Number One Parenting Tip: Train Your Young Child to Ask Permission

This sleeping beauty is my youngest daughter. She just finished singing “The B-I-B-L-E” to me, wreathed in dimpled smiles. She adores helping around the house, yesterday she even picked up, organized and put away her older sisters’ Horseopoly game (which was left out after they were done playing!) to surprise everyone. She’s a grand little girl!

How can little ones be so perfectly precious one minute and completely naughty and horrible the next? Easy, we’re all born with an old sin nature…and some of us with a stronger will than others! God says in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Deuteronomy 6:7 tells us to “teach our children diligently, when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lay down and when you rise up.”

It’s so important to train them from the outset, and this means spending time with them…they learn so much from osmosis, so to speak. Elizabeth at the Raising Godly Tomatoes site calls this time together “tomato staking”–staking your child to your side, teaching and training all the day long. Follow the tomato staking link for an in-depth explanation of this theory. The point is, you stake them to you while they’re young, so they’ll grow up straight and productive.

Putting this in CAPs because it’s important:

I AM NOT CLAIMING TO BE AN AUTHORITY ON CHILD TRAINING. (On the contrary, that’s why I’m writing this post!)

YOU AND YOUR HUSBAND ARE RESPONSIBLE TO GOD FOR HOW YOU RAISE YOUR CHILDREN. EVERY FAMILY, EVERY SITUATION IS UNIQUE, SO SEEK WISDOM FROM HIM BEFORE YOU THINK WHAT WORKED FOR ME WILL WORK FOR YOU…

That said, I am going to share my thoughts candidly, in the hopes that you might be encouraged to stay the course…and maybe learn some practical tips from my mistakes/successes.

What I Did and Didn’t Do

I definitely spent more one on one time with my oldest, as most moms probably do. Her vocabulary as a 10 month old was phenomenal, and by age two we were reading the Little House on The Prairie series–and Stormy of Chincoteague…she couldn’t get enough chapter books. In the car we’d play the “Bible Questions Game”–both of my older girls still love to rattle off their Moses facts (Jochebed–his mom, Amram–his dad, Aaron and Miriam–siblings) and the fact that Jesus, James and Jude were brothers…they begged me for Bible stories and morality tales about Princess Bratty and Lady Loveday.

We tried to be consistent in our training. We set up trial runs that were more about cheering on obedience than punishing for disobedience. We spanked when necessary. We talked about appropriate behavior before things like birthday parties or Christmas gatherings…our approach was more positive with the older girls, because we were more pro-active. With our youngest, we’re so busy correcting all the bad behavior that there’s hardly any time leftover for praising the positive.

She’s not a monster by any means. She loves helping, as I stated in the first paragraph. I’d hate for her to be reading this blog’s archives in a few years and think that mommy had nothing good to say about her, b/c she’s a totally precious little girl unless she doesn’t get her way.

Which Leads Me to My Number One Parenting Tip…

Letting toddlers choose their own way is a surefire path to destruction. They are too young to be left to their own devices (whether it’s time in front of the TV or complete freedom to wreck the house with their toys). There has to be a healthy respect for authority, ie, you want to train them from little bitty to ask your permission for everything! Lol. That sounds OCD again, doesn’t it, but believe me, it’s such a simple step when you start young and don’t let things slide as I have. Because you really don’t want them to run outside into the street whenever they feel like it, right?

Dialog such as:

“May I have the green cup, Mommy?” (**and then being able to handle occasionally getting the blue cup anyway)

“May I have a snack?” (rather than letting them help themselves to anything and everything, whenever and wherever, because this doesn’t teach them healthy eating habits or self-control)

“May I watch a movie?” (don’t let them decide when the TV gets turned on and off)

Every time they ask for permission, you are reinforcing that you are the one looking out for them, you are building trust, and teaching them contentment…while it’s still relatively easy to ingrain! And just THINK of all the temper tantrums you are avoiding!!!

**This doesn’t mean that you are saying “No” to everything…you want to tie heartstrings with your children, it’s a blessing to grant their desires when it’s reasonable, and if it’s not, you can explain why–sometimes. Sometimes they just need to take your word for it and not question your say-so. (Isn’t this a picture of the kind of grace relationship we have with God? And sometimes we don’t understand why He stops us in our tracks when we think we know what’s best for us! Maybe He’s just training us, ya think?)

I fully believe that most of the problems we’re having right now with our four year old stem from her having too many freedoms. Suddenly mommy and daddy are taking away these freedoms (her getting away with bad attitudes, etc) and she, of course, resents it! Doesn’t this sound more like a teenager issue to you? Ding-ding-ding!!! I believe that the teenage years don’t have to be full of rebellion and angst–if the training is done right in the early years.

