Family mottos – the 1 line lecture

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Your child’s eyes glaze over and the shutters go down. You get madder and the barrage of words gets louder and longer. Thus begins the parent lecture. Effective? Not usually. Do we all do it? Yep. Is there an alternative? Definitely.

First:

Stop lecturing and start giving calm, consistent, well thought-out consequences. Complete your If/Then chart and know ahead of time how you intend to deal with repeated wrong behaviours. Make sure your child knows what they should be doing in the given situation and train the virtue to counteract the vice. Ensure you have the foundations in place. Read great parenting book such as “Taming the Lecture Bug” by Joey and Carla Link.

Second:

Do most of your training in periods of non-conflict. See here and here.

Third; resign yourself to the fact that reminders will be necessary:

Behaviours do eventually move into the “needing immediate consequences” category, but lets face it, even as adults we don’t change built in patterns of behaviour overnight. (How many resolutions have you broken soon after making them?) Children need time to form new habits of behaviour. This is where family mottos come in.

While you are teaching your children what to do and why they should do it, use simple, catchy phrases that will remind them of this teaching. They need to be short and immediately bring to mind the lessons that you have covered.

For example, while we are working on kind speech we memorise bible verses, read character based stories, sing songs with words that remind us of the truths we are studying and use character based curriculum to delve further into the concept. Our catchy phrase is “lift others up” which comes from one of our memory verses; 1 Thess 5:11 “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up…”

When I hear that the tone of a conversation is starting to slide, I can briefly call out “lift others up” or ask “are you building one another up?” I can use an encouraging tone and have no need of consequences as the children have not yet stepped over the line so to speak. They know what this phrase means, they know they must make a change and they know that if they continue on the path they are on without making a change then consequences are ahead. Quick, easy and stress-free and often very effective.

The following are some of the mottos we use frequently in my family. Many of them are very short summaries of bible verses or biblical concepts that we have studied. We have used the full verse as memory work and discussed what they mean and brainstormed what they look like in action, talking about ways we can apply them in our own lives. When I give the one line lecture version it should bring to the children’s mind the full meaning of the original words, complete with what they should/could be doing in their current situation.

  • Think it through
  • Eat like a lady/gentleman
  • Pot (short for the pot calling the kettle black)
  • Let tomorrow worry about itself
  • Do not let your voice enter a room before your legs do
  • You are not responsible for other people’s behavior, only your own
  • You can’t control what other people do. You can control how you react
  • Thank you but we don’t need a third parent
  • If you are bored I can find you something to do (hello cleaning job)
  • Treat others the way you want to be treated
  • Think of others
  • Lift others up
  • Leave it nice for the next person
  • Your attitude determines your direction
  • You have a choice – choose the right path
  • Where are you on the slippery slope (From the Young Peacemaker curriculum)
  • Be a peacemaker (From the Young Peacemaker curriculum)
  • Put a guard on your lips
  • Self-control
  • Patience
  • Anger doesn’t solve anything
  • Lying always makes things worse
  • Do not let your anger lead you into sin
  • Don’t let your volcano explode (emotional outbursts)
  • Being late is stealing other people’s time
  • Make a good choice
  • Pascoes stick together (Insert your family name)
  • Work first, play later (or responsibilities first, play later)
  • Stay on task
  • No need to hold on to that, it won’t fall off (Little boy’s private parts)
  • Room time is quiet time
  • Go outside and get some sunshine
  • Good, Better, Best
  • Screaming is for emergencies
  • Are you using your time well/wisely?

My friend Meredith recently spoke about the family motto concept at our GEMS group, so here are some of her favourites, plus a few from the other Mothers and several more I found on the net:

