Today is my baby’s 2nd birthday. I recently opened up my old blog, and wanted to link back today to Titus’s birth story. Also, if you are curious as to how we adopted three girls from China, you can read their entire adoption stories and much more over at The Bergey Bunch!) Read More
Okay, Mamas. I realize blanket time gets criticized in some circles. I guess somewhere along the line, someone was teaching parents to blanket train their young babies by spanking little hands and forcing them to stay on the blanket. This is not what we do, so please don’t get all bent out of shape and send me hate mail. Or hate email. Or whatever. 🙂 Read More
Most of us would never tell our children, “Do as I SAY, not as I DO.”
I mean, we wouldn’t take a swig of whiskey while telling our teens, “You should never, ever drink.”
And it would be insanely laughable to teach our children to have good manners at the table while picking our own nose and wiping it on the wall. (Ewww)
Right? Are you with me so far?
Good. Stay with me for just a minute, because I’m going somewhere with this.
Even with the very best intentions, I sometimes find myself being a hypocrite with my children. Oh, I wouldn’t drink while telling them not to, and I’m pretty sure I’m not wiping my boogers on the wall–but if I’m really honest, there are other ways I see hypocrisy in my parenting. I continually have to guard myself against teaching my children one thing while SHOWING them another.
Now, maybe it’s just me,and you have this parenting thing all mastered. 🙂 Or maybe you will see your reflection in some of these areas, and join me in asking God to change us to be more like Him.
Here’s three ways parents can be hypocrites with their children:
We expect perfection while living imperfect lives.
Have you ever gotten angry at your child because they were being, um, an imperfect child? Come on, now, be honest. 🙂 You fussed at your husband on the way to church and then got embarrassed at your 3 year old for sticking out his tongue at his brother during the service. Or you put off your quiet time because the morning was crazy, but got angry at your 6 year old because he didn’t want to do his homework. The issue is, of course, that we adults are a tad bit “wiser” when it comes to our imperfections. And we have enough pride to hide most of them from others. Children (young children especially!), on the other hand, don’t act to impress. They are openly imperfect. 🙂 Now I’m not suggesting that we throw up our hands and expect nothing from our children, but I am pointing out that it is completely hypocritical for adults to put HIGHER standards of behavior on tiny little children than they’re even putting on themselves. We must guard against setting an unattainable standard of perfection in our home. An atmosphere of growth and grace, with open mistakes and just as open apologies and forgiveness is the key here.
We expect respect from our children while not giving them respect.
For some reason, more respect is given to our spouses, our best friends, our church community, and even TOTAL STRANGERS than is often given to children. There’s like this unwritten code among adults that it’s acceptable to speak unkindly of or to our children or teens.”Wow. You have alot of children. You don’t want MORE, do you?” or “Ugh. He’s so naughty.” or “Wait until they’re teenagers!” or “You’re such a brat!” or “Is she a GOOD baby?” (as if only silent babies who sleep on command are GOOD?) or “Sit down and shut up!” or “How many times do I have to tell you to OBEY?”
Parents get on social media and embarrass, shame, ridicule, and humiliate their OWN children. An act of violence occurs and someone is sure to point out, “A good beating when he was a kid would have fixed that!” It’s become commonplace to talk openly about how hard/difficult/stubborn/challenging/annoying/insert-your-child’s behavior-here children are, and to AGREE with other moms who need “some wine before they go crazy” or some “time away from my kids”.
.Now, some of you will disagree with me here, and say that it’s different when we’re complaining about our children than when we’re complaining about other people. And I would ask you this–would it be acceptable to talk to or about my husband this way? Would it be okay for me to point out his flaws when I’m drinking coffee with my friends? Should I get on social media and talk about how excited I am for a BREAK from this man because he’s pushing my buttons? Is gossip EVER acceptable, respectful, or relationship-building? No.
We cannot teach and require respect from our children if we’re not modeling that same respect. Our children need to know we adore them, and that even on their very worst days, we’v got their back.
If we can’t say something kind or uplifting about our children, it’s best to say nothing at all.
We teach gentleness but model harshness.
