Saturday, March 27, 2010

day eighty-seven: training through consequences and reality discipline--childishness vs willfulness day iii of iv

Once we determine that a child’s behavior is childishness, it is our job as parents to train that negative behavior out of him (at appropriate ages for inappropriate behaviors, obviously). We call this training through consequences—as opposed to the other form of corrective child training (punishment) for willfulness.

In developing appropriate consequences for undeveloped or underdeveloped character (childishness), there are two things to consider:

 1. Childishness is “thinking like a child”

In I Corinthians, Paul says that when he was a child, he thought as a child, but now that he is grown, he thinks differently (I Cor 13). To me, this tells us that children do not have the capability of thinking things through like adults have or should have. (The psychologist Piaget didn't have anything up on Paul!) That's why Jacob (age seven at the time of yesterday’s example) stops to watch the computer game when he is supposed to be unloading the dishes. It is why my fourteen year old son forgets to kennel the dog some nights. It is called childishness, and every child has it. (After all, in part, childishness what we love about them during their first four or five years!)

2. Childishness is undeveloped character

Childishness is really undeveloped character--that is why it needs trained through consequences instead of disciplined through spanking. While they are still children, we can train them through natural consequences to become less child-like (as appropriate at various ages) and more character-filled. These consequences are the very things that will likely happen to them as adults if they continue those behaviors (heaven forbid!).

One more day of childishness versus willfulness! Tomorrow we will examine reality discipline—applying appropriate consequences for poor character in a lengthy post outlining five important aspects of consequences and reality discipline.

Then we will be ready to figure out what to do with preschoolers who do not cooperate with their morning routines! Bear with us….these parenting concepts will truly make us better parents as we seek to train our children in ways that please the Lord—and that help our kids become responsible, kind, loving, character-filled adults someday.

Friday, March 26, 2010

day eighty-six: obedience math—childishness versus willfulness part ii of iv

                                      Obedience Math

When our older children were little, we taught them what we called "obedience math." It goes like this:

                              Obedience + Own Method = Disobedience
                              Obedience + Delay = Disobedience
                              Obedience + Incompleteness= Disobedience
                              Obedience + Bad Attitude = Disobedience

Obedience math sums up the saying, "Do what you are told, when you are told, how you are told, with a good attitude." Thus, obedience math is not childishness but outright disobedience.

It is not childishness when a child is given a direct command, and he does something different than he is told. It is not childishness when a child is given a direct command, and he waits and does it on his own timetable. It is not childishness when a child is given a direct command, and he only does part of the command. It is not childishness when a child is given a command, and he complies but does it with a bad attitude. All of those are disobedience and should be punished.

                     Benchmarks for Determining Willfulness and Childishness

Through our years of parenting seven children, we have established a few benchmarks that have helped us determine if a behavior is disobedience or childishness.

1. Age of the child

One benchmark is the age of the one violating the command. If I tell my seven-year-old son to go unload the dishwasher right now, and when he comes into the dining room to put some knives away, he starts watching his brother play a computer game and forgets about his dishes, he is being childish. Seven year olds get distracted! He doesn't need severe punishment for his infraction. He needs reminding and, perhaps, consequences, if he is characterized by getting sidetracked by computer games. However, if my fourteen year old is told to go take the trash to the corner and then come back and help his brothers straighten the family room, and he stops to shoot baskets for fifteen minutes, he is more than likely disobeying. He should be mature and responsible enough by that time to consider his brothers' feelings as they do his portion of the work. He should be obedient enough to go do the job he is told, then come back inside and do the next job.

2. Direct command vs routine task

Another benchmark is whether the violation was of a direct command just given or a routine or schedule type command. For instance, when I tell my seven year old to go unload the dishes right now, and he decides he would rather go upstairs to play Legoes, he has directly disobeyed me and needs to be punished. However, when he finishes his morning routine and is supposed to go directly to the dishwasher and start unloading according to the schedule, and he sometimes starts looking at books instead, he is more than likely displaying childishness. He probably needs consequences, or a chore chart, etc., to turn that childishness around.

