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.

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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.

 

 

Flowers of Godly character

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After holidays, sickness and general out of routine grumps hit our house recently, we needed something to lift the tone of sibling relationships. We have used several different systems for boosting kind behaviour and general character recognition in the past, but this time I wanted something similar to our praise plates; without a “prize” at the end. Our marble jar and treasure tree charts worked well although there was an end goal or reward that we were working towards – see the marble jar is full for a full explanation of the difference between bribes, rewards and goal incentives.

Our treasure tree reward system.

Our treasure tree reward system with a slightly different ending than planned.

 

After reading “The Weed With An Ill Name” we have had a lot of discussions and prayer based on the concept of pulling the character “weeds” out of our hearts and replacing them with Godly character “flowers.” I decided to base our system around this idea and build on the interest that was already there by calling our chart “Flowers of Godly Character – Pull out those weeds!”

Each yellow centre is given the child’s initial who is “growing” the flower and as Godly character is displayed they are able to add a petal. Five petals complete a flower and another is started. Having each flower initialed means they are able to see the flowers they have grown, but the pot of flowers is something the whole family is working together to grow.

No reward other than being able to see the flowers you have planted being added to the pot is given, but even so, the children have huge smiles and are very happy to be awarded a petal.

For more ideas on building character and family identity see:

Sizzlers and grace

Filling their love tank: the 5 love languages of children

Spoiled walls; bickering and sibling conflict

101 family night ideas Relationships – joyful or difficult, they all need the 5 A’s

Sizzlers and grace.

Our treasure tree after a day or two. (It is now quite well covered, but as we had cut up a LOT of leaves, it is by no means full.)

We are going out to dinner in a restaurant tonight. It is the culmination of our treasure tree character reward system. No, the tree is not full, but after reading “Give Them Grace” by Elyse Fitzpatrick we have decided to implement one of her suggestions. She mentioned marble jars and other reward systems and suggested that occasionally we should simply fill them up and have the reward as an act of grace towards our children.

We have been a very intentional recently about the message of grace and how we present the gospel to the children since reading her book. We have focussed more often on how our good works, right living and good character (being a “good” person) cannot earn our way to heaven or gain God’s forgiveness. We have discussed how we will never measure up to the perfect standard that God expects from us.

Of course, the message does not stop there. When we are finally able to admit our sin and see our need for a saviour, we can turn to Jesus and through His death on the cross, bearing the sin of us all, we can repent, receive forgiveness and be made holy in God’s sight.

We presented the children with the treasure tree chart and asked them what they were requires to do to earn their reward.  (Fill the tree with leaves by displaying acts of Godly character.) We asked if they had earned that reward – did they deserve it? As the tree is far from full, they could only say that they didn’t. By this stage, the older children were beaming as they had already guessed what was coming. We then announced that we would be taking them to Sizzlers as a demonstration of grace to remind them to think about the amazing free gift of salvation that they have available to them through Jesus, despite the fact that they haven’t earned it and don’t deserve it.

Who knows whether they will remember this in time to come, or if it will make any difference to their spiritual walk in the long run, but we will all have a wonderful family night out together and who knows what lasting impact it may have?

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…

Sibling Relationships

We all want our children to get along and to enjoy being with each other. I would take that one step further and say that I’d like them to develop life-long friendships and to be each other’s best friends throughout the childhood years. So what is our role in this process? Throwing them together and hoping for the best is unlikely to yield the outcome we are looking for, so some proactive parenting is necessary. Here are some specific steps we can take as parents to help siblings develop close relationships.

Have a routine. Too much time together, particularly unstructured time, is a recipe for conflict. Nerves become frayed and patience short. Think about the time of day that siblings play together. If they are tired and hungry things are unlikely to go well. The length of time is important. Wind it up while everyone is still having fun. Finish on a positive note rather than waiting until play turns sour.

Refer to them as best friends. Tell children regularly that they are each other’s best friends. Talk about how other friends will come and go but brothers and sisters will always be there for each other. Ask them if they are treating their sibling as a best friend should.

Supervise sibling play times. If children are not getting along well then they should not be given the freedom of unsupervised play together. Mum or Dad need to be within earshot and ready to step in before a situation blows up into a conflict. If you can hear a problem brewing and fail to do something about it then you as a parent are partly responsible for it. There is a place when children are older to let conflict run it’s course and give them the opportunity to use the conflict resolution skills you are teaching them. If they are never tested or given the opportunity to do what is right, then they will not be able to grow in this area. Be wise with this though.

Good modelling. Older children should be regularly reminded of their responsibility to be a good role-model. Even young children are a role-model if there is a younger sibling behind them or to friends outside of the immediate family. Teach children about good leadership; learning when to follow a good leader and when to be a good leader.