One of the very first behaviors we must teach toddlers is “gentle hands” or “gentle touch”, as they’re prone to hitting, pushing, or grabbing from other people. Older children need reminders to be kind and gentle with both animals and people.
This is another area where we must guard against hypocrisy, because we must be gentle with our children or all the “be gentle with others” teaching means nothing. If we are harsh in our tone of voice when speaking with our children, or rough with them when they misbehave, how can we expect them to respond gently to others?
These are three areas that I am continually working on. I want gentleness to be my natural response to my children. I want my words to sweetly guide and nurture them. I want to BE what I’m telling THEM to be!
Our children are amazing mirrors for us as parents. As my children have become teenagers, I’ve walked into a room many times and thought to myself, “I don’t like the way so-and-so is speaking……Ouch. They sound exactly like me.” I’ve changed many things about my parenting as my older children have started mimicking me. 🙂
I’m sure there are more than just these three areas that we parents can be hypocritical with our children, but as I strive to share my heart for my children and my own personal struggles with you, these three areas came to my mind.
Blessings to you, dear friends, as you seek to parent like Jesus!
Every parent has felt it.
That feeling of frustration or irritation that comes when your child delays, disobeys, drags their feet, repeatedly forgets instructions, embarrasses you in public, acts silly when you’re needing cooperation, insert-your-child’s-annoyance-here.
What do you do when you’re FRUSTRATED with your child’s behavior?
Yell and say things you don’t really mean? Sigh, then rant about how frustrated you are? Lecture them repeatedly? Ignore it and hope it will go away? Threaten to take away Santa Claus for this year? (Yes, I have truly heard parents threaten this one!)
None of these are the best choice, although every parent is tempted to react in one of these ways when they’re frustrated.
Especially in the heat of the moment, (like when you’re trying to get 8 children out the door for church, or you’re parenting in front of a crowd of people), it can be difficult to know what to do when you feel those feelings of frustration rising. 🙂
My husband and I have determined that there are Two Choices for us when we’re frustrated. These are actually very simple, but remembering them during stressful times can be the biggest challenge! Because I need to be reminded often, I wanted to share this with you today, in hopes that it will encourage you as well.
Two Choices for the Frustrated Parent:
1. Lower your expectations.
I bet you didn’t think I was going to say that one, did you? 🙂 I know. I know. Usually I’m advocating for more training. (Don’t worry, we’ll cover that in point two!)
NOBODY thrives in an atmosphere of frustration or disapproval. You don’t like it, and neither does your spouse, but as adults, you have the freedom to speak clearly your needs to each other.
Your children, on the other hand, will absolutely wilt under a constant atmosphere of frustration.
Children crave and need parental approval for their growth. If you have a child who repetitively disobeys and seems to show no remorse for their disobedience, consider whether they have met with so much frustration that they have given up trying to please you.
If you’re going through your day continually frustrated or irritated with your children, the FIRST thing you might need to do is lower your expectations so your children can meet with your approval more easily.
What does this look like in real life? I’ll give a situation from our family to help illustrate this point:
- I will openly admit that I like to keep a neat home, with minimal clutter and everything in its place. Unfortunately, we have ten people living in a 359 sq. ft. travel trailer. 🙂 After moving into the trailer, I began getting really frustrated over the SHOES. Oh.my.goodness. I downsized continually, I organized the shoes into totes, I repeatedly taught my little ones to put their shoes away before entering the trailer…..BUT. Ten people, ya’ll. Even with only 2 or 3 pairs of shoes per person—it’s still TOO MANY SHOES. 🙂 No matter how hard we tried, someone would forget and take their shoes off in the house, or it would be late and too dark to put the shoes away, OR it would be raining and everyone would have to bring their shoes inside. Every single day, I was tripping over shoes, stepping over shoes, kicking shoes out the front door, nagging children about shoes, mumbling to myself about shoes, threatening to ban all shoes from the Bergey family forever. You get my point. The shoes were ruining my life, and I in turn was taking out my frustration on the people I love the most! 🙂 The truth was, I needed to lower my expectations for this one. We have alot of people in a small space (and sadly, we all need shoes!). I started expecting to see shoes all day long and stopped feeling so frustrated.
