I already mentioned in an earlier homeschool benefit post about being able
to be with our children all the time. I will always cherish the eighteen
years that I have had with each of my children all day long… well sixteen
years until they started working day jobs and going to college, etc. I will
never regret that I spent those years with my children.
|Kara (4.5) and Jonathan (almost 3) doing their sibling Bible verse for a special at church: “How happy it is when brothers dwell together in unity!”
The next tip after trying to set your toddler’s taste for kindness is the following: Decide ahead of time what your “behavior absolutes” are going to be.
1. These are the behaviors or negative 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, being mean to others, running the other way when called, etc.
2. For us, these “behavior absolutes” included the following:
a. Talking back (no toddler saying “no” without being punished)
b. Lying or deceit
c. Temper tantrums
d. Striking (hitting, pulling hair, throwing things at someone, etc.).
e. Being mean
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 five 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.
|Kara (now 23) and Jonathan (now 21) have been best friends since they were very young.–honest! 😉
One question we frequently get when discussing the idea of behavior absolutes is “How do we make a certain behavior an absolute?”
Before I delve into a couple specific tips for this, I do want to say that keeping sibling fighting to a minimum, helping brothers and sisters love each other, and instituting and enforcing a no striking policy is more a way of life than it is a list of do’s and don’t’s.
Obviously, we believe that there are some key things that accounted for our children’s very limited fighting and not harming each other, but more than that list of things we did is the idea of being “that family.” Not weird or trying to outdo others with our “uniqueness”–but rather our children knew that though others might fight all the time, we were”that family”–the family that doesn’t allow that. Though other children may raise their hands to harm their sibling, we are “that family”–and we do not permit hurting each other.
A way of life–one that begins with “setting tastes” for kindness and good character and one that has certain expectations always in place. Not expectations that “do this or you’re toast” but expectations that Mom and Dad taught us this way, and this is how we live.
But on to that list–a few things that we think can help a family develop certain behavior absolutes (including loving and being kind to siblings):
1. Behavior absolutes begin with a mindset.
This mindset is one with faith in what you are doing. Faith that making behavior absolutes that our children will learn to follow is what is truly best. Faith that these things that we are saying are not allowed in our home are things that God would have us do. Faith that God will bless our family’s consistency, efforts, and desire to please Him. Faith that consistency and godliness in our home really will work.
It is also a mindset that says, “What I am trying to do here is so important that I am going to put the time and energy into it that it takes to accomplish it. I am not going to let things slide that I know will cause us not to meet our goals for our children’s behaviors. I am not going to look the other way when I know something is not right. I am not going to downplay something that we have deemed as important from the beginning.”
That is a tall order. But it is one that can truly be carried out. When we go into this parenting endeavor with an idea of what we truly want our homes to look like–and the determination to follow through on it–it is very possible.
2. Your reaction to behavior absolutes being broken is crucial.
My husband has an annoying saying (it used to be; now that our kids are mostly grown, I agree with him!): “We are getting the behavior that we want. if we wanted something different, we would do something different.”
While that isn’t one hundred percent accurate, the concept is true. If we want our children to be kind to each other and not strike each other, then those behaviors have to be treated as terrible behaviors. We can’t just say, “Be nice” and hope that their behavior changes.
We liken behavior absolutes to sitting in a car seat. We can say over and over, “I just can’t get him to quit hitting his sister.”
However, we somehow (eventually) get our child to quit screaming in the car seat and sit in there until he is five or six! How is that? It is because sitting in the car seat is a behavior absolute. We would ever consider letting a child have his own way and sit up front between Mom and Dad. It is the law. It is the way it is–and it can’t be changed.
So it is with behavior absolutes. We have to feel so strongly about those behaviors that we will not budge on them. When one of our kids is mean to another one, we will not just say “Be nice” and send him to his room. We will instead respond as though he just did something very, very bad. Because if meanness is one of our behavior absolutes, it is a very, very bad thing.
I have to inject a note here about spanking–because many “modern moms” are either against it or believe that it doesn’t work. Or buy into the philosophy that spanking a child will make him mean or will make him strike others.
I know that a family of seven children is not a full-blown case study. However, I don’t see how the whole “spanking causes children to be violent” could possibly be true when all of our seven children were spanked (not carelessly; not in anger; not for frivolities or childishness) for the Four D’s –and yet they are seven of the most peaceable adults you will ever meet. As children, they didn’t often fight with each other–and seldom (if ever) struck another child (or bit, pulled hair, pushed, hit, etc.) after age two or so. (I’m sure they probably did as toddlers–but we treated it very seriously and nipped it in the bud.)
So yes, we spanked our children if they were mean or if they hurt others (as well as for other defiant behaviors). But we didn’t have to do it often. Peace with each other and not harming others was a way of life, so it didn’t take a lot of discipline for it.
Thus, the way we respond to our behavior absolutes will have a huge bearing on how “absolute” these behaviors become. Don’t take them lightly. Don’t put kids in their rooms with video games or televisions because they were unkind. Don’t tell children who hit that they shouldn’t do that–and they should be nice. Respond with the level of unacceptability that you would for something really bad–if you think it is really bad.
3. Don’t make too big of deal out of things that aren’t important.
If we truly want to develop behavior absolutes in our homes, then things that are not that big of deals can’t be made into big deals.
We see this all the time. A parent responds to a child leaving his socks on the living room floor in the same way that she responds to his backtalking or being unkind to his sister. While we recommend that the things you feel are behavior absolutes be given a high priority and level of response, we also believe that in general parents need to “lighten up” when it comes to childish behaviors (being too loud, making a mess, forgetting to pick up his socks, etc.) and focus on behaviors that are truly important (and from the heart)–such as direct disobedience, meanness, disrespect to parents and other authorities, etc.
