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Teaching ObedienceTomato Staking     << Ch. 7 >>
Then I was beside Him, {as} a master workman; and I was daily {His} delight, rejoicing always before Him.
- Proverbs 8:30

So What is Tomato Staking Again?
Every gardener knows what I mean by "tomato staking". A tomato plant grows fast, big, and wild. If left untended, it soon sprawls out into an unwieldy heap. As the fruit grows, it weighs the plant down to the ground. Propping by this time is too late. Any attempt to retrain and redirect the growth of the branches will result in breakage and substantial loss of the fruit due to rot, disease, and pests.

On the other hand, a tomato plant which has been properly cared for, will produce an abundance of excellent fruit. From the beginning it must be watered, cultivated, pruned, fertilized, examined for pests, and staked up. The branches will grow the way they were propped and trained, and when the fruit is large and ripe the branches will have the strength to hold those beautiful tomatoes up off the wet ground. What a delight!

Think of your child as a tomato plant. Most parents provide too little staking for their growing young tomatoes. They care for them intimately when they are babies, but soon afterwards, begin letting them grow their own way. They feel uncomfortable assuming authority over their children and resort to the �Putting Out Fires� method of parenting. They try desperately to overlook misbehavior and avoid conflicts, unless forced into it by the magnitude of the offense or by their own anger. Serious character flaws and bad behavioral habits, once established, are very hard to change, just like the neglected branches of a tomato plant. Catching problems now and then won�t begin to make a dent in the problem. And just like the sprawling, unattended, unstaked tomato plant, there comes a point when it's simply too late. Your child�s heart will become firmly fixed in the position it has been growing for all the many hours in between your sporadic corrections and over the years when you�ve allowed outside influences and peer pressure to do your staking job for you.

How much wiser to be your child�s tomato stake from early on, keeping him close to you beyond infancy, training him constantly to be as you want him to be -- a godly child and eventually a godly adult. If you do this, eventually, when he is grown, he will be strong in the ways you have trained him and will not easily be persuaded toward the viewpoint and ways others.

Tomato Staking is a powerful tool that enables preemptive parenting. When you Tomato Stake, you can anticipate wrong attitudes and misbehaviors and nip things in the bud before they become ingrained habits. You are right there to encourage right behavior as well. And, of course, it's easy to get to know your child when you spend time with him. And the better you know him, the more likely it is that you will develop a close, loving relationship, and will remain close throughout life. Tomato Staking provides you with the avenue to be a teacher, mentor, friend and more to your child. Meanwhile, it provides your child with the avenue to become your student, apprentice, companion, and eventually a godly adult friend as well. By then, he will be standing secure, firmly holding to the right habits and godly values instilled in him by his personal apprentices � you, his godly parents � via a Tomato Staking lifestyle. Most importantly, he will be prepared to pass these habits and values on to his own children � the most precious legacy a parent can bestow.

...He watches all my paths.
- Job 33:11

Different Types of Tomato Staking
Debra: I'm confused. I have the idea that Tomato Staking is keeping children who show signs of being untrustworthy right next to you all the time, then gradually allowing them more freedom as they demonstrate they can be trusted. However, some people only keep a child with them for a short period of time when he has transgressed some specific command. They call this Tomato Staking too. Some practice the concept with all their children, whether trustworthy or not, while others, who also claim to be Tomato Staking, allow their children out of their sight for chores or play at certain times. So which of these examples conforms to your definition of Tomato Staking? Or do they all?

Elizabeth: Ours is a Tomato Staking lifestyle. Usually my younger children are all within eyesight and earshot of me in the same room, even if they are behaving well. Right now, my five youngest, preschoolers to preteens, are just around the corner from me. I know exactly what they are doing, and I can clearly hear them talking and interacting. Should they begin to bicker or get rowdy, I will stop them immediately. If they continue to misbehave, despite my verbal rebuke, I'll summon the offenders and sit them right next to me, allowing them to do nothing until they are bored stiff and motivated to obey. That would be more intensive Tomato Staking. Once under control and worthy of my trust again, I will direct them to some other activity closer to me than before, where I can see and hear them. That's still Tomato Staking. 