2. Increase your training.
If you see a dog who pees indoors, barks all day, runs away every time he gets out the door, jumps on everyone he meets, doesn’t come when called, scratches up the furniture, and chews on all the socks, do you blame the DOG or the OWNER?
The owner. He needs to train his dog in obedience!
In the same way, if you’re frustrated with your child, it is not the child’s fault.
It is YOUR fault for not training better.
Take the time to write down the things your children do that frustrate you the most, share them with your spouse, evaluate what you should lower your expectations on, then get busy training for the rest!
Here’s another personal illustration:
- We travel full-time, so some days, we’re out-and-about in public more than most families. That can equate to getting everyone unbuckled and out of the van frequently. I have to unbuckle the baby and gather the diaper bag, so my children are often exiting the vehicle alone. The youngest 5 inevitably begin to wander, usually exploring the nearby landscaping. My boys would touch the trees or climb on the rocks, or even start a game of tag! Now, this mama knows that they may have been sitting for a long time and have extra wiggles :), but not only is it frustrating to gather them all back together, it is also very dangerous in some parking lots to have little ones wandering. After multiple lectures over the dangers of parking lots AND the needed respect for company’s landscaping, we were still having issues. (It was additionally challenging for us, because we did understand why they were so quick to want to play.:) ) I began dreading getting everyone out of the van, and could feel my stress meter rising every time we had to get out! This is when we decided to increase the training and established the “white line rule”. Whenever my husband calls “white line!”, all the children must plant their feet on the white parking line right outside the van. They may move on the line but may not get off of it. We got in and out of the van OVER and OVER again, practicing and encouraging and teaching. This now works beautifully to keep our little ones safe and respectfully off the landscaping. 🙂
In this situation, increasing the training reduced my frustration.
Remember, if you’re feeling FRUSTRATED at your child, try one of these options: Lower your expectations until they can freely meet your approval, OR increase your training until they succeed with the appropriate behavior.
Now, what about you? What frustrates you and what are you doing about it? I’d love to hear your thoughts, either in the comments below OR on the Perspectives in Parenting Facebook Page! Blessings to you on YOUR parenting journey!
I received a facebook message with a question recently that got me thinking about thankfulness in our children. I’ll paste the question here:
So, I had a long day and stopped and got a milkshake for myself on the way home. My son cried because I didn’t get him anything. He’s talked about it all afternoon, and just brought it up again saying “I want icecream. Why can’t I have your milkshake- it’s just sitting in the freezer.” I told him it’s mine and I’m allowed to treat myself sometimes and he says, “You always treat yourself, you always get coffee, and I want ice cream!” I don’t think he will be getting a cone the next time we go. He’s so spoiled it’s made him selfish. He does not handle me getting something without getting him something. How do you teach your kids to be thankful?
It’s one of those characteristics that must be developed in each one of us…cause we all kinda want what makes US happy more than we want to be THANKFUL. 🙂
The Bible puts it this way:
1 Thessalonians 5:18: “ In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
Give thanks in EVERY THING?
Children struggle with thankfulness. (But let’s be honest–Mommies and Daddies do, too!)
Those perfectly formed, delightfully precious, and sweet little babies quickly grow into toddlers and preschoolers who naturally focus on self-gratification. Turning the hearts of our children towards thankfulness takes purposeful, decisive work! We should not be frustrated that our children choose selfishness, but rather seek opportunities to teach thankfulness.
The wise parent will embrace the opportunity to cultivate an attitude of THANKFULNESS in their children.
I’m not saying anything you don’t already know, right? I mean, if you’ve been a parent for very long, you’ve witnessed the squabble over toys, the fussing over the favorite sippy cup, or the whining over not getting their
absolutely have to have it RIGHT NOW or I’m going to make you wish you’d never brought me along favorite cereal at the grocery store. RIGHT? 🙂
Do we have to just sit back and HOPE our children someday wake up thankful in all things?
Or can we cultivate this attitude of thankfulness in our children?
Here are five key ways we work on cultivating an attitude of thankfulness with our large family.
