Consequences series – What? When? How? Part 2 Finding the cause

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So you have read through the consequences series introduction and your parenting “ducks” are all in a row. You’ve booked into a GFI parenting course, ordered some good quality parenting books, your husband/wife relationship is flourishing, your routine is on track, the children’s love tanks are full and you are training their hearts. With all this in place you have seen dramatic improvements in their behaviour and many of the problems you were dealing with previously have all but disappeared. And yet… there are still behaviours that need to be worked on!

Our children are sinful creatures (like us!) and yes, no matter how perfect your parenting is there will always be issues to deal with. Today we are going to take a brief look at finding the root cause of the problem, also know as the “besetting sin” or underlying cause that will help us to see where some of those behaviours are coming from.

Having a good understanding of basic personality types will help immensely as these are often very closely tied with the areas that our children struggle in. A highly choleric child will tend to be bossy and impatient, the sanguine child can be impulsive, disorganised and easily detracted, the phlegmatic child struggles with time management and diligence. While it is not helpful to put our children in a box as some critics would say, having some idea of their underlying motivations, needs and approach to life will help you to better parent them. My favourite book for those who have yet to explore this area is “Personality Plus” or “Personality Plus for Parents” by Florence Littauer. Who knows, you may have a whole new understanding of why and how you relate to your child as you do.

Secondly, grab hold of a list of character qualities or virtues. This will help you to categorize your children’s areas of struggles and start to see the connection between them. There is a free printable version here or here.

The “Working With Your Child’s Besetting sin” series of messages by Joey and Carla Link from Parenting Made Practical is brilliant for understanding and identifying your child’s personality type and working to improve their sin areas.  But I warn you, you will want to listen to the rest of the Mom’s notes series as they are the best parenting resource I have ever come across after the GFI parenting courses.

The idea of your child’s besetting sin or root of the misbehaviour is that many different wrongful behaviours can actually spring from the same underlying motivation or lack of character/virtue. The example Carla uses in her Mom’s notes message is that of patience. A child who constantly interrupts others when they are speaking, pushes past siblings to get out the door, shows frustration with anyone or anything that holds them up etc. is demonstrating a lack of patience. As a parent, you could come up with a bunch of different consequences to suit every different occasion that you see it demonstrated, but you really need only one – for the lack of patience itself – as this is the underlying cause or besetting sin.

So how do you start to find this common link between behaviours?

Sit down and make a list. List everything that your child does that you would consider less than virtuous! Once you have done this (and if they are anything like most children it will be quite a long list) take your character chart and note down next to each problem the character quality (virtue or vice) that they displayed. Perhaps they lack diligence, honesty or generosity? Sometimes it is easier to find the vice being displayed rather than the virtue and vice versa. Hopefully, by the time you have finished you will be starting to see a pattern. Maybe your toddler is simply showing a lack of self control and this is showing itself in a variety of ways. (Just a tip – most toddlers are lacking in self control and need to do lots of work in this area 😉 ) Perhaps an older child is not showing the responsibility necessary and appropriate for their age.

Once you have identified the areas you need to work on you have a starting point. Spending time actively working on the positive side of the vice is going to be vital. If your child is impatient then you need to be focussing on training them in patience, not just correcting for impatience. If they are lacking in responsibility then they are going to need lots of training and encouragement in this area. To ignore this training will mean that you are continuously ‘cleaning up’ the result of the lack of virtue but doing little to build the corresponding character that you want to see. Yes, there will be a place for correction (after all, that will be a major part of what this series of posts is all about!) however, without the balance you will be struggling uphill.

Consequences Series – What? When? How? (Introduction)

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Today is the beginning of a series springing from the discussions I have been having with the Mothers I meet with on a monthly basis. It is not meant to provide you with everything you need to know in order to discipline and train your child effectively, but will hopefully give interested parents some valuable advice and strategies for dealing with some of the more common battles we face with our children on a regular basis.

Consequences is a hot topic for many parents. We all want our children to obey, but if we jump straight to a whole bunch of punishments as our single and only method of achieving this then we are bound to fail. The consequences that we give our children should aim to achieve heart change, not just outward conformity. We can alter the behaviours that annoy us the most, but our aim should be to change the heart of the child, to train them in Godly character and prepare them for a relationship with God inasmuch as it is possible for us to do so.