My five oldest children, all teens and young adults, happen to be in another state at the moment. (Gasp!) If I did not trust them completely, they would be with me. I wouldn't say they are personally Tomato Staked any more at their ages, because they don't need to be. Even so, we usually aim at doing most things together as a family if possible, so what we do still fits in the larger picture of a Tomato Staking lifestyle.

To further clarify what I mean by Tomato Staking, it may be helpful to divide Tomato Staking into several different types.

1. Intense Tomato Staking: Keeping your child within three feet of you (because he can't be trusted four feet or further from you), enabling you to "train" him to behave well, watching and correcting every infraction, and noticing and praising good behavior. After-the-fact discipline does not work nearly as well as the immediate discipline made possible by serious Tomato Staking such as this.

2. Occasional Tomato Staking: Keeping your child near you (how close and for how long depends on age and situation) to correct a repeated or habitual infraction. Here�s an example of this type being put into effect: "Because you pushed your brother just now, and you know better, you must come inside and sit here quietly at the kitchen table while I cook dinner. You will not play outside anymore until I see a change in you and know I can trust you."

3. Loose Tomato Staking: This is for daily use with well-trained children. Younger children are always within eyesight and earshot, usually in the same room, but not necessarily right next to you. In this kind of staking, you do NOT send children to the bedroom to play where you can't see or hear them, relying on occasional checks to monitor behavior. When they are outside, you are with them, or able to see and hear them. You do not pack them off to the neighbors or elsewhere for an hour or two to play without your personal supervision. You do not sign them up for group activities that do not include your parental participation.

4. Mentoring and Lifestyle Tomato Staking: Elements of all the other modes are interjected briefly, when needed, into this type, and this type should always be used along with the others. Involving far more than training for behavior, and more than "discipline," this is a way of living that also involves mentoring, nurturing, loving, teaching, fellowshipping with, and abiding with your child. Here, you are not only keeping your child with you, but you are including your child in your day's activities. You are building an intimate relationship with your child, teaching him to be like you in mind, spirit, beliefs and actions. You are diligently teaching godliness on the most basic, practical level. This is a lifestyle. This is our aim in our family and what I highly recommend to everyone else. If you employ the other types of Tomato Staking, but neglect this one, you will experience only partial success with your children. They may grow up being outwardly obedient, and perhaps even godly in their own hearts, but your children may not be fully equipped to reproduce godliness in their own offspring.

Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days.
- Proverbs 19:20

What Do I Do With Them All Day?
Many well intentioned parents rise up in the morning, feed and clothe their young children, then send them off to play while they try to get all their household chores done single-handedly. Before long they become aware of arguing, bickering, shoving and pushing emanating from the play site. Crying and tattling follow close behind. Frustrated with the interruption, the parents scold and discipline, then send them off again hoping they will be able to finish their chores this time, but the cycle just begins all over. Eventually, some of these parents decide to try Tomato Staking � living with their children rather then coexisting separately. When they do, some of their first questions are: "What do I do with my children all day?", and �How will I get my housework done?� They've accepted the fact that their children need to be close to them, but they don�t have the time to play with them all day and don't know any alternate course.

Rather than follow my children around all day amusing them or doing what they want to do, I include them -- even the toddlers -- as much as is possible, in whatever I am doing. After all, the ultimate purpose of Tomato Staking is to teach my children to live and think as I do, and eventually grow to be godly adults. I think that�s a lot better accomplished by having them follow me around, than having me follow them around.

If Tomato Staking is something new, or if the children are small, I often supply a toy to keep them amused while I do things that at first may seem boring to them. Very soon however, they begin to enjoy following me about, being my little "assistants." This role appeals far more to any young child than a mere toy, and the toy goes by the wayside. Children want their mom�s attention above toys, and this is a way to get it. 

As they tag along after me, I keep my eyes open for any small thing they are able to help me with. A toddler can pick up socks and put them in the dryer as I'm loading it. He can hand me forks and spoons for the dishwasher. He can help me pick up toys and clutter. He can throw items in the trash for me. Little children love to help Mom, by doing these small tasks that they view as pertaining to adults. And of course I talk to them and fellowship with them and teach them as we are working. 

