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Posts tagged ‘Parenting’

I think I have finally figured out the secret to parenting.

Okay, when I say “figured it out,” I don’t mean that I have a 100% perfect understanding of it. But I think I have enough of a concept to apply it and to share it.

And it wasn’t my original discovery. It comes from the book Parenting Your Infant/Toddler by the Spirit by Sally Hohnberger. And “it” is the parenting pyramid.

In my own words, this pyramid means that God is at the top, desiring to communicate to my child and me. Because I am the parent, I need to open up the lines of communication–two-way communication. I need to make sure my heart is fully surrendered in the moment. And let me tell you, lack of surrender on our part is a big reason why we fail to bring our children to true obedience. Just try making a child obey cheerfully by yelling at them!

The second aspect is that God also wants to communicate directly to the child. However, the rebellious, tantrum-throwing two-year-old isn’t listening. So we as the parent, now surrendered to the Lord, will communicate to them, and direct them to listen to what God is saying to them. Then we lead them to surrender as well. Once they surrender, the lines of communication are open between both parent and child and God and child.

Now, that’s good in theory, but let me make this practical with some illustrations from my life today.

It was time to pick up the toys and get ready for worship. But neither of my children wanted to pick up the toys. Manny tried to throw a tantrum and Gislaine started to cry. Because I couldn’t deal with them both at once, I sent Gislaine to her room and told her to wait until I called her. Then I told Manny that he needed to surrender his heart to Jesus and put the toys away. I said, “Let’s pray,” but he jerked in defiance. So I took his hand and said, “We need to go for a run.” We ran the length of the house and back. Then I knelt again and asked him to pray with me. He knelt, folded his hands, and closed his eyes. Then he repeated after me. “Dear Jesus, please help me to put my toys away happy. Amen.” Then I showed him the toy, and repeated my instruction. He put it away. At first he was just compliant–putting it away under protest. But as I directed him to put more and more away, his heart softened until by the time he was done, he was a cheerful, happy little boy. And Daddy noticed later, after I had gone to the gym, that he was the happiest, most obedient, surrendered little boy that he had been for a long time, and commented on it to me when I got back.

Once he was busy putting his toys away, I called his sister out. We knelt and I led her in a similar prayer. Then I asked her, “What is Jesus saying to you?” She said, “To obey.” That just warmed my heart! Jesus was speaking to my precious daughter, and she recognized His voice! I said, “That’s right. Now please put the dolly’s bed away.” And she did. She also helped her brother put some things away. And she was happy when it was over.

And so was I!

Yes, it took extra time to do it, but the end result was happiness for everyone, and peace in the home.

Yes, this is the secret: a connection with God, listening for His direction, and following His guidance. Most of the time, we won’t know for sure if the ideas that come to our minds are from Him or not, but we are to test the spirits, and move forward in faith. But being surrendered ourselves–to take our toddler’s hand for the grizzly run (because they are too young to run by themselves), even when we don’t feel like running–makes all the difference. Because we certainly cannot bring our child to surrender if we are not surrendered ourselves!

I’m reading this book through for the second time. I can’t say I’ve read enough recently to do a proper review of it, but I would still highly recommend it. And all the other books in the series.

By 55Laney69 on Flickr

One thing I have realized as a parent is that having your child’s heart is essential. You can train them until you are blue in the face, but if you don’t have their heart, you just breed rebellion in them. I recently read a post on this topic on another blog that I keep up with, and I want to share with you a short excerpt from the post Do You Have Your Child’s Heart:

The answer to nearly all child training questions is, you must have your child’s heart.  What exactly does this mean and how do we gain our child’s heart?

Proverbs 23:26 says it most like I’ve worded it,

My son, give me thy heart; And let thine eyes delight in my ways.

. . . This concept of having your children’s heart is vast and complex and I don’t pretend to have or know all the answers. . . . I believe the rewards of faithfulness in this area are most evident as your children get older and become more independent, but there are signs of success or failure early on.  A parent who is paying attention will know if they have their child’s heart.

Please go read the whole article. You will be blessed!

Consider this thought:

One precious lesson which the mother will need to repeat again and again is that the child is not to rule; he is not the master, but her will and her wishes are to be supreme. Thus she is teaching them self-control. Give them nothing for which they cry, even if your tender heart desires ever so much to do this; for if they gain the victory once by crying they will expect to do it again. The second time the battle will be more vehement.

