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.
“When a child is allowed to do absolutely as he pleases, it will not be long until nothing pleases him” (Anonymous).
|If you don’t want your kids to get muddy, don’t let them play in the mud! But if you’re like us, and think there are many more important things in life than if kids get muddy, go ahead and let them play! The key is to be proactive–decide ahead of time what you can and cannot tolerate!
One of our favorite Preventive Parenting tips is that of becoming a problem solver. As parents, we can complain that we do not like how something is going or how our children are behaving–or we can decide to solve the problem at hand.
We have found that many things that seem insurmountable–getting kids up and around on time in the mornings without too much stress, having the evening meal on the table at a certain time, and being sure that our kids are reading a lot–are easily taken care of when we decide to solve the problem–rather than just complaining about it or wishing that things were not as they are.
Let me give you some real life scenarios that I have recommended or heard of lately to get your “thinking skills” and “problem solving strategies” working:
1. Kids up running around in the morning, getting into things, etc., before Mom has had a chance to get herself ready–and prepare for their rising!
Make a “nobody up until you are told you can get up” rule. Our preschoolers were not allowed to get up whenever the pleased.
Just like they had to go to bed at a certain time, they also were not permitted to get up at random times. We had tape players in their bedrooms with radio dramas and talking books available–and also had them put their favorite books on their headboards. They were allowed to read or listen to tapes in the mornings, but they had to wait for me to get them up before they got out of bed.
2. Kids outgrowing their naps but fighting with each other when Mom and other littles are trying to rest.
We can come out and referee fights, yell at our kids for waking the baby, etc,. or we can make a quiet hour–a time in which only quiet activities are allowed. For us, these quiet activities were in a tub marked Quiet Hour–and were items that did not need any assistance to use.
In the case of fighting after outgrowing naps, the two who are fighting must have Quiet Hour in separate rooms–and if Quiet Hour is violated, it’s back to naps for them.
3. Kids not ready in the morning on time, stress and fighting, etc.
Implement morning routines–a set list of things that each child does from rising times until breakfast, or whatever the end of morning routine time holds. Figure up the amount of time needed to get those things done, subtract that from leaving or ready for school time–and make that time the Morning Routine time. (Read more about morning routines here.)
The point of this post is that so many things that cause us stress, fights, poor relationships, nagging, etc. can be handled through problem solving–proactive parenting–parenting in a way that we prevent those times, as opposed to always putting out fires because we did not prevent them to begin with.
Proactive Parenting provides a much more peaceful environment in our homes. It allows us to work on the discipline issues that are really crucial–and to ward off punishment, etc., for situations that can be handled ahead of time, rather than in the heat of the moment.
As an added bonus, Proactive Parenting teaches our kids how to solve problems, come up with options, get a handle on things before they become too big, etc., as they watch us model these skills for them.
|Speaking about “Building Study Skills and Comprehension” at a conference
There are many aspects of teaching a child how to learn, one of which is working to increase our children’s comprehension. When people have good comprehension, they can learn anything, anywhere, anytime.
There are three primary ways that we have worked to increase our children’s comprehension: (1) Discussion with parents and those more knowledgeable than the child; (2) Good questions following reading or discussions; and (3) Provide a rich background of experience.
The first two of those go hand-in-hand. Discussion of everything with our children from very young ages has given our kids experiences in areas that they would normally not have experiences in. It gives us the opportunity to teach all the time—and gives them learning hooks that they create with the discussion material to bring into other learning situations.
Good questions, not just rote questions, help the student think more deeply about subjects and allow you to observe his thought processes and help them along. Lastly, a rich background of experience gives your student the edge in learning any subject. Like discussion, it gives a child more knowledge, more background, more information to bring into future learning scenarios.
I am adding some information about teaching children how to learn, good materials, links to articles, etc., in the sidebar of this article for those who would like to study this further. Just being aware of always teaching our kids how to learn, how to study, how to research, how to further their understanding is a big step in teaching kids how to learn.