So where do we start? Parenting is a multilayered affair and without a solid foundation underpinning the consequences we do use we will not achieve the best possible outcome. While just using our common sense will take us a long way, parenting is a difficult task and even the best of us can improve and develop our parenting skills.

As a first step I would recommend taking the Growing Kids God’s Way parenting course.(AustraliaUSA  and elsewhere.) There is so much to learn and know and while we can glean a tip here and there, a solid base is better laid with some intensive training.

Read some good quality parenting material. There is an abundance of parenting information out there and not all of it is good so again, I personally would recommend staring with gfi material. The Childwise series, Terrific Toddler books 1 & 2 and other gfi material contains a wealth of information to get you started. Check the gfi website in Australia and growing families USA for recommended titles.

Work on your husband/wife relationship. Without harmony in the home and parents who are on the same page, parenting will be an uphill battle. Use the concept of couch time from the gfi material, set a time to discuss your parenting together and make a plan of attack. Single/divorced/remarried parents can still work to achieve the best parenting practice possible within the situation they find themselves. Blending Families by the Book  is an excellent resource, as is the single parent supplement that goes with the Growing Kids God’s Way course.

You must be filling your children’s love tanks. Children will act out to gain attention/time/focus (even if it is negative) if they are not getting enough love in the way that they receive it. Different children have different love languages and different level of needs.) See Filling Their Love Tanks – The Five Love Languages of Children.

We need to train our children’s hearts, setting aside time to teach what we expect from them (proactive parenting) rather than simply reacting when they do something we don’t like. We need to work on their character and fill their moral warehouse by explaining the moral reason why for the instructions that we give.  We should be doing everything possible to prepare their hearts to know God.

It is essential to have a flexible, consistent routine in place. One that includes time where our children are with us and time where they are learning to play happily alone. A balanced routine will include activities that teach children to sit, focus and concentrate and involve only age-appropriate choices. Mum and Dad, not the child, should be in charge. Even babies need a good routine. 

So much of our success with parenting depends on us to begin with. How we give instructions plays a vital part in the level of obedience we will receive in return. How we respond when our children disobey and how we train them for future situations will help to determine the outcome of the battles we face repeatedly. It’s a tricky business but one that is worth pouring our time and energies into. I hope that the information today and in posts to come will help you on your parenting journey.

The dumping rule

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When there are 7 children in the house (or even just 1 or 2!) it doesn’t take long for a trail of destruction to threaten to take over. I do have systems in place to make sure it doesn’t get too out of hand but even with pack-up times built into our routine throughout the day there are certain areas that just seem to get cluttered with a pair of shoes here and a hairband or two there, plus a towel on the floor and a pair of knickers decorating the door handle… and so on.

I asked my worst trail maker what consequence they thought was appropriate for people who left their belongings laying about for others to pick up. They responded after some thought that they should pick up twice as many things as they had left behind. This was a brilliant answer as this happened to be exactly what I had been thinking of doing anyway (I love it when that happens), so I promptly instigated it as our consequence on the spot. One item left on the floor equals a consequence of picking up 2 more items, plus the original one you left in the first place.

It is amazing how quickly you can get the house tidied when there are a couple of bits and pieces strewn about. I just start at the front of the house and pick up the first item, identify the owner and point out it plus the 2 other items they will be required to put away. It a minute or two everyone is zooming about collecting stuff and the house is back to ship-shape. After a few days of this, I simply let everyone know that I will be conducting a dumping check in the next little while and they go scrambling off around the house madly putting their stuff away without me having to do anything.

It goes great with the 10 times rule for those who can’t remember to hang up a towel or shut the door.

Silver Boxes – Words of life

The concept of silver boxes comes from a book I read recently by Florence Littauer, itself titled “Silver Boxes.” The positive, uplifting and loving words we say to those around us are like giving them a pretty silver box. Each time we use these powerful, positive words to speak life to our children it’s like placing another silver box onto their pile.

As I read I was reminded again of how powerful our words are and how careful we must be to guard our tongue. We have the ability to build others up or tear them down with only our words, to brighten a day and encourage someone or to make them feel flat and down. Our spouse and children are the first we should be considering when we use our words, but how often do we turn on the cheer for the person at the door or on the phone when moments before we have been barking and growling at the ones around us that we love the most?

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Formal certificates, stamps and other small tokens are a tangible form of silver boxes. Try to link them to character rather than just ability. One child can memorise and recite a poem in a few minutes while another has to apply themselves diligently for weeks. Praise the effort, not only the skill.