Here are some other suggestions for things to do with your children in various routine daily situations:

Meal Prep Time: Many moms new to Tomato Staking, find meal preparation times to be among the most challenging. While it might necessary to put a baby in a play pen or give him to an older responsible sibling to watch, most toddlers and preschoolers love to watch Mom cook. Let them sit up at the counter or table where they are close to you and under your direct supervision. Then look for little ways to involve them. They won�t always be able to help, but it�s amazing how long they will be content to sit and watch as long as they know that you will very likely let them participate eventually in some small way, like stirring a mix or licking a spoon. Ask your little observers questions during the slow periods and explain to them all that you are doing. 

Yard Work: At one time, I had a large yard, tons of weeds to pull, and several toddlers to watch at the same time. I gave the younger ones each a small garden tool to pretend to dig with (I told them where), and a small pail, and set them to work collecting the weeds I was pulling. Even the littlest ones were delighted to walk back and forth picking up weeds and throwing them in their pail for me. Of course, when it comes to yard work there's always lots the older ones can do, from raking, to planting, to weeding and mulching. If you just do it with them, they will come to enjoy it and you�ll be Tomato Staking at the same time. Take a walk when you're done, or have a picnic lunch on the lawn, and they will be begging you to let them work in the yard every day all summer!

Sewing: I sewed dresses for my girls for years when they were little, with a baby on my lap and a toddler or two playing with my button box on the floor next to me. Slightly older children helped by cutting out patterns for me, or they made images with my scraps, or they designing their own pretend outfits with paper and pencil. At age eleven, my oldest daughter could actually sew and iron. We could finish a dress in half the time by working as a team. As a side benefit, I found this style of teaching by helping to be far more effective and pleasant than formal lessons! 

With Dad: Dad can and should, if possible, get involved too. At our house Dad includes the children in his office work by giving them small jobs, often with the older ones teaching the younger. Before long, everyone above the toddler age can run the fax machine, use the copier, and work the computers and calculators. Our oldest, by age thirteen, was handling all the computer support work for our in-home office as well as our official, out-of-home, business office. The older children take turns accompanying Dad to business meetings whenever possible. What amounts to a complex business education is all done informally here, by simply including the children in Dad's work. 

You may not have a family business, but every dad can find imaginative ways to do similarly. Whether it is mowing the lawn, washing the car, fixing a door knob, handling the family finances, or cleaning the garage, there's always a way to include the young ones, if you look for it. Everything is a precious opportunity to teach and mentor. 

Sure, it would be easier to do it all yourself and you could probably do it faster, and certainly better, but what will your children have learned? Nothing. Worse than learning nothing, while you are managing the perfect house, your children will be off learning how to bicker, quarrel, please themselves, grow independent and disloyal, and so on and so forth. And in the long run, is it really easier and faster to do everything yourself? Wait until you�ve Tomato Staked for a few years and you will suddenly come to appreciate the small amount of extra time it took to include your children in your routine life. Suddenly you�ll find you have a houseful of responsible, trustworthy children who know how to manage and organize, who appreciate the value of hard work, who accept responsibility gladly, and who take pride in being a productive hardworking member of their family � and you can relax a little!

The wise of heart will receive commands, but a babbling fool will be thrown down.
- Proverbs 10:8

Should I Start With One or All?

Leigh: We are a Homeschooling family with several children who are not well trained and I want to start Tomato Staking them. Should I pick one to concentrate on, or stake them all at once?

Elizabeth: Sometimes I suggest Tomato Staking the worse behaved child first, but ordinarily, it is best to start all of them at once. If you feel insecure about this, focus on the worst child for a few days, then collect all of them and continue from there.

Remember, this is a lifestyle, not a quick fix. You can't Tomato Stake one child for a few weeks, then drop him and move on the next child for a few weeks. If you try this, the first child will regress immediately, because he'll know your new rules are temporary. You will then be worse off than before you started.

