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.

A new year with 7 children

IMG_5588 Wedgits

Christmas is a time that I look forward to – making memories, continuing with traditions from previous years, special outings, celebrations, events and family times.  As I have found every year though, this special time comes with it’s own negatives. The freedom of unstructured days, lack of routine, too many choices, plenty of special events, junk food and late nights (this year coupled with sickness) has predictably resulted in tired, cranky children who are not getting along so well and are not using their free time wisely. What to do??

A new year begins, the celebration cycle eases off and ta da – enter ROUTINE!

I know from experience that the start of our homeschool year will solve many of these problems very quickly. The children’s days are filled with a balance of structured and unstructured times, responsibilities appropriate for their ages (chores) and a predictable flow of daily activities that allows me to get everything I need to do done in a timely manner as well. Less time together means that the children start to appreciate each other again and everything starts to run so much more smoothly. Life feels easier, the days are happier and we all benefit.

 

toddler school cupboard

Here is a peek into the newly sorted out activity cupboard for our 2 1/2 year old. We use these activities for table time straight after breakfast for around 30-45 minutes. In that time he will use 3 or 4 of the trays before heading off to room time for around an hour. It takes time, consistency and commitment on your behalf to teach a little boy (or girl) to sit and concentrate but it absolutely can be done. I do not have babies and toddlers who are/were just “naturally” able to sit and concentrate, it took work!

I have posted heaps of ideas for activities that work well for young children who are learning to sit and concentrate. Those pictured above are:

1. Do-a-dot printables with stickers to place inside the dots (or wherever!)

2. Beginner cutting tray (See my free Montessori style printable cutting patterns and how to teach a toddler to cut.)

3. Duplo ice-cream making set – a new Christmas gift

4. Textas, pencils and colouring books and paper

5. Potato head parts and playdough

6. A fine motor transferring activity tray (Small rocks, tweezers and a variety of bottles and containers to open, shut and fill)

7. Wedgits – another Christmas gift that I have had on my wish list for a while now. (See photo at top.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

all in salad 1

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.

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.)