My Thoughts on Child Training Part 1

Jessica asked me to sometime post on my methods and beliefs regarding discipline. First I’ll be up front and tell you I’m having to correct a lot of lazy parenting […]

Jessica asked me to sometime post on my methods and beliefs regarding discipline.

First I’ll be up front and tell you I’m having to correct a lot of lazy parenting in my youngest. That said, I know what’s worked for us, and that’s what I’ll share here.

Realize the difference between punishment and training.

  • Do we want children that have been forced into obedience (whether by threats or other fear tactics)?
  • Or do we want children that have been trained to cheerfully obey?

Training is reinforcing good behavior positively. As much as possible, we need to encourage our children to do the right thing.

Punishment should involve several things, here are two for you to consider:

  1. Spanking is only part of child training, it’s not the end all cure all. (It is an important part though, especially when training a young child!)
  2. If you spank for bad behavior and then give your child what they want anyway, you’ve punished, but you’ve mis-trained. Better to not spank at all, imho.


One way I encourage cheerful compliance, is by never giving them what they want when they’re whining/crying/pouting/screaming for it. That’s rewarding the negative behavior. You miss the boat on this one even once and your child’s memory won’t soon forget it. Consistency is key here.

This means, even if you spank for the whining (or whatever) don’t give in to the immediate gratification of whatever it was they were whining for in the first place. Or they’ll think the spanking was worth it: they still outsmarted mom and dad and got what they wanted.

So often you don’t even need to spank.

The following scenario happened here two nights ago: My toddler was crying with resentment that I wouldn’t let her have watermelon before her hot dog was finished.

I asked, “What’s wrong, did you bite your tongue?”

She frowned at me, and if she were old enough to employ sarcasm, I’m sure she would have.

“No. I don’t want hot dog. I want watermelon!”

“Oh.” I nodded and thoughtfully took a bite of my supper. “That would have been nice. Too bad you whined when I said ‘not yet’. That watermelon is really yummy. Better finish your hot dog and maybe tomorrow you can remember to obey and then you can have some watermelon.”

Of course the lower lip came out. She’s been perfecting “the pout”.

“Smile at Mama and eat.

You know, she wasn’t thrilled but she didn’t explode because she knew what would happen. (Spanking)

Then last night, watermelon was again on the menu, this time with cheese burgers. She didn’t demand watermelon, she asked nicely, scarfing her hamburger down in the process.

Maybe she prefers hamburgers to hot dogs, or maybe she’s a fast learner.

More of my thoughts on this subject later! Meanwhile, add yours!

36 replies on “My Thoughts on Child Training Part 1”

Wow! What excellent tips!! So many parents need to remember that we are dealing with very young immature minds and at times, yep, the should get a swat on the bottom, but also, the rewards need to be just as grandiose.

Good notes, Mary. I’ve really been noticing with my oldest (2 yo) that her attitude has become such an issue – she’s perfected the “very-quiet-fit”. In other words, she doesn’t scream and carry on, because we’ve never allowed that but she’s perfected the pout, as well, and will often sit down in a huff, pouting, which is NO LESS REBELLIOUS than screaming, but much easier to ignore. I’m working on correcting this. As you said CONSISTANCE IS THE KEY!!!! A good reminder for me, and encouraging to know someone else thinks about such things. What I find most convicting is how when she is frustrated about something (she drops something, baby gets into her toys, whatever) she responds EXACTLY LIKE I DO when I’m frustrating. Yikes!! As always, I think the hardest part of training children is training yourself (myself) to BE what I want my children to be. OK, gramatically that was a mess, but I think you get what I’m saying! BTW, we missed you at MAMA’s – are your girls feeling any better?

Thanks, Leticia…so much of the training needs to be done in times of non-conflict for sure. Role-playing and so forth!

Haley, that’s a great point about the screaming equaling the pouting in terms of rebellion. Though I can’t imagine your oldest EVER batting an eye negatively! ๐Ÿ˜‰ And yes, the apples don’t fall very far from the trees in this parenthood experience. Keeping on top of attitudes (ours and theirs!) is a full-time job, not to mention training…it’s no wonder God’s desire is for the woman to be at home!

Youngest is feeling much better, but middle daughter could barely talk yesterday. Both have colds manifesting in different ways. Could be allergies? Not sure! I hated to miss, but the girls needed a quiet day at home.

