When I thought about raising children in the beginning of my parenting journey, I thought I knew what to do when a child misbehaved.
I had learned from my parents, watched other parents discipline their children, and felt confident of what I would do or not do, depending on the example I was given. What I hadn’t factored in was….. maybe there was more to parenting than what I had observed.
As our first son began to need his behavior corrected, I only focused on discipline. It was only a little bit later that I learned there is actually something that comes before discipline…. Training.
Let me explain.
Training needs to happen before the need to correct our children’s behavior comes into play.
I learned to train our children, and one of the first things I trained them in when they were wee little ones, was to listen. Here’s what a typical training session looked like:
Little One has just begun to walk. He’s toddling around the house and a new world is opened up to him. We are all excited for this new phase. I want to make sure he knows how to listen and begin teaching him what I expect in a calm and fun manner.
My husband or older children and Little One are on one side of the room, and I am on the other.
Me: “Come here, Little One.” (This is said with a pleasant voice and a huge smile on my face and I clap and wiggle my fingers beckoning him.)
Little One doesn’t yet know what that means. He smiles at me and leans a bit further into his daddy. I walk over to him with a big smile on my face, take his little hand, and repeat, “Come here, Come to mommy” as I slowly back up and return to my seat, bringing him along with me. I give him a kiss, praise him for being such a smart boy and generally make him feel loved.
Now my husband does the same thing with Little One. He calls to him, “Come here,” does a lot of smiling, then comes to get Little One and gently brings him back to where he started, all the while repeating, “Come here, Come to Daddy.”
We repeat this exercise until Little One can do it and follow the command easily by himself. It doesn’t generally take very long. We make a big deal and celebrate every time he succeeds. It is a fun exercise and we practice in the coming days in different situations; when he’s toddling down hall, when he’s playing with something, when I want him to come and get in his high chair for a meal, etc.
This is one of the most basic training sessions in parenting we used, but it was an extremely important and foundational building block to a child and his learning to listen and obey.
It sets up the child for success in knowing how to listen, in knowing who he needed to listen to, and in obedience, and respect. It helps parents in the training process, and it happens under a calm and fun environment rather than a frustrated environment.
It continues to strengthen connections and the bond of trust between child and parent that has already been established since birth.
Training is an important part of parenting our children, yet an often overlooked or unknown aspect of it.
If you find yourself frustrated raising your voice to a child who doesn’t listen the first time, or even the second time, don’t despair! There is a way to get on another track.
Depending on how far you are into raising your child or children, it could take a bit of extra work, but it is possible to have toddlers that obey, children that are enjoyable, and tweens that are helpful, and teens that are respectful, fun, and likable.
For more examples and tips here’s my book-Plug In to Your Child, Ages 4-9: Connect to Your Child’s Heart and Motivate Great Behavior by Mendi Everett