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Specific ProblemsMiscelleanous

Question: Are children and parents equals?

No, I don't believe children and adults are "equal" in every respect. In some ways yes, but not every way.  I believe we are equally human. I believe that God loves and values us equally. I believe our thoughts and emotions are equally important to God and should be to each other. I believe we have equal rights to life and freedom from injustice. I believe we have an equal right in respect to our personhood.  However, I do not believe children and adults, or even any two adults, are exactly the same. Since they vary in talents, ability, position, etc, they can not be "equal". 

I believe God gives more responsibility to those who have more, and less to those who have less. Parents have more experience and wisdom than a child, therefore God expects more from parents. God has charged  the parent with the responsibility to care for, to love, and also to educate and train (form habits in) the younger weaker child. In order to assumed this great responsibility, God has also granted the parents authority over their child. No, I do not believe that a child is equal to his parents in the area of rights and authority. I believe a child is to respectfully learn to submit to the authority of his parents until his parents release him from that authority. 

On the flip side, the parent will be held accountable for any abuse of authority on their part. They have been given that authority for a good purpose and not their own pleasure. They are to do whatever they do,  with the one purpose of doing what is "best" for their child (that is not the same as "doing what pleases" their child).

Bill Gothard

Question: Have you ever been affiliated with Bill Gothard's Institute In Basic Life Principles? I just wondered because much of your advice sounds similar.

Answer: We have never worked in the Gothard organization, but we are very familiar with it. I attended my first seminar about 26 years ago and have been to many, many since. I think we were area coordinators for a while or had some other minor role in helping with a few seminars. I've forgotten. The Bill Gothard Basic Youth Conflicts Seminar (now called the Institute in Basic Life Principles) was one of the top 4 life changing events in my life (the other three were: discovering the Bible on tape,  discovering home schooling, and learning a better way to parent.)  There are a number of things I don't 100% agree with Gothard on (like his suggestion that you just might be slothful if you need more than 5 hours sleep, BAH!), but for the most part we are certainly on the same wave length. I must add that many of the things that we learned from our mentors (whom I've mentioned before), we later heard Bill Gothard repeat at some of his advanced seminars. Interesting. 

We almost signed up for Gothard's home schooling program, but we pulled out after we were approved, because we just felt we didn't want to give up the way we were already doing things.  Because the Gothard program would take so much time, we would have had to restructure our days.  I think their materials are wonderful, and would have loved to use them, but couldn't without signing up for the entire program.

Resentment in children

Question: I don't believe in spanking because it can cause resentment. I was spanked often as a child. Outwardly I was very obedient, but I harbor deep feelings of anger against my parents to this day. What do you think about this? Wouldn't something other than spanking be best? I think that if you don't resent your parent spanking you, it is only because you think you "deserved" it.

Answer:  I do agree a parent's discipline can, in some cases, cause resentment in a child. I do not, however, believe that the specific type of punishment or discipline alone is usually what causes these bad feelings. I believe a child becomes resentful and bitter when they feel they have been treated UNFAIRLY or have been BETRAYED. This can occur with any type of discipline, whether it be removing a privilege, or grounding, or yelling, or anything else. It can also be caused by parents who fail to keep their promises, or who lose their tempers, or who criticize or belittle. Bitterness occurs when a person feels his rights have been violated.

It is also correct to say that a person who does not resent his parents for spanking them, believes he deserved it. Yes, you are correct. They believe that it is within a parent's rights to spank their child for disobedience, and if that is what their parent did, (spanked them when they disobeyed) they are not bitter about it. The same can be said for any other type of discipline. 

If you, as a child, believe that your parent has the right to take your car keys away if you violate your curfew, then if you choose to violate your curfew and your parents take your keys away, you will not be bitter.  Repentant perhaps, but not bitter. That is why it is so important when you discipline (by any method) that you do it fairly and bring your child to the belief that he was indeed wrong and that he deserved the correction he got, and that you had the right to give it. 

This is easier said than done. It can not be done afterward. It must be part of your everyday life and the teaching you give your child before he ever disobeys you to begin with. He must believe you have the right to correct him and he must be convinced that you are doing so fairly.

Every child is different. Know your children.  A parent can discipline two children in the same way for the same act and have it be too harsh for one and not harsh enough for the other. The first child may deem their treatment unfair and will become bitter, while the second will not be fazed in the least, and may even come to disrespect their parent for being too lenient. Know your children and be sensitive to their differences. Discipline them only to the extent that you have to, and always do so fairly. 

Discipline in general

Question: How do you discipline?

Answer: I have a slight problem answering only the question "How do you Discipline". Why? Because the minute I begin to describe any discipline techniques, many people jump to the conclusion that discipline is ALL that I do. Almost the opposite is true. Because I train my children early, when they are just toddlers, I rarely have to discipline them at all after that.

Anyway, with that in mind, I begin teaching my babies what "no-no" means before they are a year old. Usually a firm tone of voice and a scowl on my face and consistency, is all it takes. When they get a bit older, usually about 1 1/2, and begin to deliberately choose to disobey me, I usually pick a day to start and then correct them EVERY SINGLE TIME, with a small swat on the rear end. I do not get angry, I do not wait until they've pushed me to my limit, I do not count to 10, I do not reserve these spanking for only the really big issues. I correct them EVERY TIME they choose to disobey me in ANYTHING I have asked them to do. THEN I see to it that they DO obey me (if they refuse, they get another swat). Usually I will see a dramatic change for the better in only a few days or weeks.