- Start young with verbalizing thankfulness. Toddlers aren’t likely to feel thankful just yet, and that’s okay. 🙂 But they can learn to say “thank you” whenever they are given something or someone serves them. Teach them to say “thank you” the same way you teach them any other skill! Repitition and patience are the keys here. Once you know your little one CAN say thank you (Our Titus is 14 months and can say his own little version of it already.) OUTLAST them if necessary until they say it every time you ask them to say it. Be consistent in the baby and toddler stage with saying “Thank you” as you’re setting the stage for a thankful attitude later.
- Don’t give your little ones everything they want. I realize this should go without saying, but just last week, we were eating in a restaurant and I was shocked by what I observed. A family with 2 young children (a girl around 2, and a boy around 5) came into the restaurant. As they ordered their food at the register, the children both picked up a drink from the display in front of them. The mom told the children, “We are going to get ONE drink and share, okay?” She took both drinks away and chose a white-colored drink. She handed it to the little boy, and he smiled excitedly. Meanwhile, the 2 year old girl had begun to climb up the display, trying to reach the red-colored drink. The mom put her down and repeated, “We are going to get ONE drink, this white one, and share, okay?” The little girl threw herself down on her bottom and began to kick her feet. The mom repeated herself one more time, as the girl began to scream for the red drink. Then she reached down and TOOK THE WHITE DRINK FROM THE LITTLE BOY’S HAND and put it back. He started to get upset, and she got right in his face and said, “Don’t you dare fight me on this. YOU just got new shoes. Let her have the red drink.” She reached for the red drink and handed it to the tantruming little girl. The little girl stood up smugly, with her red drink in her hands, and smiled. The little boy walked away with tears streaming down his face. Parents, you will never cultivate an attitude of thankfulness in your children if you give them everything they want. It is okay to allow your children to be occasionally disappointed, to wait for their special turn, or to do without for awhile:)
- Verbalize thankfulness frequently. Don’t expect children to be thankful automatically, especially when they are young. Teach them by your example, and start in your home. When we get finished with a good meal, my husband will loudly say, “Thank you, Mommy, for working so hard on this meal!” The children naturally repeat him. When my husband pays money for us to have a special treat (like a trip to the zoo or ice cream), I loudly verbalize, “Thank you, Daddy, for this awesome treat! Children, isn’t it awesome that your Daddy chose to give us this blessing?” They begin to copy my words and attitude, and the entire van is full of “THANK YOU, DADDY!!!” When I work hard to make a special dessert and the children naturally want to dive into it when I haven’t even sat down yet, my husband will cheerfully say, “WOW! Mommy worked hard to make an awesome dessert! Look at Mommy’s face. She looks tired. Let’s wait for her to take the first bite before we eat this yummy dessert.” When grandparents bless us with gifts, we verbalize thankfulness for them (and with them), like this, “Ethan, Grandpa sacrificed his hard-earned money to give you this special thing! We need to thank him for doing this!” Then we walk with the child and offer thanks. Teach your child to be thankful by being thankful yourself and openly verbalizing it.
- Serve your children with JOY. Maybe you weren’t expecting this point, but as my children have grown older, I have found this point to be one of the most important ones for cultivating thankfulness! We love to serve our children. We put them first often. I offer them the last piece of cake, and buy them new clothing before buying for myself. I will see them struggling with a job I’ve asked them to do and willingly take the job from them and finish it. (I know, I know. Some of you authoritative parents just took a giant GASP and are now in complete shock. lol. Please hear me out before tuning me out.) I have found that the more I joyfully serve and openly verbalize with my children about my service (that looks like this…”Oh, there’s only one piece of treat left. Mommy wants YOU to have it, because I love to serve you.” or “I know I asked you to fold this laundry, but why don’t you go enjoy the movie with the other children and I will finish it FOR you.”), the more they become thankful and serve others with joy! It’s true! If we’re serving our children with a grudging spirit, complaining about the work load, or sighing and acting irritated all the time, what do we expect THEM to do but copy us? Likewise, if we serve with joy (all the while teaching them to serve others as well), we will begin to see a joyful, thankful attitude in return. Before long, your children will be noticing when YOU are tired and offering to serve YOU.
