We wanted our children to ask questions–and lots of them! We wanted to be their answerer as much as possible. Thus, we “trained” them to ask questions–by answering them freely and endlessly.
Ray is the best answerer I have ever met (honest!). He is the one who made me come up with the little acronym that we teach at our parenting seminars. I have watched him day in and day out, year in and year out, answer a question. Then he paused and continued on with more answers and more answers and more answers.
So much talk about toddlers on Character Ink/Raising Kids With Character, you would think that I have a fifteen month old grandbaby or something! I wanted to re-run some old posts about toddlers to follow up the two Wondering Wednesday podcasts (Part 1) (Part 2) that I have done over the past couple of weeks about these amazing kids!
Question: How can I start some of the character training concepts and habits that you describe with a toddler?
“Throughout their lives, your kids will do to and for others what you have done to and for them.”
In our “Character for Tweens and Teens” seminar, we stress the quote above—because we have seen it over and over in our children’s lives during our thirty years of parenting. And it is truly something to consider in the time, effort, money, and teaching that we invest in our children. When I look back at how true this statement has been in our lives, I just want to tell every parent that there are genuine dividends paid for all of that investing!
I could share examples of this with you from every age and stage our seven kids:
*How Joshua, our first born, would sit in the back of the van and tell his sisters what to expect when we got to our destination, how they should behave and how they should treat others—because his mommy and daddy had done that for him since he was a toddler.
*How Kayla, our second daughter, took it upon herself at age fourteen to do all of the cooking for a long period of time during my grief after our stillborn daughter’s birth and my life-threatening ruptured uterus—because her parents had served her, fed her, and taught her everything she needed to know in the kitchen.
*How Cami, our third child, started a ministry for the disabled when she was a senior in high school (that still runs today seven years later and ministers to over a hundred disabled adults every week)—because we taught her to look into people’s hearts to see their deepest needs, and we looked into her heart.
*How the girls planned a special meal for their brothers and even called and invited their grandparents to their “Silly Supper” while Mom and Dad were out of town—because Mom and Dad had always tried to make things special for them.
*How Kara, our fourth child, listened intently night after night to the needs of the teens on the traveling drama team that she led—because her parents had listened to her needs late at night for twenty years.
And on and on and on and on. Our children are far from perfect—as are their parents. But there is one thing that we can be sure they will always do: serve, love, reach out, touch, help, and communicate with others in many of the same ways that they have been served, loved, reached out to, touched, helped, and communicated with by us, their parents.
We have an example of this hot off the press that is so incredibly cute I just had to share it with you. Our almost-eighteen year-old Josiah (sixth child of seven living) asked a few weeks ago if he could surprise his younger brother Jacob (our youngest) by taking him to visit their oldest sister near Chicago where she is in grad school at Wheaton College (a four hour drive from us). We discussed it and decided to let him do it, so he set about planning the trip.
He must have talked to me about the “unveiling” of the trip to Jakie no fewer than a dozen times over the three weeks prior to the trip: “Should I drive home with him from my drum teaching and ask him to tell me where the gps says to turn?” “Should I take him to Cami and Joseph’s (our daughter and son-in-law) and make him think we are spending the night there but then take off from there?” “Should I pack all of his stuff while he is at piano then act like we are going to run errands?” On and on. He had a new idea everyday it seemed.
He set aside two hours the night before to go over directions with his dad, talk to us about details, call Kayla (whom they were going to see), and pack/load the car while Jacob was at the YMCA exercising with Kara (our fourth child). He gassed up his vehicle. He packed snacks. He gathered story tapes. He went to the bank and got cash. He packed Jakie’s things and hid them in the trunk.
At one point in Josiah’s preparations, he said, “Don’t you think this is the best surprise that any of the siblings have ever done for another one?” To which we just smiled and nodded. (Our kids have had a sort of unofficial “best sibling EV-ER” contest going on for many years.)
And then they left. His idea to take Jacob to Cami and Joseph’s and go from there, telling him only when Jacob noticed that they were not taking the route that led home, won out.
And Jacob called us to see if it was really true—“are we really driving to Kayla’s for the weekend?” We could hear Josiah laughing in the background—one happy big brother.
Josiah’s idea wasn’t quite as original as he thought—but we didn’t tell him that, of course. For Josiah had just done nearly everything that we had done for him eight years ago when we took him and his siblings on a surprise weekend trip—right down to hiding packed things in the trunk, packing good snacks, sneaking out story tapes and games, and taking a strange route to confuse them. Because by that time, we knew that “throughout their lives, our kids will do to and for other whatever has been done to and for them.” Smile…
|Yes, they really were as sweet to each other as they look in this picture–with a lot of orneriness thrown in for that little guy on the right! 😉
I am going to start our series with toddlers and work up chronologically. Those of you with only little kids can do some key things early on to avoid fighting and bickering between/among your children.
Two of those things are elaborated on in general (not just for fighting) in the article below, but here are some thoughts applying to the first one–SETTING YOUR LITTLE ONE’S TASTES FOR KINDNESS:
Set your little one’s tastes for kindness–in our parenting seminar, we teach about how Hebrew midwives would put a dab of date paste on infants’ tongues to give them a taste for Hebrew foods–and the verses that apply that to parenting and giving our children tastes for things early on.