Usually, prior to this "beginning to test" stage, they are pleasant and cooperative. Then, when they start the testing and disobedience, they often become sullen and cranky. Within days or even hours of me consistently correcting them for their disobedience, they revert right back to their early pleasant personality. It is as if they WANT to be corrected. I think that is the way God designed us. When we are doing what is right, we are happy. When we are rebelling, we are unhappy.

Although I make no special effort to change my disciplining after that, I have found that along with this attitude change comes a behavior change, and I find very few reasons to spank after those first few days or weeks. By age 3 my children very rarely need to be spanked at all, simply because they willingly obey me virtually all of the time. I may need to remind them or correct them verbally (no yelling or nagging), but I very rarely need to spank. (I also never have to take away privileges or use time-outs, etc.)

The end result is that with so little time spent correcting, I have abundant time to enjoy, teach, nurture, love, etc. my children. THAT'S what I spent most of my time doing.


Question: How do I get my baby to stop biting me? He chomps into my arm or leg or wherever, and just laughs if I tell him "NO".

Answer: My little guy is at that "stage" right now. I'll pick him up to cuddle him and he'll laugh and play, then bite me in the shoulder or arm or leg or wherever. The first time I yelped loudly and scared him (not really on purpose, I was startled myself). Since then I've been watching his body language carefully and when he leans forward with his mouth open I hold him back and say, "Don't bite mama!" with a serious look on my face, then I smile and go back to cuddling him. I've probably had to do this about 20 times in the last few weeks, but now he stops and looks at me with a "Huh?" look on his face. And last night there was a little glimmer of "Oh yeah, I'm not supposed to do that" in his eyes. He's getting the idea slowly, but surely. This is not something I'd discipline him for; he is being affectionate, not mean, and just doesn't realize it hurts (he is only 10 months).

"Hold my hand"

Question: How do I teach my child to hold my hand when crossing the street or walking in the mall?

Answer: I train all of my little ones to "hold my hand" whenever I tell them to, and whenever crossing a street or even whenever they are in a parking lot. I rarely hold THEIR hand, I train them to hold MY hand. When they let go, I immediately stop, call their name sharply, and say firmly "HOLD MY HAND". We don't continue until they are holding my hand (finger). If their grip loosens, or I think they are considering letting go, I stop and say, "Hold my hand", and "tighter". I might lecture (teach) them a little according to age and what they can understand. I might say, "Always hold Mama's hand in the store, I might lose you." Soon I change that to a cheerful, "Always hold Mama's hand in the store, I might get lost."  (They all think that's pretty funny.) That said, I wouldn't trust a young toddler to always obey in any situation, and especially not in a dangerous situation. I would always hold THEIR hand (wrist) in any dangerous situation.

Now what do you do if your child refuses to obey? I always seem to come back to spanking, (one swat on the bottom as soon as they let go, repeated consistently until they stop letting go), but that is really only for a child who has not been taught that they must obey you always. If you have already taught that, then you should be able to get your child to obey with your demeanor and words alone (as in my example).


Question: What do you think of harnesses for children? My toddler won't hold my hand (he falls down and throw a temper tantrum) and I'd like to try a harness, but I'm worried about the disapproving looks I might get from strangers at the mall.

Answer:  Harnesses are better than losing your child, or letting him run wild and get hurt, but I really think you should teach your child to hold your hand then MAKE him do it. Don't hold his hand, make him hold yours. Practice at home first and don't allow a temper tantrum. Expect him to obey you. If you don't know how to get this to work, imagine that this is a life or death situation. What if you HAD to teach your child to hold your hand or his life would be at risk? I bet you would think of a way to persuade him to obey you, wouldn't you?

This is not so farfetched. What if you were crossing the street and he refused to hold your hand and instead darted into traffic?  One of the first lessons my children learn as soon as they can walk with me is that they MUST hold my hand when I ask them to, PERIOD, END OF STORY.

I must stick in a little dog story here. Yes, it's about a dog not a child, but it is really about the importance of obedience. One day I was up on the roof of our house trying to tape a patch on a hole in our awning. As I struggled to keep from falling off the roof and reach the hole at the same time, I was also keeping an eye on our big sweet collie who was wandering around in the front yard not doing much of anything. Suddenly she saw a squirrel across the street and bolted madly after it. Naturally, to my great dismay, a car was heading down our street at a nice pace,  and our dog had timed her lunge to coincide perfectly with the passing of said car. I was panicked and helpless. All I could think to do, from up on roof of the house, was to shout, "SHADOW, DOWN!" She dropped instantly to the ground with her front paws touching the curb as the car sped by in front of her. Whew! I was so very thankful I had spent the time and effort to take her to obedience training classes and practice with her every night.  She was a wonderful pet and lived for another 11 years and still dropped to the ground instantly (often with a playful bark) until she was too old to do it any longer. Perhaps it is not politically correct to compare child training to dog training, but there are some similar benefits to each.

Feeling overwhelmed:

I don't know why, but lately I have just felt like a failure. I am so busy with everything I don't have anytime to enjoy my own kids. I am constantly driving them to this activity and that activity or cleaning up after them or doing all my other housework. I just want to start over sometimes. Get out of all this stuff.  I love all my children so much, but sometimes I wonder what God was thinking to trust me with these children. I feel like I am failing Him. How do you do it with 10 kids?

Answer: I realized a LONG time ago that I couldn't do it all. I started by canceling all the activities I could. I learned to say "no" to everything possible including most church activities. I still do very little outside the home. I can do those things when my children are grown.

I not only cut out most of my personal activities, but I also cut out unnecessary child related activities. They take a lot of time too, and are not always as valuable as they seem on the surface. Our younger ones don't participate in anything outside the home. The older ones do a few things, but if life becomes too hectic, and we feel the family is suffering for it, we take turns with special activities, or rotate activities, or do things together. 

