Offensive Child Training

Do you ever feel like you are always on the defensive in raising your children? Does it seem like you are forever “putting out fires,” being a “referee,” acting as “judge and jury,” or disciplining? It can appear that way in our home, and I find it becomes very wearisome for me when this is the case. I would rather be on the offensive with my children, but how is this accomplished?

First and foremost is the area of prayer. Prayer is the arena where we truly let go of raising our children in our own strength and rely on the Lord. We will obviously be bringing our children’s needs to the Lord by defensive praying, but we can also be praying positively for our children through offensive praying.

Praying Scripture is a great way to be on the offensive with our children. We can pray some of Paul’s prayers, “Lord, fill Nathan with the knowledge of Your will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That Nathan might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness; Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made Nathan to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light” (paraphrased from Colossians 1:9-12).

There is another way to be on the offensive concerning child training and that is through what I will call character-teaching sessions. What would happen if you set aside fifteen minutes each day to “work” on character needs? I think this small amount of time would go a long way in helping to prevent daily problems with the children.

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, the children would be allowed to eat their earned M&Ms. We also made this into a game for character-teaching time.


“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Please pick up the Legos.”

“Yes, Ma’am.” I popped two M&Ms into his mouth and another one when he returned after finishing his pick up.


“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 were immediately given and a third one offered when she returned. 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.

Let me share another example that was recently sent to me by a mom who has begun setting aside a character-teaching time for her children each day. This mom says,

“I also have a half-hour block at 8:00 a.m. called ‘Training Time’ and so far I have taught the 4 older children (ages 7 and younger): how to wash their hands with soap in the bathroom without making a mess or pumping out half the bottle of soap; how to quickly get down from the table, put their dishes on the counter, wash their hands and face, and go into the toy room; and how to do the morning routine properly (get up, dressed, make bed, tidy room, look at a book on their bed). They actually enjoy the practice time since I am calm and not stressed, and it’s fun to have everyone else watching them as they do a task right. I have seen how just this little bit of practice has gone a long way! I think I will keep a list of things I want to teach them (like where to stand when someone rings the doorbell, how to quickly get their seatbelts on, answering the phone correctly, etc.) posted on my fridge, like you suggested a while back.” Tracy

I feel so much better when I am doing something constructive to help my children with their behavior. We can make it into an enjoyable time, so that they hardly even realize they are learning a beneficial character trait. The time may be devoted to issues that have to do with manners and routines. This is important when we consider how much of our nagging and reminders go toward things like, “Did you brush your teeth? Don’t forget to hang up your clothes! Where do boots go when we take them off? Please wait patiently for your turn in the bathroom.”

We can also use this time to discuss situations that might occur between the children and how they could deal with them in a manner that would be pleasing to the Lord. We could even play-act some typical scenarios that occur regularly and practice the right responses in them.

So, what about your home? Are you always on the defensive? Do you think it would be worth investing time in prayer and teaching to be on the offensive? May I encourage you to consider this a wise use of your time.