Recently I've been pondering the way I have trained each of my children. Here are my thoughts for each child:
1st Born: Disiplined with diligence; yet given far too many "rules" and "no's". He was not technically trained, for I remember wondering over and over again, "does he really understand? Maybe not." And so he was likely nearing 2 by the time I got my butt in gear. In many ways he fell through the cracks due to my own ignorance. How different it may have been if there had been a Godly woman who understood training to mentor me at the first. At this point I had been through the class "Growing Kids God's Way", but had not read any other childtraining materials.
2nd Born: Okay, my firstborn, who had been doing very well, was suddenly testing his boundaries. I had a hard time keeping him in line, and I unconciously became lax. When questioned by my husband as to why I seemed to be less diligent with her, I realized that I had come to the conclusion that it hadn't worked with David, so why try with Deborah? My second-born played alone very well, and it was easy to leave her to play while I got on with "life". (ha!) There was some degree of emotional manipulation, but I didn't know yet how to deal with it. I still had no mentor, and no further instruction regarding childtraining.
3rd Born: Once Rebekah Joy came along, things were becoming a little chaotic. By the time she was a year old, I was beginning to come apart at the seams. I remember falling on my face before the Lord and crying out to Him in desperation. After a long time praying I settled down at my computer and began to do some searching online. This was the first time I had thought of such a thing,oddly enough, and the Lord lead me to a website (I've since lost the link) of networked ladies who shared all kinds of wonderful testimony. There were several ladies there who shared sweet testimony as to the joy of living their days in close communion with the Lord (in retrospect maybe that is what He wanted me to hear, way back then, because this is what makes a mother joyful, and training without joy is less effective). They also shared resources that have helped them in their parenting. So I purchased "To Train Up a Child" and some other training materials which had less of an impact. Rebekah began to be trained with a switch at about 15 months. Several weeks into the training we were absolutely amazed because we had a different family. The children were responsive, obedient and happy!
4th Born: By this time, I was determined to squeeze all I could out of the training time. My will was set - absolute consistency. I remember that I would ALWAYS get off the couch to correct - even when I was nursing. Joshua responded beautifully to training. But there were some times when I feel I drew battle lines when he really needed to know he was loved. I demanded more of him when I should have gathered him close and loved on him.
5th Born: Jonathan just turned one, and so far he is truly the "baby". Everybody loves him and he is always joyful and so much fun to be with. He receives much gentle instruction, and very few "no's". One "no" has been for electrical cords. Another "no" has been for my plants in the kitchen. Little flicks on the hand have been more than sufficient, and definitely enough for him to realize that it's much more fun to be in fellowship with Mommy. The other day he was in the living room and he stood with a hand holding the phone cord which hung down from the table. I said his name calmly from a few feet away, and he craned his head around to look at me. I said "no" calmly. He immediately dropped the cord and toddled forward. This was very impressive to me, because his last "no" training had been at least a week ago.
I've come to the conclusion that it is so much better to have fewer boundaries that hold firm, than it is to have lots of fences all over the place. The many fences are too difficult for any parent to maintain, and likely to become points of disrespect.
I realized that he truly understood the word "no", and that I could expect him to obey me now. Yet I know that I must choose my battles wisely. If I'm going to say "no", I'd better be putting down my dishtowel immediately - prepared to win the battle. For instance, if my baby is moving to turn over the trash while I am in the shower, I'd better be prepared to get out of the shower and deal with it right away. If I choose to stay in the shower and say "no!" in ever increasing volume until he looks my way in amazement, then I have introduced a new game, where I am the puppet and baby pulls my strings and watches me dance. It is so ap-parent to me as a parent (I think lots of things become trans-parent in this occupation - is anyone else hearing this echo?) - the truth in the Proverb about a man who lacks self-control being like a city with it's walls broken down. A city with it's walls broken down is powerless, because another has been given the power. We can choose to give the power to our children, some other person, or to the Lord. Whom do I trust more? Hmmmmm... let me see. The answer is obvious, but in the thick of life, our trust is fickle.
Now, lest any of you assume I am a paragon of virtue where training is concerned, I must disappoint you. I absolutely LOVE training my kids; especially when they are very little, and so responsive. However, we have some areas which need help. For instance, we have not licked whining. It is a habit with some of the kids. I wonder if I have grown used to it and occasionally give them what they are asking for, or if they have just done it for so long that they don't know how to stop. When I hear it, I make sure that they don't get what they are whining for, or that they must still do what I have told them to do, and sometimes more. To be honest, it is a bit overwhelming to "return to the standard" when things get out of whack with 5 kids. Truth be told, I am not presently where I need to be with the Lord (do I smell the sweetness of a sister praying for me?). So I just "keep on keepin' on". And I am so thankful that "He gently leads those that have young."