Simplifying hints:

Music: Each of our children age 5 and up take piano and string lessons. We found teachers who are willing to come to our home to give the lessons. This still consumes a large part of 3 days a week, but at least I don't have to go driving around dragging the little ones. Maybe you can try to find a teacher who will do this. If he is teaching several lessons he will likely agree. Perhaps a friend would like to bring their child over for a lesson at your house if you can't find a teacher who will come for just one lesson.

Toys: We do not allow any toys in the bedroom. All the toys are sorted by type into plastic tubs or baskets and kept in the basement storage room. The kids can get out one tub at a time and can't get out another until the last one is picked up and put away. They have to play where I designate. Games come out one at at time and have to be put away completely before the next one can come out. I do keep one tub of baby/toddler toys in the family room for the youngest ones. Note: although we virtually never buy toys for our kids, they seem to spontaneously materialize from somewhere. Occasionally, when things get out of hand, I sort and pitch. I once culled out 7 garbage bags full of toys for the Goodwill!!!!! Believe me, there were still too many left. If your kids have a lot of stuff and your husband doesn't want YOU to get rid of it, try giving each one a box and tell them they can sort the stuff themselves and can keep as much as they can fit in that one box. You'd be surprise to see how much they will gladly throw out.

Room cleaning in general: First of all, your kids are not too old to be taught to keep their rooms clean. In fact, your oldest is right at the perfect age to put your foot down with. I try to have one or two clean-up times a day. I allow about 1/2 hour before bed for them to clean up their room. I stand there and watch and direct if that's what it takes (and it will for a while). Then we do it again in the morning. I usually don't supervise then, but their room must be picked up before they come down for breakfast. Each older child must also help a younger child pick up. I also do it about 1/2 hour before dad comes home from work.

Lastly, my kids all help with "my" jobs. I assign jobs according to age and ability and I reevaluate quite often and switch things around to make it work better. I'm not naturally organized, so I just look at a particular task and ask myself, "Okay, who is the youngest child who can do this?" I start with the youngest because the older ones can do everything and if I assign them the jobs first then the younger ones end up doing nothing.

An 8 year old can do most of the laundry and vacuuming and can load the dishwasher, etc. The younger ones can pick up, dust, empty the dishwasher, sort laundry, collect laundry, etc. etc. I prefer to do the ironing and bathroom cleaning.

Anyway, our house isn't perfect, but I no longer feel so stressed and overwhelmed and it is neat enough to have anyone over to see it with only 1/2 hour's notice.

P.S. I've moved 9 times and believe me there is always another "perfect" house, so try not to get your heart set on any one in particular. Usually when I let God make the choices for me I end up with the better end of the bargain.

Teens and makeup:

I have 2 girls, an 18 year old and a just turned 14 year old. I never told them, "You can't wear makeup until "X" age." What I did do was:

1.) Keep them out of school and away from overwhelming pressures in that area and a multitude of more important ones.

2.) Had many small discussions here and there with them throughout their lives about things such as makeup and dress and clothing and tattoos and shaving and looks in general.

I taught my kids that true beauty originates from one's character. If a woman is godly, then she will be beautiful.

Still, the physical can detract from the spiritual, if neglected or overdone. How one dresses or wears their hair or clothes, etc., can give wrong or right impressions. I taught my girls very early about modesty and how your clothes can affect the impression you give off in that area, especially before someone knows you well. Make-up "can" do the same, but mostly, when we got on the subject of makeup, I focused more on the age appropriateness.

I gave my girls my opinion (which they valued). First of all, I told them that I saw nothing wrong with an adult woman wearing makeup. I do it myself when I go out and if I had more time, I'd do it at home too. I don't overdo it and I think it enhances my natural "beauty" (although I don't consider myself "beautiful"). I think when I wear a little well applied makeup, people tend to look more at "me" and see my countenance, rather than looking at my individual features and thinking, "she really needs something around her eyes" or "why doesn't she throw a little foundation on once in a while so her skin doesn't look so blotchy". I think we can all recall looking at someone and thinking "why don't they wash their hair?" It's the same kind of thing, in my opinion. (Of course, in communities where few women wear makeup this would not apply. Any makeup there might be distracting.)

Then I explain to my girls that because they are young their skin is younger and naturally more beautiful and they really don't need makeup for the same purpose I do. I tell them that when a girl wears makeup at too young an age, they just look like a little girl "playing makeup". My girls understood immediately what I meant by this and did not want to look that way. I pointed out others to demonstrate, and (since they are not in school and brainwashed into another mindset) they could see immediately what I meant.

As my girls got a little older, I watched for signs that they were interested in makeup and I guided them along the way. When they were given some bright nail polish as a gift at maybe 10 years of age, I encouraged them to enjoy it a home for fun if they wanted to, but then I suggested more of a sheer light gloss for some special occasions outside the home. My girls both readily responded and tried the bright colors no more than once or twice.

As they got to the shaving stage, I encouraged them as soon as they brought it up or perhaps I even suggested it myself. I feel this is more of a hygiene issue so I had no problem at any age. (I realize that some adults don't feel the way I do and I discussed that with my girls also, but they felt the way I did, that unshaved legs and arm pits look unkempt and unfeminine.)

As far as actual face makeup, when my oldest daughter got to be more of a young woman than a girl, I watched for cues of interest from her and responded by suggesting subtle makeup that helped cover the blemishes and a slight amount of mascara to enhance her small eyes, a tiny bit of natural blush and a clear lip gloss. My 18yo can basically wear whatever she wants to now, but has continued to go for the very natural look and on most days wears no makeup at all. My 14 year old wears no makeup at all yet, but we have spent time and interest on skin care products instead. She wears natural looking nail polishes and does her hair in different styles, but still feels that she would look like she were "playing dress-up" if she were to wear makeup. Perhaps a little blush for special occasions will come soon. Much of this, I feel, depends on the need.