Non-conflict training. The majority of your training should be in times of non-conflict, rather than in the heat of the moment. Take time to teach Godly character. Act out and work through common conflict scenarios. Role-play conflict resolution and negotiation skills. Teach specific phrases for dealing with conflicts the children are likely to face; turn- taking for example.

Personality Types. Spend time teaching your children about the different personality types. Help them to identify their character strengths and weaknesses and to work on improving those weaknesses. Help them to understand each other better and relate with other’s needs in mind.

Dominion. All children need to have personal dominion over something. Special toys that are theirs alone and that they are not required to share is an excellent way of allowing them to exercise this dominion. Toys that they are not prepared to share should as a general rule not be used during playtimes together. If a sibling wishes to use that particular toy they must ask first and respect the answer given.

Memorise scriptures that relate to the conflicts they often face, such as “A gentle answer turns away wrath.” Ask children what God says about a particular behaviour? Make sure that children know the moral reason why. Read about sibling rivalry and its result in the bible. For example, Joseph and his brothers Gen 37 and Jacob & Esau Gen 25-27.

No means no. Teach children to respect another person’s “no” or “stop.” From a very young age we teach our children to stay “Stop please” when they do not like the play that is going on. They are expected to listen and stop the first time they hear those words. This includes parents and applies to wrestling, tickling, chasing and any other fun game. Children soon learn not to say “Stop please”unless they mean it as our play immediately halts. We avoid just “no” or “don’t” because children often shout those in fun when it is clear they do want the tickling to continue. “Stop please” is not something they would normally say unless they actually mean it.

Conflict resolution. Once a conflict between young children has occurred, walk through from the beginning and model the correct things to say. Ask older children what they should have said and then have them go ahead and say it. Require younger children to repeat the appropriate words after you. Give children specific strategies to address issues they face such as using a timer for turn-taking.

Pow-wow time. Older children can be asked to sit together to talk through the problem calmly and quietly until they reach a compromise that both parties are happy with. Some time apart to calm down may be necessary first. There is to be no yelling, raised voices or unkind words. This works best when a parent steps in before a conflict has had a chance to escalate into something serious. The solution decided on should be bought before the parent to ensure it is fair and equitable, otherwise one child may always assume the “peacemaker” role by simply giving in to their more forceful sibling in order to get the problem sorted out and move on. That is not a fair and suitable compromise. Watch out for older children manipulating younger ones. Both parties should be satisfied with the solution.

Justice and judgment. Teach children that if they are unable to resolve a conflict by themselves they should come to a parent. The idea that children need to just “work it out” is a faulty one. It leads to older, physically stronger or more dominant personality children always getting their own way and unpleasant character traits developing. “Might makes right” becomes the order of the day and good relationships will not be the result.

When someone has been wronged, you as the judge should listen to both sides of the argument. Have one child speak at a time with a calm voice – no interrupting. If there are tears, whining or loss of emotional control in any way, they may need a few moments to sit alone and regain their self-control before bringing the matter before you. Children should be expected to have taken steps themselves to work out the problem before coming to you. Pray for wisdom. The children may be able to come up with a solution themselves or need you to supply one.

When emotions are running high, it may work better to separate the children and hear one side of the story at a time without the other person participating initially. Sometimes this allows children to be more honest about their fault in the situation and what they need to do to make it right.

Telling tales. The difference between tale-telling, tattling or dobbing and sincere reporting of a problem for mediation is all in the attitude. If damage to person or property will occur they should be able to come immediately. The first step is to encourage the other sibling in right behaviour. When the intent is clearly to get another sibling into trouble, rather than a sincere effort to solve the problem, the tale-teller receives the consequence that would otherwise have been given to the offending child. When children first come to you they should be asked whether they have tried to encourage their sibling to do right and also whether they have done all that they can to resolve the problem first. “What have you tried to make this right?” is a good start.

Isolation. Children, especially older children, may need some time to work through the problems alone before coming back together to talk it through with the other party. Ask them to think through their responsibility in the situation, whether they have treated their sibling as a best friend and what God’s word has to say about it.

Physical touch. Hugging or shaking hands when the matter is resolved melts the tension and helps to repair friendships. Verbal forgiveness needs to be asked for and given. Shaking hands afterwards often helps children to break through that last barrier of unresolved anger or hard feelings towards their sibling. While children can forgive someone without hugging or shaking, often this physical contact will get them smiling at each other again.