- Continually acknowledge that all of our blessings AND trials come directly from the Lord. A truly thankful attitude comes from the contentment in knowing that all of our lives are in God’s hands. We can trust Him (and give thanks in EVERY thing!) when we fully believe that He is in control. What is your response when blessings rain down on your family? Do you acknowledge GOD’S handiwork and thank Him in front of your children? What about when the trials rain down and you can’t see your hand in front of your face through the darkness? Do you still thank Him then? Our children will never see Jesus in all things and learn to trust Him if WE do not continually SHOW Him to them! Openly thank God for the blessings AND trials of life in front of your children. I remember my dad being very hesitant to ever share financial details with his children (I think his goal was to keep us feeling secure). I have found that when we carefully share the ups and downs in life WITH OUR CHILDREN, they are strengthened in their own faith and encouraged to be always thankful.
Just one more personal illustration on this topic, as it hits close to home. Johanna (adopted at 14 from an orphanage in China) came home with a most unthankful attitude. 🙂 She was like a willful 2 year old, expecting to be served and to get her way, fighting against any and all kinds of unselfishness. We worked and worked (and worked!) on cultivating an attitude of thankfulness in her. First we role-played, then we expected verbal thanks, then we outlasted the refusal to say “thank you” about a million times. We served and loved and gave over and over again, all the while teaching and verbalizing thankfulness. I’m not going to lie, some days I thought we’d never get there. 🙂 But, those baby steps led to baby progress and eventually we have what happened this weekend: Saturday was my birthday, and it fell right in the middle of an amazing missions conference in which I was royally spoiled. One of the ladies in the church owns a boutique and gave me 2 bags full of lovely new clothes. Several people gave me gift cards for shopping, and the pastors’ wife and a sweet staff member blessed me with a new purse and wallet! By the time my family birthday party rolled around on Saturday, I had a whole PILE of new treasures. 🙂 After I opened my presents, I was sorting through everything on my bed, when Johanna walked in. She stood there for a moment, silently looking at everything. I know special days can be a trigger for Johanna’s PTSD, so I gently put my arm around her and said, “Johanna, are you struggling with jealousy because Mommy got new things? It’s okay to feel a little sad when someone else gets presents.” She looked up at me with tears in her eyes and said, “Oh, NO, Mommy. I’m not jealous at all. I’m just so overwhelmed.” The tears began to fall as she said, “I’m just SO thankful that you got so many blessings!”
Don’t give up, weary parent. Keep cultivating that attitude of thankfulness in your children.
With you on the journey,
Gather any group of mothers with young babies together and before long, the topic will always veer towards feedings, schedules, or the inevitable “does he sleep through the night yet?” question.
(I hate that question almost as much as the “Is he a GOOD baby?” one. As if there are BAD and GOOD babies, and we all are holding our breath and “hoping” for a good one.)
Ah, yes. Infants and sleep. (Or maybe the lack thereof, lol.) This is a topic people can get quite passionate about. 🙂
Today, I’m going to share what works for us, and why. Please remember that, like every other blog post on this site, there is NO judgement for those who find success with a different parenting style. 🙂
I co-sleep with my babies. All five of my biological babies have spent at least their first year of life snuggled up close to both Mommy and Daddy. We co-slept with our younger two adopted girls for about a year as well. Contrary to the fearful statements many people will threaten a co-sleeping mama with, all seven of our older children go to sleep when they are told, sleep in their own beds, and wait to get up until the clock says the appropriate wake-up time now. Little Titus (13 months) still spends the majority of the night curled up next to me. 🙂
I absolutely LOVE having my babies close by, all day, and all night. Since I get asked frequently about this practice, I wanted to share with you a couple of the reasons why co-sleeping works so well for our family.
- Co-sleeping promotes and protects the breastfeeding relationship.
Babies were intricately designed by God to have an intense need to breastfeed, immediately after birth, and frequently thereafter. As evidenced by several passages in the Bible and other historical accounts, up until more recently, the breastfeeding relationship was measured in years rather than months. Unrestricted access to mama during both day AND night encourages a healthy milk supply that can last as long as mother and baby desire. Restricting baby’s access to mama signals the mother’s body to make less milk. This is why many mothers who find success in scheduling their babies feeding and sleep patterns during the early weeks do not make enough milk to sustain their baby during the second half of the first year, not to mention the year after that.