We have had no conflicts in this area, but I believe this would not be the case if my girls were in school. Most girls today are wearing full makeup long before age 16 these days, and if your child spends all day with others who are doing this, then they are very likely to have a stronger desire to do it than they would otherwise.

Pants vs. dresses for girls:

Here's the way it's been with me. When I was little, I had one nice dress for church ("Sunday clothes"), several ordinary dresses for school ("school clothes"), and maybe 5 or 6 mismatched slacks/shirt combinations for after school ("play clothes"). I was always required to wear a dress to school and church, even when slacks became common place, but I was not to wear a dress after school. Dresses were "good clothes". It was a frugality thing for my mom. She could not afford to buy hardly anything, therefore anything nice enough for school had to be saved for school. All dresses were "too nice" to play in. So that's the way it was until I grew up and got married and could afford to basically buy whatever I wanted. Oh, and by the way, my mother grew up on a farm and to her "jeans" were "barn clothes". Since I didn't have a barn, I couldn't wear barn clothes.  Although I was raised in the city among millions of jean wearers, I never owned or wore a pair, until I was 18 and purchased my first horse and had to ride in something.

Eventually, 5 or so years after I married, in a sincere desire to please my Lord, I decided that He might be pleased if I tried to look more feminine, and I gave up wearing slacks and went to dresses only. Things continued that way for a good number of years and I raised my two daughters wearing only dresses as well. No regrets.

About 5 years ago, I started wearing more slacks, and my girls (now 14 and 18) do now very occasionally also. I wear them around the house, but they usually only wear them when they are working construction or dog training or shoveling snow, etc. What happened? Frankly, I'm not really sure, but at that time some other serious concerns came up in my life and attention to clothing became a very trivial issue. I began putting on what fit and looked decent and was feminine (in my and my husband's opinion), and that's about all I had time to think about. Then I put the rest of my energies into things I felt had more lasting importance.

How do I feel about the dress vs. pant issue now? I don't claim to be right for sure, or even that I won't change my mind tomorrow, but currently I feel like this: I believe the issue is basically one of femininity. I think it is wrong (as in "sinful") to purposely try to look like a man or to deliberately wear men's clothing to that effect. Transvestitism is very wrong. The question to me, is whether or not all pants are "men's clothing". In Old Testament times the men wore skirts like women (the priests were the only ones who wore pants - under their skirts), so I don't think that the issue is a definite one of "NO PANTS, EVER". Jesus dressed more like a modern woman than a modern man. Therefore, I think it must have something to do with custom (although generally I hate that excuse). Where I live it is customary for women to wear pants. In fact, it is extremely unusual for them to only wear dresses (when I was doing it, I was the ONLY one I'd ever met doing it!), so I don't think I am violating God's command. However, since guy pants and girl pants can look an awful lot alike, care must be taken to be sure one's clothing looks feminine, as if it were designed for women, not men. I do think it is best to not walk too close to the edge of the cliff however, so I would never discourage any woman from giving up pants and sticking to skirts. I'm glad I raised my girls exclusively wearing skirts and that is what now feels right and comfortable to them. Now that I have a little more time, I am trying to work them into my own wardrobe far more often as well. (Of course it would help if I weren't changing sizes every few months!)

Side note: When a lesbian woman dresses femininely, is she still a lesbian? Yes, her manner of dress did not change her heart. When a transvestite dresses in normal clothes, does it make him normal? No, he is still a transvestite in his heart. The most important part is what's in the heart. God looks at the heart and judges that. Yes, our heart is reflected in how we dress, but if we have a heart that is right with God, and we search His word and ask for His guidance, we can trust Him to direct us according to His will.

Home churching:

If I could make up my ideal church, it would be kind of small, with NO nursery or Sunday School or basketball court. Whole families would sit together in church. The pastor would give a down to earth sermon on how to apply the Bible to our everyday life. Maybe we'd actually read the Bible for a while every Sunday. The old-fashioned hymns would be sung; not all those praise choruses unless there were a few that were really good. 

I can't find any tradtional churches like that, so we don't go to a traditional church. Actually, our home church IS like that.  Here's what we do: Every Friday night our whole family goes over to our "pastor's" house for dinner. (He is not an ordained pastor and we don't call him "pastor", but he is the one we all look up to as our mentor and spiritual leader.) After dinner, we chat and shares the week's lessons in life for a little while, then a few other couples start to come and we may sing some hymns around the piano. It is all very unstructured. A little later we all sit down and have a sort of Bible study/sermon with our "pastor" leading. We usually have ice cream afterward (now that's REALLY informal isn't it?) We also all share our "blessing of the week".


My view about "stages" and "growing out of" behaviors is that they really don't; the problems just change into other things if the root problem in not corrected. If a child throws tantrums out of lack of self-control, and the self-control issue is not resolved, then why would he grow out of the tantrums or some other equally poor expression of his lack of self-control? Whenever my kids see an adult swearing and yelling, they immediately recognize it as an "adult temper tantrum".

Teaching vs. discipline

One word about "teaching" your child. I don't feel it is helpful to offer long explanations to a 1 1/2 year old. They don't understand you anyway and it just delays your response to him and that makes it hard for him to make the connection between the action and the response.