  • Don’t pass it up, pick it up
  • Straight away, all the way, with a happy heart
  • I want never gets
  • Watching is learning, learning is helping
  • Keep your head, don’t panic
  • Difficult does not mean impossible
  • Leave it better than you found it
  • Many hands make light work
  • There is no better test of a man’s integrity than his behaviour when he is wrong (Marvin Williams)
  • Show respect even to people who don’t deserve it, not as a reflections of their character, but as a reflection of yours
  • You are free to choose. You are not free from the consequences of your choices
  • Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is looking
  • You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit or You get what you get and you don’t get upset
  • Mistakes are proof that you are trying
  • Practice makes progress
  • Handsome is as handsome does – or pretty/beauty in place of handsome (J.R.R. Tolkien)
  • If you are afraid to fail you will never do the things you are capable of doing (John Wodden)
  • There is no substitute for hard work (Thomas Edison)
  • Worry ends when faith begins
  • Open your heart more than your mouth
  • You can learn something new every day if you listen
  • Even a child is known by his actions
  • With God, nothing is impossible
  • Strong people don’t put others down, they lift them up
  • If you want to have a friend, be one
  • Wrong is wrong even if everyone else is doing it. Right is right even when no one else is doing it.
  • Anger is your biggest enemy, control it
  • When you let anger get the best of you it brings out the worst in you
  • Nobody makes you angry; you decide to use anger as a response (Brian Tracy)
  • It’s ok not to know but it’s not ok not to try
  • Just because you haven’t found your talent yet doesn’t mean you haven’t got one (Kermit the Frog)
  • Open your mind before you open your mouth
  • All things are difficult before they are easy
  • There is a big difference between expressing your opinion and being rude
  • It matters not what you are thought to be, but what you are (Publilius Syrus)

Some that your parents probably said to you that you may or may not want to start repeating:

  • Hold your horses
  • Pack up your bongos and let’s go (or was it just my Mum?)
  • Life is not fair
  • We don’t live in a tent
  • If ……. jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?
  • If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all
  • Are your legs broken?
  • What did your last slave die of?
  • Business before pleasure

Do you use any mottos with your children that I haven’t included here? If you let me know I’ll add them to the list for others to share.

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Pre and post-activity training

 

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Has your child ever rudely ignored an adult when they said hello? Or perhaps you noticed just a moment too late that little Johnnie was helping himself to the buffet food with his fingers. Or did you have to practically carry your screaming toddler away from the merry-go-round in the shopping centre after saying no to their request to ride?

Most of us will face situations like these at some point and would prefer not to. We teach our children the right thing to do, yet they regularly demonstrate that they are not ready to apply this knowledge consistently without help.

While there are many ways to address the problem, today we will look at pre-activity training as a relatively simple and effective strategy for changing these failures into success. Simply put, pre-activity training is just training, teaching or reminding children before a given situation occurs as to how they should behave.

Trying to teach our children what they could or should have done in the heat of the moment is usually not very effective. Taking them aside at another time when you are both calm is a much better atmosphere for training the heart. Explain that you are there to help them and walk alongside as they work to change their own character and behaviours.

What might this look like?

Work on character

It is important that we actively teach the virtues that we do want to see, rather than just focusing on the negatives we are trying to wipe out. Actively teaching character development by studying positive character traits helps children to learn what it means, looks and sound like to be diligent, respectful, thorough, kind etc.

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In the car on the way to the shops, or a party or a friend’s house for a visit, discuss all the possible scenarios they may face and what the appropriate behaviour in the situation will be. Brainstorm ways to show good manners before you arrive at your destination. Outline the boundaries and expectations for the coming situation before you arrive. Have your slightly older children tell their siblings some of the things they may need to remember before they get there.

Create a personalized Mummy and Daddy CD for your child.

Full explanation and instructions here.

Family devotions/bible time

During our daily bible study times we can look for the life application for each passage that we read. Talk about what God’s word looks like in our every day lives and how the children can actively demonstrate that they are following it. Ask each child to choose one or two things they will do today to apply the knowledge they have just learned.

teddies up at night 3Teddy training

Most little children own several favourite toys. Take a couple of these and have them act out scenarios that you have noticed during the preceding days that need work. Have the dump truck eat rudely and spill food as it drives around. Spiderman can then come along and with the help of the child explain to the truck how he should be eating. Little Ted can demand a drink from China Doll who responds with a mini lecture (role-played by the child) about how he can ask nicely. Storm Trooper can interrupt Barbie’s conversation with Bride Doll and be instructed by the child as to how to use the interrupt rule. Children love this!