This is not a breastfeeding post, so I won’t go into all the science behind successful breastfeeding here. I do want to point out, however, that prolactin (the milk making hormone) levels are HIGHEST at night, leading to the belief that we were designed to feed frequently and even throughout the night. Few mamas desire to actually climb in and out of bed all night for months. (Hence the reason baby sleep training manuals are so popular among sleep-deprived parents!) Co-sleeping eliminates that need.
I would also like to discuss a common phrase that is spoken to mothers: “Your baby is using you as a PACIFIER.” After the birth of our eighth child last year, a well-intentioned nurse said this to me before removing the baby from my arms and placing him in the bassinet across the room. I waited sweetly until she left the room, then promptly picked him up and returned to our comfy snuggly nursing position. 🙂
Allow me to be blunt for a minute:
Your baby is not using YOU as a substitute for a pacifier. She is using the pacifier as a substitute for YOU.
This is not an anti-pacifier rant (I used them with my first two babies). I just find it ridiculous that we are accusing a tiny newborn of somehow abusing you by his instinctive need to suck. 🙂
Keeping baby close and co-sleeping meets the baby’s need for frequent access to breastfeeding AND the mama’s need for rest and sleep at night. Baby doesn’t have to even fully awake nor cry to express his needs, and mama gets to remain warm and comfy in her bed all night long. 🙂
- Co-sleeping also promotes and protects attachment and bonding.
Your baby grew inside of you for almost a year. The first sounds her tiny ears heard were your heartbeat and your soft voice. She was lulled to sleep by your movements and kept calm by your constant presence. From the moment of her birth she could distinguish you in a room full of people. Why then are we so surprised that she is happiest when held close to your heart?
There are a zillion mama-substitutes on the market today. They mimic the sound of your heartbeat, or the motion of your arms. They claim to be “just like mom”! (And sometimes they are wonderful for when mama simply cannot hold baby.) But there is no gadget, no machine, no person on earth that can replace the baby’s need for connection with MAMA.
The idea promoted by some that rocking or nursing a baby to sleep, holding a sleeping baby, responding quickly to baby’s cries, or co-sleeping with baby is HARMFUL to a baby causes a hindrance in mama’s mind to meeting her baby’s needs.
Her fear that she is somehow doing something WRONG (when her instinctual response screams otherwise) causes much frustration. Well-meaning advice from family and friends
and complete strangers at the grocery store can further discourage mama.
Did you know that when your own baby cries, your entire body has an automatic response? Your heart rate increases, your blood pressure rises, your milk lets down, and you feel an intense need to pick your baby up. I remember literally feeling like I couldn’t think clearly when my babies were very upset.
Your baby is not trying to manipulate you nor control you when he cries, whether at a “convenient” time during the day, or at an “inconvenient” time at night. His need for YOU doesn’t magically end with the setting of the sun each evening. 🙂 Baby needs to be close to you to attach to you, and co-sleeping allows that.
For the ease of the PARENTS, many will recommend teaching baby “independence” at a very early age. Due to our adoption experiences, we have seen first-hand the negative results of this so-called “independence”. Yes, a baby left to cry alone WILL eventually give up, but much can be lost in that process as well. Sweet mama, it is OKAY that your baby needs you. In fact, it is a healthy and GOOD thing. 🙂
For busy mamas, sometimes night-time can be the perfect time to re-connect with baby. I love scooping my little guy up for a nice long nursing/cuddle after a very long day. Holding and watching your baby while he sleeps triggers sweet feelings of attachment in mama as well.
God designed babies to be dependent on their primary caregivers for the first several years, and one of the ways our family fulfills baby’s needs is by co-sleeping.
(Obviously, there are multiple ways to promote attachment between parent and baby. Please understand that I am not in any way saying that co-sleeping is the ONLY way to promote attachment! It is simply one of the ways we have found to be effective.)
Because I know I’m going to get asked, I thought I’d add on a few thoughts here. 🙂
What about time alone for husband and wife? Brent and I enjoy some time together each evening after the children are asleep. When our babies are tiny, they simply sleep nearby until we’re ready for bed, and when they get a little older, we put them to bed with the older children and then bring them to our bed when they awake the first time.