Child Guidance, 92

Following this bit of logic does make a difference. I have been working on my 3-year-old in this area. She has developed a habit of whining for things. I have been telling her that she must ask in a nice voice if she wants to get it. At first it made her mad, but then she realized I was serious. Now she changes her tone as soon as I remind her, and–wonder of wonders–I don’t have to remind her every time. She has started asking right the first time!

So try it! God’s principles work!

Every Thursday I want to have a guest post. It might be a post someone wrote specifically for my blog, or it might be a post that I found on another blog. Today it’s the latter. I found this post a week ago on a blog I’ve been following, and I found it very interesting.

Why nagging doesn’t work

Growing up I was homeschooled using the Charlotte Mason method. Now that I’m starting to homeschool my own children, I have explored all the different curriculum out there, and much to my Mother’s delight I’m coming back to Charlotte Mason. :-) Recently I have been pouring over the Simply Charlotte Mason website, there is way to much good information there! This is a free e-book entitled “Smooth and Easy Days” that they put out. I have copied just one chapter of it, but I would encourage you to go and download all of it and read it! You can do so here.

Why Nagging Doesn’t Work

I nag them and I nag them, but it does no good.” Most of us can testify to the truth of that statement. But I never understood why nagging doesn’t work until I started to study Charlotte’s habit-training principles. Now it makes sense. Let’s say that you’re trying to teach your child to hang up her coat when she takes it off. In order to make that action a habit, she needs to repeatedly and consciously think through the hang-up- my-coat-when-I-take-it-off neuron route. (Remember the neuron routes we talked about in chapter 6?) Now, let’s say you come into the room and trip over her coat.

The easiest thing to do is to call her into the room and say, “I’ve told you before, hang up your coat when you take it off!” She obediently picks it up and hangs it in the closet, but . . . and here’s the key . . . her brain didn’t initiate the idea, so you just reinforced the wrong neuron route.

You just reinforced the do-what-mom-says-to-do neuron route. That’s a completely different route from the one you want her to mentally travel. And that explains why once we start nagging, we find that we’re always having to nag in order to make something happen. We are reinforcing the do-what-mom-says-to- do route, which means the child will constantly wait until mom says what to do!

” ‘I’m sure I am always telling her’––to keep her drawers neat, or to hold up her head and speak nicely, or to be quick and careful about an errand, says the poor mother, with tears in her eyes; and indeed this, of ‘always telling’ him or her is a weary process for the mother; dull, because hopeless” (Vol. 2, p. 1734).

So, let’s say you just came into the room and tripped over your daughter’s coat . . . again. You call your child into the room, and you say something like this: “I promised I would help you remember.” That’s all. If she still doesn’t understand, you can pointedly look at the coat on the floor. Little hints might be needed at first. But you wait until the mental lightbulb goes off in her head and that will start those neurons traveling the hang-up-my-coat- when-I-take-it-off route. Do you see the difference? She thought of it. She made the mental effort.

Yes, it might be faster to nag. Yes, it sometimes seems easier to nag. But think of the long-term effects. You will have to continue to nag whenever you want something done.

“But, perhaps, even his mother does not know how unutterably dreary is this ‘always telling,’ which produces nothing, to the child. . . . As for any impression on his character, any habit really formed, all this labour is without result” (Vol. 2, p. 174).

Nagging doesn’t work. Stop nagging and start forming habits.

I really liked that. But I thought, “What if the child is young and totally clueless?” That can happen sometimes, you know. So I thought if they don’t get it, that you could always do something like this: Tell them to put their coat back on, then remind them what they are supposed to do when they take it off, and have them do it. You could practice two or three times in a row, just to reinforce it. This could really help, I think, and you can make it fun for the kids, so that by the end of the third time they are laughing, which would help deepen the impression.

So tell me about how this helps you, or share your own ideas!

Parenting the Heart of Your Child by Diane MooreI first heard about this book at a church function where the author came to speak. I enjoyed her talks and radio show, and bought the book.

I will start off by saying that I do not endorse absolutely everything Diane Moore, the author, teaches. That said, I do believe that she has a lot right. She is a Christian, and this fact is obvious in her book, which is something I appreciate.

