Tuesday, January 22, 2008

what we've been learning

i think i might postpone my smiles for a day and share some of the lessons we've been learning and practicing in regards to discipline instead. many of you posted comments expressing your curiosity about how we found success in the dinner and bedtime battle...and so i will share. of course, i must first remind you that we are FAR from perfect...we have lots of those "moments" (you know what i mean)...BUT implementing some different things and renewing a commitment to consistency has helped us immensely. there is more laughter around our house these days...from all of us. there is more obedience and less whining. there is a mama at this house who doesn't feel at her wits end and discouraged nearly as often these days (and isn't that really the key to the "runnings" of the rest of the house.

**okay...after typing this i realize it is a bit scattered...probably repetitive at times...and perhaps missing little pieces here and there. but as i publish it, i pray it might be an encouragement to just one of you today...or perhaps something to file away...something that will encourage another day! i also give you a disclaimer...it is lengthy...but hopefully worth the read!

so, what have we been doing differently? well, that wednesday evening a couple weeks ago when my dear friend walked me through getting elizabeth to actually eat what i had asked her to made me realize that though we were applying "the rod" (aka...spanking!) we were not doing so effectively. it also made me recognize that i wasn't training/disciplining consistently. we had allowed eating dinner to be an optional thing as opposed to stepping in as the parents and calling elizabeth to obedience. i was buying into the theory that she was just a "normal" two year old...being picky...and she would eat eventually...especially if i didn't offer alternatives, etc. what we were finding was that elizabeth would rather go hungry than eat what was offered...and she did have quite a stubborn resolve in this. i was not recognizing this as disobedience and defiance...in other words, i was allowing her to continue sinning by not submitting to my authority as her parent. (please recognize, i am writing this as a christian...therefore, i do not believe that elizabeth is inherently good...or sinless..."for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God"--romans 3:23--even my 2 year old daughter).

my friend helped bring me to this realization. then she proceeded to lovingly walk me through a more biblical response, including the fact that using my hand to spank elizabeth's diapered behind was clearly NOT getting the message through. she recommended removing the padding of the diaper and using something other than my hand for that actual instrument of spanking (something that would provide a bit of a sting rather than a forceful swat). then she walked me through giving elizabeth the clear instruction and warning her of the consequence should she disobey....she refused to eat, i followed through (leaving the room and taking her somewhere private for the spanking)....then i brought her back to the table, repeated the instruction and consequence...and so on and so forth (each time she disobeyed i increased the number of spanks (not the intensity--mind you, this wasn't about intensity, rather about training). let me tell you...it was a long evening, but when she finally surrended it brought about the most incredible change in demeanor...both in elizabeth and in me. her heart was renewed...she was turning from sin and doing the right thing. i feared that spanking elizabeth's bare bottom would hurt her too much or that it wasn't loving...how wrong i was. that night was quite possibly the MOST loving thing i have done thus far as a parent...and it resulted in a little girl who was happier than i had EVER before seen her...seriously. it was truly incredible!

since that evening we have been implementing the same thing in all arenas of our day....training her to respect her parents as an authority over her...to obey...right away and with a joyful heart. i have raised the standard in our house, and elizabeth has quickly risen to meet that standard. the second night it took one spanking for the dinner plate to be cleaned completely...and we haven't had to spank about eating meals anymore since then. honestly, we haven't had to spank very often at all...it is quite amazing. i have simply set the standard of expectation and not accepted anything less than that. i am finding that elizabeth is much quicker to listen and obey...or to admit her wrong and do the right thing. the key has been consistency...taking the time to set the standard and then consistently disciplining if that standard isn't met. this means staying firm to my word and expectation. it means an extra bit of work and being willing to "interrupt" my other agendas in order to train her in the moment. another key has been not allowing myself to take elizabeth's disobedience personally and get emotionally involved. she is going to disobey...not because she doesn't love me...but because she is two. my responsibility is to bring her back to right living...through discipline. what an incredible responsibility God has entrusted to us! as a sidenote...the consistency has fixed some issues before we even had to deal with them....like bedtime. before our "break-through" over that dinner, we were struggling and fighting our way through bedtime...tears, whining, oh-so-much frustration...with a couple days of consistent training in our day to day this problem pretty much disappeared. why...i think it is because she was learning that we were not going to be swayed by the theatrics. as i mentioned yesterday...these days i savor the hugs and kisses, smiles and giggles of bedtime...even the teeth-brushing part!