How very cruel of you to treat your child that way! Telling her how good the watermelon is when she can’t have any? WTF is wrong with you? You enjoying teasing a toddler? Seek help…you need it…and god help your children.

it doesn’t even make a lick of sense nutritionally either. *eat you nice nitrite filled chicken beaks and pig entrails before you each this nice, healthy watermelon!*

Jen and Linda, I refuse to take offense. Obviously you guys have issues, don’t we all! But, lol, I knew someone would be thinking that about the nitrates, Linda. What a picturesque way to put it!

Somebody has issues because they think children should be allowed to eat healthy food before unhealthy food?? I guess any situation is potential fodder for a put-her-in-her-place confrontation with your kid. Do you also play mind games with her when she wants to run around and play instead of sitting in front of her electronic babysitter?

Yes, Mary. I have issues with a lot of the things you say you do, obviously. I think the Pearls and Ezzos are idiots, to start, and i can’t comprehend how any kind, normal person of any religion could buy in to their cruel and abusive methods. maybe you can explain it to me.

“Maybe she prefers hamburgers to hot dogs, or maybe sheโ€™s a fast learner.”

I don’t understand why you didn’t ignore the whining and give her the watermelon just when you said: later. It accomplishes the same task of teaching her that you mean what you say when you say it and would be so much more pleasant — or do you just prefer the cruel power-trip?

come on, heather. you know how it is. parenting needs to be a constant struggle againt the awful, sinful children. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Rotten little beggars — always wanting sweet, juicy fruit instead of salty, suspicious meat-like products. What’s next…strawberries before chicken nuggets?! Don’t they love the Lord?!

Ah but you’re all thinking mistakenly that it’s about the food, and it’s not. It’s about instant gratification and instilling thankfulness. It’s not about parenting being a struggle against awful sinful children.

When do people learn to be responsible and unselfish? Shouldn’t it be something started at the very beginning if possible, so that it comes naturally, or as naturally as possible? So many young adults nowadays–the Peter Pan generation–show absolutely none of those two qualities. They go to college and graduate with degrees but instead of using them they continue living at home and waitress for a living. They don’t want the responsibility of marriage so they move in with their S.O.’s. These people won’t pay their child support, they may not even acknowledge that they fathered children if it doesn’t suit their purposes.

If we feed the selfishness, I’m afraid of where it will land my children. I really don’t want their future to be one of addiction, cheating, worry and despair. Which it would be if they never learn self-control, and respect for others.

they aren’t learning self control by being controlled by YOU though… have you read anything about the roots of eating disorders?

i think it’s really weird to equate food preferences with morality. seriously, liking watermelon more than hotdogs is not a sin. why go looking for issues when there are none?

I can see how it’s weird to you, because you don’t know my daughter. We rarely eat hot dogs, for one thing, and when toddler has eaten them in the past, she’s loved them. I cut them into octupi for her and she eats them with ketchup. (Something most moms never serve their kids, I’m sure…)

She also loves watermelon. I give her a little of everything we’re having usually, but she was whining for watermelon before I had the chance to serve some to her. Thus me instructing her to eat her hot dog and then she’d get some watermelon. Since she continued pouting and whining, the above scenario was played out. I prefer remaining cheerful and optimistic because she knows better. Some people would spank, some people would ignore. I happen to think these little moments pile up on top of each other building into bigger rebellions.

And we don’t have food issues. ๐Ÿ™‚ Except that we enjoy meals around the table, with lots of laughter and silliness. Every night.

i think that terming something so innocent as seeing watermelon and wanting some as *rebelliousness* is really dysfunctional. it’s just inventing some strange intention where none exists and it’s complete micromanagement. what is the goal here? because it seems to be *i dare request anything i really want.* ot doesn’t sound like a recipe for happiness to me. sometimes it best to just lay off. i don’t know how old your eldest child is, but wait until adolescence hits. better to have the lines of communication wide open and not having a daughter trying to hide and supress her every desire to keep momma happy. you can’t just think of what it is that you desire now. you have to think ahead and decide if the messages you are sending are the ones you intend.

I don’t understand why “cheerful compliance” is so necessary. I agree that I don’t want my kids to whine whenever they don’t get their way, but I also don’t expect to *like* everything I expect them to do. I also don’t think they have to be cheerful all the time either. Why is that so important?

Why are you even reading this blog if you are just going to come down on the author so harshly?

