I used to think that it was when our children step out of the house (boys to NS, girls to ?) as the time we will see if our training and education will bear fruit in their lives in the (wise or foolish) decisions they make as young adults.
I've revised it forward to the teen years. I believe now that the teen years is where we as parents will see if the training that we have or haven't invested, bloom. These would be in terms of their attitudes which also is his acceptance or rejection of his parents' way of life. Does he buy your philosophy or not?
I don't have teenaged children (yet). For the eldest, I would say, by and large, we are on the same page on most things. Some aspects is still work in progress. When there is any friction or disagreement or disobedience, we are still able to talk it out honestly and he does choose to follow us. We still hold authority over our 10 yr old on matters that pertain to his discipline, but I do recognise that our relationship is changing: blossoming into more of a friendship and partnership, fellow member of the team, sort of. This is the result of mutual respect and trust that we have for each other. We (hubby and I) do pray that he will continue to grow as a man of God that He can use for His service.
And these (respect and trust) do not come by coincidence or happenstance. These were instilled from childhood. I would say from the earliest year (8mths of age onwards). Here I share with you some of the things we practice. In our family, papa sets the rules, mama follows through. It's all good. ;)
We have learned the following from godly books, watching other families, but most importantly, the Bible, God's word that instructs us which way we should go.
Obedience. Don't give a command unless you expect it to be obeyed. Follow through.
Child training is essentially about molding a child's will to comply with his parent's. Anyone who has handled a baby for long will know that they have a will of their own and they will exercise it! Trouble is, our flesh, being born sinful will tend towards destruction and there is a need to mold that sinful will to be something malleable for the Spirit of God to direct.
About tending towards destruction. Ever seen a 3 year old tired and cranky, but refusing to take a nap that his body so needs? Often, it takes an adult (who knows better than that child) to over-ride his will and force him to lay down to sleep.
The first and most basic rule therefore is Obedience. That 3 year old who doesn't know better simply needs to obey. "You need to lie down now."
Please please please do NOT reason with a small child. They only need to know to obey your instructions. Explainations will come when they are able to understand consequences of their actions and so on..
Now, I've learned to give a command, and repeat it until it is obeyed or punishment needs to ensue before it is obeyed. Either way, the child needs to obey. That's how obedience is trained with animals. (I know, frightful analogy, but I've come to see all the similarities.)
Don't back down or change course when the child doesn't obey.
So, importantly, choose your commands wisely so that you CAN follow through.
Setting Clear Parameters.
Speak in a way that your child can understand you and obey. Give your instructions clearly and simply.
"Lie Down Here."
"Do not touch that Cup."
"No drawing on the walls. Draw on paper." (What I tell my 18 mth old..)
And if the child does not comply, I'd say, "do you want to lie down here or do you want a spanking?"
No empty threats, parent needs to follow through so that the child will learn that obedience is not a suggestion.
Judicial use of the Rod and Teaching, Reconciliation to Follow
The Rod is an object of justice when there is an infringement of a law. It is not a tool of vengence for anger. We must always strive never to exercise the use of the rod when we are angry. It detracts from the lesson of obedience we are trying to teach our child because he might not understand that the punishment is in response to his disobedience and not in response to his parent's anger.
We do vary the number of strokes according to severity of offense.
But very importantly, after the punishment must come the teaching (reproof) in order for the child to get wisdom and not commit the same offense again.
Proverbs 29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.
Again, talk simply in a manner the child can understand. Get him to understand what he had done that brought such pain upon himself. Dear parent, you are training him for life. If he can learn these lessons at a tender age, he will be spared much pain in life later on.
If your training is successful, he will happily obey the command. If he still does not, it could either be that he didn't understand you, or his will is still fighting yours.
If this happens with my children, usually it won't be the former but the latter. In which case, I will have to use the rod again and repeat steps.
When there has been an infringement, something in the relationship has been broken. There needs to be an asking for forgiveness and the reciprocal promise of forgiveness and a hearty assurance of love (hugs!!) at the end. This is not only for the present case, but it is also in preparation for the day when the Holy Spirit draws the child to understand that his sin had nailed Jesus on the cross and he needs to recognise his sin and ask for forgiveness from God in order to be reconciled to Him.
2 Corinthians 5:19-21 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
!!! Seeking forgivness is something we practice in our family among each other. When a child and another child fight, there needs to be a proper asking of forgiveness so that the relationship can be said to be proper again. We do not believe in brushing aside hurts and offenses.
They are not to be the centre of the Universe
This happens a lot with families who have only one or two children. Or with the baby of the family. The child's likes or dislikes or schedule is not to be the centre of all family decisions. This breeds self centredness (obvious, no?) The child needs to be one part of a greater whole.
Dad, Mom must always come out on top.
I know I may sound like a despot here, but never give your young child any hint that they can tell you what to do. At all. In fact, it has to be the reverse.
For instance, the child cannot finish his food. And I do see that he really might be full already. I will still say, eat one last mouthful and then you may go. That would put me in control instead of him deciding for himself he's had enough.
If you are teaching him something or talking to him and his attention is at it's limit and is wandering, I would not let him think that it is because of that that I am letting him go. But I would say something like, "Pay attention. I'm almost done." Cut short the otherwise longer lesson (he doesn't know this), and move on to something else. If not, he will think that he can get away with not listening whenever he doesn't feel like it.
This is applied when deciding where to go for an outing or shopping. When it is time to go home. Be firmly in control of these decisions. Always, come out on top.
When I was young, we were trained to call out to our elders to eat before we ate. I still do ask my mom if she has eaten yet.
For our family, it was hubby who started this practice of thanking whoever cooked the meal before partaking it. It makes the child more humble in acknowledging the effort that went into the preparing of his food. These days, I get them to chorus their thanks so that I don't have to say, you're welcome over and over and over. haha.
These courtesies have permeated other aspects of our daily lives. I thank the children after they have done their chores. And so on.
It is easy to slip into taking each other's contributions to the family for granted. I'm glad that we actively thank each other. Daily.
Praise, encouragement and Love
I spent quite a lot of time talking about the negative bits of child training at the beginning. However, I must say that those negative bits must make up perhaps 5% - 10% of the sum of our interaction with our children. Some days more, some days less, but as the child grows older, it should be less since they have learned the rules due to your consistent enforcement.
The older children will be so well versed in the rules and procedure, they can even train the younger ones on your behalf! (yes, my eldest one does, and he does a good job! Of course, he does not administer the rod.)
The bulk of it should go to the positive aspects of training: praise, encouragement and love. These teach far louder than anything else. And all these, encapsulated all round with a lot of mutual respect.
We are not to treat our children like slaves or imbiciles. I must admit, some days when my patience runs thin and my flesh takes over, I parent like that. :( Worse in the earlier years. But these days, I've become better at taking it all in stride.... non-stop crying, ridiculous demands, etc. etc.
Matthew 18:10 Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.
Instead, do what God does for His people:
Isaiah 40:11 He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.
Indeed, He is so kind, gentle and patient with us, we can do no less for our children.
Now, I'm at the end of my present (and by no means exhaustive) list. These are what I understand to be the foundation for a resilient relationship with my child as they grow older.
For more posts of this nature, do check out the category on Parenting Helps.
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