As my children grow, I do more and more explaining, but I do it AFTER they obey. I especially do it when there is no disciplining going on at all. For example, when my 6 year old wants to go outside and ride his bike, I might have a discussion with him first about being courteous with his bike. I don't just order him to "stay off the neighbor's grass". If I think this is new or needs reinforcing, I will talk to him and point out how hard the neighbor works on his lawn, and how it is upsetting him to have others ruin it, and we don't want our lawn ruined either, and etc, etc, so be very careful not to ride on the neighbors' lawn. I don't nag if the child had demonstrated that they are responsible, but I do occasionally remind, and I educate often. DON'T allow these discussions to turn into debates. They can ask questions as long as they are respectful.

Do children have short attention spans?

Regarding the "little children have short attention spans" idea, I don't think they do. The problem is that they are not interested in everything you and I are interested it. If the child is sufficiently interested in what he is doing, he can demonstrate a tremendously long attention span, even if he is young.

I used to teach vacation Bible school and had to follow the program laid out for me by others who didn't believe small children could concentrate on anything more than a few minutes. I'd just get my group settled down and starting to get involved in a project or story, and time would be "up" and they'd all have to go outside and tear around for a few minutes, "to get exercise" and "because little children can't sit still for more than 15 minutes". Then, just when they started having fun, it was back inside to hear a story, then back outside, then inside, then outside and so on. Every 15 minutes, everything changed for those poor kids. I felt it just left them in a state of excited confusion. There was no time to talk to them, or get to know them, or relate to them, or hug them, or really "teach" them much of anything. The organizers were of course thrilled when many of these children raised their hands at the the alter call, and "accepted Christ". I felt they were just being sheep and didn't have the slightest clue what they were doing. There was no time to discuss anything with them one-on-one at a relaxed pace.

Yes, I guess these children were a little older than toddlers, but it was similar with the toddlers when I used to teach them in Sunday School every week. 15 minutes of this, 15 minutes of that, etc, etc. When I was in charge, I sometimes allowed them to continue with what interested them until they showed beginning signs of boredom. I think that's a better way.

Frustration in Little Children:

In my experience, very few little children have a problem with frustration. Now maybe the word has be redefined these days, but to me, "frustration" occurs when a person is trying their hardest to do something for a period of time, and are unable to do it. Tears and an emotion similar to genuine sadness results. I don't see this happening very often in little children. Most moms have had their just-learning-to-talk toddlers try to tell them something and not been able to understand it. The child will repeat the same word at least a hundred times before showing any sign of frustration, won't he? On the other hand, if he is told "no", he will drop to the floor and begin screaming and head banging. That's ANGER, not frustration. That's anger motivated by self-centeredness, not frustration.


Okay, last week I accidentally gave some advice that I thought was about as simple a possible and still very effective. I told a mom whose child kept doing the same wrong thing again and again, to WATCH, AMBUSH, REPEAT. Hmmm, that makes the acronym "W.A.R." So I thought some more about it and thought, "You know, moms are always admitting that they aren't consistent enough and so have kids with chronic behavior problems". So, I thought maybe I could use my little accidental acronym to remind moms to be consistent. 

If you are a mom like this, my advice is to make this your new Slogan: DECLARE W.A.R. ON YOUR OWN INCONSISTENCY: WATCH, AMBUSH, REPEAT

Trust me, this will solve a LOT of problems. Most parents are not watching their children closely enough. Because they aren't watching and listening to them all the time, they miss most of their childrens' wrong attitudes and resulting misbehavior. They only notice when things have escalated beyond the point where a correction could be simple, painless, and effective. Then they have the more difficult major discipline to do. 

Because they aren't watching their kids well enough, they can not seem to correct chronic problems like whining at all. They don't really notice the whining until the child has succeeded in whining for a few seconds or minutes. At that point discipline is far less effective because the child already feels they've "won". They're been allowed to whine briefly, and they've gotten the feeling of satisfaction - a reward - out of that. So they do it again, experiencing that little bit of satisfaction is worth the risk of punishment.

Same with temper tantrums. If you don't discipline until your child is down on the floor screaming and kicking, it's almost too late. To stop tantrums, you have to catch and correct the child BEFORE he gets past that ugly, pouting look that usually appears on his face just prior to a full-fledged tantrum. If you are watching your child you can clearly see heart signs like this, read them accurately, and ambush the child with an IMMEDIATE correction. If you are not watching your child, you won't notice them and so of course won't deal with them promptly, when it would be effective. 

So, if you think you are guilty of inconsistency, and as a result are seeing a lot of repeat offenders, try my little "gimmick". Think: DECLARE W.A.R. ON INCONSISTENCY: WATCH, AMBUSH, REPEAT

Keep your child with you.
Keep them close enough to hear and see.
Keep them close enough to correct promptly.
Study their face.
Learn their body language.
Read their heart in all the outward signs.

Correct promptly.
Correct at the first sign of a heart problem.
A verbal rebuke NOW may be all that's needed.
An immediate swat might be needed if this is a repeat or serious offense.
Don't warn, correct.

Don't do this "now and then".
Don't do this only for the big stuff.
Catch and correct EVERY offense.
You might want to vary the exact correction, but correct EVERY time.

Spanking vs. Swatting

Mothergoose, one of my message board members, distinguished between spanking and swatting this way:  "Swatting is training, spanking is a consequence and used differently. Neither of these tools should be used in frustration or anger. "

I agree completely!  Swatting (whether it is mild or firm) is what you do to TRAIN. It is for teaching, not for punishing. Neither should be used in anger.

Spanking (usually done firmly) is a CONSEQUENCE and is used differently - for something the child did that he knew he should not have done and that he had already been trained not to do. It is more for a violation of a known and practiced rule.