As far as the cheerful compliance goes–it’s my goal that my girls will be able to obey God quickly and cheerfully. If they don’t learn to obey me, their first authority, how much harder it will be to learn to obey Him? Perhaps Mary believes this as well.
Of course it’s not realistic to expect this 100% of the time, just as I’m not always cheerful the 7th time I mop up juice off the floor, but God sets lofty goals for us.
Philippians 2:14 Do everything without complaining or arguing
He expects us to shine like the stars in the universe!

Also, the issue in Mary’s example wasn’t about food–it was about disobedience. There is nothing wrong with not accepting “back chat” in the form of whining.

Mary isn’t trying to micromanage…How many three year olds do you know that you would trust to make healthful food choices for themselves? I believe that God put us in authority over our children precisely to ‘control’ their environments until they are ready to exorcise more independence.

I think she mentions that somewhere in the funnel theory of parenting.

Forgive me Mary if I stepped on your toes, but I simply couldn’t not respond!

“Ah but youโ€™re all thinking mistakenly that itโ€™s about the food, and itโ€™s not.”

It wasn’t about food to you, but it was to a small child who just wanted watermelon — you are the one who turned it into an ordeal.

I understand that you are trying to head-off negative behavior, but I agree with Linda that what it seems like you are really doing is closing the lines of communication…at best. More likely you are doing one of two things: teaching them to sublimate their desires for someone else’s or giving them a blueprint for manipulation.

It seems like you would both be better served by teaching her how to ask appropriately.

Linda, I’m not terming her desire for a certain kind of food as rebellion, just wanting her to ask for it in the right way. It doesn’t take much for a perfectly sweet kid to turn into a me-centered whiner, and my toddler had recently turned into one. My fault entirely, because I had been letting issues like this slide. This episode was just one moment in time, and I’m happy with how it turned out. Toddler knows I’ll give her pretty much anything if she asks right in the first place. (Maybe I better clarify that “pretty much anything” doesn’t include things harmful) ๐Ÿ™‚ If I don’t it’s for a pretty good reason.

Hi Jo and Heather, you’re right, I don’t expect my kids to like everything in life but half the battle in a successful happy life is being able to handle all the “stuff” with a positive attitude. I love how well my children handle disappointment, and even more, how they sympathize with and try to cheer up their siblings when something comes along to shadow their plans. They’re great at taking life’s lemons and making lemonade. And teaching them how to “make the best of things” came not only through small confrontations like I described above in showing toddler how to “ask nicely next time and she’d get some” but also through talking about situations and how we’d react, and pointing out attitudes/hurts in others and how it was affecting their happiness, etc. My older girls (9 & 7) have gotten the bigger picture and they’re as sweet and thoughtful as can be while still being normal kids with hang-ups every now and then. I haven’t had to spank either of them in years. They are really a delight to us. I wish you could meet them and form your opinions then, rather than worrying about us having closed lines of communication and the terror they’ll be when they’re teens. Because you’ve lumped me into your “box” of what you think happens when parents train their children to first-time obedience. My kids aren’t afraid of me, we talk openly, in fact, they come to me with their “friend issues” and I’m really careful not to preach but to listen and answer carefully. ๐Ÿ™‚ We have the greatest conversations about abortion, homosexuality, immature adults…

Jessica, you didn’t step on my toes, I loved having your comments sandwiched in among these others. ๐Ÿ™‚ You captured exactly what I meant by “cheerful compliance” and yes, yes, yes to everything else too. I’m glad you understand the whole “it’s not about food” issue.

I think it’s safe to say that we aren’t going to be able to agree about this particular scenario with the whining/food. It has been an eye-opening experience to me though, to see how the other side views child-training. We can talk our “fingers” off here online and not come to any agreement. It’s too bad we can’t all meet up in person and formulate our own opinions based on the real evidence of the children themselves. It really has me shaking my head in wonder that several of you think you have my children and me figured out based on one or two blog posts. Linda is the only one that has actually browsed my blog in an attempt to get to know me and see if I am in fact, a child abuser. None of you have opened up your blogs (assuming you have them, or online forums in which you’re active) or lives to me. I’m not ashamed of anything here on my blog. Everything I do as a wife and parent is because I love my family and God, and want the best for them. And I like the results of how we’ve raised our kids, that’s why I’m sharing them here.

I know you all want the best for your families as well, as moms we all understand that and appreciate it. May God bless us all in our endeavors, knowing our heart of hearts as no other can.

I don’t think your children will be terrors in their teens, nor do I think I implied that.