3. Intent of the heart

Another benchmark is the intent of the heart. Generally speaking, when a child violates a direct command or displays disrespect towards a parent, it is a malicious act. The child understood what was wanted of him, but didn't care. He did not simply forget to do something or overlook something. He made a willful decision to do what he wanted to do rather than what was asked of him.

When a child displays childishness, he is usually not trying to "get away with something," like in a pre-meditated instance of disobedience. This benchmark is actually the most helpful one because we can usually discern the intent of a child's heart. We know our children well, and we often know what they are thinking and what drives them.

Think about negative behaviors that your child(ren) display today. How do they measure up in the childishness versus willfulness department? Once we start thinking of these things in these terms, we will also think differently about our disciplinary techniques.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

day eighty-five: introducing childishness vs willfulness part I of IV

“Mama picked me up, and we swirled and swirled ‘coz she was so happy I remembered to make my bed without being told.” “Jonathan’s Journal”

So you have the morning routine chart in place. You have timed your preschooler to see that he really can complete the tasks that you have assigned him in the time that you have allotted him. You have walked him through the steps over and over—and you know that he can do this.* However, little Johnny does not cooperate—and you are pretty sure that he does not deserve to be “swirled and swirled”!

First of all, it has been important to us in our child training that we understand (or at least try to understand!) the difference between foolishness (willfulness) and childishness (underdeveloped character). The differences between these two types of behaviors in children are crucial in disciplining properly—including knowing what to do when little Johnny simply will not complete his morning routine chart.

In our child training, Ray and I have tried to determine whether a behavior was rebellion against us (as in outright disobedience or disrespect) or childishness (as in forgetfulness, procrastination, sloppiness, etc.):

1. Foolishness

   a. Rebellion

   b. Disobedience

   c. Disrespect

2. Childishness

   a. Undeveloped or underdeveloped character

   b. Forgetfulness, procrastination, irresponsibility, etc.

   c. May turn into “foolishness” if left unattended

We do this because disobedience requires biblical discipline whereas childishness requires the second aspect of child training we have used: reality discipline (or consequences).

                            Which Behavior Is This?

Discerning between disobedience and childishness can be so difficult! Even after twenty-seven years of parenting, Ray and I still continuously ask each other which behavior a child is displaying. Difficult or not, we must do it. The Bible says that we are not to exasperate our children. Two sure ways to exasperate them are to punish incorrectly, as in anger, etc., and to punish something as disobedience, when we should be training through consequences. All parents are faced with this. A child dawdles when we call him to come get ready for bed, and we wonder whether this is just childishness or if it is real disobedience. When our son leaves the dog out of the kennel for the third night in a row, and the pooch potties on the new carpet, we ask ourselves if our little guy is disobeying or forgetting.

In a nutshell (and I will spend at least one post on this in a day or two), if a child is disobedient, disrespectful, or rebellious, we have a heart issue—and a serious discipline problem that needs handled in a serious manner—and quickly. If a child is forgetful, slow, unreliable, etc. (especially a younger child), it is usually childishness—and we can “train” that undeveloped or underdeveloped childishness out of a child through consequences and reality discipline.

Stay with us as we examine this more closely—and decide what we should do with little Johnny who repeatedly does not complete his morning routine.

*More info on developing the morning routine for younger children can be found in an earlier post at

**Info on developing the morning routine for older children can be found in an earlier post as well as at

Note: The information in this week’s blog posts about childishness versus willfulness was taken in part from Chapter 9: “I Want an Oompa Loompa Now, Daddy!” from our book, The Well-Trained Heart.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

day eighty-four: praise for good character

“Mama picked me up, and we swirled and swirled ‘coz she was so happy I remembered to make my bed without being told.” “Jonathan’s Journal”

Jonathan was always a little pleaser. He received affirmation from six people who were older than he was: Mom, Dad, big brother (who waited ten years for this little brother—and told him so since he was a toddler), and three older sisters who were absolutely crazy about him. However, even with all of that potential affirmation floating around our home, we didn’t leave it up to chance. We purposely and frequently praised our children.