Since you are homeschooling, take advantage of it to help make Tomato Staking easier. Let your schooling provide structure and order for a portion of the day. Have the children you are teaching get their books and sit at the same table with you where you can supervise and tutor as needed. You can sit a baby on your lap or put him in a play pen or let him play on a blanket on the floor near you. With older pre-schoolers, I usually give them coloring books and crayons, or perhaps something like Play Dough to amuse themselves with, and require them to sit at the table with me also. This way I can keep them closely staked and learning to be respectful, considerate, orderly, quiet, and obedient. (This is wonderful preparation for behavior in church and other public situations, by the way.) 

Expect all of them to remain quietly in their seats unless they have permission from you to do otherwise. Don't be afraid to interrupt your schooling at any point to correct violators. If fact, make this your TOP priority. So, if signaled for quiet, and they begin talking, stop your schooling and correct them. If a child gets out of his chair, stop immediately and correct him. A persistent trouble-maker can be required to quietly stand in a corner facing the wall, until he is motivated to behave. The more vigilant you are in the beginning, the easier it will be thereafter. You need to send the unwavering message that obedience comes first, before homeschooling lessons or anything else. If obedience really does come first in your home, you�ll find that homeschooling will soon become a cinch, no matter how many children you have.

He rules by His might forever; His eyes keep watch on the nations; let not the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah.
- Psalms 66:7

Group Tomato Staking
Occasionally, when I've been too busy or undisciplined (shame on me) to properly attend to my children, some of the younger ones will become unruly and overly loud. When this happens, I call everybody over and park them on the couches and chairs in my family room. I instruct them to be silent and sit still. If they persist in teasing, wrestling, poking, tickling, and laughing, I separate them further, still keeping them all in front of me. They are not to touch each other and are correction if they do. If a couple of them persist in pestering each other, I make them sit back to back on the floor close to me, not touching or even looking at each other. If my words are ineffectual, and a child needs physical discipline, I do not take him to a different room, lest the others act up while I'm gone. If a spanking is needed, I do it right there. This little drama usually sobers the others into alertness and obedience. I separate, discipline, and outlast, until all are paying attention and cooperating.

It may take a little while for them to realize I am serious, but once order has been restored and maintained for a reasonable period of time (until I know they've decided to stop fooling around and are ready to start taking me seriously), I begin slowly releasing one child at a time, briefly, with an assignment. I give a specific task, then watch to see that it is obeyed. If there is any doubt about the child completing his task and returning promptly, I don't send him anywhere out of my sight. 

Then I just expand this further and further. At first I�m just sending one child at a time off to do a quick task and return. Later it�s two at a time doing separate tasks, then more children, then longer tasks, and so on and so forth. It�s important to note that in the end, I am not back where I started, with everyone going off in different directions doing as they please, and me running around frantically trying to keep track of everyone. Nope, this time I keep things more orderly and under control. I don�t progress past any point where I begin to have problems. I revert back to requiring couch time for any child who can not be completely trusted to obey. In the end, I have them each doing what I want them to be doing, in an orderly, respectful way.

Now this regrouping could take a half hour, several hours, or even all day, depending on what state of chaos things have deteriorated to and what training they have had previously. If you are applying this idea of group Tomato Staking to children who have had little training in the past, then expect this to take several hours or perhaps even several days initially, just to get to the point where you can begin giving out individual assignments. Expect to need to �regroup� repeatedly for at least three months. Remember, you must aim at a Tomato Staking lifestyle, not the previous �every man for himself� program.

'And it will come about that as I have watched over them to pluck up, to break down, to overthrow, to destroy, and to bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,' declares the LORD.
- Jeremiah 31:28

Really Watching Your Child
Anne: I am trying to follow your instructions for Tomato Staking with my two-year-old, but I'm running into a problem. For the most part, she is sweet, happy, and obedient, but there are a few things that discipline doesn't seem to cure. Her favorite disobedience occurs when I have her on a chair beside me in the kitchen while I'm cooking. She knows she is supposed to stay away from the sink, but she invariably disobeys and turns the faucet on and splashes in the water. I correct her for this, yet the next minute she is doing it again! It doesn't seem to matter that I am right there with her and that I consistently spank her each time. Help!