Deserved praise is one of the special ways we can give our children silver boxes. Again, focus on praising character rather than skill. When your child completes a puzzle, commend their focus, concentration, perseverance and effort in doing so, rather than just the act of completion. Otherwise the message becomes “You must be successful to earn my praise,” when it should be more along the lines of “If you work hard and try your best it is a commendable virtue.”

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If we praise a child for being a “good reader” for example, the sibling who is not gifted in this area cannot be praised for the same. However, every child can practise diligently, work responsibly, learn sight words with perseverance, be attentive to your teaching and refuse to give up. Praise them for these character traits even as they struggle with learning the skill.

Avoid over-praising. For many of us, giving too little praise is more of a problem, however make sure that the praise you do give is deserved. Do not go into raptures over mediocre efforts and achievements. Look for achievements that come after hard work and effort. Again, linking praise to character means you can give copious amounts of praise that is deserved, rather than false flattery. If your child has done a sloppy job of cleaning their room but you want to encourage them in their efforts, comment specifically on something they have done well. Do not say “Your room looks great!” when clearly it does not. Try, “Well done for showing initiative and responsibility in remembering to tidy up this morning without Mummy having to remind you.”

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Teach siblings the power of words. Encourage them to give each other silver boxes. Do not allow them to be harsh, critical or unkind to each other.

Praise plates are a great way of giving silver boxes in the form of written encouragement. They help those of us who need to remember to be intentional about praising the good things our children are and do, rather than always focussing on the negative. For a full description, see here.

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Giving children chores is a great way to teach them character, responsibility and a sense of achievement. Don’t forget to be thankful for the work they do and let them know how much you appreciate their efforts. A child will often go the extra mile with pleasure after you have noticed the effort they put into doing a task.

Each year on our children’s birthdays my husband and I both write them a letter. Throughout the year, as the children achieve milestones, learn something new, lose a tooth or make a funny statement we make a note of it on our calendar. Anything that we want to remember is quickly jotted down right as it happens so we don’t forget it. As their birthdays come around, we use these calendar notes to write our letters. They are full of love and positive memories for the children to treasure – another way to give silver boxes. Read more about them here.

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My children love to have me take photographs of things they have created. It shows that I value their work, especially if I use the photo in a bog post for all the world to see!!

Mummy and Daddy dates are a great forum for silver boxes of quality time and uplifting words. We don’t do them all the time, but when we do, the children remember them as highlights. We keep the outings simple; breakfast at McDonald’s, a trip to the local op shop, a play at Jungle Gym or an icecream run once everyone else is in bed. Especially if there has been some conflict in our relationship, a “date” outside of the home removes all the conflict points. You are not expecting anything from them, you are doing something they love to do, no-one else is there to compete with and they have your full attention. Make sure you use the time to speak some uplifting words and tell them how much you like to spend time with them.

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If your child is always showing you something, pointing out what they have done and generally seeking after your praise, consider whether this may be their love language. If you withhold it from them their love tank will become empty and they will behave in ways you do not enjoy, just to get attention from you. Far better to supply deserved positive words than to be dealing with a child who is “needy” in this area.

Some people require more silver boxes than others. Those who’s love language is words of encouragement need to hear those positive words. Some of us can give or take them, but others cannot feel loved without those verbal expressions of love, acceptance and praise. Negative words also cut more deeply for children to whom words of affirmation is their primary love language. Be aware too, that unkind, harsh or negative words can tear down that pile of silver boxes much more quickly than it was built up.

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An unthoughtful comment about a child’s appearance may be remembered for the rest of their life and knocks down many other positive silver boxes they may have been given in the same area. I can still remember a comment a primary school teacher made about my toes!

When you are having a bad day, take a deep breath and look around for something you can praise for. Catch that child doing anything positive and start to give some words of appreciation and encouragement. Even the tiniest silver box can turn the day around. A good rule of thumb is 3 positive comments for every correction you need to give. It’s harder than it sounds but so worth it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sharing bedrooms; pros and cons

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To share or not to share? Bedrooms, not beds that is! Some of us have a choice and others have children sharing bedrooms as a necessity. Over our parenting years we have experienced both – siblings in separate rooms and bunking in together.