I have browsed your blog — I just haven’t commented on anything else…yet ๐Ÿ˜‰ I don’t have one of my own, but you are quite welcome to ask me anything.

And, naturally, I have formed an opinion of you based on what I’ve read…which I thought was a large part of the point of blogs, right?

“Because youโ€™ve lumped me into your โ€œboxโ€ of what you think happens when parents train their children to first-time obedience.”

My children are taught to mind the very first time, too. We just do it a little differently here.

I currently have a whiney, selfish 5 year old that I think may have been switched in the night for the real kid.

Anyway, I am quite sure that you rear your children out of love — anyone can see that — but I still can disagree with some of your methods ๐Ÿ™‚

Heather, I’m sorry, I guess it’s Linda with the concerns about my kids entering their teen years. And it’s something I do wonder about, hoping that the good relationship we have now will continue. That maybe the “teenage years” most parents roll their eyes about is a result of bad training or a lack of training in the younger crucial years. You hear so much of how the first 7 years are what sets a child in their ways for adulthood.

Anyway, thanks for sharing, I know now, that you truly want to help and aren’t just attacking me. With the comments left on the child and infant training posts, I naturally felt that you all jumped to several conclusions about me that aren’t true. Such as me being an infant-beating, nutritionally neglectful, angry-spanking-my sinful-children-all the time mama! Yes, blogs are for sharing ourselves with others, and I’ve got a year and a half’s worth of reading for you and will enjoy getting to know you in the process! Not that I expect you to want to get to know me to that extent, lol.

You’ve obviously found something that works for you and that’s great. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one that wonders if their kid was “switched with another in the night”! Sometimes I wonder that too…

So Linda likes Dr. Sears, how about you?

“So Linda likes Dr. Sears, how about you?”

I like Linda. Lol.

To be serious though, I do get a lot of good advice from her and other ladies on a board we post on together.

I haven’t really read much or subscribed to Soandso’s Method of Child Rearing, which is not to say I shouldn’t have done so, but sort of wing it and only look for advice when I have issues I don’t know how to resolve myself.

With that said I have read a couple of books by Mel Levine, and Raising a Thinking Child. I really enjoyed Levine and found RaTC to be helpful if a bit simplistic and overly saccharine. I generally scout around and take whatever makes sense to me and the way I like to treat my kids.

*My older girls (9 & 7) have gotten the bigger picture and theyโ€™re as sweet and thoughtful as can be while still being normal kids with hang-ups every now and then. I havenโ€™t had to spank either of them in years.*

then you’re not really following the pearls then, are you? hee. i think that, for me, i was seeing *ezzo* and *pearls* and just thinking ICK, but it really doesn’t seem like you focus entirely on those methods any way. also, a lot of people are put off my the word *train* as relates to children. i prefer *teach* but i’m not all that caught up in the semantics of it, honestly. what we call *first time minding* here is very important to me, as well. i’m not at all permissive. i’m just not willing to spank the kids. i set up boundaries different ways. if the goal in this scenario was to have the child ask appropriately, i’d have said something like, *ask politely* and left it at that if they complied.

also, about the cheerful thing. how does that work?
G-d knows if you’re *faking it.*

Hi again, Heather, I’ve not heard of those authors/books, but am glad for the recommendations and your thoughts on them.

Well, Linda, I thought I was pretty clear that though I have benefited from their (Pearls and Ezzoes) resources, I’m not a die-hard follower of either. I said in a recent comment to Corrina, that I’m just a mom who in light-bulb moments takes advice that fits and goes by instinct from there. I think it’s because of the helps I’ve gotten from these sources that my kids are the way they are today. We haven’t “religiously” followed either, but I’ve read the books and used what worked.

I don’t get bent out of shape about the things I disagree with. I’m usually in such a hurry when I read that it’s not worth it. I just filter it out and save my pondering for the things that seem pertinent to my situation.

And I normally do tell the kids to “ask politely” but that wasn’t working with toddler in the days leading up to the “watermelon” incident. When things “aren’t working” by default I pull out a child training book, and in this case, my nine-year old had just been reading “No Greater Joy” (kinda funny after sharing favorite books in my Ad-Libbing Read-Aloud’s post) and shared a story from there that reminded me that the Pearls don’t give in for whining. Even if the child asks politely the second time. So I’m applying a little more pressure at the moment for toddler till we get through this. I’m not taking it as far as cutting a switch from a tree and switching her for each infringement. We haven’t had any problems since the one in this post. Thankfully she just needed a concrete reminder (with a consequence–of not getting the watermelon initially) that whining wasn’t acceptable and that’s been working.