I Have Proof (the mother protests!!!)

Yes every child is different, but in observing my three children, I can see the fruits of good training (and lack of!) so clearly.

When my 10 and 8 year old daughters wait till after Sunday school is over to eat the candy their SS teacher has given them, they are doing so because they want to eat it with my permission. And believe it or not, the self-control that takes is good for them! And here’s the thing: I have never told them they could not eat candy given to them without permission. They have the habit of asking permission deeply ingrained within them from their early years. Yes! My jaw drops when they ask permission for things like this, because they are better trained than *I* am…and their happiness while asking is evidence that it hasn’t hurt them any to wait. (I’ve since told them that they are old enough to enjoy candy in class if everyone else is!) An interesting thing to note, is that they don’t seem to have a sneaky bone in their bodies…and I’ve been radaring their every move!

So when do you start?

We started teaching certain sign language signs to our girls at 8 months of age. Sometimes it didn’t really catch on till later, but many of the signs were wonderful ways to introduce the proper way to get what you want! “Please” and “May I have a drink”, etc. Wow, they became such polite little things! If they didn’t ask nicely, they didn’t get what they wanted. Simple. And at that age, they usually took the quickest route to satisfaction. A painless way to teach a good habit that reaps so many benefits as your child grows older.

Another benefit to this, is your child will be the one standing to the side in a group of mischievous youngsters. They know better, believe me, because their mind has already been processing the fact that if they’d asked permission, it would have been SERIOUSLY denied and for good reason. I’ve noticed that many children act without thinking whatsoever– wrecking people’s property, putting themselves in danger, etc.

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Well, hasn’t this turned into a ramble…just give it some thought, and ask God to give you wisdom and strength to train up ALL your children in the way they should go.

They don’t raise themselves. And you don’t get many second chances.

Don’t Slack Off With Younger Children

While eating out at the local diner yesterday, my four year old’s silliness fast became annoying. One minute she’d be poking non-stop tickles at her cousin, the next she’d be noisily clinking her silverware or leaning way over out of her chair, trying to topple her booster seat. Worst of all, daddy had to take her on his lap and give her a stern lecture when she ignored his two attempts to nip these antics in the bud. Depending on your parenting style, this might not seem so terrible…but trust me, it was loud, interruptive and she would not tone it down.

She reacts to correction with tears of self-pity, sometimes saying, “Everyone doesn’t like me, I’m going to run away…” (incidentally, I have no idea where she gets this, unless she’s heard it on some movie?)

Her bad attitude will surface when I least expect it, probably once or twice a day. She can be the sweetest girl in the world–we love her to pieces–but I think, being the baby, that she has royal expectations of her place in our family…

So I’m guilty of slacking off with this third child of ours. And it seems backwards. I should be an old pro at this parenting gig. Right?

I remember how pumped I was when we discovered I was expecting our first born, scratch that and back up further, the anticipation and OCD began in the conception process! I checked out almost a dozen library books on pregnancy and infant-toddler rearing before the pregnancy test even came back positive… I would be the best mom ever. Breastfeeding, scheduling, newborn read-alouds, teaching her sign language, protecting her from television and learning Spanish words for colors and numbers while playing Candyland… Hubby and I took parenting classes for each segment of the growing years, from newborn to toddler to the formative years, etc. And so far, these two oldest girls of ours seem to be on the right course…not so our youngest!

Excuses

I guess I got lazy. Maybe I didn’t give enough credit to the training we put into our older girls, thinking that, with luck, our youngest would turn out fine on half the effort. I was homeschooling the older two by the time youngest came along…so shoving aside the great training moments became a habit, and before I realized it, we had some major issues to address.

Also, I think we tend to be hardest on ourselves–there’s a ton of pressure to raise our children right and we’re so scared we’ll mess them up forever. So I’m trying to remind myself not to take myself too seriously here, just to roll up my sleeves and try to regain the lost ground.

More Later

Either later this evening or tomorrow I’m going to share some of the easy things we did differently with our older girls and the benefits we’ve seen as a result. Like night and day, the difference training made. It’s sobering to me, to realize that I’ve lost those opportunities (to teach good habits before bad ones are firmly entrenched) with my youngest just because I’ve “relaxed” my parenting style.

I know it’s not too late, it’s just going to take more perseverance on my part now and a lot of God’s grace!

My #1 Parenting Tip coming soon!