In spite of the cover, this book is not so much for parents with small children as for parents in general of all ages. It takes you through the stages of what motivates us as people, starting with fear of punishment and anticipation of reward, on to less self-centered focuses. Ultimately, the goal of a parent should be to help their child to reach a maturity where they do the right thing for the right reason, regardless of personal feelings or what everyone else thinks they should do.

One thing I really like about this book is that her focus is more on character and less on behavior. For instance, sure you can motivate a toddler to do something by promising a cookie for doing it. That might even be appropriate at times (if you eat your veggies, you can have a cookie!). But by the time they are teenagers, you shouldn’t still be operating at that level. Teens should have progressed in their character development to where they will eat their veggies (to continue with the previous line of reasoning) because they know that they are good for them, will give good health, and because they know it’s the proper thing to do. It’s about teaching kids to do the right thing for the right reason.

An example that I appreciated from the book was when the author asked her teenage daughter to do something and offered a reward for doing it, and the daughter said, “Mom, I’m way past stage 2! I’ll do it for nothing.” This is the kind of thing this book is promoting.

I wish I had time to give a better review, but it’s been a while since I read it (a few months), and I don’t have much time right now. Kids need to be got ready for bed and I need to make cornbread for my husband’s supper. In summary, I do recommend this book. It’s not going to tell you what to do when your toddler throws a tantrum (in fact, I do not agree with the author on this topic), but in looking at the overall picture of parenting, and helping parents be proactive in raising mature, godly young people, I think this book has a lot to offer.

You can get the book here: Parenting the Heart of Your Child: Teaching Your Kids to Make Good Decisions Even When No One Is Looking


Here is something to ponder:

Well may the mother inquire with deep anxiety, as she looks upon the children given to her care, What is the great aim and object of their education? Is it to fit them for life and its duties, to qualify them to take an honorable position in the world, to do good, to benefit their fellow-beings, to gain eventually the reward of the righteous? If so, then the first lesson to be taught them is self-control; for no undisciplined, headstrong person can hope for success in this world or reward in the next.

Child Guidance, 91

Wow! The very first lesson. She gets more specific in the next paragraph:

The little ones, before they are a year old, hear and understand what is spoken in reference to themselves, and know to what extent they are to be indulged. Mothers, you should train your children to yield to your wishes. This point must be gained if you would hold the control over your children, and preserve your dignity as a mother. Your children quickly learn just what you expect of them, they know when their will conquers yours, and will make the most of their victory.  It is the veriest cruelty to allow wrong habits to be developed, to give the law into the hands of the child and let him rule.


I know this is true. A child who is in control is an unhappy child. A happy child is one that has surrendered to his parents. I have seen it in my children. I know.

Lord, grant me the wisdom to know how to train my children for You. Give me endurance to outlast them whenever their will crosses mine. Give me strength to be happy and joyful with them when they are obedient. Help me to take time to spend with them and bind them to my heart. Guide me as I teach them self-control–and please help me to model it in my own life. Amen.

When I became a mother, I realized that I had an awesome responsibility. I didn’t have any money to go out and buy lots of parenting books, and I was leery about reading just any book, so the library didn’t seem like a good option. I wasn’t too concerned about the first few months. I knew I’d figure those things out. But I did not want to have to deal with the “terrible two’s,” and I wanted parenting advice that came from a godly perspective and was Biblically sound.

I had the book Child Guidance, and I had read a good deal of it, but somehow I couldn’t get my mind around some of it. Things like this:

The mother’s work should commence with the infant. She should subdue the will and temper of the child and bring its disposition into subjection. Teach it to obey, and as the child grows older, relax not the hand.

Child Guidance, 82

Sure. I agree. But how? Without someone to show me how it works, I wasn’t sure how to do it. I love the principles in Child Guidance, but sometimes I am at a loss to know how to apply them.

Enter Raising Godly Tomatoes. I found this book when my daughter was somewhere between 6 and 12 months, and I devoured it. It was only available online at the time, but it has now been published in book form, and is available for purchase through their website or from

Let me say that this book has tremendously influenced my parenting–at least, as long as I apply the principles! I like it because the author ignores all the phychobabble so common in our world today and takes a Biblical perspective into her parenting. After reading this book at least twice, when I go back and read Child Guidance, it suddenly makes sense. Now I know how to subdue my child’s will (see my post Major Outlasting Session–The Rest of the Story for a rather lengthy example).