i admit that part of my reluctance to share the "technique" is that i realize spanking has become something quite controversial in this day and age. however, we have been believers in spanking all along...BUT it didn't work until we applied it in the right way. spanking is not effective when it is used as a last resort or an emotional response. mind you, i don't agree with or advocate spanking when it is used inappropriately or excessively (part of the reason i somewhat hesitated to even share what we are learning and applying--lest someone take it to the extreme...or lest someone think we are crazed and treat our children horribly--hello, can we say, fear of man!)...but i do firmly believe that God has commanded us to use "the rod" in the training of our children. there might be people who read this and immediately dismiss what i have to share because they disagree with spanking children...however, i have seen the results of "the rod" appropriately applied...and at our house, the result has been a repentant and renewed little girl...a little girl who is beginning to understand that she must learn to submit to authority and obey her parents...a little girl who someday will have a better understand of what it means to submit to the authority of God in her life. each day is a learning process, and i realize we have a LONG way to go...but this is the path we are walking down, and it is a path that has given me restored hope and encouragement...even in the midst of the disaster moments. i find those moments pass more quickly when dealt with swiftly. these days i know my approach when hard moments comes...we deal with them...and we move on. before we were spending large portions of the day frustrated and at odds...now we can simply have the training/discipline moment and move on to whatever fun is in store.

that said...let me share a few books that have been instrumental in helping me think about God's plan for training a child. i also want you to remember that it was just a couple weeks ago that i shared about our "break-through" experience with elizabeth...please realize, i am just sharing what i have been learning and thinking about....NOT a fool-proof plan or well-formulated system of any sort. i am just sharing what we have found successful in the past week or so. if you want to talk more i would love to...just leave your e-mail in your comment. i would highly recommend picking up some of these books.

-"Shepherding a Child's Heart"--Ted Tripp
-"Don't Make Me Count to Three"--Ginger Plowman
-"To Train Up a Child"--Michael and Debi Pearl (I am the first to admit that some things in this book are a bit extreme...and some are just not something I would try...HOWEVER, the general principles, Biblical framework for training children, and basic information is wonderful!)
-"Child Training Tips"--Reb Bradley


chelle said...

I appricate your insights on this very controversial subject...thank you...in dealing with Annabelle I have found that being consistant and dealing with her promptly are two of my biggest helps...we are prayerfully doing our best to train her to be a obidient and polite little girl...and wish to always deal with a her in a firm but gentle manner. We can also say, that in the end, obedience, results in a one very happy little girl and two very proud parents. But my word it takes a lot of grace...and wisdom to know what to do and how to handle each particular situation. I am just so thankful we have the Word of God to go too in those every day, less than perfect, downright hairy moments of mommyhood.

Amy said...

Sheperding a Child's Heart has really been a blessing in our lives too. I don't know what we would have done without it thus far and I've yet to finish it. I think you've just inspired me to though.

You know, meal time is always horrendous and Lilla never eats anything but apples and peanut butter basically. It's horrible. Maybe we should try this with her at meals too. We let it go for the last year because since day one of food introduction it's been the biggest struggle of them all. The doctor just said to let it go, but I like this way much better. Hmmm...I may have to start cooking meals again even though Michael works late. :)

I was wondering, were you spanking before bedtime too when Elizabeth when fussing. This is a HUGE, HUGE issue in our house. Not one naptime or bedtime goes by without whaling and gnashing of teeth. NO JOKE!

Rebecca said...

i found this post particularly interesting and encouraging. we are going through some pretty rough times with liberty and i've been thinking about it for a while wondering what to do with her. i think we, too, were not spanking in the right way/for the right reasons. and i know we have not been consistent. my hubby and i had a really good talk last night and today started to do things differently. i am feeling better about things already. and i think liberty is already acting better just for having some consistency, etc. some times it is so hard, but i know in the end it's the right thing and it will make her a better person. thanks so much for sharing all of this...it has definitely been an encouragement!

wahzat said...

Hi Amanda,

I haven't been by in awhile. This has been a helpful and very interesting entry. you are right spanking is a ticklish subject. I do use it on occasion, but I think that like you I may not be using it effectively. My daughter is as stressful at dinnertime as Elizabeth sounded. My daughter has always been stubborn about eating even as an infant.

I think I am consistent, but there is clearly need for improvement. Maybe this is another issue that I will have to give to God and ask his guidance, because like you I want a life that is stress free at dinner time and bed time.

As usual it is wonderful visiting with you and you family. The baby is growing so fast and is adorable!!

Leslie said...

this was a fantastic post to read in a world where this isn't the popular world view. Im so proud of you for being brave by sharing and even bookmarked for probably this time next year.... I love your prespective on it and your biggest reward will be an child with not only obedient behavior but an obediant heart, when God calls her to do things that otherwise would be too difficult.


godawesome said...

I am glad I read your post, Amanda. Josiah is definitely getting to be a handful. I realize my inconsistency in disciplining, too. I hope to get better at this before the new babe comes! :)