Tips and Links for Teaching Children How to Learn
~People often ask us what we would have done differently in our homeschool. One of the things I would have done differently is that every child, every year would have done a thinking skills book of some sort from the Critical Thinking Company: http://www.criticalthinking.com/index.jsp?code=c
It has been important to us in our child training that we understand (or at least try to understand!) the difference between foolishness (willfulness) and childishness (underdeveloped character). The differences between these two types of behaviors in children are crucial in disciplining properly. This is truly one of the biggest mistakes that we see parents make. For example:
(1) A child who spilled his milk at the table is disciplined in the same manner as he was earlier in the day when he struck his brother
(2) A child who forgot to shut the door and the dog got in the house is disciplined in the same manner as he was when he talked back to his mother
(3) A child who didn’t thoroughly clean his room is disciplined in the same manner as he was earlier when he lied to his dad about using one of this tools
In our child training, Ray and I have tried to determine whether a behavior was rebellion against us (as in outright disobedience or disrespect) or childishness (as in forgetfulness, procrastination, sloppiness, etc.):
a. Undeveloped or underdeveloped character
b. Forgetfulness, procrastination, irresponsibility, etc.
c. May turn into “foolishness” if left unattended
We do this because disobedience requires biblical discipline whereas childishness requires the second aspect of child training we have used: reality discipline (or consequences).
I like what an attendee at a recent seminar told us that she heard about this topic: Punishment is only for the Four D’s:
1. Disobedience (i.e. not forgetfulness or overlooking routine at first)
2. Disrespect (i.e. direct disrespect to parents or those in authority–not disagreeing with you respectfully or having their own thoughts!)
3. Deceit (lying, stealing, telling half truths, etc.)
4. Destruction (purposely hurting things or people)
Which Behavior Is This?
Discerning between disobedience and childishness can be so difficult! Even after nearly thirty-one years of parenting, Ray and I still continuously ask each other which behavior a child is displaying.
Difficult or not, we must do it. The Bible says that we are not to exasperate our children. Two sure ways to exasperate them are to punish incorrectly, as in anger, etc., and to punish something as disobedience, when we should be training through consequences.
All parents are faced with this. A child dawdles when we call him to come get ready for bed, and we wonder whether this is just childishness or if it is real disobedience. When our son leaves the dog out of the kennel for the third night in a row, and the pooch potties on the new carpet, we ask ourselves if our little guy is disobeying or forgetting.
In a nutshell , if a child is disobedient, disrespectful, or rebellious, we have a heart issue—and a serious discipline problem that needs handled in a serious manner—and quickly. That is, the Four D’s need punishment/chastisement, not consequences or reality discipline.
If a child is forgetful, slow, unreliable, etc. (especially a younger child), it is usually childishness—and we can “train” that undeveloped or underdeveloped childishness out of a child through consequences and reality discipline.
Besides disciplining these two types of behaviors correctly, we also need to watch our response to these behaviors. Simply put, not putting the hose back in the garage after the child watered the garden should not be met with the same response by the parent as lying about putting the hose back in the garage!
It is like responding to a child’s red streak in her hair in the same way as we do if that child uses God’s name in vain. There is simply no comparison. And the same should be true in our response to childishness vs one of the Four D’s.
For more information on this, please check out Discipline at our blog–or host a Raising Kids With Character seminar in your church or parenting group or homeschooling group. (Our RKWC seminar is a Christian parenting seminar for all Christian parents as opposed to our homeschooling workshops that we do for homeschool groups. All parents, homeschooling or not, can benefit from Raising Kids With Character!)
“There are games to be played, living room football to be conquered, talks to be had, words of affirmation to be spoken, talking books to be listened to, stories to be read, lessons to be learned, foods to be cooked, lego castles to be built, crafts to be made, tales to be told, songs to be sung, and hearts to be won. Turn off the television and turn on relationships.”
Today I bring you more tips for Taming the Television. I pray that these will help you to make the most of the time you have with your children. You will never regret the hours upon hours you spend discipling, mentoring, nurtering, heart training, and playing with your kids–take it from a mama with a thirty year old! Smile…
7. Replace television with something else—you!
About thirty years ago we went to a parenting seminar in which the speaker told a story of a dad who wanted to get rid of his family’s television. His children balked at the idea. He told them that he was taking away the television but giving them something else. They asked him what this something else was, and he replied, “Me!”
Everyday his children would call him at work, anxiously awaiting his arrival home. “What are we going to do tonight, Daddy?” And each day he gave his children something far more valuable than television: he gave them himself.