Elizabeth: Although you may think you are Tomato Staking and being consistent, from what you are telling me, you are not. Let me explain. When you have her sitting at the counter with you, how is she able to turn the water on and start splashing without you seeing her? I can understand it happening once initially when you aren't expecting her to go for the faucet, but by the second time, you should have caught her before her hand ever reached the handle. That's what I mean when I tell people to watch carefully and catch and correct immediately.

Here's a picture of how this should look and what you should do. First, put her up on the chair near the faucet. Stand so that you can always see her while you are making dinner. Glance at her every few seconds like you would glance in your rear view mirror while driving. Give her some measuring cups or a toy to play with, and tell her clearly not to touch the faucet. Then "lie in wait". You are ready and waiting to teach her something. 

You see her leaning toward the sink out of the corner of your eye. You turn your head slightly so you can see her better without her noticing that you are watching. She begins to reach for the faucet. Since she is used to getting away with things at least for a few minutes, she doesn�t even notice that you are creeping up behind her. You give her a quick, surprise swat on the bottom just as her little hand reaches the handle. Startled, she sits back down quickly and looks up at you. You look her sternly in the eye and tell her, "Don't touch that faucet again."

She goes back to her toy, and you return to your cooking. This time you are really watching her and getting ready for a repeat. Only cook if it doesn't get in the way of your parenting. Discipline yourself to have the mindset that training your child always comes first. 

In a minute or so, she glances over to see if you are watching (you pretend you are not), and then she reaches for the faucet again. If close enough, ambush her with a swat immediately. If you are a few steps away, calmly walk over, pick her up, turn her over your knee, and give her several "I mean business" swats on the bottom. Then set her back firmly in her chair and repeat: "DO NOT touch that again. Do you understand me?" Then remain right there ready to enforce your order. Move away only when you sense by her countenance that she is ready to submit to your authority.

REPEAT AS FREQUENTLY AS NEEDED to convince her that you are always watching her and she must obey you. If she is resistant, stand her in a corner for a few minutes to think over her options, before allowing her to sit at the counter and try again. Sometimes, simply stop what you are doing and look her right in the eye before she tries something, as if to say, "Make my day." If she asks for a showdown, give it to her and win. Do this with everything you tell her to do all day, as needed, and you will see a change, usually in short order.

Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.
- Psalms 141:3

Tomato Staking vs. Consequences
Cynthia: Our son is ten and is always in trouble! We punish him for his actions with a specific pre-designated consequence each time, but he "forgets" rapidly or shrugs it off. At the rate he is going, he will be grounded his entire life! He�s probably thinking, �Why not just disobey, I�m grounded anyway?� We pray, we talk, we train, we read, we seek outside wisdom, all to little effect. What do you do with a child who is unfazed by the threat of certain punishment for misbehavior? 

Elizabeth: Forget about pre-designated consequences as a tool for training. You have just illustrated a primary reason why I rarely, if ever, discipline this way. First, the consequence is delayed, and therefore far less effective. Second, when you tell your child in advance, what consequence he will receive for what specific disobedience, all you are doing is allowing him to decide if the disobedience is worth the consequence. Maybe he will think it is. Disobedience should never be an option; he must obey, no matter what.

Tomato Stake this child! Keep him with you constantly, and reeducate him. Reward cooperation with your approval and fellowship, but be pro-active in disallowing all misbehavior and bad attitudes. Correct him before he has the opportunity to commit offenses that are worthy of grounding and major discipline. If and when a consequence is needed, it should always be given along with requiring him to obey. Consequences should logically match the specific situation and should be varied according to the repentant or unrepentant spirit of the child at the time he is being disciplined.

While I don't recommend routinely removing privileges as a consequence, you should withhold virtually all privileges from a chronically misbehaving child, tightly Tomato Stake him, then grant freedoms and privileges one at a time as he earns them with continued good behavior and positive attitudes. Most parents err in allowing too many rights and privileges before they are merited by the child's responsible, good behavior.