The excerpt above is about more than just praising preschoolers. It is about two aspects of praising our preschoolers that we often do not consider:

1. Making it possible for the child to please you without being told

2. Making your preschooler want to please you

The first aspect, making it possible for the child to please you without being told, is important in families in which Mom dictates every move the young child makes. I like to keep tight reins on the goings-on in our home. I want to be sure that everybody is doing what they are supposed to be doing—that homework is getting done and done well, that chores are completed, that time is used well, etc. However, I learned about a dozen years ago (another story for another time!) the importance of children being able to please us without being told. This builds initiative and responsibility that may not be built in mother-hovering situations.

This is actually a good argument for morning routine charts, chore charts, study schedules, etc. in that they put the child in control a little more. And the follow through of these tasks (without Mom checking on each step) provides opportunity for the child to please us—without being told each move to make.

That leads us to number two: set things up in such a way that your preschooler wants to please you. Preschoolers are pleaser by nature anyway (providing they haven’t been spoiled and indulged to the point that the sweet, natural pleasing side of them has been stripped by self-absorption at an early age). When we genuinely praise preschoolers, they often want to please us more and more.

Some of you might be thinking that all of this “pleasing” isn’t the best thing for children. We have found that our world provides enough opportunity to be selfish—no amount of focusing on others is going to hurt our children in the least! If we develop the habit of young children submitting to authority and desiring to do what is right in the early years, we will have a better chance of continuing that type of behavior and attitude later.

I will leave you with four aspects of praising preschoolers today:

1. Give genuine praise, not flattery. When Jonathan was “swirled and swirled,” he knew I meant it. My words were not just flattery or passing thoughts. While flattery WILL often work on preschoolers, it is not advisable. They need our sincerity and genuineness, just like our older children do.

2. Praise for good character. Obedience. Kindness. Responsibility. “Stick-tu-a-tive-ness.” Diligence. Completeness. Reliability. These are things that matter in life—as a preschooler doing chores, as a teen doing school work, and as an employee at work.

3. Use biblical affirmations when appropriate. Obviously, we do not recommend that you use the Bible as a weapon (“don’t you know where liars go?”), but for positive affirmations, it is fitting. For example, we taught our children verses like “do your work as unto the Lord,” “do not be slothful,” “be diligent like the ant,” etc.

4. Public praise is worth twice as much. Our preschoolers loved to be praised in front of their siblings! They loved for us to tell them good things about them at the dinner table, in front of grandparents, etc.

What if “Johnny” didn’t do such a hot job on his morning routine and, quite frankly, doesn’t deserve to be “swirled and swirled”? Starting tomorrow, we will discuss childishness versus willfulness for a few days. While this is not a “preschool-only” topic, we think it is important in knowing how to handle disobedience, forgetfulness, etc. in all ages—and will aid in our discussion of parenting preschoolers. So spread the word—PP 365 is going to diverge for a few days and focus on childishness versus willfulness in all ages of children.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

day eighty-three: charts, rewards, and incomplete work

“Finally, I got to get up, and I made my bed.” from “Jonathan’s Journal”

In an earlier post, I described making charts for preschoolers’ morning routines and touched on rewards. Charts are an ideal way to introduce preschoolers to morning routines and help them learn to follow through (by “moving the game piece around the chart” or putting a sticker on the chart, etc.).

If you are just introducing morning routines to your preschooler (or even chore sessions, which I will discuss in a few days), it is a good idea to reward them for cooperation, helpfulness, joyfulness, follow-through, diligence, etc. (rewarding them for good character!).

