Monday, March 28, 2011

Child Training Revisited

Last night I spent some time browsing child training articles and was reminded of how good it is to revisit these things at various stages of training my kids.

One of the main issues I'm dealing with now is my 3 1/2 yo daughter who cries very loud and very intentionally when she is offended. She is very particular about things and is easily set off if her sock is slightly twisted causing a bump at the toe, if her jeans aren't tucked in to her boot just right, if her baby's blanket comes slightly untucked, if I give her the wrong spoon at dinner or if I move my hand the wrong way when she's holding it - you get the idea.

While I used to think only people who didn't train their children ended up with children like this, I have, and I did. The result of all my training efforts thus far are that she doesn't cry for hours or throw fits or yell in defiance or hit, she just cries for about a minute or two and then she moves on to pouting or playing, depending on the perceived offense, her level of tiredness and the situation.

Just today we were at the grocery store, I had a full list of things to pick up. #4 is due in one week so I'm hoping to pre-make some dinners and stock the freezer for my husband.

On the way in, I grab a full size shopping cart, my 7 yo asks if he can push one of those "customer in training" miniature carts around the store so I say yes, then my 3 1/2 yo follows suit and pulls out another miniature cart and follows along behind him. We now have a caravan.

I immediately assess the situation, because I just want to get done and get home, but I'm smelling the perfect storm brewing:
-she's going to be all over the place with that cart
-she's overtired because I kept her up late last night which means if I tell her to put the cart back, she's going to cry. longer. louder.
-I'm sick with a yucky head cold + 9 months pregnant = low tolerance

All things considered, I decide against conflict and ask my 9yo to keep an eye on my 3yo and help her maneuver the cart. This was a total cop out - shoving the responsibility off on my 9yo, but a reasonable one I thought considering all things.

We made it to the onions, the bell peppers, the celery - oops, she got distracted to wet her hands in the water spray and left the cart behind in the other isle. 'Go get your cart.' She does. So far so good.

Now for the meat dept. 'Let's go, quick, quick!'

Half way there, she stops.

'Come on Tat, let's go!'

No answer, just a sour look on her face and she's not moving. She wants to take her time, look at what she wants to look at, and play down each aisle at a leisurely pace, bumping into things, etc.

Unfortunately, today is not the day for it. We need to get the shopping done, dinner on the table, and she's part of that program whether she likes it or not, as am I and her siblings.

So I squat down to her eye level and lay down the line: "We have to finish our shopping, so you can either push the cart and keep up with Mommy or I will have your sister push it for you. Do you understand?"

No response.

"Do you understand?"

One lackluster nod in response.

Clearly, she's resisting. But maybe if I let it go, just maybe, she'll get with the program to avoid the conflict.

Who am I kidding? Did I mention she was overtired?

She slowly flops one foot forward and then another at a snail's pace, all the while looking at me with a full pout on her face.

Some people would consider that obedience, but I assure you, it isn't. It's an attempt to move the line I drew to maintain her control. But where I drew the line was clear, she either keeps up with me or she loses the cart.
So I can either keep my word, or I've trained her that she is in control. *This* is the moment of truth - either I mean what I say, or I don't - and this is a hill I'm willing to die on...

because I know the alternative is this little person making my life, and my husband's life, and her siblings' lives completely miserable. I have seen it many a time in the homes of friends and let me tell you, it's an ugly thing.

So I do the unthinkable... I take the cart away.

Her wail breaks forth and travels far and wide from aisle to aisle, heads turn, I become painfully self conscious...

but what does it matter what anyone else thinks? Sure they see my bawling child, my embarrassed face, my big belly blaring 'yes, I'm doing this again!'

What matters is that this child, right here, the one that God has entrusted to us, learns right now that the world will not bend to her selfish demands. If she doesn't learn it within the loving care of our family today, then someday she will learn it, the hard way, in the big harsh world out there.

And just think of all the people who will thank me later - teachers, employers, co-workers, her friends, certainly her husband, her own children... the list goes on. And if I don't set the standard with her, what can I hope to expect from the one still in my womb?

So I take her hand, walk her wailing through the store to the restroom, spank her bottom 3 times and calmly tell her to stop her crying. It takes her a minute or two and she stops - the pout is gone, the look on her face is resigned now.

I tell her "There is no crying to get what you want. We are going to finish our shopping and if you cry and fuss again, we'll come right back for another spanking. Do you understand?"

She nods yes and cuddles up to me.

We walk out and she doesn't cross that line again... not today.

Will she cross it again? Test to make sure it's still there? You betcha. Will I answer in kind. So help me God.

When we get home, she helps me put the groceries away and cook dinner. I give her lots of cuddles and spend time with her and she is cheerful and obedient.

Am I a perfect parent? Hardly. Did I do the right thing? For my child, our situation, I believe so, yes. Is it the right thing for everyone? Only you as the parent can decide that.

One thing I can say is that our home is relatively peaceful with three young children in it. And as a homeschooler with a newborn on the way and a husband who works from home, let me tell you, it matters.

It matters that we can enjoy our children, that we can take them places with us, that we can accomplish life with them a part of it. And from what I can tell, training is at the root of it all.


  1. GOOD FOR YOU! The grocery store is always the place I dread dealing out discipline. But you're absolutely right, one day they'll thank you and today I'm cheering you on. We need more mothers & fathers who love thier children enough to discipline no matter where they are.

  2. Way to go! You are a brave and wise woman!

  3. This post made me laugh and was what I need today! Thank you so much for sharing, parenting is hard work, but well worth it!

  4. Your children are so fortunate to have you loving and training them Naomi! Good job!

  5. I love this Naomi. It is real and honest and so helpful for all of us who have been in the same place.
    Thank you for sharing your struggles with being a parent who obeys God and therefore teaches her children the same thing.
    Way to go!
    Love form,

  6. Good job, girl! So hard sometimes...I know.

    Somehow I missed that you were expecting...but I send you a belated (or early?) congratulations!

  7. Happened to see your blog, as I follow Johnna's blog and noticed her link to here. Just wanted to say "thanks" for the awesome and detailed example of training. I have had some doozies in the grocery store, too, but I agree...well worth the little time spent at the moment. It's never convenient, but hey--there's a lot of shopping years ahead to get through! :o) Thanks for the lovely post.

  8. Oh man. This *is* so good! It's nice to read about training being lived out in other families. I laughed out loud at "..and yes! I'm doing this again!"

    I loved your recent podcast re: Nature Study, by the way!