Will they EVER learn to sleep through the night? It’s a myth, really, this “sleeping through the night” thing. How often do you actually fall asleep and sleep the entire night without waking up once? What we’re really hoping for is that baby will learn to not need to be parented back to sleep when they wake up. 🙂 Between 12 and 18 months, we have gently taught each one of our babies to sleep alone. I’m a firm believer that a need met will go away, and have found each one of mine to be great sleepers. I can honestly say that we have never needed to repeatedly get up with a 2, 3, or 4 year old with sleep issues and I attribute that to the fact that they don’t fear sleep.
This is our perspective on co-sleeping. Whatever works for you and YOUR family, I wish you and your little ones sweet snuggles and great sleep. 🙂
Early on in my parenting journey, I read several parenting books by well-respected Christian authors. They explained clearly how babies were born with a sin nature and we needed to go after their will early and often in order to win the battle for their hearts. Before my first precious child was even BORN, I felt like a soldier, armed and ready for war! Unfortunately, this set me up to be an adversary to my children, instead of their greatest ally. I went “head-to-head” needlessly on many issues because I was parenting out of this FEAR of losing the elusive WAR with my children.
I am no longer seeking to WIN EVERY BATTLE for obedience with my children because I have ENDED the war against them.
Now, one of my biggest goals as a parent is to HELP my children obey.
Notice I didn’t say MAKE my children obey.
Isn’t it just a bit of semantics, since the end result is still the same?
Not for me. 🙂
If I approach my child with an adversarial mindset, with a me vs. them attitude, I am automatically setting myself up for a “battle”. Like you, I’ve fought those battles and won, but I usually walk away wishing I had handled it much better.
Sometimes our mindset going into each encounter with our children is as important as the ENCOUNTER itself.
Hence my thought process behind help versus make.
My goal is not to MAKE my children obey, because that does not require any heart change. My goal is always to HELP my children obey.
I can and do require obedience, but because I view myself as the HELPER instead of the MAKER, I am not offended by mistakes, childishness, or even rebellion. Instead, I embrace another opportunity to HELP my child. I am not looking for chances to conquer their will, nor break their spirit—I am waiting for chances to HELP their character by helping them CHOOSE obedience.
It’s a refreshing mindset, truly. You see, God entrusted me with eight amazingly unique children. Each one is intricately designed, with their own strengths and weaknesses–and their own endearing personality. My greatest responsibility as a mother is to teach my children how to use their gifts for the Lord.
So instead of getting in their face, with a confrontational attitude, and a “win at all costs” mindset, I’m getting next to my children when they’re disobeying. I’m looking at life from their viewpoint.
Cause we’re not at war. We are on the same TEAM.
And while I am daily teaching, and training, and encouraging, and discipling them…..
I’m also helping them obey. 🙂
What about you? Have you ever struggled with the “win the war” mindset? Do you need a change in attitude towards your little ones? Is there a technique that has helped you parent and you’d love to share it with us? Please comment below!
Titus and I demonstrate one step of Gentle Disicpline in Teaching Obedience to babies and toddlers. (I’m totally partial to his adorable little self.) 🙂
Do not wait until your little one is 2 years old to begin to teach obedience. The first 2 years offer many opportunities to teach and train your baby to obey Daddy and Mommy.
And it’s always best to start at the beginning. 🙂
Little babies are just that—BABIES!—and should be cuddled and cared for with infinite gentleness.
I am not advocating harsh discipline of these little ones, only gentle, consistent training.
I believe in a strong, intimate attachment between parent and child that is encouraged by breastfeeding (when possible), responding quickly to baby’s needs, a healthy daily routine, and the give and take of gentle discipline.
