Tag Archives: Child Training

To or Not To?

Our “modern” and “enlightened” world promotes gluttony and self-indulgence of every sort. Yet, I have never met a person who was enslaved in self-indulgence and devoid of self-control who was happy. One cannot be enslaved and walk in the Spirit.

Isn’t it amazing that most people still respect self-discipline? May we not follow the world on its self-destructive path.

“All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” (1 Corinthians 6:12)

Steve

Do They Do It?

In this series we are addressing strategies for parents to tackle persistent problem areas in their children’s lives. Often moms experience discouragement and frustration over their children’s negative behavior. That can be especially true for homeschooling moms because they are with their children 24/7. Despite Mom’s best efforts, the children may be out-of-control or have attitudes that she knows are not God-honoring.

Last month we noted the starting point for success—asking for God’s wisdom and help and not letting the situation worry and trouble us. Then we prayerfully came up with a plan. The background of this plan is in the last Mom’s Corner. Let’s take it up where we left off with the third point.

#3: You and your husband should determine consequences for whatever the children are doing that is keeping them from accomplishing what they should do in the morning. A very logical reward in this case would simply be the play time that would open up before breakfast if they completed their scheduled tasks quickly, thoroughly, and efficiently.

Consequences for Children and Chores

Consequences and rewards motivate us as adults, and they motivate children as well. A logical consequence for not getting to the breakfast table on time would be to lose free time when it is planned, while the reward is extra free time.

#4: The schedule continues even if children haven’t done what they are supposed to do. Free time is impacted to catch up. For example, if they aren’t dressed, they stay in PJs until they have free time. Then they get dressed and sit on a chair for ten minutes as a consequence for not getting dressed when they were supposed to get dressed. If they didn’t make their bed, follow the same pattern. Have them make their beds during free time. Then take an additional specified amount of their free time to have to sit on a chair as a discipline for not making the bed at the instructed time.

With this part of the plan, the mom doesn’t have to be stressed when the children don’t do what they are supposed to do. Daily life continues, the job will eventually be done, and there are consequences in place to help motivate the children to do better the next day.

I happen to know this plan worked because I received this information in an e-mail from the mom:

“Progress has been made this week. My husband and I have been working with the children regarding their morning chores. They are now being completed around 7 AM. This works out great for ME because my husband is still home to check them out before he leaves for work, and I can finish up breakfast. School is starting on time too.”

One week wasn’t a very long time for the parents to rearrange their normal activities in order to focus on the problem and then address it.

Here are some examples of child behavior issues that another mom knew she wanted to address.

“Brother was running after Sister in the house, and she was screaming because she didn’t want him to chase her.

“Brother and Sister left the dining room table and ran into the living room to get something before the other one did, and Sister screamed after Brother lightly touched her on his way running past her.

“I sent Brother and Sister back to clean up Sister’s room, where they had both been playing. Sister came out screaming, with Brother chasing her.

“Brother had a small Lego piece in his mouth, chewing on it (which we’ve told him many times not to do), and I told him to take it out of his mouth. He took it out and threw it up in the air, and it landed halfway across the room. (We’ve also told him many times not to throw things around in the house … he’ll just pick up pieces of anything he finds and throw it across the room.)”

I expect you can relate to the things that were happening in this home. While the children’s behavior was discouraging to the mom, her biggest discouragement was her responses to the children. She was becoming angry with them and raising her voice at them.

Here is part of the plan I helped her toward taken from the email I wrote her.

With all the examples you sent, you can deal with the problems—and they are problems—in a calm, gentle manner. I would encourage you to try ‘chair sitting’ as your go-to consequence for the children.

In case 1, you go to Brother and tell him that there is no running in the house. Then you put him on a dining room chair for 10 minutes. That is not only an easy, consistent consequence, but it gives you 10 minutes with no discipline necessary. Since Sister was running, too, and screaming, you could put her on the chair for five minutes. You would probably be benefited by a ‘no running in the house’ rule.

In Example 2, you would want to put both children on chairs for a designated amount of time, managed by setting a timer, and remind them that they weren’t being kind to each other.

Example 3, you still want to have them do the cleanup, but you can also sit them on chairs for some of their playtime—even if it is the next day.

Example 4, put Brother on the chair—for chewing on the Lego and for throwing it.

Utilize chair sitting time. It is a simple consequence that you can use consistently. It is your friend in being a gentle, responsive mother.

Chore Plans Help

With a plan in mind, this mom was ready to tackle the problems her children were having each day. She didn’t have to yell at them because she had an easy consequence she could use to help them learn to do what they should do and refrain from what they shouldn’t do.

Here is a little of what this mom experienced as she began implementing her plan.

“Numerous times since then, when Brother has done something wrong and I have not gotten angry with him, but gave the consequence gently, he has come to me later and apologized and asked for my forgiveness, and I could tell he was genuine. I so want to be a good example to our children, and to model a Christ-like attitude.”

