I can still vividly remember a time when we were trying to get a handle on our first little one’s behavior. I was questioning biblical discipline and wavering some on whether more “modern” techniques might be appropriate.
One time, during my doubting weeks, I called two-year-old Joshua to come to allow me to put on his coat. He didn’t come right away. I remembered an article I had read in a parenting magazine about talking sweetly, telling him the importance of your “wish,” acting nonchalantly about a child’s disobedience, etc., so I tried it. I had his coat in my hand as I told him that I really needed him to come, so we could leave. I told him that if he didn’t come soon, we would be late. I spoke in soft, syrupy tones. Then I sat on the couch and acted like it didn’t really matter to me whether he came right away or not. Suddenly, I looked down at the coat in my hand and thought about what I was doing and realized how foolish it was.
Joshua was training me, rather than the other way around! There I sat on the couch, unable to leave, because my little one did not want to. I was allowing an immature preschooler to dictate our schedule. In essence, that is what we do when we do not punish our child, but let him do things his way or do what he wants instead of what we know is best for him. We are letting someone without the needed maturity and wisdom make decisions about himself (ie, when to go to sleep, what to eat, what to wear, etc.).
When our children are given to us as babies, they are foolish (sweet, wonderful, and darling, but definitely not “wise” yet) and unable to take care of themselves or to make decisions on their own. God expects us to take care of them and make decisions for them, not let them do it for themselves simply to avoid tantrums.
We have always been big fans of explaining things to children—including why we want a certain behavior, but a child should not HAVE to be given an explanation in order to obey. We have explained what we want and why we want it to our children for two reasons: (1) to keep the child from becoming exasperated; and (2) to give him something to put on his “learning hooks” to pull out when needed in the future. These early explanations are the foundation for later character training.
So how do you train small children to obey and be content even when the parent (as opposed to the child) is in control—in a world that says that children can only be happy if they consistently get their own way? Tune in tomorrow for “starting out right” and more!