This post is part 1 of 5 in the series To Train Up a Child.
This week we’re talking all things “child training” here at Des Moines Moms Blog! Depending on your personality type, this will either make you sing for joy and grab a pen to take some notes, or start to make you hyperventilate and give you heart palpitations. Those who love structure, discipline, and how-to lists tend to gravitate toward such topics, while the ENFPs among us are running in the other direction, thinking, Please, please, please don’t give me three more easy steps to getting toddlers to poop on the potty or babies to sleep through the night. My child will NOT follow your list, and I. Hate. Rules.
Never fear! We’re an eclectic group of mamas with a wide variety of opinions and backgrounds, so no matter your personality or parenting style, we trust you will find no judgment here, and hopefully some helpful tips and tricks along the way!
Regardless of your philosophies on child training and parenting strategies, one truth stands out in front of all the topics we’ll be discussing this week:
“Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old enough he will not depart from it.” ∼Proverbs 22:6
One thing is certain: whether we are intentionally teaching our children with carefully thought out step-by-step processes or letting our sweet little darlings call all the shots and walk all over us, we are training our children. This fact is worth careful pondering, because it’s something that can make or break how a child turns out, whether we realize it or not. Kids learn by reinforcement, whether positive, negative, inconsistent, or non-existent; therefore, we must consider what kind of reinforcement we are giving them and what behaviors are resulting.
Exhibit A: Cranky toddler throws a tantrum in Target. What do you do?
Ignore them and continue shopping as if nothing is happening.
Beg them to stop, attempt to reason with them, offer them a lollipop if they will just quiet down (and do so quickly!), for the love.
Carry them out to the car for a spanking.
Any of the above, depending on the day and your mood.
Here’s where I make all the Type A folks mad, because I’m not going to tell you there’s a “right” answer! The important thing to consider is how you trained your child based on your response. The mom who chose option 1 taught her toddler that tantrums don’t work to get mom’s attention. Responding with #2 taught the child, “I can gain control of a situation, and possibly some sugar, when I throw a fit.” Option 3 teaches a kiddo that tantrums bring quick and unpleasant consequences. The child whose parent responds with #4 will likely try again, because sometimes they like the result that tantrums get, and sometimes they don’t, and it’s impossible to predict which outcome will occur next time. One thing is guaranteed — there will be a next time.
Still tracking with me? Whether we want to admit it or not, all of our responses to our kids are training them. If I give him a cookie when he’s whining, he learns that whining works! If I finish sweeping the floor after she does a half-hearted job, she learns that chores are optional. If I count to three before handing out consequences, they simply delay to obey.
“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him.” ∼Proverbs 22:15
There are heated debates as to the interpretation of the word “rod” in Proverbs 22, and I’m not going to get into that today. Whether you believe in spanking or not, it’s true that children are inherently foolish, and they need some direction. It is our job as parents to do that directing, and this is best done with consistent and loving discipline, keeping in mind that the definition of discipline is so much broader than punishment. Discipline, simply put, is teaching children to stay on a prescribed path. Our job as parents is to direct our children in ways that encourage them to keep to that path. Consider your words, your attitude, your reactions, your responses to your children today. Each one is having an effect, perhaps more profound than you realize.
If the concept of child training is new to you — or old news but you’d like some encouragement along the way — remember that I am NO expert. You’d be much better off to listen to one of the wisest men to ever walk this planet, and spend some time in the Proverbs.
“Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise, and apply your mind to my knowledge; for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, that they may be ready on your lips. So that your trust may be in the Lord….” ∼Proverbs 22:17-19a
Ask God for guidance. Spend time in His word. (It really is the best parenting book around!) If you’re looking for additional resources, here are a few good books on child training to start with:
- The Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson
- Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus by Elyse Fitzpatrick
- Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers by Gordon Neufeld
- Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches by Rachel Jankovic
- Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel
- Parenting by the Book by John Rosemond
- Don’t Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Hubbard
- Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp
Here are some child training books that I have not personally read (yet!) but that are on my to-read list and have been highly recommended by friends I know and trust:
- Heartfelt Discipline by Clay Clarkson
- Hints on Child Training by Clay Trumball
- Parenting the Wholehearted Child: Captivating Your Child’s Heart with God’s Extravagant Grace by Jeannie Cunnion
- Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster Cline and Jim Fay
As we delve into this subject this week, remember that you know yourself. You know your child. No author (aside from The Author — of life, that is) knows your family better than you do, so trust your instincts, pray like crazy, and remember that what works for someone else may not work for you! And what works for one child may not work for the next. God’s good at giving us children with wildly different personalities to keep us on our toes, isn’t He? 😉 Whatever you do, however you train, proceed with joy. Because truly, it is a joy to train these little people in His ways!
How have you trained your children? On purpose? Inadvertently? Through blood, sweat, tears, laughter, or all of the above? Share your experiences with us in the comments below!
Read more from our To Train Up a Child series!
- Top Tips for Sleep Training
- How to Potty Train Your Child
- Your Circus, Your Monkeys
- Welcome to the Drama, Momma! Parenting a Dramatic Tween without Losing Your Sanity. Mostly.