Obey your leaders, and submit to them for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.
- Hebrews 13:17

The Challenging Child
Don't despair if you have a difficult child. You're not alone. I myself, was rather well acquainted with at least one such child. He was happy, enthusiastic, and smart, but also hyperactive, lacking in self-control, impetuous, careless, and seemingly oblivious to whatever kind of discipline I used. It took him months to learn the same lessons my other children absorbed in days. 

When he was two and wasn't responding like the others had, I was discouraged. Nothing seemed to work. I was correcting him promptly for every infraction, but it just wasn't enough. He'd do the same things over and over. Every temptation was an entirely new experience to him, seemingly unrelated to past corrections. He simply followed the urge of the moment.

I finally realized that a higher degree of Tomato Staking than what I had used on the other children, was in order. Still, after a few weeks, I saw little difference. Rather than capitulate, I determined to persist. I resolved to Tomato Stake him until he was twenty if that's what it took to prevent an out-of-control child from becoming an out-of-control adult.

So that's what I did. I kept him tightly staked to me from that day forward. If I drove to the store, he went with me. If I wanted to sew, he sat on the floor next to me and played. If I wanted to nap, he napped on the bed right next to me too (whether he was tired or not). If he wouldn't sleep at night, I sat next to him, insisting he lay still until sleep came.

I wasn't angry with him, or overly strict. In fact, I enjoyed him immensely most of the time. I just kept him constantly close to me so I could foresee problems and promptly correct him. I wanted him to know that obedience was not a one-time event -- he had to keep obeying me. Even when he was displaying self-control, I kept him Tomato Staked so I could get to know him, enjoy him, and encourage him.

Yes, I spanked him. Over the next few years, he received more spankings than all the rest of my children put together. I never came close to breaking his spirit (and didn't want to), but he did eventually progress to the point where he'd get a little repentant tear in his eye when I'd scold him. Spankings were seldom needed after that. Eventually, he started thinking ahead -- just a little, then a little more. By eight years old, he was pretty trustworthy most of the time, enabling me to loosen the reins now and then, to see if what he'd learned was "sticking". Today, I am extremely glad I invested the considerable effort it required to train this child when he was small. I'm thrilled with the happy, obedient, enthusiastic, and trustworthy young teen he has become.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.
- Psalms 32:8

Just Keep Tomato Staking

Mia: I want some straightforward answers. I have been following your parenting recommendations, but my son Carl, now three, is still making my life a challenge, driving me and everyone else crazy. Here are some typical problems:

He can't stay on task and has zero attention span. I will tell him to look at me, and after a few seconds, he will avert his eyes. I will hold his chin, instruct him to do something, then ask him what he is to be doing, and he will have no clue! He moves and touches constantly. I really think his hands and feet aren't connected to his brain. If I tell him to not touch, two seconds later he is touching again. I'm reduced to tears in the store, trying to prevent him from touching everything. 

Just as disturbing is that he cannot keep his hands off the baby. Recently, I took him with me to the hospital for an ultrasound on the baby. Well, he refused to stop leaning into the stroller to hug his brother. Every time my attention was diverted, he was right in the baby's face, assuring him, "I know you don't want to go to the doctor, but it'll be okay. Be a big boy." The baby was frightened and started to cry, prompting the big brother to hug him even tighter. I became uptight and nervous, as I struggled to comply with the hospital red tape while keeping the lid on him at the same time.

He usually obeys immediately and joyfully when I ask him to do something, but the problem is this: he doesn't KEEP obeying for longer than a minute. I'm concerned he just isn't remembering or thinking. How do I get him to learn this? I'm seeing no lasting results. Quite frankly, I am discouraged by the impossibility of achieving lasting results without constantly hovering over him to rein him in. I could correct him a hundred times and he would STILL persist in some proscribed misbehavior. HELP! What else can I do?

Elizabeth: Yep, sounds familiar. I�d love to give you a quick fix answer but I don�t know any. I don�t believe one exists. This has to do with the inborn personality of your child. Think of him as a diamond in the rough. God has given him some wonderful under laying qualities (enthusiasm, determination, steadfastness, persistence, etc) that, neglected, will lead to disaster, but if honed and polished will become something truly beautiful. If you want to eventually see that he becomes the best he can be, you will have to dedicate yourself to making his training your full time job for as long as it takes.