You can do this a number of ways, depending on the ages of the child. For younger children, a daily reward, such as an extra story at story time or a miniature candy after naptime, etc might be appropriate. For older children, you can accumulate “points” or number of times that jobs are well done, such as four out of five days of morning routines completed on time without complaining yields an ice cream from McDonald’s or an extra thirty minutes playing on the computer.

However, you want to be careful that every little thing a child does is not dependent upon a reward. After the child gets accustomed to the morning routine, rewards should be omitted or given occasionally. He should do the morning routine because it is the right thing to do—and because it is what we do when we first get up in the morning. You alone can determine when this transition from “new” and “rewardable” to “normal” and “routine” takes place.

I just want to caution young parents not to make everything a rewardable scenario. Some things in life we do just because they are the right thing. Children who feel that they have to be rewarded at every turn often do not learn the joys of doing what’s right or what’s best just because it is right or best.

Tomorrow we will focus on praise—as Jonathan and Mommy “swirled and swirled.”

Monday, March 22, 2010

day eighty-two: developing morning routines preschoolers

“Mom said she set the timer for half an hour, but I think she made a mistake. Finally, I got to get up, and I made my bed.” from “Jonathan’s Journal”

I have talked in length on this blog about Preventive Parenting—doing those behaviors ahead of time that cause things to go more smoothly with our children later—giving children the expectations ahead of time, discussing things with our kids in order to create “learning hooks” that our children can relate back to in future situations, setting up workable schedules and routines that provide consistency and predictability for our children, and more. Today’s excerpt from “Jonathan’s Journal” is more about those Preventive Parenting ideals.

First of all, this excerpt reiterates what I described a couple of days ago—that parents, not the child, determine the child’s schedule. Again, this provides safety for the child (i.e. as in the child not being up unsupervised at night or in the mornings), but it also provides predictability for the child—and a framework for Mom to build her schedule around. How can Mom possibly know if she is going to have an hour to get kids up and ready, spend time talking, and put them on the bus if she doesn’t know when the littles will be up demanding her time and attention? Likewise, how can a homeschooling Mom know that she will have thirty minutes for Bible and character before her olders start their chores if the preschoolers and toddlers may or may not be up and around?

Secondly, today’s section of the story reveals Jonathan doing something as soon as he gets up: making his bed. This was the first part of Jonathan’s “morning routine”—a Preventive Parenting tip that I discussed for all ages of children—and for those who go to school as well as those who are homeschooled.

At Jonathan’s age in the story (age five or so), he had the same exact morning routine every morning—“mess, dress, room, groom”:

1. Mess—he had to clean up any messes he had from the previous night—water cups and story tapes away; make bed; etc.

2. Dress—he had to get dressed for the day; put away his pajamas; etc.

3. Room—he had to clean his room

4. Groom—he had to brush his teeth, wash up, etc.

As the children got older, we added to this—a private devotional time in which non-readers listened to Bible story tapes and/or looked at picture Bibles and older children had picture Bibles (or Family Bible Library described in an earlier post ) assigned to them.

Additionally, we usually attached the first family chore session of the day following the morning routine. Thus, all children had one or more morning chore to do. (Stay with us—in several days, I will share a complete list of daily chore ideas and age appropriateness for them.)

Tomorrow we will continue with the next few lines of “Jonathan’s Journal”—and discuss rewards and praise.

day eighty-one: obedience/contentment of a preschooler

“Our philosophy of parenting is that a demanding toddler often becomes a spoiled preschooler; a spoiled preschooler often becomes a difficult elementary child; a difficult elementary child often becomes a surly tween; a surly tween often becomes a rebellious teen; and a rebellious teen often becomes a selfish adult. It doesn’t just magically end. Thus, we worked hard at training our toddlers and preschoolers to obey, be content when he or she did not get his or her own way, be cooperative, etc.—while loving them like crazy.” Monday, March 22nd

So was Jonathan really as obedient and content as “Jonathan’s Journal” portrays him? Like all families, our preschoolers (well, really, all of us!) had their moments. We had one fairly strong-willed preschooler and one extremely difficult preschooler—who both became delights through toddler and preschool training, love, consistency, and discipline. For the most part, our preschoolers (and especially four of the last five, once we got the hang of parenting young children and set precedents in expected behaviors of our children) really did demonstrate the obedience and joyfulness/contentment that Jonathan did in our book, and as an aside, he continues to be a selfless, kind, respectful teenager too!