When everything our kids do is the same level of “wrongness,” they will not learn the difference between sins and mistakes. When everything our kids do is punished in the same way, they will feel that they can never please us–that no matter what they do, we will find fault in them.
I won’t spend a great deal of time on this as we have several posts about this under the character training label and we teach about it extensively in our parenting seminar, but just examine your parenting and see if you are placing too much emphasis on the wrongness of a behavior that is just a kid being a kid and not enough on something that is coming from a child’s heart.
I will move on to older kids–including punishments that are appropriate for fighting, helping kids learn how their behaviors affect others, and teaching our kids to love and respect each other–very soon. Thanks for joining us!
|And here is the sweet sibling pair when they were teens–Jonathan (17) and Kara (19). The cute thing about this pic is that it was taken when they were traveling on a summer drama team together–and they both kept it as their profile pictures on Facebook for several months. Sweet!
I have the most amazing husband ever! I adore him! He is one of the most involved, truly-training fathers I know. He spends all of his non-work (at his plant and on Training for Triumph) hours on the kids and on me—and he has for our entire twenty-seven years of parenting. However, he does one thing that drives me nuts: he tells me the truth about the kids’ behavior!
His mantra has always been (and this is the really nutsy part!): “We are getting the behavior that we want ‘coz if we didn’t want it, we would stop it.” Aghh….. I come to him complaining about a child’s behavior, expecting sympathy and commiserating, and he reminds me, once again, that this behavior must be the behavior that we desire. If it isn’t what we want, we would surely not let it continue; we would surely do something to put a stop to it.
This truth, and I do have to admit that it is a truth, of parenting, is a little twist on the “if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” And just like that saying, it is too accurate.
Now, Ray is an incredible husband and father, so, thankfully, he doesn’t just spout off his catch phrase and leave me hanging. This twenty-seven year old saying has almost always led to resolution. You see, if it is true—and we admit to each other that we are not really doing anything to stop the behavior in question—then it follows that if we want to stop it, we need to come up with a plan of action to change the behavior.
This blog is a positive blog! And I want to stay positive. However, the teacher in me feels compelled to “teach” what we have found to help us “get the behavior we want.” If you have small children—toddlers and preschoolers, especially—you may want to join us over the next few days.
Our children were never (and still are not) perfect. However, we were blessed with outstanding teaching early in our parenting to help us train our toddlers and preschoolers to have good behavior—to not scream or throw fits, to obey when a command is given, to come when they are called, to be content and not surly, to be kind to others (even siblings!), to follow routines they are taught (going to bed, sitting at the table, being quiet in church etc), and much more.
Your little ones can be joys to you. You can get up in the morning knowing that you can have a good day and enjoy your kids—because they want to obey you. I promise that this can happen! Not perfection—just daily contentment and obedience more often than not. After all, we get whatever behavior we want.
“Little boys should never be put to bed because they always wake up a day older.” from Peter PanHere are some things we have enjoyed doing for birthday affirmations through the years:
1. Make a big deal of the birthday the day before it. We did little things like the following:
a. When he wakes up in the morning, say, “This is the last morning you’ll get up as an eleven year old!”
b. When you do things with him, say fun things like, “Come and read a story with Mom….it’s our last story with you as an eleven year old” or “Come shoot hoops eleven year old—this is the last day I can say that!”
c. Before he goes to bed, make a big deal of it being his last night as an eleven year old, how he’ll wake up old the next day, etc.
d. Tell him what you loved about him as an eleven year old—“I loved it that you such a compassionate eleven year old…”
2. On the morning of his birthday, say fun things like, “Time to wake up twelve year old” or “This is the first morning I am getting you up as a twelve year old,” and “Do you feel a year older this morning?”
3. Encourage him on the day of his birthday with character qualities that you have seen in him—“Sure hope you are as kind of a twelve year old as you were eleven year old!” and “I know your compassion will even increase when you are twelve—if that’s possible!”
4. Charge him on the day of his birthday with character qualities that you would like for him to work on in the coming year (without making him feeling put down, of course)—“Now that you’re twelve, I know you can become even more diligent with your work” or “You have been getting better and better at responsibility this past year—now that you’re twelve, you are going to become Mr. Responsible!”
5. On the night of his birthday, tell him that you are looking forward to spending “age twelve” with him—that your family is so blessed to have him in it and that you don’t want the next birthday to come too soon!
6. Involve others in the blessing/affirmation. We often have times of affirmation on birthdays in which people take turns saying affirmations to or about the birthday person. It isn’t uncommon to have siblings, siblings-in-law, Mom, Dad, etc., say any of the following:
a. “I like how you always let others go first in pot lucks.”
b. “I appreciate how you help at One Heart.”
c. “I love to watch you read. You have become such a great reader.”
d. “I love how you help the clients at One Heart so tenderly. They feel your love—you are such a great volunteer.”
e. “I like how you use your free time to help others.”
f. “I can’t believe how much you have improved in basketball the past year. Your outside shot is amazing.”
g. “You are such a diligent worker. Our family couldn’t make it without your daily work and contribution.”
h. “I love how you do your devotional every day. You are building good self disciplines that will help you your whole life.”
Use birthdays, special occasions, successes, achievements, down days, up days—any days to affirm your children. Build them up in their character and their faith. They might not say so, but they will come to love it.
Tomorrow—back to more help with academics this summer. The summer is officially half way over for most of us. There is still time to help your kids get ready for school in the fall.