Training Young Children
When my husband's boss invited my family to go boating one Saturday, my kids were quite young. Holding my baby girl, I noticed my three boys running ahead of my husband's boss. I immediately called, “Stop,” and my three boys stopped abruptly. The boss was impressed by the instant obedience of our children.
To impress people is not why I taught my kids to follow simple commands instantly without thinking. I wanted them to be under the authority of God. I wanted them to know that they did not rule, and that the world did not revolve around their selfish desires. God rules, and He commands children to obey their parents, so that children can bring rest to a parent's soul. It's that simple.
On a practical side, I also wanted to teach my children instant obedience so that they wouldn't be run over by a car. When my second son was less than two years old, he nearly got run over by a car in a parking lot because he didn't stop when I yelled, “Stop!”
Several months later I saw a dead squirrel that had been run over in the middle of a parking lot. Instead of shielding my children, I said, “Look, this is what happens when you don't stop when I say to stop. Especially in a parking lot or on the street, it is dangerous.” He never ran out into the parking lot again.
I decided to do some obedience games at home in preparation for obedience in real life. I would have my kids run around the room until I said, “Stop.” Then they would freeze or stop moving. I sometimes said “stop” so quietly that they had to be paying attention to win. Oh, I gave them a small M&M for each time they won the game.
“Come” was another command that my tiny children instantly obeyed. Seat them across the room. They should jump and run to you as soon as you say “Come.” Reward them each time with a hug.
“No” also had to be instantly obeyed. I would teach this throughout the day, whenever a situation arose. There was a negative consequence every time the command was disobeyed. Praise followed obedience every time as well. For children ages one, two, and three, praise is especially powerful, but it will work with elementary-aged children as well.
Besides training in obedience, I decided to train my children in self-control. I would start by stirring banana bread batter close to them so that they could see it. If they leaned forward to touch it, I would back it up. I sat on the floor, surrounded by my tiny children. They got to watch me grate cheese and even chop vegetables using a sharp knife. They never leaned forward, because I taught them self-control with the banana bread batter. Talk about a fun cooking class that is mesmerizing to young children. Most parents don't trust their children like this. Let me add that I have hyper children with tons of joy, creativity, and energy. If I could train them in obedience and self-control, so can you. It takes a small amount of work that yields big time. Now that my children are older (they are 10, 9, 7, and 6 as I write this), when I give them a command, they immediately hop up and obey without thinking. There is only an occasional whine if a child is tired, since we're all human beings. But the training you put in when your children are tiny will pay off when your children are older.
One more thing: always train with a pleasant attitude. If you are angry when you train your children, it will backfire. Children need to feel loved first and foremost.
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