(We hadn’t realized we never completed a series we started earlier this year! So, here is the final part.) This month I want to finish the response to the questions contained in this e-mail:
“I was just reading your latest Mom’s Corner and was wondering about you addressing something in the future. We are trying to raise five children, ages six years down to eight months, in the way God would want. I am having difficulty with bickering, bickering, and more bickering. The children complain about having to do chores and not getting enough play time because they have to do school. We are homeschooling. I try to explain that we help each other and should treat each other as we would have others treat us. Also of note . . . I feel my time is so divided, especially with twin eight month olds. I don’t feel like I have the time to do all the things that need to be done such as when it comes to getting the children to listen and be kind to each other. I know that this should be the priority, but it seems too hard.” Mom to Five
You can read the first two parts of this series of articles here.
To tackle the complaining about chores, doing school, or not having enough play time, much of what was shared in parts one and two of these articles will apply. In this case, once again, the consequences have to be consistent and effective. The children who complain about chores could be given more chores to do, which is a very natural consequence. However, with little children it can be difficult to come up with additional chores that they are capable of accomplishing since they can do so few chores on their own in the first place.
When our younger children complained about chores or school, I often used chair time as a consequence. Since their grumbles were linked to their desire to play rather than do what they needed to do, the consequence was designed to impact what they preferred to do while at the same time making it counterproductive to complain. If it wasn’t convenient for them to sit their chair time right at that moment, I wrote a note so that at lunchtime or later in the afternoon, the child would have his consequence.
As would frequently happen in our home, a child would likely make an excuse for his complaining, tell me he wasn’t grumbling, or argue about his consequence. I usually started with five minutes of chair-sitting time. When the excuses or arguing began, I said, “The time is now ten minutes.” If it continued (as often happened because the first try didn’t work), I would say, “The time is now fifteen minutes.” We had a couple of times where a child worked his way up to forty-five minutes. However, we felt the consequence was reasonable and so much better than becoming entangled in an argument with the child.
These two verses were the main ones we used with our children concerning complaining and why they shouldn’t grumble. “Do all things without murmurings and disputings” (Philippians 2:14). “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17). The first verse is the directive not to complain, and the second verse provides the instruction of what the child’s heart attitude is to encompass.
Something to take into consideration concerning both the children’s bickering and their complaining would be other influences. The more time children spend playing with friends, the more likely that they will be dissatisfied with their sibling playmates. They come to prefer their friends over their brothers and sisters. In addition, they are usually learning negative attitudes from their friends that they bring home and with which they begin to afflict their family members. Influences that cause unkindness among siblings might also be coming from other activities where our children are around other children. Being exposed to the typical child’s foolishness can lead our children to mirror that same foolishness in their lives with their brothers and sisters.
The same problems would go for the amount of time children spend watching TV. TV impacts children’s attitudes toward each other adversely, and it fosters a spirit of complaining when the children are required to do activities like chores and school that take away from TV time.
This mom also indicated that she doesn’t feel like she has time to stop and teach the children when a problem surfaces. She knows, though, the vital importance of investing time in the discipleship process with her children. I want to encourage this mom in the use of a daily schedule so that she is more productive and has time available not only to give her children consequences when they bicker but also to teach them how to be sweet to each other.
With five children, including twin eight month old babies, this mom most certainly has plenty to keep her busy. It is no wonder that she would struggle with time pressures and not think she has time to instruct her children when they are bickering. I firmly believe that a schedule is the key she needs to help her have the time to keep up with her household responsibilities, homeschool her children, and interact with them when they are not getting along well.
Our book Managers of Their Homes has much more information on scheduling and includes a Scheduling Kit (colored squares and sticky tac). Especially for those who don’t think they can schedule, it is designed to make the process as easy as possible. Daily, we receive testimonies about how this book is being used as a tool to transform families. To read some of them, just click on product testimonies at the above link. Even if you haven’t felt you could ever make or use a schedule, if you have a need in your home, I encourage you to consider a schedule as a solution.
Life with little children will bring bickering between them, complaining about responsibility, and time pressure for Mom. We know the importance of raising our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, so addressing these problems is vitally important. As a mom whose children are much older than the mom who wrote the introductory e-mail, I know firsthand the necessity of praying for ourselves and our children. I encourage young moms to expect the process of discipling their children to be a long-term project and to willingly invest their hearts into it. Then you want to look for consistent consequences that you can give with a loving attitude while evaluating any influences that may be undermining the work you are doing with your children. May I encourage you to be a mom who puts a schedule in place so that she will have the needed time to continually instruct her children in the way they should go. Let us run with patience the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1).