There are several sections to the book. The first section talks about teaching obedience. A favorite saying of the author is, “Teach obedience, and you won’t have to teach anything else.” She deals with starting early and starting later, discerning the heart of the child (because words and actions can mean different things depending on where the heart is), “tomato staking”, and spanking. The second section deals with emotional issues, like crying, whining, and tantrums, giving suggestions on how to deal with them. The third section takes a look at character. Though hardly exhaustive, it is a good start for parents who would rather teach their children to have a godly character than to just be good on the outside. The last section has thoughts for parents themselves, and for dealing with older children.

The author, Elizabeth Krueger, has 10 children and one grandchild. None of them ever rebelled or did anything wild as teenagers (granted, some of them aren’t quite that old yet). To me, that says something about her parenting. She has her children’s hearts. That is worth more than anything eles! She is a conservative Christian; she home schooled her children. What more can I say?

I could probably say a lot more about this book, but I suggest you go look at it yourself. You can still read the whole thing free online–though having a hard copy available is nice. I lost my first copy, in Mexico, I think. I bought a second. It was worth it.

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If you didn’t read about Sunday’s outlasting session, you should. Here’s the rest of the story.

I may have won the battle that I posted about, but I was nowhere near winning the war. Manny was determined not to give up his power over me, and even if he had to surrender a little here and there, he was still making up for it by defiant body language, and even swearing (well, toddler version, which sounds like “da da da da da” in a clipped, very angry tone). He would admit defeat when he had to, but he was holding out for the next time.

The simplest way I know how to do this is to share some of my slightly-edited posts on the Raising Godly Tomatoes forum. This one was posted Sunday evening.

Well… everything was fine today… until I asked him to give me something he was holding, as a test. It was about two hours ago–maybe a little less, but probably not much. I was just about to sit down to lunch. He refused to give me the thing (I think it was a small plastic bottle), and I went through the same process, except that I was so hungry (late, you know) that I decided to put him in the corner to see if his rebellion would calm down, and give me a chance to eat (within arm’s reach). It didn’t do much. He seemed to cheer up, if I smiled at him, but as soon as I asked for the item, his rebellion welled up again and he positively refused to comply, complete with full body language (like trying to stomp both feet at once, except he can’t jump yet) and angry grunts. The only thing I can seem to do successfully is to make him stop crying with the hand over mouth on/off thing.

He alternates between either refusing to let something go, or throwing it deliberately over my hand. If I hold it while he’s holding it, he won’t throw it, just pulls back, so I know it’s deliberate.

So, after almost 2 hours, Daddy (who had come by to back me up from time to time, but who had mostly been doing other things) figured that he must be tired (it was about this time yesterday that he went down for a nap), so when his hand kind of went limp and he dropped the item that we were working with at this point (several items away from the original one–because he won’t have anything to do with something once he starts throwing it), we laid him down, made him stop protesting that, and I imagine he’s asleep by now (5 minutes later), because I can’t hear a peep from his room.

So… I thought I had had a very thorough victory yesterday. Why can’t I make it again?

Also, no one really answered me about the not cuddling thing during the battle. He won’t look me in the eye, but he wants to just lay his head down on my chest and rest. I kind of assume that I shouldn’t allow that until he surrenders… am I right about that? I will hold him on my lap, either facing me or sitting on one leg facing kind of forward and to the side (this latter position allows me to put my hand over his mouth easily to stop angry cries).

That was my Sunday afternoon. And he woke from the nap just as defiant as when he went down. I tried working with him before supper, but I didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. During this process, he added a new word to his vocabulary: Uh uh. And he meant it! Aaaarrrrggg!

