were doing and took motivation into consideration. Instead of punishing Sid the Science Kid for not picking up his toys, I would remind him to clean up after himself, more than once if needed. Instead of punishing Princess Pea for not sharing, I taught her the importance of sharing, the value of family and how Jesus put others first. Much of my days in the last weeks have been constant conversation and training. I haven't had to "discipline" much for direct disobedience, really. And, when I have had to discipline for it, no one seems upset or treated unjustly. The children know they have done something wrong and take their punishment. Though much of what this books has shared I have incorporated into my parenting already, like character training, scripture, conversations, training, etc., it really is a different approach to the children that has changed, often a different tone. Instead of saying, "Sid! How do you think Princess Pea felt when you took that from her? Would you want her to take that from you? No! So, don't do it to her. That's not nice and it's not how we are supposed to treat our siblings." I would now approach it by saying, "Sid, do you see how upset you've made your sister? (Sid answers) I think you hurt her feelings. She really looks up to you and enjoys playing with you, but I'm not sure she will want to play with you if you don't treat her nicely. The bible says that we should "give preference to one another." Who are you giving preference to when you take that toy from her? (Sid answers) Who should you be giving preference to? (Sid answers) Do you know how happy it makes Jesus when you prefer others like he did? Do you know how happy mommy and daddy are when you prefer your sisters?" and so on. My conversations are more controlled and more lengthy for the purposes of training. Yes, it takes SOO much more time, but what else are we here for all day, every day?

This has just truly been an eye-opener for me and I see my children differently. I often thought my children, in the words of my mother-in-law, were "trying to make me ma-ad!" When really, they were just being kids. I had overseen many training opportunities. I am thankful for the Reishes book and have seen a difference in the week or so I have been implementing some of their suggestions. Mr. Prince also commented this weekend at how pleasant the children seem to be and how much calmer the home was. So, I'm not just seeing things! I would highly recommend their book, even though I haven't finished it. You can find it at www.tfths.com.

Of course, my parenting pursuits are not done and I will continue to read and change. But, I believe this is my greatest change yet! Onward I go!


Linzmcgregor said...

I hope you know you are doing a fantastic job with your kids as far as I can see. I am impressed with you every time I read an update. I need to call you and brag about Joe and Becca. LOL But seriously, you are doing great. I will be looking forward to getting advise from you (in 10 years when I have a kid). LOL
Love you!

HomeGrown Life said...

What a wonderful and insightful post. You are pursuing such a worthwhile and noble goal of raising Godly children. It is tough and confusing at times, but it is apparent that God is using you just as you are.

J-momma said...

hey. i hope you don't mind someone disagreeing a bit with your posts. you seem like the type that can take it :) i don't think these quiet mothers necessarily have it right. maybe it's just my personality but i don't think there's anything wrong with teaching your kids to speak up for themselves (even if it's loud), be passionate, and have a little spunk. trust me, as an adult it gets you a lot further to have these "spirited" traits, even if it is harder to deal with as a child. don't we value independence, persistence and strong will as adults? yes, respect and obedience is important to teach children. but as adults you never follow anyone with a blind obedience. so i think of it as a good thing when children question and challenge their parents. you have to think about what type of an adult that will create when nurtured appropriately. and i don't think the duggars are so great. their son got married at 20 and now has a kid on the way. i don't know about you but i would not recommend anyone getting married at 20 and certainly not get pregnant right after. they're not even at drinking age yet. they can't rent a car! it's proven that the brain is still developing until 25. i know i wasn't ready for marriage or kids at 20.

i know from experience i can't compare my family to others. we are our own people with our own strengths and weaknesses. i don't want to be like anyone but us. i think we are on a dangerous road trying to be like other families. you don't know what goes on behind closed doors. i think we should focus on our own unique kids and families and take small steps towards tailored goals that fit. like you've done with your son.

there is no perfect family just as there is no perfect parent or child. your list seems like a lot to live up to. i know i certainly wouldn't qualify :) but it's good to have goals.

Mommy K said...

Well, I don't necessarily want to be like the Duggars. I'm not for the matching jumpers, polo shirts daily and starting my own church. But, I mean the obedience, helpfulness, trust in God, intelligence, servanthood, etc. that I see in these families. The Duggars were just an easy family to pick on because most know them. And, I don't plan on changing my personality to be like them either. But, I do have high goals set for my children, all of which I think are worthy goals that God would see as valuable. I also do see leadership qualities, many of which are harder to deal with in children, as great qualities and plan to allow each of my children to develop in these areas. But, a child can debate with you without being disrespectful. A child can disagree with your requests without being dishonest behind your back. I think you can allow for some growth in these areas without allowing your children to run your home. I agree we have to focus on the unique qualities of our own families. And I hope I am able to do that affectively. So, I actually don't think we disagree a ton in this.

