With our big crew, sometimes it’s easy for the younger ones to get by with disobedience. Several years ago, it was easier to focus on obedience issues because they were all little – discipline issues were similar and there was less to deal with.
But now I have eight children ranging in age from 9 months – 14 years and it takes a lot more perseverance on my part to cover all the discipline areas. You’ve probably noticed that motherhood is a character-stretching experience for moms, not just kids, right?
Sometimes these discipline issues with little ones get overlooked until a big, ugly problem shows up.
It’s important to remember that disciplining our children involves training. Some parents just remind and remind and remind their kids of what they are supposed to do until the parents blow up and lose all their patience. The child only learns that he can get away with disobedience until mom or dad gets irritated. When this happens, you’re just training your child to disobey, and you’re training yourself to deal with your child in a spirit of impatience. Both are bad habits.
Here are two things that have helped us develop good habits, particularly with our preschoolers:
1. First-time discipline. You’re not doing your child any favors if you repeatedly let them get by with disobedience until you’ve become irritated enough to deal with it. Regardless of what method you use, determine to consistently discipline when the child disobeys. Don’t keep saying, “Now, remember, I told you…” Your child is perfectly intelligent, and unless you’re absolutely sure that he or she didn’t hear, you need to be consistent in addressing the disobedience. Are you doing this just for your convenience? Absolutely not. I want my child to respond to my authority because then their hearts will more likely be softened to responding to God’s authority.
2. Reward good behavior. Just this past week, we stapled some sticker charts to our walls for the 3yo and 5yo. I told them, “You will get a wonderful surprise when you fill up all the little spaces on your chart!” They are rewarded for obeying cheerfully and quickly. Is this bribery? Not really. I’m helping them to develop good habits. They are being trained to do the right thing. The fact that they get to go out for an ice cream date with mom or dad when the chart is filled will make it memorable!
Whether you are aware of it or not, you are training your children. You are training them in habits that will stick around for a lifetime. Think about it today – are you training them in obedience or disobedience?