We have also had teddy sit up at the table next to our children and each time we can see them about to do the wrong thing we exclaim with horror; “TEDDY! You aren’t going to put your fingers in your food are you????” We are amused to see the little one who was about to do exactly that quickly retract the fingers and grab their knife and fork. If putting on a bib is a daily battle, then we have a chat with teddy as he is sitting there about how we expect him to have self-control and put his bib on calmly, before turning to our toddler to do the same. Little kids love it when we say in mock horror; “Did you see that?! Teddy was picking her nose! She is not being loving. Do you remember the bible verse that tells us love is not rude? Perhaps you could remind teddy what she needs to do so that she can be a lady.”

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Older children

Help older children understand their love language needs, identify their personality type and develop strategies together to work on their besetting sins.

Pray together as you work through their areas of struggle, letting them know that you have your own areas that you are working on. (They don’t necessarily need to know what they are.)

While you are out and about

We often notice other children doing the wrong thing while we are out shopping or visiting. Once we have moved away from the situation we have a little talk about what they were doing, how it made others feel, whether they were being respectful etc. We do have to be careful not to create little Pharisees who judge others with an attitude of “I would never do that” but it is a useful training tool.

There are also situations that come up along the way that I have not anticipated in the car. When that happens I stop, get down on eye level and have a little chat about what is going to happen in the next few moments. Here are a couple of examples;

  • In a moment we will be passing the merry-go-round without stopping to have a ride. You will need to have the self-control to pass by without a fuss.
  • Aunty May has just pulled in the driveway. When she comes in you need to look her in the eyes and say hello Aunt May.
  • Before we go and take our turn at the buffet line I want each of you to tell me 3 ways we can think of others and show good manners while serving yourself.

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5 minute warning

The 5 minutes warning is another simple tool that assists us with pre-activity training in the heat of the moment, when there is little chance to talk about what is coming. Full explanation here.

Like many of my behaviour and training related posts, these ideas are all based on the Growing Families Australia parenting courses, including Growing Kids God’s Way.

Mummy and Daddy CD’s

99. Andy and Ang

Do you ever get tired of repeating yourself? At times, repetition is required to train and grow our little ones in the way they should go. One tool that I personally find helpful is our Mummy and Daddy CD’s. I think of them as repeating myself every day for an hour or so without having to say a word!

A Mummy and Daddy CD is a recording that you make of anything you would like your child to memorize or know. Using a question and answer format, you and your husband record yourselves talking and singing and invite your child to join in. We have created one for each of our children to use during room time from around the age of 2 or so and they have all loved them.

Our recordings have included:

  • personal information we want them to remember: (Address, phone number, their full name etc.)
  • some basic general knowledge (naming the days of the week, months of the year)
  • some math skills (counting, skip counting)
  • bible verses we would like them to memorise
  • character definitions and descriptions
  • good manners scenarios
  • children’s bible songs interspersed throughout

The question and answer format uses the child’s name each time and is repeated twice. One parent asks the questions and the other gives the answer. The idea is to have both voices recorded throughout, continuously engaging the child’s interest by using their name and encourage participation. For example;

When Jo wants a drink, what does Jo say?

Jo says “May I have a drink please?”

When Jo wants a drink, what does Jo say?

Jo says “May I have a drink please?”

Or

What is attentiveness?

Attentiveness is listening with the eyes, ears and heart.

Jo shows attentiveness when he stands still and looks at Mummy or Daddy’s face while we are speaking.

What is attentiveness?

Attentiveness is listening with the eyes, ears and heart.

Jo shows attentiveness when he stands still and looks at Mummy or Daddy’s face while we are speaking.

To make the recordings we use a free downloadable recording program from the internet called Audacity. It’s very basic and with my very limited technological understanding I have had no problems operating it. If I can do it, anyone can!

The idea for Mummy and Daddy CD’s comes from “Creative Family Times” by Allen Haidian and Will Wilson.

 

 

The obedience roller-coaster

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Meeting and spending some time with the Ezzos was a highlight for the children.

We have just returned home from a week away at a national parenting conference run by Growing Families Australia. It was a week of wonderful family memories, special events and outings, great teaching and time spent getting to know other like-minded families. We have come home so encouraged and inspired to stay the course with our parenting. We have also come home somewhat poorer, with mounds and mounds of dirty washing and VERY OVER-TIRED AND MISBEHAVING CHILDREN! One week of late nights, missed naps, little to no routine and too many treat foods have taken their toll. Was it worth it? Absolutely yes!

