Monday, November 30, 2009

Spilled Oats, When the Meat Won't Fry, and a Little Baby Boot Camp

Things I learned today:

-Ground beef fries better when the burner is actually ON. (I'm blaming this one on yesterday's migraine leaving me a bit muddleheaded...)

-One can improvise a meal if one has some meat & potatoes to start with. (I'm blaming this one on lack of planning this week. Time to write out my menu and grocery list...)

-An entire canister of oats covers a large percentage of our kitchen floor. (I'm blaming this one on an impatient 4 yr old who learned why it's important to wait for Mom...)

-Laundry doesn't fold itself, and children don't always fold it without being asked. (This one is due to my slacking off when it come to getting daily lists printed...)

-1 yr olds do not always come when called. (This one is due to lack of training, which is being stepped up this week, due to the whole not coming when called thing, but rather not even acknowledging Mom & Dad's voice(s) and sometimes going so far as turning to run the other direction. Time for that to stop...)

-My children were not born knowing how to clean their rooms. (This could be genetic, as neither my husband nor myself came by it naturally, and might even struggle to this day to set a good example on this one...)

Okay, I pretty much knew all of these things before today, well, except for the oatmeal thing, but I probably could've guessed on that one and still passed the test.

Now is as good a time as any to work on training our toddler, and it wouldn't hurt to include our 3 & 4 yr olds for some reinforcement. Reinforcement helps form good habits, in our children, as well as in ourselves.

Here's an idea of how this looks in our house:

I will usually wait until after the majority of our homeschooling is done for the day, this way if any battles of the will happen, and they usually do, they won't interfere with anything too important, except maybe getting supper on the table, but hopefully it won't come to that.

When the children are all engaged in play of some sort I will call one of them to me. Starting with an older one reminds them that yes, they do still need to come when Mom calls, and it sets an example for younger children to follow. Our children have been taught to not only come when called, but to answer/acknowledge with a "Yes, Ma'am?" or "Yes, Mom?", preferably including some eye contact. They need to come near, not just look up from across the room and grunt "Yeah?" or worse, the disrespectful "What?". Once the beckoned child has come close and responded respectfully, they will be given a small task, "Would you bring that doll back to your room?", or "Please put that book on the floor back where it belongs.", or "Would you go get your baby brother out of the bathroom again?". They are then supposed to return to Mom, or Dad, to see if we have another task to give, or to simply receive a "Thank you!" and maybe even a big squeeze or a little tickle, and then they are free to go back to their play.

I will then move onto one of the younger children, and repeat the process. Everyone 4 and older has been through this several times for several years, and knows the routine enough to quickly comply. In the 4-8 yr old range it's still played out almost like a game. Our current 10 yr old will respectfully comply because he's such a good-natured kid and knows how important, good, and right, it is to set a good example for his younger siblings. Our teenager isn't expected to jump up and come right over, but he is expected to look up from what he is reading (he's almost always reading!), make eye contact, respectfully ask "Yes, Ma'am?" and do what he's asked to do, though he is rarely asked to do things like bring dolls to his room, because, well, yeah, the dolls often found strewn around the house aren't his. With him it's more often "Have you finished your Algebra?" or "Would you please throw away your apple core?".

Our Little Mercy, who just turned 3, will usually come when called now, though we are definitely still working on getting her to do so with a good attitude. She often will make it abundantly clear that she would really rather be doing just about anything right at that moment than practicing obedience to Mom or Dad. This is a very natural expression of her self-centeredness, which is a real problem for every one of us, it's just that at 3 yrs old, she hasn't learned to suck it up and mask her disappointment for the sake of doing right. When she sulks, or worse, whines or cries, she will definitely be given more than one task. If, after 2 or 3 tasks, her attitude isn't any better, or has gotten progressively worse, she will receive a short and sweet reprimand as a last chance to straighten up, and if that fails, she'll be put down for a nap, no matter what time it is. She probably won't sleep, but she needs to be isolated for at least a little while to learn some cause and effect- throw a fit and rebel against Mom or Dad = negative consequence. If she does decide to straighten up and complete a task without a fussy bad attitude, she'll be given at least one more task, for good measure. This is where staying pleasant and not letting frustration show really counts. No toddler or preschooler is going to decide to happily obey a crabby parent who is obviously displeased.

