I've spent some time just flipping through the back of the book recently, where they have various problems dealt with in a question and answer format. There's some pretty interesting things back here. One of them is the discussion of discipline that begins on page 328. The Bluedorns observe that the discipline in the home is a hugely important factor in the success of the homeschooling endeavor. This makes a lot of sense to me. I've been asking Monkey to listen to me, and praising him when he does it. But I hadn't been able to put my finger on WHY that's so important. I mean, to a certain degree, it's obvious that children should listen to parents. But WHY? How does that listening serve them? Sure, it's something that scripture says they should do, but God always has reasons for things He asks us to do, and often makes those reasons available to us. So WHY? One reason that pondering the Bluedorn's comments on discipline made me aware of is that children need to listen to their parents so that they can be taught. It doesn't do me any good to feed him the words to describe his world if he's not paying attention. Warnings about dangers he's about to blunder into do neither one of us any good if he's not listening.
There is this idea of "first time obedience" that they talk about. It's intriguing. My folks used, among other things, the 1-2-3 Magic stuff; I remember them going to one of the seminars. But Mom frequently complains about her kids ignoring her until she gets to "3." And it's a fair charge: we've all -including me- done it. After all, nothing happens before then. We've got a little time. But the Bluedorns tell a bit about a home they visited where things were very different:
During one of our trips, we visited a family which lived a very simple life in a very modest home, and homeschooled their five small children. The parents were quite soft spoken and gentle in manner, always speaking to the children in a clam, quiet way. From the very beginning of our visit, it became obvious that the children attended to the voices of their parents. The parents had first time obedience from even the youngest, and this obedience was obtained with quiet voice and manner. In all my life, I have never witnessed anything like it. On one occasion, the one-year-old began to climb up on the kerosene heater. I saw the father give an almost imperceptible shake of the head and heard him say in a whisper, "Isaac, huh, uh." Immediately the child shifted into reverse and backed away from the heater. The child attended to and obeyed the very whisper of his father. It moves me to tears to recall that scene and the affection which the children and parents had for each other. Oh, that I had trained my children so well when they were young. God wants first time obedience from us, and we should form the same habit in our children. When we resort to speaking in a loud voice when we want something of our children, or when we form the habit of repeating our requests, we train our children to ignore us when we speak. If we could only begin at the very beginning to train our children to attend to our voice - to listen for it no matter what they are doing, and to immediately obey, how well we will prepare them to listen to the heavenly Father as well. (pg329)
What a wonderful outlook on discipline: preparing our children to listen to God! This should have been obvious. Teaching my children the gospel, helping them gain a testimony of the Gospel and a through knowledge of the scriptures is a hugely important aspect of their training. But although I love the way that parenting is analogous to our Heavenly Father's care for us, I had never considered how the discipline aspects of our parent-child relationships ought to also reflect our Heavenly Father's relationship to His children! King Benjamin taught that that sibling rivalries are not a natural normal part of growing up and we shouldn't allow our children to fight or quarrel with each other. How much more true is that of parents, as the example in the home? Many times I've heard talks that invited the listeners to consider their parents, then consider God. I think that I need to become more godly in my interactions with my son, if I am to worth of that sort of comparison, if I am to lay the foundations which will allow that sort of comparison to be profitable for my children!
First-time obedience. It's both a worthy goal and a tall order, in training our children and in the heed we pay to the Lord.
Teaching the Trivium commentary, part 1: Role of Scripture; Thoughts on Higher Education