In a way, these breaks from our usual routine and environment underscore the necessity for the schedules and daily systems that we have in place. It highlights the need for daily consistency in our parenting and gives us a glimpse of what it would be like all the time if we didn’t do what we normally do. It can be easy in the day to day grind of Motherhood to feel like we are getting nowhere, but those little, repetitive, daily steps are building the young people of Godly character that we will eventually launch out into the world.

It’s amazing really to see how quickly behaviour deteriorates when the backbones of our parenting are removed. Particularly for the younger toddlers and children, the daily routine is a must. The good news though is that it only takes a couple of days to get everything back to where it was, but only because the hard work has already been put in.

When we first start out though, it isn’t so easy. It takes a lot of hard work, persistence, training and consistency to instil the behaviours and values we want our children to have. And we have to keep on doing it; day after day, year after year. So Mothers, do not grow weary in doing good (Gal 6:9) because we are doing a worthwhile work.

 

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My toddler is not impressed with having Mummy back in charge. Her routine started again today and for this tired little one, table time was hard to face. (She dumped her activity on the floor because she wanted something else!)

So, having said that, what do I do with my cranky and disobedient children?

  1. Stay home for a couple of days – no stimulation, no visitors, no outings. Rest and recuperation only.
  2. Focus on regaining lost sleep – early bedtimes and long naps.
  3. Get back into routine. Start playpen time, room time, mat time, highchair time and all those other scheduled times in my day that bring order and stability while teaching valuable skills such as focussing and concentrating.
  4. Detox – get back into healthy eating and let their bodies settle back down.
  5. Remove all the choices – holidays are filled with choices, from buffet line dinners to kids club activities. My toddler quite enjoys directing every moment of her day and is not giving back control to Mummy without a fight.
  6. Give good instructions – eye contact, Yes Mum and all the other little strategies that help children choose to obey.
  7. Use isolation as our prime consequence for now. If the children cannot behave in a respectful and kind manner, they will simply not be free to spend time with others until they can.

I could wade back in with strict consequences for wrong behaviour but in this context it probably won’t work too well and isn’t necessary. With a few days of implementing the strategies above, most of the children’s behavioural problems will have disappeared and I can start work on the few that are left.

For more ideas, see my consequences series that starts here.

 

 

Consequences series – What? When? How? Part 4 First Time Obedience

7 kids at park

If you are new here, please have a browse through the first 3 posts in this series (part 1, part 2, part 3) before continuing on. For consequences to work effectively on your family, the foundations need to be in place, otherwise you will be running about cleaning up messes, rather than correcting the source of the problem.

We teach our children to obey for a number of reasons:

  • Physical safety (Will your child stop when you call them or run out into the road?)
  • The Bible instructs children to obey their parents and it is our responsibility to teach them to do so.   
  • Because we want our children to grow up wanting to love and obey God. God calls all of us to submit to His authority and to the authority He allows or places over us.  This applies to children also and the authority that God places over them is their parents. If they won’t obey their parents (whom they can see), it is less likely that they will obey God (whom they can’t see.)
  • It’s loving to do so (We obey God because we love Him.)
  • It helps our children grow in character, becoming those who bring pleasure to others around them.
  • It avoids anger and frustration in the parent that leads to escalation and inappropriate responses from us.

It is beyond the scope of the post to try and explain how to get first time obedience in your family. If you believe as I do that it is important enough to work on, there are some excellent resources available to help you in your journey.

  1. Growing Kids God’s Way courses from Growing Families International (US, Australia/New Zealand and other countries)
  2. Get hold of the Childwise books appropriate to the age of your child. See other titles at Growing Families US or Australia/New Zealand.
  3. Purchase a “First Time Obedience” chart and related downloadable audio sessions from Carla Link at Mom’s Notes. These are the best parenting resources. Well worth the money. Highly recommended. (No, I don’t get a commission 🙂 )
  4. This post at Large Families on Purpose is a good start if you are after a quick look at something to get you going.

I have not “arrived” when it comes to obedience. My children are far from perfect. And sadly, it is possible and even likely to achieve first time obedience with your children AND then lose it again over time! There are many factors at play here, from personality types, love languages, to parenting practice. But the job we have as Mothers and Fathers is the most important one in the world – one worth investing our time, energy and money into doing well, don’t you think?

 

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.