Now, that said, this is also a matter of semantics and even I use these terms interchangebly at times. I really don't think about it. But if I had to separate the two and be exacting, and use each one to mean only one thing, I'd define them as Mothergoose did.

It's all in the timing

Question: I'm trying to do everything exactly as you say, but it's just not working.  I want to be kind to my child but her poor behavior frustrates me to no end. I don't want to be punishing her all the time, but  I don't know when to be merciful and when to be strict.

Answer:  If you have the right perspective on parenting, you will be able to parent well, with hardly any instructions at all. If you are struggling, even with lots of instructions, then you probably have adopted an wrong underlying perspective (have some incorrect underlying beliefs) and that is what is holding you back and sabotaging your efforts.

You want to be the best mom on earth, but it also seems that you have some wrong underlying beliefs that you are firmly clinging to. You need to keep trying to identify them and bring them out into the open and get rid of them. You are probably not way off base, just a little bit here and there, enough to hinder all your efforts. It seems to me that you are kind of straddling the fence between what you perceive as "harsh" parenting and "lenient" parenting. What you are ending up with is wishy-washy parenting, and your child knows it and isn't responding well, and you are frustrated.

What I'd like to ask you to consider is that just because a parenting method does not emphasize gentleness and mercy and "grace", that does not mean it is totally cruel and harsh. I think a big part of the key to understanding how this works is to understand that good parenting pays attention to timing.

Eccl 3:1-8
1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

So it is in parenting. There is a time to bless and a time to discipline. There is a time to praise and a time to scold. There is a time to respect and a time to command respect. There is a time to be merciful and a time to teach the meaning of justice. Even in the details.....there is a time to spank and a time to use a verbal rebuke. There is a time to make a big deal out of something that may seem minor, and there is a time to overlook something that may seem outwardly very important. It's all in the timing. 

It is not all one way or the other. You need to ask yourself whether your perspective is coming from secular psychology or from scripture.

Training to sit still and be quiet in church:

Question: I just have a quick question. I was wondering how I should train my 12 month old daughter to sit in church and be quiet? I can get her to sit on my lap, but I don't know how to get her to sit without making noises. Also, when she tries to get off my lap and I tell her to sit, she will start fussing or crying and then I end up having to take her out in the hall and I make her sit on my lap there. How can I train her at home to be quiet? I don't think she knows what I mean when I say "be quiet". Am I supposed to sit her on my lap at home and every time she makes a noise or jabbers, give her a swat and say shhh! Be quiet!? What should I do?

Answer: Are you practicing at home? I use my computer time, and meal times, and story times, to practice having my little ones sit on my lap. (I do not use a high chair, I have my babies sit on my lap at meal time.)

First I aim at teaching them to sit contentedly without struggling to get down. If they don't respond to my "no"s and verbal instructions, then I do give a little swat with my hand on their leg as needed to convince them to obey. Usually they learn this very quickly as long as I do not give in. They are soon expected to sit contendedly on my lap for as long as I wish. I keep the time reasonable of course.

Later I take advantage of similar opportunities outside of my home. For example, if I am at my mother's house or the home of a close friend who won't mind if I correct my child, I practice there. By age 12 months you shouldn't be having too much trouble in church if you've already been practicing at home. It might take some time if you are just starting this now, however.

Teaching them to be quiet is harder. I would also work on this at home. During various times during the day, I play with my child and get them to understand was "Shhhhhh" mean. I usually hold my finger up to my lips at the same time, so that they will learn that means Shhhhh and I won't have to actually say "shhhhhh" later on. I am usually playful with this at first, and I don't expect them to be quiet for more than a few seconds. I make sure
they really know what I want and how to do it, before I expect to use this in a situation like church. I practice during meals at home or when I am talking to someone and don't want them to interrupt. There are lots of opportunities if you look for them.

It helps to whisper to the child when you tell them to "Shhhh" or "be quiet". With my older toddlers we sometimes play the "quiet game" (the first one to make a sound loses). That helps focus their attention of being quiet since they often seem to be oblivious to the noises they make. Of course you probably can't do that with a 12 month old unless you can think up some creative way to get the idea across.

Once your child knows well, how to sit contentedly on your lap for as long as you wish, AND what "shhhh" means, then I'd practice them together at home. I'd sit the child on my lap and tell him/her "shhhhh". Then I'd remind them with a whispered "shhhh" and a finger held up to the lips, every time they begin to babble, etc. Keep whispering "no, shhhhh" and "be quiet" until they quiet down. Keep the swats out of it as much as possible. Swatting for sounds usually results in crying which is far worse. Keep reminding, and only give one small swat if you sense that they are DELIBERATELY resisting/disobeying you. If you KNOW they are still DELIBERATELY resisting/disobeying you, then one more firm swat on the thigh might be required. The child will almost certainly cry, so that's why you need to practice this at home. Do not give in and try to pacify the child. She/he will likely begin to struggle on your lap at that point and you should forget the noises and correct her for the struggling then as needed.

Remember that you are not so much correcting for the struggling OR the noise making, but you are correcting for DISOBEDIENCE and RESISTANCE. If she gets that message, and changes her attitude, and submits to you, THEN you will find that she will submit in ALL areas including the noise making part of it. If your child has been trained to obey, she will obey when you tell her to be quiet. If she is disobeying in one particular area, it really is an indication that she is not obedient in her heart in other area, but she is just placating you. Try to focus on developing an overall spirit of willingness to obey. Don't focus on particular task. Use the individual task to teach overall obedience.