Well, after venting my frustration in several posts on the forum, Elizabeth wrote again. I always feel so excited when I see her post, because I know she will have some wisdom for me, packaged in concise, easy-to-understand language. Here’s what she wrote:

Basically you need to have a good outlasting session with him. NO cuddling, NO smiling at him. Forget everything except outlasting him until he obeys. Sit him on your lap and hand him something, then tell him to give it to you. If he won’t, keep telling him to (pause and wait between each command) and occasionally give him a swat and tell him again to give it to you. Outlast him even if it takes 3 hours. If he throws it deliberately, carry him over to it, then tell him to pick it up. OUTLAST him (with commands and occasional swats) until he obeys. Once he obeys, tell him matter-of-factly, “Good.” Then sit him back on your lap and go back to telling him to hand it to you. Even after he does it, test him a few times. Do NOT get happy and smiley with him until you are all done and he has respect for you.

Tall orders, for sure. But simple. She posted that during the wee hours Monday morning, and here’s my response after breakfast:

Okay, that is what I figured. I’m worn out right now though. This is one of those days I wished I wasn’t against caffeine! LOL! Mornings are hard. I had to feed my husband and children (not to mention myself), then I had to bathe the kids, and do the breakfast dishes (so that I will have some motivation to make lunch so my husband will have something to eat when he gets home. That is all done now and it’s about half an hour until I put the little guy down. Then I’m going to take a nap! Then I’ll make lunch (he’ll probably sleep through that), and then once lunch is out of the way, I will give him my afternoon. I need more energy than I have now if I’m going to outlast like that. Because right now all I feel like doing is curling up on my bead with a nice warm blanket and trying to sleep! Hopefully I’ll still feel like that when he’s ready to go down for a nap!

Looking back at how my daughter was at this age (I got serious with training her at 11 months), I remember how happy and compliant she was with nearly everything I asked. She would look at me before opening a cupboard door to see if it was okay with me. She would come grinning when I called. Whenever #3 shows up, I’m going to get serious with training sooner than later!

That morning, I mostly avoided conflict at all costs. Didn’t request anything of him that I thought he might resist, but I didn’t interact much with him either. Got him down for a nap (thankfully that is relatively easy), and rested a little, though I didn’t actually sleep. But my energy did go up in the afternoon, so after lunch I challenged him to a battle. Just before I did, I posted this on the forum (and something similar in my Facebook status):

All right. I’m declaring war. If you read this post, pray for me, that I will have wisdom and endurance, and for my son that he will submit. I’ll post a follow-up when it’s over.

I got a bottle of baby lotion that he had a fancy for, gave it to him, let him play with it for a few seconds, then asked for it. He threw it. I put him down on the floor beside it and told him to pick it up. He refused. It took almost half an hour before he would pick it up, but then he would throw it. Another half hour later, he finally would hand it to me nicely, but he wouldn’t take it back. When I moved him to my lap, he wouldn’t pick it up at all. And he was still quite angry and defiant. Kind of like, “Okay, I’ll do it because I have to, but I don’t have to like it!”

Finally I realized he was worn out and put him down for a nap. First I changed his diaper, and in the time it took me to wash out the diaper, he fell asleep! Poor little guy! He really was tired! I think he gets more stubborn when he’s tired. I know I do. And irrational.

After he got down for the nap, I posted about my battle, and got this encouragement from Elizabeth:

You are doing GREAT! It doesn’t really matter what you do when you get him up as long as you outlast him again if he refuses to obey you. It’s not about picking something up, or handing something to you, or coming to you, etc. It’s about OBEDIENCE. If you get that point across to him – that he must always obey you – then he will in anything.

So, that said, pick something he doesn’t want to do, that YOU can control. For example, if he wants to stand and you want him to sit, it’s pretty easy for you to outlast him because he will eventually get tired of standing. However, if he is sitting and you are trying to make him stand, you may get tired before he does. As you get better at this you’ll be able to read his mind better and think of ways to motivate him to obey sooner, but don’t worry about that right now, just win no matter how long it takes. He thinks he’s your boss and you need to correct that thinking.

Okay, so if he seems to have forgotten all about everything when he wakes up and is cooperative, it’s okay to feed and change him first before going back to asking him to do something he doesn’t want to do (and going back to the same thing is fine). So you can manipulate WHEN you do this a little, but if he rebels on something else, then you MUST stop and deal with it, so pick your timing without overlooking any rebellion.

That was all just a hint. You can go right back to the battle the second he wakes up if you want to.