We believe (and have experienced it with our seven children) that as parents we can set our children’s tastes for good things–obedience, kindness, contentment, etc.
In terms of siblings, this means that we set their tastes for loving siblings, for kindness to their brothers and sisters, etc. from toddlerhood. Here are some thoughts on carrying this out:
1. Speaking kind words to our littles
2. Hushing them when they shout, scream, say no to you or other authority or in general are harsh/not kind–NEVER let it go!
3. Using vocabulary with them from the beginning that teaches them kindness (“let kindness be on our tongues”)–words like “be nice to sissy; we love sissy” and “don’t shout at her; say nice words” and “be nice”–but not just as passing, trite phrases–more like “these are our family’s ways and words”
4. Pick the child up, hold him firmly, use wording from above, and be his external control when he has none. Don’t just take the toy and give it back and say a passing “be nice”–really take the time to give him a taste for kindness whenever he starts to show meanness. If it continues in that setting, pull him out entirely (and put him in his crib). Do not ever let meanness continue in a toddler–remember, you are setting his tastes for kindness to siblings and others.
Our daughter who is expecting a baby boy in January (her first) just said the other day, “Our little boy is going to be so cute–and sweet just like the boys were when they were little” (her younger brothers).
What makes her think that her little boy will be sweet? She knows that it is possible to set his tastes for kindness. She knows it can be done–and is going to try her best to do it. I just love that! 😉
Here is a past blog post about setting tastes and character training in toddlers.
With the closeness of two of our parenting seminars in Indiana and the extremely high interest in training toddlers and preschoolers in character and obedience, I decided to re-run parts of two past posts today. Scroll all the way to the bottom for some other links, as well! And share our blog and FaceBook page with others who might be interested in learning about how to enjoy those years more than ever–from a Christian couple who LOVED ages two to six! Smile…
Question: How can I start some of the character training concepts and habits that you describe with a toddler?
Answer: If you are just starting out with your family and have only a toddler, you have the perfect opportunity to start out right in the character training of your children! I will offer some general tips below, but even more importantly than the “daily ins and outs” of the ideas I recommend, I suggest that you read Parenting Paradigms at this blog (soon to become “Character Training From the Heart”). Even if you take to heart some of the ideas for your little one given in this Q and A, in the end, you will be more successful at character training if you have a firm handle on what you believe about parenting and children.
Toddler Character Training Tips
1. Start adapting the toddler to your schedule and your family’s lifestyle as soon as you can (six to nine months) rather than making your family’s life revolve around the little one’s “wants.” You want to enjoy your toddler within the dynamics that your family already has (with the addition of the joy and wonder that a toddler brings into the family, of course)—as opposed to making everything change to meet unnecessary and often chaotic demands that a toddler who is given his own way all the time can often make.(Check out our important material on discerning wants vs. needs. ALWAYS meet needs–in a timely, loving, and consistent way!)
2. Remember that you are setting the stage right now for your child’s “tastes” (follow us on PP 365 or schedule our seminar for more details about this important concept).
a. You can set his tastes for defiance (allowing screaming, throwing, thrashing, and “no” from him) or submission.
b. You can set his tastes for selfishness and meanness (allowing hitting or other forms of striking, giving in to him when he wants something that someone else has, always making his surroundings whatever he wants (i.e. no bedtime, no sitting in high chair, etc.) due to “fits” or for kindness, gentleness, sweetness, and tenderness.
c. You can set his tastes for hyper-stimulation and activity (too much running; no scheduled down times; television and videos all the time) or for simple things (books, healthy toys, rest, etc.).
d. You can set his tastes to lack focus and not enjoy learning (again, too much video, not starting out with books and simple music; an avalanche of cartoons and children’s programming (some of which are developed in two second bits to keep up with short attention spans, thus, causing kids’ attention spans not to lengthen as they should) or a love for learning (via books, strong family learning, and discussion times, etc.).
3. Decide ahead of time what your “behavior absolutes” are.
a. These are the behaviors or character that you absolutely will not allow in your home. What you allow now will become the “acceptable behaviors” to your child. These seemingly innocent actions include “fibbing,” hitting, running the other way when called, etc.
b. For us, these “behavior absolutes” included talking back (no toddler saying “no” without being punished); lying or deceit; temper tantrums; and striking (hitting, pulling hair, throwing things at someone, etc.). Obviously, we wanted our kids to learn to obey and submit to us and to learn the many character qualities that are crucial to living a Christian life, but these four things were things we never wavered on—and things that we made huge deals out of when they were not adhered to by the toddler/preschooler.
4. Start showing your little one the joy of doing what is right. Contentment in your own life, the blessing of work, the joy of loving God and His people—and all of the character that you want your little one to adopt in his life—love, longsuffering, diligence, responsibility, and more will more likely be realized in our kids’ lives when we ourselves embrace and model them.
5. Try to establish routines that will aid in his character development—bedtimes, rising times, little “chores” (putting his books in his book basket after you read), nap times, meal times, story time, etc.
For more tips on toddlers and babies, click on the links provided below:
Who makes the decisions for the children—starts here and goes for a few days: http://positiveparenting3-6-5.blogspot.com/2010/10/day-260-who-makes-decisions-for.html
Say what you mean—starts here and goes for two days: http://positiveparenting3-6-5.blogspot.com/2010/09/day-248-dont-leave-your-little-one-at.html