I hope that is helpful. Try not to test her in church unless you are confident she will obey you. If is better to get up and leave with her right away then to keep letting her get away with being noisier and noisier. When you do take her out, make sure she does NOT enjoy it. Don't reward her by letting her get down and walk around or otherwise play. Make her sit on your lap and be quiet out in the hall (or wherever is convenient). At minimum, ask her to do something she doesn't like doing and make sure she obeys you.

Now with most of the above, I'm assuming she is resisting you on purpose. If she isn't, then just be sure she understands what you want.

Playing with your children

Question: All my life I dreamed of the fun parts of being a mom - I wanted to dance with my children, sing silly songs, paint, do play-doh, etc. I dreamed that my children would have fun, learn a little along the way and we'd have a happy home. Unfortunately, I have not done what I have wanted to do and am wondering how to do it now.

I feel that if I were to start suddenly being "fun", my oldest daughter (3 years old) would look at me like I grew a second head or something. I want desperately to find joy in playing with her and being mommy - but at the same time being firm when necessary.

I guess I need ideas on how to do fun things with her and still get the baby fed, the laundry done, and other chores done. I honestly believe that behavior would be better if I was not so stressed and more fun to be around.

Answer: So how do we love and enjoy our children? Some moms are great "kid people". I am not. I'm not good at sitting down and playing house with the girls or playing trucks and cars with the boys. However, I think I am good at smiling when a child comes up to me and shows me his latest creation. I am good at picking up a toddler who wants a hug. I am good at displaying a slight sense of humor now and then, I am good at giving any child who wants it, a small piece of my undivided attention, almost anytime he wants it. 

What I'm trying to say is that you don't have to set aside a certain portion of the day for "quality time". ALL the time you spend with your children should be quality time. (Even if you are disciplining.) I also do not believe that you need to be sure to spend a certain amount of individual time with each child. Yes, take advantage of opportunities for this when they present themselves, but meanwhile you can certainly and easily demonstrate love for more than one child at a time. 

In real life, it only takes a few seconds to please a child (or 2 or 3 children) and make them feel loved and secure. Usually, you don't even have to seek them out for this, they will come to you. All you have to do is stop what you are doing and make yourself available emotionally when they do. Smile at them, answer their questions, give them a little bit of attention, and then, when they have been satisfied, and if you are busy, send them off with some pleasant direction as to what they should do next. Or better yet, try to include them in what YOU are doing in some small way. 

Many times a day this happens at our house: I will be working at my computer, or helping a child with his schoolwork or cooking, etc, and my 2yo will come up to me with some problem, need, or concern. In fact, he is doing that right now, so I'll just relate what is happening:

He just came up to me, and with big eyes and an excited smile, showed me a little lego man in his hand. I stopped typing, looked at him, smiled, hugged him, and said, "OH WOW! WHAT'S THAT!?" He smiled and responded with "I am stinky!" ..... LOL!

Me (still smiling): "Oh, really? Did someone send you down here?" 
Him: "Noooooo." 
Me (enthusiatically): Did you come down here all by yourself? (I'm teaching here.)
Him (nodding excitedly): YEAH!
Me: "Oh good! Say 'Yes', not 'Yeah'." (Still pleasantly teaching.)
Him (smiling): "Yes!"
Me (still cheerful and smiling): "Good, that sounds much nicer. Now lay down here, so I can change you."

Anyway, that might not seem like anything noteworthy as far as playing with your child, but what I think is more important is ENJOYING them and giving them your love and attention and approval when they come to you all those many little times all day long.

And by the way, when he did not lay down right away, I had no problem switching to a more serious tone and saying, "JEFF, lay down right now so momma can change you."

Tomato Staking clarification 

Question: I just wondered about whether the children could be doing a quiet activity while tomato staking? For instance having them look at books while I am schooling an older children or having them sit at the table in the kitchen to color while I made dinner? I am trying to keep them with me and quiet- but from Elizabeth's article it sounded like she has her children sit on the couch doing nothing but concentrating on being quiet- is it wrong to give them an activity? 

Answer: Hmmm. I'd better rewrite that article! 

Let me try to explain. When and if I have them all just sit on the couch doing nothing, that is only when they have been doing something awful and out of control (suppose they were throwing toys at each other and running around screaming for example). Then they might get the couch and some cooling off time. But that's not what most tomato staking is.

After they settle done from the initial misdeeds, then, if I want to continue the tomato staking, I just keep them near me. They can do ANYTHING I want to allow them to do, ANYTHING. The point of tomato staking is to keep them close enough so that I can catch any further misdeeds (even the smallest ugly look on a face, for example), IMMEDIATELY and correct it IMMEDIATELY. The tomato staking helps me to be CONSISTENT. 

YES, go ahead and let your children color or whatever, as long as you keep watching them and correcting them for anything YOU think is not acceptable behavior. You don't have to correct them for every breath, but don't overlook anything naughty or bad.

Later, as they learn to behave better, turn tomato staking time into an opportunity to become close friends with your child.

When they already have friends:

Question: You said that if we kept the kids from the influence of the friends at Sunday school and other outside influences, they wouldn't feel bad about missing it right? Well, I'm afraid they all ready have "friendships" with a lot of those children. When we go to church they will see these "friends" off playing, going to class and doing all the things we USED to let them do. How do I make this easier on them? 

Answer:  One little thought that always comes to my mind in this type of situation is something that Bill Gothard said when he was encouraging parents to get rid of their TV. When the parents asked him how to deal with complaints from the children, he urged them to replace the TV with THEMSELVES. I think that idea would apply to removing friends too. Replace them with yourselves. Become your children's best friends yourselves. 