This didn’t just happen though. Our philosophy of parenting is that a demanding toddler often becomes a spoiled preschooler; a spoiled preschooler often becomes a difficult elementary child; a difficult elementary child often becomes a surly tween; a surly tween often becomes a rebellious teen; and a rebellious teen often becomes a selfish adult. It doesn’t just magically end. Thus, we worked hard at training our toddlers and preschoolers to obey, be content when he or she did not get his or her own way, be cooperative, etc.—while loving them like crazy.

We were not “out of balanced” parents who groaned and frowned all the time while demanding that our children behave or else. Likewise, we were not indulgent parents who failed to look into the future and realize that the repercussions of today’s choices in parenting our toddlers and preschoolers were long term—as in life long.

Yes, we maintained an awesome, predictable, consistent, fun-filled, learning enriched, Bible-focused schedule for our preschoolers—and we expected obedience and contentment from them as well. It can be done—and we are here to tell you that you can absolutely love getting up in the mornings and spending your days with these little people. You do not have to hope that Grandma comes to take a child off your hands or pray that bedtime will arrive soon. (Not that you will never feel those things—let’s be realistic; however, those feelings do not have to be the norm.) You can have obedient, content preschoolers as you, not they, schedule their day and make decisions for their well-being.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

day eighty: maintaining a schedule in a hurried world

“There is a peacefulness to toddlers and preschoolers when they stay home with one of their parents and their siblings (whenever possible) and follow a set pattern.” Sunday, March 21st

Before we enter Jonathan’s morning schedule this week, I want to address two areas over the next two days that come up when we introduce “Jonathan’s Journal”:

1. Maintaining that kind of schedule in our hurried world

2. Jonathan’s obedience and contentment

First of all, in answer to the first unspoken question, yes, we really did maintain that kind of schedule for our preschoolers. Some days were better than others: sometimes, as our older children got older, they had activities, etc., and it wasn’t as easy to maintain. One thing that I worked hard to do was keep our babies, toddlers, and preschoolers on roughly the same routine at least four weekdays a week. Obviously, if we had a field trip or all had appointments, etc., this wasn’t feasible.

When we had seven kids fifteen and under at home, I would schedule as many things in the afternoons as I could—and whoever wasn’t involved in that afternoon commitment stayed home and kept the schedule moving (i.e. the littles down for naps, independent work for the olders, etc.). That way, even if I was tied up, the toddlers and preschoolers were still on their regular routines. (On a completely separate note, we expected our preschoolers and toddlers to obey their older siblings—and the older siblings to not misuse their authority—more on that later!) When we only had young children, I stayed home “more often than not” (that theme keeps coming up in this blog!) in order to keep our littles on a good schedule.

We have become a “run around" society. I am not advocating that we try to live some artificial life and not live in the society we are in. But we do not have to accept societal norms that are counter-productive to living the life we want to live.

One of these norms that we chose not to adhere to is the idea of young moms toting toddlers and preschoolers all over the place all the time. It really isn’t necessary—and not the best thing for these little ones. With a little planning and forethought, we can stay home more and run less during the toddler/preschool days. (Obviously, I am not suggesting that you never have play dates, zoo trips, library days or Mom’s afternoons out—but that every day not be a day out when we have small children.)

There is a peacefulness to toddlers and preschoolers when they stay home with one of their parents and their siblings (whenever possible) and follow a set pattern. This takes me to the second question that is often asked following an introduction of “Jonathan’s Journal”: Did our preschoolers really behave in that way and were they really as content as Jonathan seemed? This question, we will answer tomorrow! SMILE....