Some of the benefits of sharing we have seen are:

  • closer relationships and bonding between brothers and sisters as they share their space together.
  • a sense of responsibility and big brother/sister pride (in a good way) as the older children take care of younger siblings. We heard a great story a while back about a younger child who thought of their older brother as his ‘guardian in the ceiling’ during the night. My eldest son commented at the time that he couldn’t wait to be his little brother’s guardian.
  • older siblings are aware of issues in the night and can get help from Mum and Dad without the entire house needing to be woken up or in some cases solve the problem quickly themselves. In the event of a disaster (fire etc.) young children have an older child to help get them safely out. We also discuss and role-play what to do in these situations because it is abundantly clear to us through our own experience that even children who you think would react well in a crisis don’t necessarily have any idea of what to do. (But that’s a post for another day!)
  • a sense of security. Our children dislike being in their rooms alone now if a sibling is away for some reason and are much happier sharing .
  • character flaws come to the forefront and need to be dealt with! It doesn’t sound like a plus but it really is. Children who have their own little private world can hide a lot of selfish attitudes and other problems because they are not challenged in this area. My children’s flaws are out there on display! Hopefully these will be much improved in the long run because they are forced to face them and work on them now. Learning to share your space and respect others is a skill.
  • extra room. We know families who choose to have several siblings sharing in each bedroom so they can use another bedroom as a toy room, computer room, office etc. to give the family more living space during the day. For some, the bedroom is simply that – a room for beds and sleeping and nothing else. The family is then together in the common spaces of the house which leaves no problems with a child (particularly a teenager) isolating themselves from the rest of the family.

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The negatives we have faced are:

  • changing sheets on top bunks.
  • having to deal with behavioural issues at night when you just want to sit down and relax. (Children talking and keeping themselves or others awake. Early risers waking others up in the morning.)
  • sorting out fights over who made the mess and who should be cleaning it up.
  • one child disturbing another during the night going to the toilet, sleep talking etc. (Most of ours sleep through anything, or fall back to sleep in seconds if woken.)

Looking at these two lists, we still feel that the positives outweigh the potential negatives, but we have had to work on overcoming the issues. We have used several different methods over the years, depending on circumstances (age of children, mix of personalities etc.) that have been helpful to us. Some of these are:

  • getting Daddy to change the top bunk sheets on a weekend when they need doing, especially when I am pregnant 🙂
  • proactively managing our morning routine right from the time a child first moves from their cot into a big bed. See this post on moving to a big bed and managing morning routines for a full explanation of how we do this.
  • teaching children to respect each other’s belongings. They are not allowed to take their brother or sister’s personal items without getting permission first.
  • ensuring that every child has their own space and some belongings that are off-limits to others. Each child has a private area in the form of a desk and shelving, bookshelves or cupboard.  Sometimes this space is in their bedroom, sometimes in another room.
  • staggered bedtimes so hopefully the first child is asleep or at least very dopey by the time the second gets to bed.
  • allowing some quiet talking in the dark for a short period after lights out. (Also a great way to build positive relationships between siblings.) One of us will say goodnight and turn out the lights. The children are allowed to talk quietly to each other until the second parent comes to say goodnight, then quiet is expected.
  • playing an audio bible CD, an audio story or music on a portable stereo very quietly so that they have to be quiet to hear it.
  • setting consequences for those who simply won’t stop disturbing the other child(ren.) Sometime this does mean chastisement, but we have also used other consequences such as the offending child having to pay back sleep time lost with interest! This can take the form of a compulsory nap the following day, going back to bed during play time the next day or going to bed much earlier the following night. Children who wake others up in the morning may also pay back sleep time, be chastised, do all the morning jobs of the children they have woken up, or perhaps sit in the laundry during morning reading time instead of staying in their beds to read with the others. Ours very quickly get to the stage they want to share a room and REALLY don’t want to go back by themselves so if we have the luxury of a spare room sometimes the consequence was that they went back out alone for the night. They hate that!