That is a win-win outcome. The child is learning appropriate behavior, he is choosing to be sorry for the problem he caused, and Mom has the godly responses she desires. “He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding” (Proverbs 15:32). “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).

Do you want change for your children? It starts with prayer, lets go of worry, makes a plan, and then implements the plan. I challenge you to focus on any problem you are having with a child using this method and see what the results are like two weeks later. “But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing” (2 Thessalonians 3:13).

The Difficult Child – Part 1

“I just stopped school to come in here to write you. I don’t know what to do, and I am at this awful place with one of my children that a mom definitely doesn’t want to be. I have five boys ranging in age from nine months to nine years. Four of my children are sweet, obedient, in love with the Lord, wanting to sing praises to Him, and wanting to please my husband and me. Then there is my six year old. He is the most difficult child, and I don’t know what to do with him. I have had him memorize Scriptures on obedience. He has more Scriptures memorized than I do—he is really smart. But he is a huge handful. He has no control over his emotions and will strike out at anyone who crosses him.

“Recently he has started back talking me. I’ll tell him to do something, and that is followed by whines and reasons why he doesn’t want to obey. My other kids would NEVER do this. At first I was shocked and talked to him about his attitude and his need to obey me. Then I tried consequences and talked more. He isn’t responding. I love him so much and don’t want to be around him—all at the same time. Am I a terrible mom?”
In Christ,
A struggling mom

This mom’s problem is typical in many homes regarding at least one of their children. Regularly I read or hear a description of a child like this from someone. Immediately, I think of one of our children. When this child introduces himself at our music session, he says, “Hello, my name is John. I am nineteen, and I play the banjo. I wasn’t what you would call a model child growing up. As a matter of fact, because of how difficult I was, I think my mom was able to write that book, Homeschooling with a Meek and Quiet Spirit. I expect if I had been put into a public school, they would have labeled me with a learning disability. However, the reality was that I was simply lazy.”

John has now graduated from our homeschool, and the message I want to share with this mom, and others like her, is a message of hope and encouragement. Today John isn’t what he was when he was a little boy. He is a winsome, young man whom every one seems to love. He invested his out-of-school time for two years building our house with his brother and dad— a project he and his brother volunteered to do. He learned to study as a result of his homeschooling years and has been tackling some difficult after-graduation study assignments of his own choosing as he prepares for a vocation in construction and also to obtain his commercial driver’s license.

I have graduated five children from homeschool, but John was the first to say to me, “Mom, for my graduation I want to take you out to eat at the nicest restaurant you can think of to go to.” He then spent the evening telling me of his gratitude for my investment in his homeschooling. John read and approved these articles because his heart is to help other families who might be facing some of the same issues that our family faced with John.

I am delighted that I can share such good news about this son with you. As John was growing up, every year we saw improvement in his attitudes and behavior. At nine, he wasn’t like he was at six. At twelve, he had made great progress from when he was nine. It got better for him day by day. “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). Perhaps what we did with John and where he is today will be an encouragement to you and give you some ideas for your situation.

John caused Steve and me to pray more. “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6). There is something about increased need that drives us to a greater frequency and fervency of prayer. We knew that we were dependent on the Lord’s working in this child’s life for his growth and maturity both emotional and spiritual.

Steve and I found that we had to encourage ourselves greatly about our difficult child. We knew the importance of loving and accepting him, but his behavior caused us to sometimes have negative feelings toward him. He could be unkind to his siblings, plus he regularly had bad attitudes toward us. As Steve and I talked about and prayed for John, we would remind each other of what this son needed and what the Lord would have us do. Seeing that we were both struggling helped us realize that our feelings were normal even though they weren’t ones we wanted to allow to fester. “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).

We discovered we needed to deal with John very quietly and in a matter of fact manner. “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). Because of the ongoing nature of the problems, it was extremely easy to have an irritated tone in our voices almost before the first word was out. We knew that anger, impatience, and frustration were not the vehicles to loving our son and helping him. Therefore, his behavior was our training ground as well—a training ground for our own growth in self-control.

In families, it is common to have a child who struggles more with his behavior than the other children. Steve and I know how easy it is for parents to become discouraged over this child. However, we also have seen the Lord work through the years of our child’s life, achieving incredible changes that have been almost unbelievable considering his early childhood behavior. What we did with and for John were things that were valuable for all our children. Therefore, we know that our parenting improved because of John. May we encourage those of you with a difficult child to continue doing what you need to do. Love this child abundantly even when he is not loveable. Look for ways to help him grow and mature. Pray for this child, knowing that the Lord is as interested in him overcoming wrong behavior as you are. Next month we will continue with more of what we did in parenting John and what we learned.

Where Is the Fruit of Child Training?

Let me share with you a story from a mom with a burdened heart.

I LOVE my son so much. He is the oldest of 4 boys. We constantly get compliments about what a sweet boy he is or what a BIG heart he has. But, as his mother I feel like a failure. He completely lacks self-discipline, diligence, and independence.

