Train up a child in the way he should go,Even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
There are certainly passages in the Bible about discipline and how important it is in a child's life. However, when one talks about discipline, it refers to a consequence for a negative behavior. It is a reaction to something that has already happened. Today I don't want to talk about discipline or have a discussion over different forms of discipline. I want to talk about training.
When I became a mother, my own mom was adamant about reminding me that there is a difference between disciplining a child, and training them. While discipline is very important in a child's life, one must not forget the important step of training. She explained to me that training happens before negative behavior. It is a time specifically set-up to teach the child something whether manners, self-control, obedience or a new skill.
It's way too easy to spend my life is response mode: reacting to my children's negative behaviors with consequences. It takes a lot more effort and intentionality to set aside time to teach and train up my children. However, I've found that my mom is a very wise woman (I guess raising 5 children will do that to you) and the ways that my husband and I have worked proactively at training our children (as she encouraged) have had the most lasting success.
For example, before heading to the zoo on Monday I told my kids we were going to practice obeying when I told them to stop. I then told them to run to different spots in the house. However, before they got to where I had them going, I would say "stop; wait; I need you to come back by mom for a minute." Sure enough, since they knew what was expected of them, they came back each time. Then I started to make it harder. For example, sending them to find favorite toys or cookies. I discussed with them that even when we are having a good time, or running to something we really want to see or do, it is very important that they still listen to me when I tell them to stop or come back.
Well after our 10 minutes of practice, I tried it out at the zoo. Sure enough, despite their excitement and energy, they listened better than I expected! Now mind you, they are only 4, 2.5 and 2 so it was far from a day of perfect obedience, but considering they are learning (as we all are), I was pretty proud of them.
We've found this "training" method to be very beneficial in many different circumstances: teaching them how to greet adults by practicing at home, telling them at the beginning of the meal what table manners we are going to be specifically working on, and purposely setting up things at home that are off limits to teach boundaries.
However, the most important thing any of us can train our children to do is to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself." - Luke 10:27.
Your children are watching you.Your devotional and prayer habits speak volumes to your children. Are you training them to put God first in their life, to love their neighbors, to give to those in need? Sometimes it's as simple as living it out yourself. My husband has always brought in our retired neighbors garbage can every time he has the chance. Sure enough, without prodding, our son has started doing that as well.
Now before you get the idea that I think I'm some super mom with perfect parenting skills, I want to make sure you know that is not what I'm saying. In fact, more often than not, I catch myself in a cycle of reacting rather than teaching and training. But no matter how long you've sat in a bad habit or frustrating parenting season, it is never too late to turn around and by change what you are doing. Children are worth the effort whether they are 18 months and jumping into the naughty stage or 14 years old and rebelling their way into high school.
Finally, as with all things, as a Christian parent, make sure to wrap both your training and discipline in love and prayer. Our ultimate goal isn't to crush our little ones into perfect submission and obedience (I have to remind myself that sometimes), but rather to train them up into the young men and women God has planned for them to be.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility,gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. - Colossians 3:12-14