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06 May 2008

Trivium part 2: discipline

My poor little Monkey is out cold on the couch for his second(!) nap of the day, down with a fever. Little guy just isn't feeling really well this afternoon and I'm not sure if I should blame it on the molars he's cutting or the snot that persists in dripping down his face in spite of my efforts to keep it cleaned off. Maybe some of both. In any case, it does give me a few extra moments to blog while he sleeps. As he fell asleep on my tummy as we were reading, and I was reading Teaching the Trivium, that's what I'm thinking about right now. (Although scrapbooking is giving it a run for its money. I just finished labeling 2007's pictures & I'm ready to get scrapping!)

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


Keeley said...

I would be interested to hear HOW one is to train one's child to obey the first time.

I also do 1-2-3 and it drives me bananas that I have to be saying the "th" of the three before Ben shoots off the couch...or whatever...and obeys me.

Andrew is a puzzler. He is the first of my children to calmly say "no" to me when I ask him to do something. I mean, it's not defiant, it's a very calm, self assured "No, I don't want to do that so I'm not going to. Thanks for suggesting it anyway." kind of attitude.

To which my response is "I don't THINK so, child."

I've always been quite authoritarian, and I don't think it's a good way to be. It's my personality, so if I'm going to do something different, I need something concrete to go to.

For example, I'm not going to say to my children "Oh, ok dear" instead "Oi! You! I said to do it, now do it!"

In the traditional Christian community there is a large element of "spare the rod, spoil the child" where a switch is used even on very young children. Children are taught to obey basically to avoid being switched.

I completely disagree with this. Whenever I have spanked my children I have felt *not good* afterwards. I think a better description would be *this is not right*.

I would think it would be because for the most part whenever I've spanked my children it's been out of frustration at defiant/continued disobedience. However, one time I very calmly sat Emily down when she was little and discussed the situation with her and gave her a light pat on the bottom to let her know she shouldn't do whatever she'd done again. Even after that I felt *this is not right*. So clearly, it's the physical punishment itself that is wrong, not the frustration/anger. Though frustration and/or anger aren't good either. =Þ

This is a long waffling post to basically ask the question into the ether, "HOW do you get your child to obey the first time?"

I should add "without shouting." Raised voices are as bad as anger imho. *sigh* I've got a long way to go before I feel like I'm being a good Momma.

Keeley said...

Oh I'm sorry, I should have also said that I hope your little monkey feels better soon! Poor little chapy. =(

Ritsumei said...

I'm right there with you. Monkey's so little that he's still very easy, but he's starting to get more time-outs and more times where he tests to find out what happens when he doesn't do what he's asked. And a few times where he looks, you can see the "I don't want to." and goes on an does whatever anyway. So discipline is becoming less abstract.

I put D&C 121:39-46 in my scripture box a while back, partly because I was aggravated with some things that are happening at church and wanted to have the reference in my head. Partly because I have always loved that passage. But as I've been working on memorizing it for the last long time, more and more I see it as a parenting scripture.

I used to work at that facility for troubled teens, and I began to think of this passage as "the Lord's pattern for leadership" and use it both with the staff that I supervised and with the kids we were teaching. It's an interesting passage to apply like that because if you really look at it, it's all about "me," the person leading, rather than "you," the one being led. At the time I used mostly the "reprove with sharpness" followed by "an increase of love." One of the great things about that as a training ground in this principle is that those girls really responded to the love & kindness after, and I could always tell when I'd been neglecting that part.

Since then I've realized that the persuasion is listed first in the qualifications of a leader for a reason. That's how the Lord leads us: He persuades us of what is right, and He persuades us that it's in our best interests to do it. He's not into blind obedience, as a general rule, although He does often ask us to exercise faith in this thing or that thing, He establishes His own trustworthiness and is consistently perfect in doing what he says He will, either in passing out blessings or cursings, ie, punishments and rewards. I've heard folks say that if you reward kids for good behavior once they'll expect it every time, that it's like bribery, and it will never work. I don't believe that. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. we are obedient the Lord blesses us. Why should we do less with our children? Or the folks that we supervise? Or the people that we have a stewardship for at church? That "reward" doesn't have to be something big every time. I use lots of praise and clapping with Monkey. Kisses & hugs. One thing that I learned at the facility is that positives are the first line of discipline. It's completely counter to what American culture naturally does: to the natural man, I suppose. But it always helps to reward the behavior that you want to see. And, as I read it, this matches perfectly the verses that the Lord has given us to guide us in leading.

I'm right there with you with the Spirit speaking against physical discipline. Our "plan" was to only spank when Monkey did something potentially life threatening. So when he started playing with cords and plugs he got a swat a few times. But he doesn't learn when he's in pain. And he didn't seem to connect the swat - from me - with the plug - on the wall. Or with his actions. And I didn't like how it made me feel. I've moved away from that.

On the other hand, even as young as he is, when I reason with him, explain why something is forbidden, then things are better. I know that I sure do better when I know why! And if you look at the commandments that the Lord has given us, He often gives us why, or it's easily reasoned out. Word of Wisdom: "In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation—" Lack of chastity tears down the structure of the family as well as creating personal tragedy and often illness in the lives of the unchaste and their children. And so on. So I don't buy into the idea that to explain yourself dilutes parental authority, as suggested (among others) by Charlotte Mason.