If I sit and do school WITH him he does a GREAT job and does it fairly quickly. BUT if I send him to his room to work independently he will either 1) take all day because he just sits there and daydreams OR 2) he rushes through it and does a really sloppy job.

We have spent YEARS training this child. My husband has literally taken him into the kitchen and cleaned WITH him step by step, showing him how to do it SEVERAL times. He has done a good job when he knows a reward awaits him (not perfect, but good), but for the most part he tries to get by with as little as possible.

If I don’t sit on him and make him brush his teeth or take a shower, he won’t. If I tell him his hair needs to be combed, he will go grab a hat.

He started crying tonight when I corrected him for doing a poor job. He said he feels like there is nothing he does well. Truthfully, I can’t think of anything he does well or that I am proud of as far as skill goes. He has a GREAT heart, but well meaning intentions will get him NOWHERE! Concerned Mom

What Concerned Mom is sharing about her son is something we commonly hear from moms. Often the mom is talking about a child that is seven years old or older. Perhaps this becomes an issue at this age because we begin to have some expectations of seeing the results of our child training by this time.

Our first step, when dealing with any difficult situation, and especially those concerning our children, is to pray. “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). We pray for the Lord to work in and through the needs in our children’s lives. We also ask what God’s purposes are in the struggles. How does He want us to address them? What direction and solutions does He have? What Scripture applies?

Children take time to mature. “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11). What if Concerned Mom thinks back to her son at age five? I expect he has made some progress in these difficult areas since then, maybe even significant progress. Now, what if she remembers back to when he was nine? Again, he will have made progress—perhaps not as much as she would like, but progress.

What we want to focus on is the spiritual and character growth that is taking place in our children rather than the distance they have left to go. This perspective will help our hearts be encouraged and grateful to the Lord for what He has been doing in our children’s lives rather than discouraged over what still should be accomplished. “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Concerned Mom’s son is a “sweet boy with a big heart.” A heart for the Lord and others is one of the major goals most Christian parents have for their children. Being thankful for the spiritual qualities she sees in her son will give Concerned Mom a starting point for giving her son positive feedback.

I would encourage Concerned Mom to continue working with her son in the areas where she sees her son should improve. Scripture admonishes us that we are to “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). This is a long-term project the Lord has given us. Concerned Mom hasn’t failed but rather the Lord is making her aware of continued needs in her son’s life. This isn’t to discourage her but to give her direction in where to concentrate her efforts. Her commitment to helping her son is very important. From what she has shared, Concerned Mom is on the right track in teaching her son by showing him what to do, giving him responsibility, and then having consequences if he doesn’t follow through.

I would encourage Concerned Mom to find ways to help her son learn the steps to thoroughness for what he needs to do. She can make up checklists for him since she sees that he requires step-by-step direction to accomplish a task. Giving her son a scheduled time for particular jobs with deadlines and consequences may be useful. In addition, it is important to be consistent on a daily basis for an extended period of time. It is common to give up on what we are trying to do before it has time to work.

Concerned Mom could let her son take all day to do his schoolwork, without emotional anxiety over it. He likely won’t continue to take all day, and if he does, then she doesn’t need be concerned about it. It was his choice. When he tires of spending all day doing school, he will work harder to stick with it and get it done earlier.

When Concerned Mom’s son doesn’t do something well, she can simply send him back to do it again. Remember that a mom should do all of this with a meek and quiet spirit rather than with anger or resignation. Eventually, the son will decide to do a better job in the first place. I believe a key is being unemotional in dealing with all of this. Simply be matter of fact.

Another key ingredient in this process is keeping our children’s hearts, the subject of our book, Keeping Our Children’s Hearts. In this case, I would suggest that Concerned Mom make it a priority to work with her son on some of his chores on a regular basis. She and her husband can spend time with him doing the tasks that are difficult. She can reinforce details of the job. Working together is a part of building relationships. While they work, Concerned Mom can talk to her son about his problems—not strictly when the crisis is flaring but at other times as well.

Concerned Mom will be able to encourage her son that keeping these issues before him to be worked on is a positive step. What about using his failures to help him see his dependence on Jesus Christ and need to rely on Him? “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). These parents can explain to their son that his reactions to failure and correction show pride in his life. “. . . God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6).

Looking at verses in Proverbs that have to do with a son receiving correction would be a good study to do with a twelve-year-old boy. “A wise son heareth his father’s instruction: but a scorner heareth not rebuke” (Proverbs 13:1). Keeping the relationships strong, with lots of loving communication, hugs, back patting, and enjoyable time together, is vitally important.

At age twelve, this boy’s family still has several prime years to work with their son. I think Concerned Mom should be encouraged. What she is doing will produce results. Her priority is to stay prayerful, loving, and consistent. She wants to find things for which she can praise her son. It might not seem like there are any, but if she thinks about it and looks for them, they will be there—starting with him being sweet and having a big heart. She wants to make sure that praise comes out loud and clear.