Isn’t that first paragraph so full of wisdom? “It’s about obedience.” Really, that’s true. If we train our kids to obey everything we say, then we don’t have to teach them a long list of rules that they couldn’t remember anyway; we just have to tell them what to do. Of course, this is for small children. Older children learn the rules and learn to obey for different reasons, but with small children, they need to learn to obey.

Anyhow, back to the story.

I got him up and he seemed cheerful, so I didn’t start testing the same thing. I got him supper, he was fine. Fed him, fed his sister and myself, everything was great. Then this evening I decided to try again, to see how he was doing. His sister’s jacket was laying on the floor, and I was about to ask him to pick it up, when he saw Daddy go into Sissy’s room, or come out of it. My memory is a bit fuzzy. Anyhow, he smiled and ran to see Daddy (he’s a real Daddy’s boy). That was fine, but then I asked him to come to me. He balked, got a swat or two, then came. Maybe I should have settled for that, and repeated the coming to Mommy. But instead I asked him to please pick up the jacket. He refused. It’s been over an hour, and he still won’t. I know he knows what I want. When I ask him, he jerks and sometimes he cries. Funny thing is, he doesn’t cry for every swat, even when they really sting. It’s like he’s determined to win. It’s past his bedtime and I don’t know what I should do!

Well, that evening was a nightmare. Daddy came and helped too. Finally towards the end of the evening, Daddy took over, so I could pick up, do dishes, and generally make the house ready for the next day. The little guy seemed more determined to resist when both of us were present, even though we both were just as firm with him. Finally, about an hour after his bedtime, he came to Daddy several times in a row, so we changed him and put him to bed. He fell asleep almost instantly.

Tuesday morning dawned. And with it, the battle resumed:

I greeted him with his usual sippy of milk and a big smile. He was fine until the milk was gone, then he threw the cup (normal, actually). I told him to pick it up, he refused. I said to myself, “I really didn’t want a battle so early in the morning! I need to get my husband breakfast so he can go to work!” But I spent a few minutes with him; then when I realized he wasn’t about to surrender, I parked him in a corner of the kitchen floor with the cup in front of him, and went about my work, pausing now and then to remind him of my expectations (pick it up and hand it to me nicely, not throwing). If I saw him moving or doing anything other than just sitting there, I would stop what I was doing and say, “Pick it up and give it to Mommy.” He refused for a while, but surrendered before breakfast was finished! But then before I could get him in the high chair, he refused to come to me and I ended up getting most of my breakfast down (or all of?) before he got around to coming. I fed him, changed him, and put him in the play pen so I could get some work done. But then I saw him with his sister’s lip gloss. Not good. I asked him for it, and as of now, he’s sitting on my lap resisting. Sigh…

I’m wondering, it seems that he is in 100% full rebellion, and is determined to resist me at almost every turn. Sometimes he will be happy and cheerful, then he will flip a switch and be nasty and resisting, even refusing to do things he normally would do. I’m not sure how to reach his heart. This is getting frustrating!

After thinking about it a little, I realized that I was never coming to a full resolution with him, or at least not every time. When he surrendered in one thing, the ideal would be to test him immediately in something else that he wouldn’t like, to see if the surrender was genuine or just an escape tactic. But there was always something to hinder that–his meals and naps, cooking for the family, dealing with his sister (who, thankfully, can keep herself occupied outside a good deal lately). I posted about that, and Elizabeth responded,

It sounds like you doing fine. KEEP IT UP. You do need to come all the way to a conclusion a few time, not “almost” all the way, but it sounds like he might be caving a little.

And it was true. After that major, two-hour ordeal with Daddy the night before, his surrenders were coming quicker (less than half an hour). So bolstered by this encouragement, I made it a point to outlast every little defiance, even a simple jerk of his body when I picked him up or put him down or whatever. Later in the afternoon I posted this:

I think he is “caving,” finally! woohoo

After a few battles at lunch time, in which I outlasted every little tiny show of rebellion (including some I had been more or less ignoring in the past, like arching when I tried to pick him up), he is suddenly a very happy, compliant boy. I’m not holding my breath, but … just as I typed that, I heard him going down the hall, and I called him to come to me; he grinned and came toddling down at top speed toward me. So I think I may have just cracked the case! Like I said, I’m not holding my breath, but I think this is real progress. Now my consistency over the next few days is going to be crucial, I think.