But, I do have to disagree with you about the Duggars son getting married. I think you have to evaluate your children individually and each child will be ready for marriage and children in their own time. Josh has a well established job, a TON of "parental" experience and is a commited husband. How else can you prepare? Paul and I got married at 20 and 21 and I had my first baby 9 months later. I think we did great! I was ready for marriage and children. Although I can't say we wouldn't have benefited from being just the two of us for a while longer, it hasn't hurt us in the least. We were both as "ready" as you can be for marriage and children. Most of which you really can't prepare for anyway. It's a "learn as you go" type position. So, maybe there is where we diagree. But then again, we have YEARS before we have that situation with our own, so our minds can change before then anyway. =)

J-momma said...

wow. that's great that you guys were mature enough to handle it. i'm just speaking about myself and others that i've known at that age and can't imagine being ready for all that. i was 23 when i got married and think that was too young. although i don't regret it. and we were married 3 years before having our first child, but sometimes i wish i had waited longer. having kids changes your life so drastically and although i wouldn't give either of them back or change anything, i don't think i was as prepared for the changes as i thought i was. but that's just me. maybe i'm a little behind :)
i have a question for you, since this seems to be your strong point. how do you integrate God into your kid's lives (more specifically the younger ones)? just curious. i know a lot of christians that want their children to know God, but i always wonder how they do that since it's such a complex concept that young ones simply can't understand.

Mommy K said...

You did have a much more drastic change probably than most do who start with a newborn, so it's understandable you felt somewhat not prepared. =) I don't think anyone can be completely "prepared" really.

Well, I do many things. We pray before meals, often talking about people and situations we should pray for and why. The children will take on their own person to pray for, for a number of days and others times it changes daily. Brynnan even at just over two would pray for someone she cared about. But she could talk well at 2.

We also pray sometimes after the children have been disobedient if I feel it would be helpful to change a bad attitude. I have friends who do this every time their child gets in trouble. With three causing issues every hour sometimes, that seems too much for me and I think (when we did do this for a short time) the prayers became remote and ineffective. I want to children to go to Him with their heart and troubles, and with every infraction I personally don't think it's necessary.

We also will pray for people when I get a phone call about someone struggling or hurt. We will pray for the children sometimes when they get hurt. I try to come up with opportunities to bring up prayer so the children know it is a relationship with someone and we should be talking with God throughout the day. That he isn't "far away" like they would think.

I also do a ton of character training through bible stories, Aesop's fables, daily situations between their sibings, videos (Veggie Tales, Character Builders, Hermie and Friends, etc), books we have collect, and more. I tell them how important it is to be honest, giving, thoughtful, etc. and why God sees those as important character traits. These are talked about daily in our home.

I have a book I'm starting to use called Leading Little Ones to God by Schoolland. It covers anything and every thing you can think of about our faith, but at a young child's level. I'm sure there will be some doctrine I don't completely agree with, but I'll just adjust. From what I have read through it seems really good. You can read the first almost 100 lessons on Amazon.com.

We talk daily about why we are here on this earth and what God expects of us. We talk about how no one is perfect and that is why Jesus died on the cross. My 6 and 4 year old have said the sinners prayer already, and I often ask them questions about that to remind them of what that means.

Our family rules now have bible verses connected to them and I'm currently having them memorize them. At the beginning of this "school year" we started memorizing a verse for every letter of the alphabet. We got about half way through, so I will continue doing that through the summer and next year.

At Christmas time we did a Jesse Tree and went over multiple bible stories with that. The children really enjoyed it.

Honestly, I was not brought up in a christian home, so I struggle with knowing what to do, too. I just try to think of ways the children could understand such a large concept. I'm sure there is more I could be doing and hope that this next school year I will be more consistent with the verses and such. I also think it is important that the children see you in prayer, reading the bible, worshiping and attending church. If not they will not see it as a real commitment that you have and never take it on for themselves. I struggle with getting in the bible and worship when the children are up. I want them to see me do these things, but it's not realistic sometimes to get that done with all of them. But, sometimes during quiet reading time I'll read my bible in front of them and I'd also like to establish a family worship time someday. I am very personal about worship, so I struggle with that.

Anyway, I hope that answered your question. =)

Steve and April said...

That's a great list of books. I want to read Grace Based Parenting. It's on my list to try to Inter Library Loan. Maybe I should add it to my Paperbackswap wish list.

April E.