March 15, 2012

When to Start Training~Reader Mail Part 1

Reader, Tania at In the Dovecote, sent the following question.  The response is very long and involved so I have divided it into a series of post over the next seven days.

"On an unrelated note... how/when do you start training your children? 

I'm asking because, today I was reading to Bella and she wanted to eat the book (from the library) I said 'no' and held it out of her grasp, and she started to fuss a bit. Now, I don't know if she was fussing because of that or b/c she was tired (it was almost nap time). We want to be firm and train our children right from the start, but on the other hand I don't want to go overboard and be super strict and harsh. 

Eg. the other week we were at the corner store and a mother comes in with her little boy, about 3. She says 'We are just returning the movie and leaving.' He runs over to the candy and starts to say he wants some. She says 'No, come here.' He doesn't obey. Mom stands at the door for a while waiting. Boy starts to whine. Mom walks over to him and says 'no you can't have candy. Let's go.' Boy picks up a candy and runs to the door, saying he wants it. Mom says no, he starts on a temper tantrum. Mom says she is not going to get out her wallet just to pay for a 5 cent candy. Kid continues to whine. She says 'Do you really want me to take out my wallet just to pay for that candy.' He says yes. Finally mom gives a big sigh, hands the cashier .5 as she says 'He just HAS to have that candy!' and the child walks out all happy he got his way. 

My thoughts: Mother should have gone over to the the boy and taken him out of the store the moment he ran over to the candy. Even IF he had a temper tantrum. But my idea is that if he had been trained correctly in the first place, he wouldn't have bothered trying to have a 'temper tantrum'. 

What do you think? Sorry if you've already written a post about this, please just direct me to it. Thanks :o) 



Dear Tania,

The short answer is this.  Whether you do it intentionally or by your lack of purpose, your child is being trained from the moment she is born.  Everything you do and everything your child observes and every response you give to your child is training her, for better or worse.  It is far better to decide what you want from your child and who you want her to be, and then set on a path to develop it from day one.

In raising my children, I have found what is trained by age two or three (in the realm of obedience, respect and right responses) is what you will have until your child is grown.  Not that you can't start later, but it is a lot harder and your child will have to fight that sin nature the rest of their life.  You are right to want to nip your Bella's whining in the bud immediately.  The longer such a behavior continues the more of a bad habit it becomes and the harder it will be to break later.

Dealing with your child's bad behavior immediately is an act of kindness and mercy, not a sign of harshness or intolerance or stifling to their development, as some would have you to believe.  What can be squelched with a simple reminder at 9 months old will require a long drawn out fit and training session to undo later.  (Note the preschooler in the market.)  Furthermore, once a child knows the right way to behave and the right way to respond, he can enjoy the freedom of exploring his world around him in safety and abandon without infringing on the rights of the rest of the world.  It is a win-win situation if there ever was one.

I so love this question! Because I see situations like this all the time.  I drive my family nuts because I won't think twice before saying to the mom, "You aren't going to let him have it are you?" Or sometimes I will direct my comment, in an intentionally loud "whisper" to whichever of my family members might be standing nearby... but really speaking to the mom, of course.  "She should take that child out of here and not let him have anything." or "Well, if she hadn't given in to him in the past he wouldn't be throwing a fit now."

You are so absolutely right! No matter what, that child should have been removed from the store and not gotten what he wanted. And on the second count you are also right. The child threw the fit because he had success with getting his way by throwing a fit in the past.

I can, with absolute certainty, say my children never throw fits for me. And why? Because they know it won't work. Likewise to whining, begging or pouting. They know that anything besides asking politely and accepting "no" as sweetly as they would accept "yes" will not only fail to be met with reward but will instead be greeted with punishment.  End of story.

This was not always the case.  With our Kaitlin I had no idea how to train a child.  I lived on the advice of pop culture and others who had no idea how to train a child according to God's word.  And it showed.  While she was a smart, articulate, creative and a personable child, if things did not go her way, Kaitlin was a terror and all the world knew it.  

After I gave my life to the Lord, I realized if He gave us instructions for everything else, there must be instructions for child rearing as well.  He indeed has included much for the parent who wishes to learn in the Bible.  The book of Proverbs alone is filled with useful information on this topic.

When we started attending our church we were blessed to be surrounded by many very large home school families.  I was impressed by the kind, thoughtful, and obedient spirit which surrounded many of these children.  I began asking questions, studying their families and seeking out resources to learn how it was God wanted my children to be raised.

Above all I was determined to not repeat the mistakes I had made with KK.  Despite what the world will tell you, well trained children are not a fluke, a stroke of luck or simply a blessing bestowed upon certain people and denied others.  It is the result of careful, diligent and dedicated hard work.

And it is something anyone can accomplish, if they will but apply themselves.  It is not for the weak  of heart.  So brace yourself, seek the Lord for strength and gear up for a fun ride.

Stop back tomorrow for the continuation of this series.


  1. Thank you for sharing your experience with Kaitlin. It is true that it is so helpful to look to other parents successfully training their children for advice, but the most important guide is of course the Bible. Proverbs is one of my favourite books :o)

    Dove xo

    1. So love Proverbs. I really need to post about it sometime... it's been on my mind for two years... and just never quite get to it. In just the book of Proverbs we can find all we need to know to live out our years here and in eternity in Heaven... but we don't take the time to learn it.

      Thanks for stopping by, my friend.