Don’t just remove television, certain nights of tv viewing, or tv time without replacing it. There are games to be played, living room football to be conquered, talks to be had, words of affirmation to be spoken, talking books to be listened to, stories to be read, lessons to be learned, foods to be cooked, lego castles to be built, crafts to be made, songs to be sung, and hearts to be won. Turn off the television and turn on relationships.
8. Have the children earn television hours.
This has been suggested to us many times when we speak about time management and time with your children, so it must work well for some folks! I have heard of various ways to earn tv time—same number of hours reading as watching, getting so many minutes per chore, earning minutes by doing things on time (i.e. homework done by six equals 30 mins tv), etc.
9. Watch out for preschoolers’ screen time!
This isn’t a method for controlling as much as an admonition. Your preschoolers will grow to dislike simple pleasures very quickly if they watch television and movies all day. We had a “no movie during the day period” rule most of our lives. (The exception to this was one hour of educational dvds, like Reading Rainbow, Doughnut Man, NEST videos, etc. for one hour after naps with one particularly trying child.)
Note: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours per day of television for two year olds through preschoolers and none at all for children under two. There are so many more educational, meaningful, physical, and fun things for two, three, and four year olds to do besides watching television!
We teach the concept of “setting children’s tastes” in our parenting seminar–and it is so real and so true and so impacting that we want to shout it where ever we speak. Just like my two oldest kids despise pop because we “set their tastes” by not ever giving them any when they were little, so we set all of our children’s tastes for continual entertainment by bombarding them with it when they are young.
10. Make a “no turning on the television without permission” rule.
I am amazed when children come into a house and turn on the television. I have seen semi-pornography on commercials for television shows many, many times when we are at someone’s house watching football or in a motel viewing television. I would never consider letting our kids have the remote control to a tv and flipping through the channels. They just see way more than they should see at their ages (or more than I want me or my husband to see!).
11. Be careful not to use television as a babysitter too much.
I know preschoolers and toddlers are demanding. I had six kids twelve and under all at home by myself twelve to fourteen hours a day every day—without television (or even computers!)! However, continually putting little ones in front of the television is simply not healthy for them. Their attention spans will not lengthen like they would if they were listening to talking books, listening to you read aloud, “baking” a play-dough pie, or building with Duplos. Use the television as a babysitter only when it is absolutely needed—and try to find other ways to entertain toddlers as much as possible.
12. Limit daytime viewing for everyone.
We always told our kids that daytime isfor learning and working—and evenings are for resting, fellowshipping, playing, and family. It is extremely hard to control the number of hours our kids watch television when they watch from seven to eight before school and again from four to six after school—to start with!
13. Pay attention to how much time children spend using all screen media.
In a study recorded in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the hours of actual screen time logged by children versus the hours that parents estimated were significantly different. In our media-driven age, we should be aware of all of our children’s media/screen time—not just television*. In order to control the amount of time our children sit in front of entertainment screens, we must be realistic and honest about the amount of time they truly are being entertained by any screen.
14. Do not put a television set in a child’s bedroom.
The aforementioned study discovered that children with televisions in their bedrooms watch significantly more television than children without. Furthermore, parents monitored television habits much less when there were many television sets in a household—and especially when the children’s rooms contained televisions.
15. Turn the television off when it is not being used for purposeful viewing.
The study previously cited found a negative association between the use of television as “background” and children’s time spent reading. Quite frankly, reading is a simple pleasure that many children do not enjoy—background noise of television is not conducive to enjoying this pasttime that takes a great deal more effort than simply viewing and listening.
16. Pinpoint other nonscreen, in-home activities that your children enjoy.
When discussing the idea of reducing television viewing time in your home, you might have a family meeting and draw up a list of other ideas of things the family can do instead of watching television. A website devoted to helping families reduce their dependence upon television, The Television Turnoff Network (http://www.televisionturnoff.org/), lists one hundred alternatives to “screen time” that parents can suggest to their children.
Family time is worth fighting for. The relationships that can be developed when some of the distractions are removed are incredible. The amazing things that we and our children can do with the time that we are not watching television are worthwhile. Don’t let your children set out to spend nearly fourteen years of their lives watching television!
*Jordan, Amy, PhD; James C. Hersey, PhD; Judith A. McDivitt, PhD; Carrie D. Heitzler, MPH. “Reducing Children’s Television-Viewing Time: A Qualitative Study of Parents and Their Children.” Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Web. Feb 2010.