I believe most homeschooling moms have areas in their children’s lives where they know growth is needed. May this be our theme verse as we face and tackle these necessary issues. “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9). The fruit comes from years of praying, loving, teaching, consistency, and investing in the lives of our children.

The Retraining Parade

Tonight we had a parade through the Maxwell house! Usually the children delight in parades, but for this one, they were uncharacteristically warm and subdued. One child had on her heavy winter coat, sweatshirt, stocking cap, and an extra pair of shoes over her hands—all in addition to her normal clothing. Another child sported her sweatshirt, bike-riding dress—over her play dress—with shoes dangling on her shoulder. The other three of our younger children had donned varying degrees of similar costumes. They were all busily marching around the house. Soon each one returned to Mom eagerly asking her to come see what they had just accomplished. You might ask, what exactly is going on at the Maxwell house?

We were reaping! Unfortunately, Mom has become slack in giving consequences to the children for leaving their things out. Steve has regularly encouraged me to have the children wear or carry whatever of their personal property is not properly put away. His suggestion originally came because I brought him the ongoing problem we have in our home of sloppiness. My efforts toward positive training of the children in orderliness were not being fruitful.

I have done some mental calculations of what it would be like at the Maxwells’ if we didn’t stay on top of picking up. There are ten of us living in this home. If we were each to leave out ten items a day, which wouldn’t be terribly hard, we would have one hundred things lying around at the end of the day. After a week, a whopping seven hundred pieces of Maxwell personal property would be strewn across the house.

I truly believe in the importance of training our children to put their things away properly. I am certain that their spouses will thank Steve and me if we are successful, and they will be disappointed if we aren’t. My children report to us that they really prefer to live in a neat home. This information generally comes after they have visited in a cluttered or messy home. Putting each item where it belongs is a valuable time saver. How many hours have been lost looking for a child’s missing shoe? “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise” (Proverbs 6:6).

Our home is also a testimony—of Christ, homeschooling, and, in our case, large families. We regularly have non-Christians stop by our home unexpectedly. Tonight it was the British Army officer for whom Steve is doing some work. Last week it was our policeman neighbor from across the street. Sometimes it is the retired bank president for whom Sarah gathers the mail and papers when he and his wife are away. I am convinced that if the house looks more than simply “lived in,” the testimony of each area it represents, such as homeschooling, is tarnished.

Having the children wear what they have left out has been a most effective way of getting them to pick up their clothing. However, if Mom is not consistent with consequences, the children manage to lose the good habit they have acquired! “Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul” (Proverbs 29:17). Tonight we were having a retraining session. The children were wearing clothing items they had left out while they searched the house for other things that belonged to them. They were now eager to put their belongings away. Then they were happy to come ask Mom for an inspection. This was because the removal of each extra piece of clothing was dependent on Mom not finding any more of their things out.

Despite all the benefits I know there are to be gained from teaching my children to put their personal items away when they are done with them, I still struggle with being consistent. When I am consistent, they succeed! When I am inconsistent, they fail!

So, if you pop in at the Maxwell house and observe five children wearing very odd outfits while busily rushing here and there, you will know what is happening. May I encourage you in whatever area you need to be more consistent with your children. It is not too late. It is not too much work, and it is certainly well worth the effort!

Expect Children to Be Children

Very regularly, through responses to Mom’s Corners and Titus2.com message board posts, I read of moms who are discouraged by character struggles in their young children. They wonder whether a child with a particular problem at age 4, 6, or 10 will still have it as an adult. They ask why their child doesn’t have a repentant heart, is selfish, or still bickers with his siblings, even when the parents have been consistent in disciplining. They feel they are somehow missing their child’s heart issues.

This topic is dear to me because I expect it is something that most, if not all, moms struggle with. I have had these same feelings, and asked these same questions. However, after twenty-three years of mothering, I now have the perspective of viewing both my three adult and five younger children. I can look back and evaluate the spiritual maturing process of the older children’s hearts.

I have finally come to realize a profound truth–we must expect children to be children (1 Corinthians 13:11)! They simply do not yet have hearts that can respond to the Lord with the same maturity that adults do. The growth will come, but it is a process of the Lord that continues throughout childhood.

My expectation for an encounter with one of my children was often this: I would sit with him and explain his sin, he would be filled with remorse, confess, repent, and then go off to “sin no more.” This is a mature biblical response that might sometimes be found in my dealings with a child. The more common occurrence, though, was as follows: I would sit with him and explain his sin, he would be filled with excuses and justification, and he would respond negatively. Then he might do the same wrong thing, which he had just been disciplined for, the very next hour (or even minute)! However, the older the children became, the more they were able to see their sin and deal with it properly. This spiritual maturity grew in relation to their advancing age and has been even greater upon their adulthood!

The feeling I get from some of the rather optimistic Christian child-training materials is that if you follow the “plan” your child will very soon be “perfect.” They often don’t stress, or completely leave out, the fact that it also takes time, consistency in disciplining, and prayer. In the meantime, moms are discouraged because they faithfully follow the “plan” for a month, a year, or even more, but they still don’t have a child who acts and responds as an adult. While years seems like a terribly long time to be heading toward the goal, it is a slow, step-by-step process.