Sometimes you won�t see major improvement in this type of child until he is about six or so, and then only with constant Tomato Staking. Just keep on Tomato Staking as closely as you can. Focus on his impulsiveness, stopping him constantly BEFORE he does something, deliberately working to get him in the habit of stopping and thinking first, before rushing headlong over the next cliff. Talk to him and pleasantly, but seriously, question him: �What was it that you were about to do? Do you think that is a good idea? What do you think might happen if you do that? Do you think I will like it if you do that?� Each time he begins to get out of control, stop him and make him sit quietly next to you until he calms down. Then proceed with watchful direction and instruction. 

Include him as much as possible in what you are doing. Teach him how to put all that energy and wonderful enthusiasm to good use. Watch his heart and encourage all the good you see. Use praise for those things as a springboard to motivate him to control his actions ("I know you love your brother, so be careful not to squeeze him too tight or you will hurt him."). Persevere! 

But what I am doing, I will continue to do,...
- II Corinthians 11:12

Tomato Staking for Fun
Carrie: I love reading about all the positive results parents have achieved with Tomato Staking and I want to achieve the optimum success with my thirteen-month-old son. I want to train him as opposed to waiting for something to "happen" first. I believe these are proper principles, but I also need advice as to how to come to a balance between discipline and love. I�m afraid that I am too often focused on looking for misbehavior, on correcting, and on disciplining, and not often enough enjoying my child.

Elizabeth: When I tell people to "watch" for misbehavior, I want them to notice misbehavior and wrong attitudes rather than overlooking them. A parent should never over-analyze and attribute wrong to their child's every action. Along with noticing the wrong their child does, they should also be noticing the right and looking for ways to encourage that � a habit that should, indeed, be enjoyable.

As far as "balancing" discipline with loving your children, there's really no equal or preset "balance." You should always be enjoying your children until you see something requiring correction. When that happens, you stop, correct, then return to enjoying them. 

Initially, if your child has not been trained to obey, and is being perpetually rebellious, you may be doing a lot of disciplining and little enjoying. But if you are diligent, this phase should quickly pass -- a few hours for some children, a few days for others, and, for an older child or a stubborn one, a few weeks.

After that initial training/retraining period, you should be spending virtually all your time enjoying your child as you continue to supervise and monitor. In the midst of enjoying your child, you should be pausing only occasionally and briefly, for correction and training. And of course you should always be loving, even in the midst of discipline.

A wise son makes a father glad, but a foolish son is a grief to his mother.
- Proverbs 10:1

Growing up Staked
Elizabeth: Louise, I've known your family for years and have seen the wonderful results of a Tomato Staking lifestyle with a focus on character and the goal of godliness. How about sharing a few examples of how Tomato Staking looked in your home as you were growing up?

Louise: My father and mother believed that children should learn about life from their parents, not from playmates or school teachers. So in our family, Tomato Staking was primarily a positive mentoring method used to mold and shape the character of the child. Occasionally it was used as a tool for discipline, similar to being grounded, but a much longer-term arrangement, with the child being kept near the parents, not sent to his room.

In my house, the thought of being tightly Tomato Staked was actually more troubling to the child than the actual staking. After all, what's not fun about having the undivided attention of your mother or father? Basically, the Tomato Staked child hung around the parent all day. If my father was working on a car, the staked child would be there, handing him tools, asking him questions. Dad would explain what he was doing, and invite him to try himself. If our parents had to attend a meeting, the staked child would be brought along, sitting quietly while listening to the adults' conversation. Afterwards the parent and child might "discuss" what was said as part of a conscious plan to teach and shape. This close interchange between parent and child fostered significant learning, including how to think and reason.

It's easy to feel sorry for a child who is being tightly Tomato Staked, because he is being denied some freedoms enjoyed by others. But in my house, the child who was Tomato Staked was really getting the most and the best of his parents� time and attention. He was really the �favored� child. What can be better than that?

I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you, and I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon, and those who dwell in darkness from the prison.
- Isaiah 42:6-7

(c) Copyright 2007 L. Elizabeth Krueger.  All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.