On cheerful compliance, we haven’t “arrived”. My oldest is very good natured and helpful, she always has been. I hand her a basket of clothes to put away and she never fails to thank me, strange, huh. (It’s sincere, btw, not sarcastic!) And I make sure she knows I appreciate it. My middle daughter does pretty good, but her biggie is schoolwork. She drives me crazy because she always acts like she doesn’t want to do school (drags her feet, etc) but once she’s involved she’s loving it. We talk about this, and she’s getting better. She’s a drama queen anyway, and her initial reactions to things are always a bit much. She’s also my questioner and worrywart. She knows she used to always see the glass as “half-empty” but through a lot of encouragement and experience, she’s learned to see it as “half-full”. So she’s coming around as well.

When they were young, we did certain things such as the Pearls and Ezzoes both recommend, in “playing” the “come to mommy” game. You call them, they answer, “Yes, Mommy!” and come running. It probably rubs you the wrong way, you might see it as setting them up for failure, but, to me, it’s an innocent way to reinforce (in a time of NON-conflict) that when mommy calls, they need to come. I’ve always been glad that my toddlers weren’t like some, that intentionally do the opposite of what their parents tell them. If they were about to run in front of a car, or a snake and I told them to stop, their obedience could mean life or death. So I like the role-playing directives with toddlers, in teaching first-time obedience. The “yes mommy” stuff we only required when they were toddlers, and even then not for every single direction. And I haven’t been doing as good a job in this with my 3 year old as I did with my older two, and I can see the difference.

Ladies, I only read half of these posts and I must say that the slamming and anger I’m seeing posted is much worse than anything I read regarding Mary’s approach to child training.

If any of you believe you are the perfect parent and have perfect children to prove it, please tell us your secrets. It would be much more productive than attacking someone else’s methods.

Linda, I am seeing all 28 posts on this topic — or did you mean the three most recent discussions? Further down on the right — under the broken pencil is a longer list. HTH ๐Ÿ™‚

*Ladies, I only read half of these posts and I must say that the slamming and anger Iโ€™m seeing posted is much worse than anything I read regarding Maryโ€™s approach to child training.*

anger? bwahahahahahahahahahahaha! that’s pretty funny, actually.

*If any of you believe you are the perfect parent and have perfect children to prove it, please tell us your secrets. It would be much more productive than attacking someone elseโ€™s methods.*

yes… that’s what we are… perfect. parents. i’ll give you all my secerets in you send a money order for $99.99 WWLindaD P.O. Box 666 Seattle, WA 98111. in the meantime, i’ll just be content in knowing that i don’t feel the least bit badly about calling things like i see them. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Linda, I tweaked the “Active Discussions” listing just for you! It now shows the ten latest threads…

Elizabeth, thank you for your sweet stand on my behalf. I appreciate it!

Childrearing is not an easy subject because one parenting method does not work for all. Believe me, I’ve tried them all from Ezzo’s to Grace Based non punitive parenting. I spent years doing what Mary suggested and following through with spanking, and it just didn’t work for 2 of my children who are extremely strong willed children. They would continue, multiple times a day, to test limits which left me exhausted.

It wasn’t until I stopped following a method and really listened to the Holy Spirit that things started to work for our family. One of my favorite parenting books is Heartfelt Discipline. I wish I would have found it early because it focuses on building relationships with your children and shepherding their hearts. Too often I fall back into my old parenting ways, but when I take time to really listen to my children, evaluate why they are acting the way they are, and then ask for God’s help it ends up better.

Sometimes it’s not about obedience, but about a real emotional need your child might have and I need to remember it should be connection before correction.

I like that too, and love the sounds of the book. Thanks for taking time to share about your parenting journey with us, Gina. It’s good to be reminded that not every child fits into the same mold. And even if what we’re doing is working, it’s crucial not to get in a rut, but always to rely first and foremost on God’s direction.

Putting that book on my list… ๐Ÿ™‚

What an inspiring post! I know myself I punish all too often for mistakes my children make simply because of a lack of training on my part! Thank you for this reminder.


Thanks for commenting, Kim. The wonderful thing about training is reaping the rewards. For a little bit of investment (consistency) we can have a lifetime of good relationships with our children, and in the process, set them up for success in their relationships.

I’m glad you understood what I was trying to say in this post. ๐Ÿ™‚

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