Between 6 and 12 months, you can start to teach your baby to:
- Look at you when you need them to listen. Gently turn their head to your voice and say, “Look at Mommy!” Even if they don’t understand exactly “what” you’re saying, they can start to learn to make eye contact with you. Parents teach “patty-cake” and “peek-a-boo”, “so big” and “the wheels on the bus”…..in the same way, you can teach “Look at Mommy!” by making it fun, repetitive, and a simple part of daily life. 🙂
- Sit on your lap without arching their back to get down. Of course, sometimes a nonverbal little one will communicate by trying to slide out of your arms, and if you’re not needing them to sit at that time, you could let them down, but you can also teach them “no-no, sweetie, sit on Mommy’s lap”. Don’t expect long periods of time just yet, but they should be able to sit through a short children’s book or a simple meal without screaming or squirming to get down. 🙂 (If they DO scream, outlast them. Do not let them get down until they are quietly sitting on your lap. An unwavering hold and a firm voice quietly saying, “sit with Mommy” will help the little one yield.) Begin now to teach your little one to sit on your lap. You will be able to sit at nice restaurants, doctors appointments, and such, without your baby screaming to get down and explore.
- Understand the meaning of the word NO. We use “No touch” or “not for ‘baby'”. Young babies need to explore their environments, but there will always be a few things in their reach that are not for them to touch. Redirection is certainly appropiate at this age, but don’t forget to teach while you’re distracting them. For example, baby crawls over to the t.v.. You can say, “Baby, look at Mommy’s eyes. No touch. That’s not for baby. Here is a toy just for you!” with a smile and a redirection, all while still teaching simple obedience, beginning listening skills, and eye contact.
- Use basic signs or words to communicate their needs. Baby sign language relieves frustration in nonverbal babies! Teach them “please” and “more”, “drink” and “eat”, etc by using the sign while you say the word. Once your baby demonstrates that they are fully capable of using the sign or word for what they want (different age for each child), require them to use it. (Use wisdom here—if the baby is tired or really hungry, don’t use that as a training time. :)) But if they start fussing for “more”, don’t give them more until they sign for it. Don’t get angry or even frustrated. Just don’t get them what they want until they obey. This will make training them to use “please”, “thank you”, and “yes ma’am” much easier later on. 🙂
Between 12 and 24 months, besides the above skills you can teach your little one to:
- “Come” and “Stop”. We usually wait until our littles are walking steadily before teaching them to come when called or stop on command. Obviously, these are safety obedience skills, and while we teach and expect our children to obey, protect them from situations where their disobedience would result in harm. You can teach “come” and “stop” with a young child by making it a game. We even offer a reward (one jelly bean) for toddlers playing the “come” or “stop” game. Practice it daily. What about the toddler who has learned to come but then doesn’t listen? At this young age, helping them obey is very effective. Call the child’s name. Watch to see if they come. If not, go straight to them, get eye contact and say, “Mommy told you to ‘come’. You need to ‘come’ right away when Mommy calls you!” Then take them by the hand and walk them to wherever you were when you called. Praise them, “Good job! You came to Mommy!” and then go about your day. This is not an area of discipline so much as teaching beginning listening skills. Many reminders will be necessary. 🙂
- Stay within boundaries YOU create. Blanket time, playpen time, highchair time, etc. These are not for discipline, but for training. Besides, if you make it fun by having a fantastic attitude, your little ones will think they are getting to do something really special. 🙂 If your little one will not stay where you tell them to stay, back-track and teach them to sit on your lap without fussing or screaming. Outlast the temper with a firm, “No. You will not get up until you obey Mommy. Sit quietly.” Wait patiently until they are willing to sit quietly. Don’t bribe them with toys or distractions when they’re being willfull, but when they do yield, give them a small toy or book to look at on your lap. Practice this daily, then you can move on to blanket time, etc.(On a side note, we love to keep our babies near us. Teaching them a little self-control allows us to take them everywhere and enjoy having them close by. I also love to incorporate my babies and toddlers in my day…if I’m vacuuming, they’re on the bed watching. If I’m taking a shower (and they’re awake) they’re on a blanket with toys on the bathroom floor. 🙂 When I’m cooking, they’re in a highchair with puzzles and toys, close enough to be a part of daily family life. At church, they’re on my lap or in a sling. When I’m folding laundry, they’re playing at my feet or sitting on top of the washing machine. Mommy/baby togetherness is important for attachment and a baby/toddler that obeys simple instructions is much easier to keep nearby at all times. :))
Once your baby has learned to look at you, to listen to your voice, and to respect that you are not going to give in to screaming, you have the basics of obedience.
Check out my You Tube Channel for videos demonstrating the techniques above!