With the 1 yr old, while always working on things like "No", and "Don't touch", we're just now starting work on "Come" (and I admit, we may be a bit late in this game, it would've been better to start as soon as he was mobile). He's really not interested. He'd rather do what he'd rather do, plain and simple. While there are times when he's trailing at my feet throughout the day, wanting to be picked up and held while I'm cooking or doing other things requiring two hands, the times when he's contentedly playing are not the times he's interested in coming to Mommy. In fact, at those times, he'd rather not come to Mommy, which makes for perfect training opportunities, as the idea is to train him to conform his will to Mom's or Dad's (an example of a christian conforming his or her will to the will of our Heavenly Father).

I'll call his name, adding a sweet toned "Come here." He may or may not glance my way. I'll call his name again. If he doesn't glance my way, I'll go right over to him, repeat "Come here" and begin to lead him to the spot where I first called him. I go after the 2nd time, because if I keep calling his name and he keeps ignoring me, all I'm doing is training him to ignore the sound of my voice, training him to not respond to me. That can get frustrating, and the goal of training is to avoid the frustration that causes so many issues between parent and child, and frankly is the reason so many parents end up resorting to yelling, or worse. Frustration leads to anger, and it's very hard not to be angry with a child who continues to rebel and disrespect and disobey. Being proactive, and getting up off of one's rear to train (teach) a child what is expected, helps avoid soooo much frustration and makes for both happier parents and happier children. Training is not the same as discipline, in fact, training makes most discipline unnecessary.

Once I've gotten him to the spot that I had called him to, I'll give him some smiley "Good job!", "You came to Mommy!", and various praises for a job well done. If he pulls away and starts fussing a lot, which will happen the first several times, he'll get a firm but gentle "No fit!" and I'll keep bringing him to the spot I called him to. The "No fit" needs to be loud enough for him to hear over his fussing, but definitely not shrill, this is no time to yell or lose one's cool. We don't want to train our children to only obey when we raise our voices, the idea is to train them for 1st time obedience, not to obey the 3rd or 4th or 7th time because the sound of our voice tells them they're about to get it. It's a pretty rare parent who isn't irritated by the 7th ignored request, again, the idea with training is to avoid the irritation, and to raise happy, helpful, obedient children.

Our youngest is 13 months, a newbie 1 yr old, and he's just starting out with his more 'formal' training, hehe, baby boot camp, if you will. It's light-hearted and easy-going right now, with some quick little "No"s when necessary. When he is a bit older, and I am sure that he knows what is expected, if he still resists, then it will be time for some little reinforcement swats. For now though, it's all about training and not discipline- there will be plenty of time for that... though, if we stay diligent with some early training, the ongoing discipline as he ages should be much less, and our parent child relationship much better.

Our children are not perfect. We are not perfect parents, in fact, it seems we are so very far from that most days. Our children are, however, better than average, if average is what is represented most every time we go to Walmart or Target. Our 2 and unders may cry now and then when tired, hungry, and out for too long, but our 4 and ups would never give us the kind of grief we see children giving their exasperated parents most every time we get to town. Now that I've said that, hopefully no one will act up on me the next time we go shopping, but if it were to happen, it would be a very rare thing, probably not to be repeated. Our children usually look up at me with a look of slight horror that says something like "Did you see what that kid just did?!" whenever we witness a tantrum on display in public, and I usually look back at them with a "Oh, my, aren't you glad that isn't you?!"

Ok, enough for now, time for another round with our youngest troops, then time for supper, some stories, some baths, some bedtimes, and then some quiet time for Mom so I can rest up and do it all again tomorrow!

PS- One of my favorite parenting and child training sites is Raising Godly Tomatoes, if you're earnestly looking for Godly advice on raising happy and obedient children, take some time to read on the site or to order the book. I don't think you'll regret it.



Anonymous holly neaton said...

Great post! I'm so stealing this. I totally think if I spent more time training Charlie, I would spend less time discipling. God bless - Holly

November 30, 2009 at 9:01 PM  
Blogger Keeslermom said...

I always figure my average 1 year old is as smart as a dog and should be able to do basic commands. We do come, sit, stay, fetch and heel(stay with me), and then work our way up. It sounds demeaning here in print, but it's a good rule of thumb for expectations!

November 30, 2009 at 9:15 PM  
Blogger Christy said...

Thanks for this post. I've worked hard at training and yet I feel like we're missing some consistency. I LOVE the Raising Godly Tomatoes website and had to mention it on my blog. I've read a lot of the Pearl's stuff which I really like, but this lady speaks a little more to my style perhaps...yet with the same outcome and goals! I spent a lot of time reading from RGT website last night and was very blessed. Thanks for sharing!

December 1, 2009 at 6:05 PM  

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