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Some other points to keep in mind:

  • Make sure day sleeps are not too long (or need to be dropped entirely) so that they are ready for bed and sleep straight away.
  • Make sure they get adequate physical exercise during the day.
  • Ensure children drink a lot of water earlier in the day. Children who do not drink enough will have trouble falling asleep, want to drink a lot at night/just before bed and end up needing to get up repeatedly to go to the toilet (or wet the bed) later in the night. Don’t focus on getting them not to drink before bed, focus on getting them to drink in the morning and throughout the day instead.
  • Some children (especially older babies/young toddlers) put themselves to sleep by having a little chat and sing to themselves or teddy in the dark on their beds. This isn’t a problem when they have their own room but it does drive older children who are trying to sleep crazy! For us it really did seem to be more a developmental stage than outright disobedience – a voice control issue rather than defiance. Working on voice control during the day by having some set times where they read books or do an activity when they are not allowed to speak helps with this.
  • Some people say that having children sharing right from the beginning eliminates many problems. We have never done this, always having our babies in their own rooms so that they do not disturb other children when waking for feeds. Each child has transitioned to a big bed around the 2 year mark (a few months before the next baby arrives) and so far we have always had the luxury of this being in their own room. We can then work on staying in bed, morning routines and all the rest without disturbing older children. They shift into shared arrangements somewhere between 3 and 5 depending on the arrival of subsequent babies! We will eventually run out of space to do this but so far so good.

The blessing we have received in our many children far outweighs the inconvenience of having to share bedroom space. After all, God tells us that children are a blessing. He doesn’t mention needing their own room as a prerequisite to welcoming a large family!

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Buffet training

Something we try to remember as parents is not to expect our children to do anything while out that they do not do at home. For example, if my toddlers are unable to sit at the table for any length of time after a meal, I wouldn’t ask them to do so in a restaurant. We think it is unfair to expect something from them that we have not trained them to be able to do in the first place.

Asher in his highchair

With long-term goals in mind, we include highchair time as a regular part of our daily routine and our little ones are used to happily staying in their highchairs after meals with a couple of small activities to play with for a reasonable amount of time. We can then go to a restaurant or meeting and set them up with something to do and know that they will be happy to sit for quite a while without expecting to get straight down. At home, it means that I have time to finish cleaning up the table and kitchen and leave the area without having a trail of mess that I need to come back to later.

A sitting up on the mat

There are times when we visit others or find ourselves in a situation where there are just too many tempting items for the baby to get into. A young child will only stay in your arms for so long! Mat time training can help here. See introducing mat time and mat time on the go for ideas and explanations. Using a partacot (portable crib) as a playpen can also work well for those china filled houses. (See also starting late.)

Take a look around your table during a meal. If visitors were present, would you be embarrassed? Table etiquette and manners are something we need to go over and over (sigh..) but one strategy that has really helped us is the “3 warning” system.

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We occasionally hold “buffet training” evenings. They are great for a family night activity and really very simple. All we do is put out a whole array of food on the kitchen bench in lots of bowls and have the children move along and serve themselves in the same way they would do at a buffet. We discuss etiquette at the same time and add our own rules to make it work for a home dinner. (For example, “You may skip over no more than 3 of the dishes” to ensure that the tomato haters are satisfied but the vegetable phobic children still end up with a few specimens of the veggie kind on their plate.) The children need to know how to take an appropriate amount, avoid wastage, to think of others coming behind them, use the tongs, general manners and so on.

waitressing

Hosting high teas and other special events in our home and having the older children act as greeters, seaters, waiters and waitresses is also something they love and helps them to learn how to show hospitality and serve others by making people feel welcome and comfortable.

backyard boundaries

Have you ever had a visitor’s child waltz through your house as if they owned it, helping themselves to whatever they like? If children are used to having complete freedom in their own home to go wherever they like, touch what they like and do what they like, then don’t be surprised if they do the same while they are out.

As well as having a routine in place, limiting inappropriate choices and providing verbal, physical or visual barriers in our own home, when we arrive at someone’s house or a play area, one of the first things we do is identify the physical boundaries for the children.

We also spend a little time on the way there discussing the kinds of situations they may face and have the older children remind the younger ones of the manners they need to remember (a good review for them as well!)

A with teddy

To avoid having young children who will only sleep in their own cots at home, we occasionally put them to sleep in a variety of situations; in the portacot in another room, in the pram, on a sibling’s bed, in our big bed, at Grandparentss house for an overnight etc. While they never sleep as well when we are out, at least they will have part of a nap.

While far from perfect, the children are slowly growing and developing into young adults that we hope will be a blessing to us and to others.

Praise plates, character and love languages

We occasionally use reward systems to boost the tone of interaction between siblings and reinforce good character. While our marble jar and treasure tree were an enjoyable way to focus on building positive family identity, they do come with a reward and as such I do not always use them. I do not want the children to get the impression (however subtle) that it is only worth displaying good character if there is something in it for them.