God calls us to our responsibilities as mothers, such as loving our children (Titus 2:4), praying for and with them (Philippians 4:6), teaching them (Deuteronomy 6:7), training them (Proverbs 22:6), correcting them (Proverbs 29:17), and disciplining them (Proverbs 19:18). Let’s not forget, though, that He is the One Who works in hearts and also the One Who designed the growth and maturity process of a child. I believe getting at a child’s heart issues is a constant, daily process; we must continue (over and over) to repeat God’s truth to our children in a sweet and winsome way–year after year after year! When two children are fighting over a toy, both are at fault. Scripture must be shared that applies (Ephesians 4:32, “And be ye kind one to another . . .”), and discipline administered if necessary. When a child is grumbling, there is Scripture that relates, such as Philippians 2:14, “Do all things without murmurings and disputings.” Knowing that God’s results in the hearts of our children will likely come in a slow, gradual way can help us, as moms, to be encouraged rather than discouraged throughout the process.

Moms in the midst of child rearing have to remind themselves frequently of Galatians 6:9, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Another verse that has greatly ministered to me through my years of mothering is 2 Corinthians 4:1, “Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not.” Keeping up with all the “heart issues” of our children can cause us to feel like we are growing weary and faint! After all, there may be several of “them” and only one of us! Years of consistency in loving, praying, teaching, training, correcting, and disciplining children can seem like a very long time! However, remember 2 Corinthians 12:9, “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

For me, while waiting to “reap in due season” in a child’s life, the bottom line between a positive attitude and discouragement is my own heart. How am I viewing the situations my children present to me? Am I accepting them as opportunities to teach my children? Do I resent them as intrusions on my time? Am I discouraged because they show me what I perceive to be failures in my children? Am I more concerned about their behavior or their heart? Do I want them to act and respond as an adult would because it makes my life easier and more pleasant?

Be encouraged, Sisters! Take heart! I expect you are likely doing what you should be doing to deal with your children’s hearts. Keep it up! Discouragement comes because we are immersed in the daily happenings. Instead, we have to focus on the Lord and the end goal, not the day-to-day behaviors. We can’t expect our children to be adults before they actually are. Find the benefit and joy in our time with them as we teach, train, correct, and discipline, rather than being defeated by an apparent lack of results. Perhaps there are results–great results–for the age of the child you are working with, but the wrong expectation is robbing you of seeing those results.

I have the advantage of looking at my older children and seeing that where they are now has been a process that has occurred over years and years. As the children have been growing and maturing, Steve and I have been praying, teaching, training, correcting, and disciplining, and the Lord has been working. My two oldest sons, whose childhood bickering would drive me to tears, are now, as adults, best friends! My little kindergartner–the one who held the sixth grader’s papers out the school bus window (and got his ankle broken)–is now a godly, responsible man. Steve and I rejoice as we watch our older children in their adult years, but it has been a long, sometimes grueling, yet truly joyful and very rewarding journey!

Training Children for Church

Eleven years ago, we had four children from age twelve down to a baby. We sent these children to children’s church and Sunday School but were never very excited about the outcome. Frequently, the children picked up an illness because of their close contact with other sick children. This meant the next several weeks many of us were home from church as the virus spread through the family. Our children also had a propensity for picking up every negative word or action they observed in another child. Even in a Christian church setting, they managed to discover words, attitudes, and actions of which we did not approve.

One Sunday morning a friend of Steve’s visited our church. They had four children about ages six on down. I was stunned as I observed this family sit through ALL of church with ALL of those children. In addition, the children were well behaved. You had better believe the first thing I asked that mom after church was, “How do you get your children to sit so nicely through church?” Her response was very simple, but it revolutionized our family’s future church attendance. We began to practice what she suggested with wonderful results. I want to share this idea in case you are in the stage of life with young children whom you would like to have with you in church, or perhaps know other families with this desire.

We began to train our children to sit in church by practicing during the week at home. We found this method to work amazingly well. It was so simple, yet very effective. Here is how we implemented it in our family.

I held the youngest child, who was still a baby, on my lap during our family Bible time. If he started to try to wiggle down, I held him firmly and said quietly, “No.” If the baby began to make noise, scream, or cry (this is a baby old enough to sit up), I would gently put my finger on his mouth and say, “Shhh.” I did this several times, but if the crying didn’t stop, I would carry the baby to his crib and say, “You must be quiet during devotion time. Mommy will come back to get you when you stop crying.” When the baby was quiet, I would bring him out to the family again and onto my lap. Consistently, we would do this repeatedly as needed. It did produce some interruptions to the devotion time, but if Mom is quietly doing this while Dad continues the Bible time, the distractions are kept to a minimum. We believed the investment was worth the hoped-for outcome.