Forgiveness and restitution. Saying “sorry” is for accidents, not for deliberate acts of unkindness. If the wrong was intentional then forgiveness is needed. Model this by asking for forgiveness yourself when you are in the wrong. Children are very forgiving and LOVE it when a parent apologizes and asks them for forgiveness. If something has been destroyed, taken or otherwise damaged, restitution or “paying back” must be made. A child who has knocked over another child’s tower can build it back up. A child who has drawn in a sister’s book can use their pocket-money to buy another one.

Consequences. Clear consequences for wrong behaviour should be given and acted upon consistently. Some examples of consequences for unkind behaviour are acts of service, losing the opportunity to play together and saying 3 nice things about the other person’s character – not physical features. See spoiled walls.

Reinforcement. Character reinforcement systems may be useful to jumpstart the process. Praise good behaviour and character when children do the right thing; catch them being good. Use specific praise that clearly labels what it is they are doing well. You may like to temporarily introduce a marble jar, praise plate, or treasure tree system.

The sorting out prayer is useful for the wronged child to work through and helps them to forgive their sibling. Based on biblical instruction, it is something we will introduce as the children get older and have to deal with more weighty situations.

“If… then…” charts are good for clear consequences. Take the time to write them up with the children’s help and refer to them when a problem occurs.

Resources:

I have linked to The Book Depository when products are available through them as that is the cheapest source for Australia in most cases. Other sources as stated.

Personality Plus: How to Understand Others by Understanding Yourself


For general personality information and identification see Personality Plus by Florence Littauer.

Personality Plus for Parents

Personality Plus for Parents is by the same author with more information specifically for parents.

Spirit-Controlled Temperament

Spirit Controlled Temperament is a Christian take on the 4 temperaments and how the Holy Spirit can help us overcome our inbuilt weaknesses and improve our strengths.

Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends: How to Fight the Good Fight at Home

Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends is a good tool for teens to read through either by themselves or with you, with time to discuss each chapter together.

Proverbs for parenting is an excellent resources for finding what the bible has to say about parenting related topics with Proverbs sorted into easy to reference categories.

 The Power of True Success How to build character in your life.

A good resource for the Christian family for teaching character to children.

Mom's Notes Volume 3 - Notes in Binder

Dealing with sibling conflict by Joey & Carla Link is a topic from the Moms Notes.  These are an excellent resource for all things parenting. Very detailed with ideas for all ages. Brilliant but it is pricey. Audio CDs also available.

For Instruction In Righteousness

For Instructions in Righteousness Pam Forster is another character training resource with bible verses, stories and other ideas for training and building character into your children. (Also available at Heart and Home Bookstore in Australia.)

Four Chart Special

The Brother offended checklist and booklet and If..Then Chart are helpful in the thick of dealing with conflict. Great to take children straight to to help work through their conflicts with a biblical framework. Available separately or in a set at Heart and Home and Doorposts.

Parents Arise

Janine Targett’s book Parents Arise and scripture CDs show you how to use God’s word to overcome character weaknesses amongst other things. This is the source of the “sorting out prayer.”

Please and thank you

Manners at times are becoming a lost art it seems. I am constantly amazed whenever we are around a large group of children how many of them simply do not think to say “please” and “thank you.” It horrifies me on rare occasions to catch my children amongst them!! Time for a clamp down and some re-training in our household!

As with most child training and behaviours, the failure of my children to use manners when it does occur can usually be traced back to my consistency in enforcing their use. When I let the standard drop, the children do too.

We begin training our children to say “please” and “thank you” as babies using baby signing. From the time they are starting solids we are saying the words for them and signing them at the same time. As they get older, we gently move their hands, helping them to copy the correct sign. At anywhere from around 8 months to 12 months we usually see the first signs being independently used by the children and from that point on will require them to do it before meeting their request.

Once they are able to sign independently, manners are always expected. If an older child forgets to say please or thank you, we may simply hold on to the requested item and make eye contact with the child. After a moment’s pause while they are wondering why we are not letting go, they realise what they need to say and say it, without us having to give a verbal reminder.

We also use a timer. After explaining once or twice what the timer is for and how we will use it, we no longer say anything at all. When a request is made without a “please” we simply grab the timer and turn it over in front of the child who immediately realises what they have forgotten to do. They may not make the same request again until the timer has run out and then it obviously must include the “please” that they forgot in the first place.

Once we consider that the training is complete and an older child is characterised by remembering their manners there may be rare occasions when they forget. For the once-off event, we may simply give them a verbal reminder. If it appears that they are slipping back into a habit of “forgetting” then we will simply tell them that they will miss out completely without the opportunity to try again. We find it interesting to note that our children NEVER forget their manners when there is chocolate involved!

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