Elizabeth responded,

Don’t overlook anything now, because if you do you’ll be right back at square one and it will be HARDER because he’ll think that if he “just holds out a little longer” you will cave.

And he was a joy the rest of the day. Still took almost every opportunity to test me, but would surrender in 2 or 3 minutes–or less. No more half-hour to 2-hour outlasting sessions! The course of the war has turned, and I have a happy little guy again!

And he’s truly such a joy! I can ask for his hand, and he’ll grab my finger and walk down the hall with me. I can ask for what he’s holding, and he’ll give it to me. If it’s safe, I usually give it back, praising him for his obedience. He still balks at coming when I call, but a swat or two usually reverses that in short order, and actually cheers him up! I can handle a two-minute battle any day! I’m so glad I persisted.

Now, I know that was a long post. But perhaps it will help someone out there who is struggling with a strong-willed child and doesn’t know what to do.

Just a note: According to Elizabeth, the outlasting will work without swats (given one at a time, and only stinging the surface, not hurting deep),  but it will take longer. I don’t think I would have been able to last long enough if I hadn’t had swats as a back-up. And when you see how happy and loving he is now, you would have to agree that the approach I used was worth it. For everyone. Especially him.

This will be my first post in the parenting section. Not that I have it divided up just yet. That will come. And just for the record, I don’t consider myself an expert on parenting. I think I did before I had kids. I learned very fast how much I don’t know. And each child I have teaches me more of what I thought I knew but don’t. So this section is NOT for me to give parenting advice, but rather to share my experiences in parenting, good and bad, for what it’s worth. Maybe someone else will learn something. Maybe someone will have advice to give me. Either way, it’s all good.

First off, I must state that I am a very strong believer in the methods laid out in the book Raising Godly Tomatoes. This book is very biblically based and when I read Child Guidance, I remember things I read in RGT, and vice versa. I highly recommend that everyone read it. The basic tenants are these: Keep your children with you. Don’t let them go further than you can trust them. This is so you can deal with attitudes and heart issues easily. When a child challenges you to a battle, outlast and win. In between battles, enjoy your children, involve them in what you are doing as much as possible, and teach them the ways of the Lord.

That’s the book in a nutshell. So today is about a major outlasting session (two, actually) that I had with my 15-month-old son Emmanuel.

I had recently begun to get tough with Manny, because he was getting older and I had decided I had delayed training him long enough. He had been learning pretty well. He was coming to me when called most of the time—and when he didn’t, it usually only took a few minutes to convince him to come cheerfully. He was learning to give things to Mommy, and in general was a happier baby now that he realized who was the boss.

But there was one area that I had never really worked with. That was when he would get something in his hand that I didn’t want him to have, and I would ask for it, and he would refuse. Each time that had come up lately, it was never convenient to outlast. Either it was bedtime, or we had to go somewhere, or something on the stove was about to burn. . . you get the picture.

Well, today he got into the drawers in the bathroom again (I really need to remember to shut the door—we’re moving in a few weeks, so no reason to put locks on the doors) and got out a pen-shaped eyebrow trimmer (which, btw, had no battery because I never use it). Daddy decided it wasn’t a good idea, because the lid came off easily and it looked like it could make a nasty scratch if he fell wrong with it. So I asked for it. He refused, defiantly.

I started outlasting. After a while, I got on the RGT forum and posted this:

I’ve been at it for about half an hour and took a break to let him calm down and for me to write this. It goes like this:

Me: Give it to me.
Him: Stiffen and jerk hand away. *Swat*
Me: Give it to me.
Him: Do nothing. *Swat*
Me: Give it to me.
Him: Kick legs. *Swat*

Etc. Now, I don’t swat EVERY time, but I’m trying to convey that he shouldn’t get to enjoy not giving it to Mommy. I know he knows what “Give it to me” means. He does it all the time–even helps me empty the dishwasher by handing me spoons and forks one by one. He’ll be playing with a toy and I’ll put my hand out and say “Give it to me,” and he’ll hand it over. But sometimes–ironically it’s usually something I really don’t want him to have–he’ll get the prisoner-of-war attitude that “I don’t care what she does to me, I’m not going to give it” and simply won’t comply. He also tried coming to me for comfort while I was asking for it, and I wouldn’t let him until he complied. Once he surrenders, I’ll cuddle him, but not while he’s in defiance. Am I doing the right thing? Any advice?