We also required the other children to sit quietly and attentively during devotions, as we would like them to sit in church. Not only did this help their church behavior, but it also helped them during home Bible time. Because we are not currently training a baby to be quiet and sit on Mama or Papa’s lap in church, we have not maintained the same high standards of behavior during our family devotions, and it has had a negative impact on the children’s attentiveness.

When we were actually at church and the youngest child would not be quiet, either Steve or I would take him out and sit with him where he would not be a distraction. We would be careful not to let him down to crawl or run around because we didn’t want him to learn that if he was noisy he could leave church and have fun. We would do as we did at home, holding him firmly on our lap, putting a finger on his mouth and saying, “Shhh.” Since there was no place to put the baby if he kept on making noise, we would just hold him firmly, praising him anytime he was quiet. If it seemed he was going to stay quiet, we would take him back into the service, leaving again if his noise level rose. There were many services a member of our family missed sitting in the hall at church with a child between nine and eighteen months of age. That was also the age Steve’s friend said was the hardest. However, the fruit of being able to sit through two-hour church services with five young children has been worth those few missed services. We never have to take our children out of church for being disruptive anymore, although there are times when they have some “practice” to do when we get home from church.

We have helped our children toward quiet, respectful behavior in church by giving them an environment to encourage their success. They don’t get to eat, read, or have toys. This makes church a different place from home or another play area. They do have notebooks to scribble in or take notes in if they remember to bring them to church.

Our little ones are not “perfect” in church. They sometimes whisper to each other and to us. Their eyes can wander here and there. They will get off their seat from time to time to pick up a Bible or change laps. They don’t sit like statutes through the service. This is within our level of tolerance of a child’s behavior in church. Others must agree with us because we regularly receive comments on how good the little children are in church. If our children cross the boundaries for church behavior we have set, they will again find they have some practice time at home after church.

It is a joy for us to have our family worshipping all together. We don’t feel our younger children are missing out on anything by being with us. They receive spiritual training on their level at home. They enjoy going to church with their family. They learn to listen, pray, and worship by watching their parents, older siblings, and other church members. It is a delight for Steve and me. We are most indebted to the Hunsburger family, whom we knew in Kent, Washington eleven years ago, for showing us that it was possible to attend a corporate worship service as a family even with little children!

How Long Does Character Growth Take?

Are you ever disheartened because your children aren’t making the progress you desire, particularly in an area of character growth? Does this cause you to want to give up working on it? The Lord has been showing Steve and me some new insights concerning this that I believe are worthy of discussing in a Mom’s Corner.

Do you remember when I shared with you last summer about our work on teaching our younger children to say, “Yes, Ma’am” and, “No, Ma’am?” Let me reprint that part of the Mom’s Corner here to refresh your memory.

For example, this summer we were teaching our younger children to answer with, “Yes, Ma’am. No, Ma’am. Yes, Sir. No, Sir.” This was being accomplished by dropping one M&M into a mug with their name on it each time they respond in the desired fashion. At an approved time they would be allowed to eat their M&Ms. We also made this into a game for character teaching time when there was a major cleanup to be done.

“Jesse,”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Please pick up the Legos.”

“Yes, Ma’am.” Two M&Ms are popped into his mouth and another one when he returns after finishing his pickup.

“Anna,”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Mommy wants you to take these socks and put them in the dirty clothes hamper.”

“Yes, Ma’am.” Again, two M&Ms are immediately eaten and a third one offered when she returns. We continued until all the little tasks were completed, and would you believe they didn’t want to stop even when I couldn’t find anything else to do?

This training was so successful that the children were saying “Yes, Sir” to Nathan, our twenty-one-year-old son. Nathan was pleased enough with this show of respect from his younger brothers and sisters that he purchased a three-pound bag of M&Ms and another one of Skittles to continue the character-teaching rewards.

I wrote that Mom’s Corner a little over a year ago. At the time this was written, it sounded greatly successful, but it was short term! However, guess who, in the long run, was trained to say, “Yes, Ma’am”? It was Mom! After the newness of our project wore off, I was constantly reminding the children how they were to respond, and M&Ms were being handed out infrequently.

I was disheartened and took the situation to Steve. He encouraged me to keep working with the children on their “Yes, Ma’ams,” and to wait patiently for the results. So we continued.

Do you know that a year and a half after we began this character project with our children, they are finally consistently responding the way we want them to? Our ten-year-old son, the oldest of the children who are learning this, is the “king” of “Yes, Ma’ams” in our family. It goes down the age line as to how well each child is doing with answering properly.

Does a year and a half sound like a long time to learn to say, “Yes, Ma’am?” It sure does to me! To be honest with you, if I had known a year and a half ago that it would take my children this long to learn it, I am not sure I would have undertaken the job. At least, I would have begun with different expectations. This has brought a new perspective on the reality of what character teaching really means!

I like quick results! I am willing to put forth effort in a certain direction with my children’s character growth, but I want to see immediate, lasting results. I am slowly learning character development is not always an instant outcome kind of project! As a matter of fact, it is likely to take weeks, months, and even years.