We have just reinstated our praise plate system which we have used and loved in the past. The children have in fact asked for it more than once. It is very simple to set up. Each family member uses one and a half paper plates to make and decorate a pocket (see photo above) using art and craft materials. A bunch of paper slips are cut up and left handy with some coloured pens and we are ready to go. Whenever I or one of the children notice another family member displaying positive character in any way, they write it down on a slip and pop it into that person’s praise plate.

The focus is on character rather than physical attributes and they are not allowed to write them for themselves or point out their own sterling qualities! Some examples are: G showed hospitality today when she greeted Mrs Smith with a lovely welcoming smile and hello. B showed kindness today when he tied his brother’s shoe laces for him. C was very helpful to Mummy and served our family by preparing a delicious salad for lunch. S showed initiative by putting away her ironing before she was asked to do it. The possibilities are endless and the children get better at writing their own as they hear more and more examples.

Older children write their comment and the younger children draw a picture and dictate their praise comment to be written underneath.

Occasionally when there are a few minutes spare before dinner or at an opportune time, all the children are instructed to sit down and complete at least one slip for every other person in the family. This insures nobody is left out and gives me a wonderful way to use those spare moments before a meal is served. My husband and I also take the time to write out several slips for each child and each other and slip them in the praise plates.

This great character chart helps us think of different qualities we want to commend and recognise and prompts us as we think of what we can write. Catching our children doing the right thing is such an encouragement to them.

On Sundays after lunch we stay at the table together and read each person’s praise slips out loud for all to appreciate. This is a wonderful way to fill love tanks and particularly speaks to those children who have words of affirmation as their primary or secondary love language. If you have never come across the idea of love languages, I strongly suggest reading Gary Chapman’s book “The 5 Love Languages.” The 5 Love Languages website is also helpful, with diagnostic tests to determine the love language or your children, spouse or yourself. If you are someone who finds it difficult to speak encouraging words consistently, or tend to be critical with your words, this is an excellent way of ensuring that those ‘building up’ words are heard by your children.

Other posts you may find helpful:

Sizzlers and grace

Spoiled walls – bickering and sibling conflict

Sibling relationships

Fussy eaters and 2 plate dinners


Do you have picky eaters who have somehow come under the delusion that your kitchen operates like a restaurant and dinners are made to order? Perhaps mealtimes are a chore and constant battle is being waged with a child who feels that the meal you have served fails to fit within their stated parameters of acceptable food preferences. Take heart, today’s training tool is for you.

The pervading advice around the traps seems to be along the lines of “Keep meal times positive” and “offer a variety of healthy choices and children will be sure to eat some of them” etc etc. Now I know my own children and their response to these methods would have been very positive – “I positively will not be eating these vegetables” or perhaps, “Thank you Mother dear for this wonderful array of spring vegetables, but tonight I will be having the sausage and bread with a side of sauce and perhaps a dash of mayo.

As a Mother, my aims for our children regarding meals are fairly straight forward. I would like my children to:

  • eat what is set before them
  • do so with a positive attitude
  • keep negative opinions to themselves
  • be able to eat what someone else serves them in a social situation regardless of whether they like it or not
  • be willing to try new things
  • finish within a reasonable timeframe

There are obviously exceptions to the rules. Sick children will not eat well, babies (especially those without all their teeth!) are not expected to plough through a plate of carrot and celery sticks and I do not serve mind blowingly hot and spicy meals etc. But within reason, I expect my children to eat what I serve.

They all have food preferences, in fact so do I. I often do work around these, but only once the children are characterised by eating what they are given. Every now and again, my tomato hating daughter is served a slice of tomato in her sandwich and is expected to choke it down. The mushroom hating son is occasionally expected to slide one of those little suckers down his throat without gagging. I do not serve him a bowl of mushrooms or her a heavily laden tomato bruschetta. I do teach them to quietly put the offending morsels on the side of their plate without comment. (Our rule here is that if they complain aloud about said offending item, they will eat every bite. If it silently appears on the side of the plate it can stay there, unless previously stated that they will be eating it this time.)

If you have ever been at someone else’s house and had one of your children loudly and rudely state that they do NOT like this food and refuse to take even a bite, you will know why I have chosen to occasionally deliberately give them something they prefer not to eat.

