Tag Archives: Child Training

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!

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!

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.

Child Training

“Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul” (Proverbs 29:17). Does this characterize your children and your home? I must admit that there are times my children do not give me rest or delight my soul. When this happens, my first reaction is to groan inside with the thoughts, “Oh no, not again!” If my children are not delighting my soul or giving me rest, I have come to realize that the issue can fall back on me. I have become lax in discipline. I don’t like this responsibility. I would rather have gentle reminders bring about results. “A servant will not be corrected by words: for though he understand he will not answer” (Proverbs 29:19). This can characterize my children.

Sometimes there are days when the constancy of my children’s infractions has worn me out. I can become very discouraged by it. Considering our younger children, we have several we are working on such basics as: closing the bathroom door when they enter, flushing the toilet and washing hands, putting shoes or jackets in the closet when removed, brushing teeth without reminders, chewing with their mouth closed, and others. Since we begin teaching the children proper behavior in these areas as soon as a child is capable, one might think these habits would be developed by now. There is good news. These are not areas we are working on with our older children, so consistency does pay off!

I have come to see that the big picture can be overwhelming to me. By big picture, I mean tackling all the problems at once. However, if I focus in on one particular area, we often will achieve success. For example, four-year-old Anna was not putting her shoes in her bedroom when she took them off. She did this several times a day. This not only cluttered the living room and caused others to stumble over them, but sometimes it made us all have to go on a hunt for the shoes when they could not be found. We decided she needed to learn to take her shoes and socks to her bedroom and place them beside her bed whenever she took them off. First, we discussed this with her, and I showed her what I wanted her to do. Then for a few days, I would remind her if she forgot. “Oh, Anna, I am sure you are not planning to leave your shoes and socks in the living room, are you?”

I also looked for a creative consequence for failure. If I have too many creative consequences for different areas we are working on, I forget them! So again, I try to have one major focus at a time. The consequence in this case was to be practice. After the teaching and reminding, I would quietly call her back to the living room if she left her shoes there. In a sad voice, I would say, “Anna, I am so sorry you did not put your shoes where they belong. I want you to take them now and put them by your bed. Then come back and tell Mommy.” When she returned I would ask her to go get the shoes and bring them back again. Next I would say, “Anna, you did not remember to put your shoes by your bed when you took them off, so I want you to practice by taking them and putting them there again. Report to me when you are done.” I would have her do this two or three times.

It was amazing how much that little girl could dislike practicing putting her shoes away! I also highly praised her when she remembered to make that trip down the hallway to her bedroom. I would report her success to the other family members in front of her. She did learn to carry the shoes to her room when she took them off, although, as I write this, I think I have seen them out again lately. Maybe it is time to “practice” again.

Often to help me avoid getting frustrated over some of these discipline areas, I will write them on a list or on the whiteboard. Sometimes I do not have time to address a problem. If I write it down, I know I will not forget it, and I remember to deal with it later. For instance, when I go downstairs to put Jesse down for his nap, I might see clothes out in the bedroom or toys that have not been put away. Calling one of the three boys who share this bedroom to come pick up, when it is time for Jesse to get to sleep, is not a good option. I make a mental note about the problem and write a physical note when I get upstairs so that it can be corrected after naptime.

Another reason writing down the problem helps is that with a little time it may not be as emotional or upsetting to me. I might realize I was making a mountain out of a molehill. It will also give me time to pray and ask the Lord what to do about the situation. Sometimes frustration comes because I know we have a problem, but I am not doing anything about it. Maybe I don’t know what to do. I simply need time to pray about it. With it written down, it won’t be forgotten if it is important enough to need attention that can’t be given or figured out at that moment.

Working on one problem area at a time helps me, too, because in order to be consistent, I must be the one who is trained. Once I made a list on the white board that said, “Train Mom to: send children to wash hands before meals and after meals, ask if they flushed the toilet, turned the light off. . . .” When we decided it would be a good idea for our children to respond to us with a, “Yes, Mom,” or, “Yes, Dad,” I would say something to a child and get no response. I would then say, “Yes, Mom,” for that child. I laughed with Steve at how well I was trained in saying, “Yes, Mom.” If I can remember to work in the weak area, or to check on it, we will usually have some measure of success. That is why keeping the number of things to focus on small helps me to be consistent. If there are too many, they all slip away from me.

Evaluate your home life for areas where peace is lacking. Do not be discouraged! Instead, be committed to working toward peace by tackling one area at a time that needs attention. Teach your children with a meek and quiet spirit. Be positive. Praise them for little successes. Look for creative, reasonable discipline for failure. God’s Word is always true, “Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul” (Proverbs 29:17).

Pleasant Disciplining

Recently I began to play back in my mind how I interact with my children, especially when it comes to discipline. This is an area in which the Lord has been teaching me, so I have been aware of it over the past few years. I could picture the stern look that sometimes comes to my face as I interact with an offender.

I have brought this before the Lord, asking Him to teach me how to discipline without becoming emotionally involved. Steve has likened this process to a policeman giving a speeder a ticket. This is just part of his job. The policeman isn’t angry with the motorist; he isn’t frustrated with having to give a ticket; he doesn’t have an irritated tone in his voice; he just does his job. As a mom, that is how I have wanted to handle my discipline situations. My job is to teach and train my children. There will be times when this will involve discipline. If I expect my children to learn from training and teaching situations without ever needing discipline, then I am setting myself up for disciplining filled with negative emotions. If, on the other hand, I expect that discipline will also be a part of my mothering job, then I can have a better chance of handling it as the policeman does his job.

I have realized that I not only want to discipline without being negatively involved emotionally, but also choose to go a step further and be pleasant through the process. As I have tried this over the past two weeks, I have seen some positive results. One of my children even told me the other night that they liked it much better when I was happy when correcting them. There are some reasons why I think this may be. A pleasant attitude on my part while disciplining eases the tension of the situation. It relieves me of any negative feelings that I might take away with me and carry into the next interaction with that child. It shows honor and respect for the child. If Steve has to correct me on something, I want him to be pleasant with me; I owe my children the same courtesy.

Proverbs 16:21 says, “. . . the sweetness of the lips increaseth learning.” During discipline, we want our children to learn from our instruction. Therefore, it would benefit us to heed God’s Word and choose to use sweet words. Our attitude and tone can cause our words to lose their pleasantness.

We often will not feel pleasant, so we have to choose to act pleasant. The Lord has been showing me this is a choice I can make. I do not have to act according to negative feelings. This choice is a part of taking my thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ as 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells me to do. When I do make the choice to act pleasant despite feeling negative emotions, I find my feelings will begin to become positive too.

What about you? Can you think back to your recent interactions with your children? Are you looking at their faces? Are you smiling at them? Are you being pleasant with them? I pray each of us will choose to make our homes pleasant places by our pleasantness even when it is necessary to discipline. May God make us women who build our houses up rather than tearing them down with our own hands (Proverbs 14:1).