A mom encouraged me to just outlast, saying, “You can do this. Just win! Don’t give up” and such. That was helpful, believe it or not. Sometimes it seems like toddlers are going to hold out forever, and let me tell you, 10 minutes or 20 minutes or whatever can really feel like forever in the moment!

Not long after I wrote that post, I wrote this one:

Now he has decided he doesn’t want it. He threw it. I gave it back and asked him to *give* it to me, not just throw it. He took it and threw it again. Did it several times. I swatted each time. Now he wants nothing to do with it. Won’t take it at all–just pushes it away. I know I haven’t won, but how can I outlast if he won’t take it? Any ideas?

One lady suggested trying something else. But by that time I already had. Here is what I wrote:

I’ve also tried other things, because he now wants nothing to do with trimmer. A toilet paper roll, an old printer cartridge… he’ll play with it a minute, then I ask for it. He throws it. Won’t take it back.

Well, I took a break, didn’t let him hold anything but made him sit quietly on my lap for a bit, from time to time trying again with other things, since he decided he didn’t want anything to do with the trimmer. He sat quietly for a while, then tried to play with my hair. I told him no and enforced that. Then I tried again with the toilet paper roll. He took it, all happy. I asked for it, he gave it. I gave it back and repeated a few times, then gave him the trimmer. He took it. I asked for it back. He gave it to me cheerfully. Then I gave it back and asked for it back. He complied cheerfully.


After that, he was quite cheerful. I let him down to play a bit. Then he ndered down the hall and wouldn’t come when I called him. Uh oh. Here we go again. I described the experience on the same thread in the forum:

He kind of bounced defiantly (he was kneeling), challenging me to make him. I grabbed my paddle and stepped up to the challenge. I refused to let him sit or lay down (he’s been walking for a month and a half and prefers walking to crawling, and laying down is kind of like a mini tantrum for him, whether or not he kicks, so I decided he must stand up). Outlasted every time he would sit or lay down. Swatted occasionally. He finally came. Then daddy, who had been taking a nap earlier and was listening through the closed door, came out. Now, Manny is definitely a Daddy’s boy, so instead of coming to me again (I was in reinforce mode, putting him back at start and calling him again), he went to Daddy, as if to be rescued. Daddy helped me with some more outlasting, and finally left, because it seemed that his presence was making things take longer. Not sure why. He obeys Daddy pretty well most of the time (Daddy cracked down and got strict recently also). So finally I got him to come to me several times, but he was crying each time. I would hold him a moment, while he laid his head on my shoulder, then carry him back down to the end of the hall and try again. I couldn’t get back to the other end before he’d be tearfully following me. I decided after 3 or 4 of these that he was really truly tired (he doesn’t take a second nap every day, and it was already almost 5:00), so I laid him down for a nap. I think I’ll try the coming-to-mommy thing again once he wakes up. Just thought I’d check and see if I did the right thing. I mean, I know ultimately I want him to obey cheerfully, but maybe he was too tired to obey cheerfully, and I should accept his repeated obedience for now and continue when he’s fresher?

When I checked back later, I found that I had a comment from the author of the book. Whoo hoo! Here’s what she said:

Overall, you are doing very well. You are both learning so as long as you can see that he has given his will over to you, I wouldn’t be too concerned about details that don’t change that. If you see any rebellion or resistant, then yes, you must keep going. But I’d probably overlook some sniffing and sobbing from weariness.

Now even that can be corrected, but right now just make sure he feels he has submitted himself to you.

Looking back, I remember that he was tired, but not defiant. I’m so glad.

Later I came up with the same issue again. This time I incorporated what is known as the hand on/off the mouth to stop crying. Basically, you hold your hand over the child’s mouth when they cry out and release so they can breathe in (very briefly). Continue until they stop crying. Believe it or not, it works. I wish I had tried it sooner. (Note: The link to this is in the forum, which you cannot access unless you are a member of the forum, which is why I didn’t post one.)

So that was my afternoon. Oh, I took advantage of his nap to take one myself! Yay!