What I am continually learning through these last twenty-three years of parenthood is that God has called me, as a mom, to be faithful to Him. Ephesians 6:4 says, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Therefore, I am to be obedient and consistent in teaching my children the ways of the Lord. I am to teach, train, discipline, encourage, and praise. I am to pray diligently concerning the specific area we are working toward. However, the results are the Lord’s; “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). Whether it takes a week, a month, a year, or ten years does not matter.

How freeing this can be for us, as moms, to not have to shoulder the responsibility for the outcome. On the other hand, the responsibility of remaining consistent in focusing on the teaching and training is tremendous. It can become wearisome, at times, if our eyes come off the Lord and onto ourselves. Galatians 6:9 is a familiar verse to us. It says, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” What better good is there for us to do than to teach our children to grow in Christ-likeness?

It is easy for us mothers to wonder if we are ruining our children when we don’t see the development of character that we believe should be there. My prayer is that we can let go of these negative thoughts and feelings while dedicating ourselves to fulfilling the calling the Lord has given us.

It should not be surprising that it would take our children time to develop godly character. Look at our own personal struggles with character as adults. For example, how often do you respond to your children with a slight tone of irritation in your voice? Is that the way you want to answer them? Have you prayed and worked toward not letting this happen? Do you still do it?

Hebrews 5:14 says, “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” If, “by reason of use,” we come to discern both good and evil, it makes sense to me that “by reason of use” is also an integral part of learning to do good. “Character” doesn’t happen overnight!

I so much want to encourage each of you to expect the development of godly character to be a long, continuing, ongoing process worthy of the pouring out of your very life! Don’t look at the short-range progress but at the long-term goals. Set your heart, prayers, and consistent teaching on the Lord’s desire for your child to grow in Christ-likeness. Then patiently, day by day, teach, train, and love your children toward their character growth, knowing that the Lord Who has called you is faithful. “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)” (Hebrews 10:23).

My heart rejoices when I hear my children answer with sweet, positive “Yes, Ma’ams.” I am grateful Steve encouraged me to not give up when I was ready to do so a year ago. The fruit truly is worth the continuing efforts that were put forth.

What about you? Have you been discouraged lately over a lack of character growth in your children? Have you become weary in your well doing? May I encourage you to step back, take a deep breath, lift your heart to the Lord, and continue on. Be ready for the long haul, not looking for immediate results but trusting the Lord for the long-term ones.

Pleasant Words Promote Instruction

“The wise in heart are called discerning, and pleasant words promote instruction (Prov. 16:21).” This is one of my favorite verses in regards to home schooling and to raising children. It is a verse I need to remind myself of daily. I also have to ask the Lord to help me see the value of pleasant words and to let me be aware of when they can be used. It is easy for me to spot a child’s infraction; that comes naturally. It takes the Lord’s help to be as conscious of when to use those pleasant words.

Pleasant words are appropriate in discipline situations. Sometimes I wonder what our children must think of us when we have our stern face and stern words on. Have you ever watched and listened to another mother in this mode and thought to yourself, “Look how hard and harsh she is!” Would our children have an easier time responding to our discipline if we had the same discipline but a sweet disposition while doing it? This is not the purpose of this Mom’s Corner, though. Rather I want us to consider the value of practicing pleasant words to praise and encourage our children.

Sometimes I am absolutely amazed, at what sounds very “syrupy” sweet to me when I say it, but will bring the biggest, brightest smile to my child. Right now Anna, age six, is diligently working on learning to read and write. When she makes a particular letter well, perhaps a ‘p,’ I will say, “What a great ‘p’ that was, Anna!” Her face immediately lights up with pleasure! I can assure you that there are many, many letters on her page that are not made nicely and even this one I am praising is probably not perfect. I feel certain, though, that she is much more motivated to continue working to make her letters nicely by my “pleasant words” than she would be by my criticism of her poorly formed ones.

When we brought our oldest son, now 22, home to school fifteen years ago, he was struggling with his newly acquired reading skills. I had no experience teaching reading and few resources to draw upon for the remedial help he needed. I decided that I would have him read out loud to me for ten minutes a day. I also purposed to praise him highly for the words he read correctly and to patiently help him sound out the words he struggled with, not allowing any criticism or irritation on my lips as I did so.

Unbelievably to me, within just a few short weeks, his reading skills had improved to where he could read almost anything put in front of him. He no longer dreaded reading time as he had before, but he was actually enjoying the stories he could now read for himself.

Pleasant words promote instruction. Isn’t instruction our goal in home schooling? We want our children to learn to be Christ-like; we want them to develop godly character, and we desire that they excel educationally as much as possible. Scripture says that pleasant words will help us to these goals because they promote instruction. We can say the exact same words with a sweet voice or with a hard voice, pleasant words or harsh words. What will be the outcome of each? We can also use pleasant words or critical words in most situations. Which will promote the instruction that is the prayer of our hearts for our children?