So now for the 2 plate dinner tool. It is very simple. Place a small amount of whatever food it is that your picky eater will likely be reluctant to eat on one plate and the rest of the meal on the other. The plates are both set in front of the child at meal times, however the least liked plate is directly in front of them and the rest of the meal is a little out of their reach, but where they can still see it.

With a positive tone and pleasant attitude, explain that you will happily pass them the second plate once they have finished everything on the first plate. Inform the child calmly that when the rest of the family is finished their meals (or at a time set by you) both plates will be removed and dinner will be over. That’s it! No nagging, force feeding, threatening or anything else.

Ensure that you do not give any snacks before the meal that would take away from their appetite and do not allow the child to have a glass of water or anything else before the first plate is finished. Keep the serving very small to begin with and you may even like to have dessert on the table for a meal or two as an added incentive while the initial training is taking place. I always start with other foods that I know they love to eat, as well as a tiny amount of the veggies or whatever else we are battling over.

You may find that they do choose to go without the first couple of times. But if you stick to your guns, give no other food until breakfast, ensure they are hungry at dinner time and not full of snacks, milkshakes or drinks, this will envariably do the trick.

We will face battles with our children at some time or other. For some, eating is never an issue but the challenges arrive in other behavioural areas. With others, the battle is fought and won during meal times and spills over into positive progress across many other areas.

Out of the five children who eat solid food we now have 4 very good eaters. This has not always been the case. The fifth child is in a league of their own and is improving, but I won’t shock you with how we are dealing with those issues just yet!! (Let’s just say that they are becoming intimately aquainted with the laundry.)

Thankfulness and gratefulness

We all want thankful children who notice the things others give to them or do for them and express this thankfulness freely and without being reminded to do so. We love it when others are grateful for the things we do for them and let us know. How intentional are we though when it comes to teaching our children the character quality of thankfulness?

Before Christmas, we talked a lot about receiving gifts, thankfulness and good manners in relation to receiving gifts. I have tried to take this one step further with the children by instilling in them the importance of giving thankyou cards. It’s almost a lost art these days. A quick email or phone call is easy to do and better than nothing, but it is so much more personal and special to receive a handwritten card of thanks.

A friend of mine always sends thank you cards, (well done Miss Jaq!) even after a visit for dinner. They are so pretty and such a bright spot in my day and I have endeavoured to make it a habit for myself and the children with varying degrees of success; in busy seasons it just sometimes gets away from me.

Yesterday we all sat down and had a card making session together (minus the baby and toddlers.) It was lots of fun and we all enjoyed creating a variety of designs. We used a bunch of pretty papers, some silver thank you stickers, flowers and butterflies and some coordinated card. My scrapbooking shape cutters came out, a stick of glue and some flowers and leaves we had previously pressed.

The result is a lovely collection of pre-made cards that will be ready and waiting the next time we need to thank someone. Now all I need to do is get better at actually posting the cards we do make…

Spoiled walls – bickering and sibling conflict

Bickering and nitpicking between siblings – it wears me down and spoils my day. I know they love each other, but some days the love is just not shining through. We all need long-term strategies that seek to address the underlying character issues in our children and must be constantly working on relationship building, loving God and each other and following the biblical mandates regarding speech, tone, building each other up and the like. There are times though, that a well-directed consequence is called for. I need consequences that I can consistently apply whether I am busy or not, repeat over and over, don’t require a heap of supervision and most of all, are effective in addressing the issue.

I recently sat the children down and had a little chat about the unkind speech that was being heard between them. We discussed how that made them feel, what we wanted our family to be like, read some relevant bible verses and then I made up my own little mini metaphor. I asked them to picture a freshly painted wall. How nice and crisp and fresh it looked and how pleasing it was to look at. I then asked them to picture the same wall with dirty fingerprints and food splashes all over it. We talked about how the dirt spoiled the wall in the same way that the unkind words spoiled their friendships.

I let that sink in for a moment or two before informing them that from now on, at the first sign of unkind speech or bickering, the offending child would be given a spray bottle and cleaning cloth to wash down a section of wall. As they cleaned, they can think about “washing” the dirt out of their relationship by replacing their unkind words with words that build others up.

It’s an instant consequence and is easy to enforce. The bickering siblings are separated for a while (which usually helps in itself) and something useful is getting done at the same time. I love it! The only problem is that the clean wall sections make the rest of the wall look even worse… Oh well, I’m sure there will be plenty more occasions that wall cleaning is called for.

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