In my family when I was a child, my father was not big on the kids being separated from the parents and going off in all directions by themselves. So, he said "no" to a lot of extra curricular activities, and instead we spent the evenings together at home as a family - EVERY EVENING. In the winters we had some TV, and we had our homework to do, but in the summers, we would spend every evening altogether at the kitchen table playing puzzles, and board games, and card games, together. I also remember our mother reading to us from lengthy books (a chapter or two a night) and I remember my father playing chess with us, and taking us fishing, and working with us to build our cottage. He often played violin with me as well. I remember our mother drilling us on our spelling, gardening with us, taking us down to the beach in the summer, teaching us to cook, and having us wash windows and clean house. I had only one friend I ever saw all summer. I honestly did not miss my winter time school friends. I had my brothers and we became each other's best friends.

Learning to be good friends:

Question:  How will my children learn to be good friends if I do not allow them to have "friends"? 

Answer: Our children learned to be "good friends" by being "good friends" to their own siblings. That's even harder than being a good friend to an outsider. One tends to be on one's best behavior with outsiders and one tends to be on one's worst behavior around family members. With family you think you have "rights". With strangers you tend to respect THEIR rights. You know your family can't dump you, but you know that a friend can dump you anytime the like. If you can learn to be good friends to the people in your own family, you won't have any trouble being good friends to those outside your family.

In other people's homes:

Question: We have always been active in going to people's homes for dinner and game type nights but all the kid's are usually sent to another table in another room to eat and then go off to toy rooms to play together. If I understand the woodshed principles - children should be in your sight at all times - how do I apply this at someone else's home? I really believe this is a good thing to do and was very reassured when I read the "How to raise godly children" thread but I need some more practical example of the shelter and segregate ideas. Do you EVER let your kid's develop friendships outside the family? Even when they are older?

Answer: As far as going to other people's homes, I would encourage you to keep doing that with one change: try to switch over to more of a FAMILY FELLOWSHIPPING approach rather than splitting up. It will probably be easiest to start the ball rolling by inviting others to YOUR home and guiding the proceedings. Try to eat together if there is room. Then initiate activities that whole families can do together or at least near each other rather than in separate rooms. Try not to focus on "not allowing" this or that, but on "wanting" and "aiming toward" keeping the family together (because you want to be together, not just so you can watch the kids).

"You can't make your children become saved."

Question: I hear a lot of talk about how we are trying to raise godly children and I need some clarification. Here is my sticking point....while I believe that we must teach our children to behave according to Biblical principles and standards, that we must teach them the Bible, take them to church and give them every opportunity to accept Christ...we cannot make them become true believers, no matter how hard we try or what we do. They have to choose Him themselves, and once they do, it is then the work of the Holy Spirit to convict, sanctify and guide them along to becoming Holy. In other words, we can't make our children godly, only God can. Maybe this is what you all mean, but for the longest time I took it as that my children would not be saved, or would be nominal Christians at best if I did not train them perfectly, was too lenient, not lenient enough etc.... So here is my question.....what do you mean when you say you are trying to raise godly children???

Answer: Well, when I think of "godly children", I'm thinking mostly of children who have "godly" character qualities that are genuine. Children who are kind, friendly, good-hearted, not angry or bitter, not rebellious, cooperative, humble, eager to do right, reliable, and so on. I believe that if I train my children in these character qualities AND give them the knowledge of God that they need, it will be much easier for them to make their own personal commitment to Christ when the time comes. Ideally, they will grow up knowing of God in many ways, and the transition from serving parents to serving God will be a very small one. Please note that I am looking at the heart when I talk of godliness. I am not referring outward actions. Outward actions are only the red flags that tell us where the inner person needs work. Children who ACT obedient and respectful, but don't have godly character of heart, are not what I'd call "godly".


Churchiness vs. Godliness

Question:  Has anyone had their kids react badly when the family increases their commitments to God? 

Answer:  NO!  But of course that is not the same as asking whether or not a child might react badly when a family increases their commitments to "church". Is that what is happening?  Are you just attending one or two services a week?  Or are you active in church almost daily?  Doing more church or religious activities, is not always the same as serving God more.  As I see it, you should be striving to serve God in ALL that you do. That includes how you change a diaper, how you cook a meal, how you answer your husband when he questions you, how you discipline your child, how you teach your children character, what values you have and how you instill them in your children, and endlessly more than that. Now becoming involved in more formal church activities might help you do these other thing, but they don't always, and sometimes they get in the way of really serving God in all you do. 

For example, if your child is new to learning really good character and obedience, and if you are new to being consistent, then perhaps it would be better to stay home for awhile and work on those things (which I believe will ultimately lead to true Godliness in you and your children). If this is all relatively new, ANY outside activities will likely hinder your progress, including church activities. If your child can't sit still at the dinner table at home, he's going to be twice as bad sitting in church where his parents can't correct him according to his needs.  The same applies to non-church outside activities. All outside activities cut into the time you have at home to work on training your children.  This home time is especially needed when you are first starting to train a child and also anytime you are having a problem with a particular child.

When I first began to discipline differently, my oldest was 6yo, and I also had a 4yo and a 2yo (and was pregnant with the next one). I determined to make training my children in godliness my TOP priority. If there were any problems when I went to the store, I stopped going to the store unless absolutely necessary. If Sunday School created problems (because the kids were not under my guidance) then I pulled them out of Sunday School. On the other hand, my commitment to serving God increased.  First, training my children in godliness IS serving God. Secondly, as I trained my children I also turned on my bible tapes and did other things to teach them clearly the connection between godliness and God. All that I train and teach for is from God, isn't it? So I had plenty to tell them about. That, in my opinion, made up for any cut back in official church time and increased my ability to train my children.

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