Gratitude comes under the heading of “pleasant words” in my mind. How I delight in expressions of gratefulness to me and how difficult it can be for me to receive criticism. I am finding this is just as true for my children. My seventeen-year-old daughter thrives on praise and gratitude, being highly motivated by it. Our children need to learn to receive criticism with a proper spirit, and I expect they will have plenty of opportunities for just that. I want to push that unnatural tendency in myself, learning to major on gratitude and praise while “minoring” on the reprimands that do come naturally.

“Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price (1 Pet 3:3-6).” I wonder how much of this meek and quiet spirit is evidenced by our pleasant words. No matter how hard I try for pleasant words, it is a matter of the Lord changing my heart. “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34b).” I must make this heart change issue an area that I am constantly bringing before my Lord Jesus Christ in prayer and petition. Also, I want to not be satisfied with having a spirit that easily criticizes my children but has difficulty praising them. “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose (Phil. 2:13).” I desire to see these negative heart attitudes as sin, confessing them to my children and to my Lord. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9).”

Yes, I have a responsibility to teach and train my children which will involve plenty of opportunities to correct them, but may the joy of my heart be to praise, encourage, and express gratitude to them. May I see the value in these “pleasant words.” I challenge you to evaluate your day-to-day interactions with your children. Are they lop-sided on the critical, hard side or do you find frequent occasions to verbally express your pleasure with those precious children? Pleasant words promote instruction!

What Is a Mother to Do?

One of the biggest mothering frustrations I face is deciding what consequences a wrong behavior in one of my children should receive. I watch an attitude or action that I know ought to be corrected, but I am at a loss as to what to do about it. I want to be consistent and have consequences standardized, but I will sometimes ignore the situation just because I don’t know how to discipline for it.

For example, yesterday four-year-old Jesse came upstairs crying that eight-year-old John was wearing his hat. I had two issues to deal with. John had been unkind in wearing Jesse’s hat and in keeping it when Jesse asked for it back. Jesse had also not been kind, because he wouldn’t wait for John to finish with the hat, and he came whining to me. So, what is a mother to do?!

I imagine each of you faces issues like this several times a day in your home, if you have more than one child. We are able to work with these situations even more since we are homeschoolers because we have that many more hours each day with our children home. To be honest with you, I would rather avoid these sorts of interactions between my children. Wouldn’t it be better, though, for me to see each one as an opportunity to teach and train my children? With these kinds of thoughts, I could actually be happy when the need for consequences arises.

A schedule gives direction for your day. In a similar way, standardizing and knowing exactly what you will do for many of the common areas that require discipline in your home gives direction to your child training. If you need help in this area, I suggest an If-Then Chart to help you work through this task of determining consequences and then writing them down to be posted in the home for easy reference. I can still remember the evening five or six years ago when two moms excitedly stood up in our homeschool support group meeting and shared this “treasure” they had discovered. I agree!

I wish I knew how many times I have said to one of my children, “If you ______ one more time, you will have to ______.” By the time they do it again, I have forgotten what I said the consequence would be! If I had written it down, then I could have consulted my notes and followed through.

Recently we were working on the children becoming responsible for brushing their teeth in the morning. I spent our scheduled “training time” in the late afternoons teaching the children how to brush their teeth, how long to brush, and how to put their toothbrush away afterwards.

We still needed a consequence if the teeth weren’t brushed. The decision was made to have the child lose two days’ worth of dessert if he hadn’t brushed his teeth. I wrote this on the white board and then kept track of any offenders there. Once the “rule” and the “consequence” were written down, I was no longer at a loss as to what to do when I noticed a toothbrush that still had toothpaste on it. I didn’t have to nag, fuss, or feel frustrated. I could just call the non-toothbrusher to the bathroom, tell him to please brush his teeth, and express my sympathy that he had chosen to miss two days’ worth of dessert because he hadn’t brushed them!

Here are a few other examples from the Maxwell household. If a child interrupts, he is to put his hand over his mouth until Dad or Mom lets him take it off. This comes from Proverbs 30:32, “If thou hast done foolishly . . . lay thine hand upon thy mouth.”

Certainly, a child who barges into a conversation is being foolish!

We have also “backwards” applied Proverbs 17:1, “Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than a house full of sacrifices with strife.” When our children are fussing with each other, the consequence is to eat a dry crust, and we quote this particular verse with them.

May I encourage you that investing the time in determining consequences for “infractions” will be well worth the consistency you will achieve in disciplining your children. It will also remove a big area of frustration for you as the mom. This process takes thought, prayer, and consultation with your husband. Writing down the results, perhaps in a notebook, or on a chart such as the If-Then Chart is a necessity for remembering what you have chosen.

I plan to update our If-Then Chart; they do need revising, in my opinion, as the children grow. I have been dealing with times of frustration due to the uncertainty in discipline issues, because I have not been using the “tools” the Lord has given me in this area. I plan to spend time this summer regenerating my chart and then applying it! Maybe you would benefit from doing this too!