As for how I execute this somewhat lofty philosopy and goals? That's tricky. Since I've been memorizing those verses they come to my mind All. The. Time.

Since I read the bit from TtT, I have realized that they're right: when you repeat yourself you DO train your listener to not worry about it the first time: after all, there's going to be a second time! So I started the process last night of re-training myself. (Again with leadership happening within the leader. It's amazing. And it works perfectly with the concept of agency!)

Keeley said...

That scripture is AWESOME! It's the one I also use to check up on how I'm doing as a mother. Am I following the Lord's plan in that scripture? Every single time, I'm not. *sigh*. But I remember the scripture, and keep trying. It will be the work of a lifetime, but I'll keep at it.

"...it is the nature and disposition of almost all Keeleys, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion."

Oh poopy pants. It's totally directed at me, the big authoritarian volcano who goes ballistic if she doesn't get the last word in a "discussion".

I must admit though, I'm good at the increase of love afterwards. Thank goodness! Something I don't have to feel bad about! =D

I have heard of a parenting theory that says that the Lord never forces us to do anything, and thus we shouldn't force our children to do anything. I say "That's nuts". If our 9-year-old is in a snit because we won't let her wear flip flops to church, and declares "I hate church! I'm not going!" do we say "Ok dear, we're not going to force you."

Uh, no. That would be INSANE. You say "Get those shoes on and get in the car" because you know that half an hour later she'll be out of the snit and happy to be there. And by forcing her to put on shoes you're teaching her to dress appropriately for Church. And by forcing her to get in the car you've taught her that it's not ok to stay home from church if you don't feel like going.

Thereby, you have given your child the opportunity to be taught of the Lord, and the opportunity to have great peace; all by forcing 'em.

What do you think about that? Do you think forcing is ok? Or not?

As a by-the-by, my daughter does now wear flip flops to church. It drives me INSANE, but she's almost 18 now, and I'm picking my battles. =Þ

However, I completely understand what you say about persuasion. For example (I can never just say what I mean, I always have to tell a story about it to get my point across. I'm sorry!) when my children have come to me without defiance and wanting an argument, but have simply said "I don't think the church is true. I think it's a bunch of baloney", I haven't gone nuts. Of COURSE they're going to go through this period. How on earth can they have a strong testimony if they don't question the things they've been taught and find out for themselves.

So I've just said, "Well it's pretty normal to feel this way. Why don't you read the scriptures and think about it and pray about it and see what you come up with?" Emily came up with a rock solid testimony that blows me away. Ben's not there yet, but hopefully he will be.

That was one instance where gentle persuasion worked beautifully. =)

Yes, the Lord does bless us every single time, doesn't He? However, as we make the same correct choice over and over, He doesn't overwhelm us with Spiritual praise every time. For example, as Andrew has learned to go to the potty, at first I was effusive with praise. Now it's almost a matter of course and I just say "good job" or "thank you for going" or whatever. Just as when one first goes to church there's an outpouring of approval from Heavenly Father...but now that I've been for 20 years, he doesn't give me that same gush of spiritual approval every time I attend church. Does that make sense?

YES! I've noticed the same thing too, that even when Andrew was very young, if I explained the reasoning behind something to him, he understood and accepted it. =) Little children are SO much more intelligent than they are sometimes given credit for.

Charlotte Mason said parents shouldn't explain themselves as it dilutes parental authority? Wow, I so disagree with that.

I also heard that a parent shouldn't give a child a command and add "please" at the end. They should just tell them "Go put on your shoes" or whatever. I don't agree with that either. Parents should model politeness, and use please and thank you.

Ok...so....what do you do to retrain yourself to ask your child to do something only once? What do you do if they ignore you? How would I go about training Ben, almost a teenager and used to 1-2-3, to do as I ask the first time? Is it too late? Is it too late to train myself to expect first time obedience?

Sorry, LONG waffly post.

Ritsumei said...

Keeley, I just about busted a GUT reading your rendition of that verse!! You're braver (humbler?) than I am... I have never put my name in there, just tried hard not to deserve it (very much). Not to mention that you are the only Keeley I've ever met. So far, I don't have many "discussions" with my son: he's only 1. We'll see how I do when the chips are down.

Oh yeah, CM's got some really wacky stuff in there with all her good ideas. I'm reading vol. 1 right now, and I'd love to go through & break apart her stuff the way I have been TtT, but I just don't have the time. You know, gotta do some parenting in there with all the reading & commenting, LOL! But she's got some wonderful ideas in there in other things, so I keep reading.

Anyway, her quote: "To give reasons to a child is usually out of place, and is a sacrifice of parental dignity..." vol 1 pg 15-16.

I'm still struggling to find what I think about forcing our kids. I mean, every day now, Monkey expresses his displeasure at the idea of a nap. But he gets one every day. Is that compromising his agency? I hope not. I've been thinking about it though. Although the Lord never forces us, he does place us in various situations, which we can choose how to act in. Then He chooses the reaction: the consequences. In Monkey's case, he is required to go to sleep. In my case, I am required to deal with infertility. We both get to choose how to act in these situations, but not the consequences, be they good or bad. But I think it's a fine line between coercion and requirement. One that I'm not sure how to always see clearly.

My folks' response to the 9-year-old refusing church would go something along the lines of "you're too little to stay at home." They have a 13 year-old that sometimes does refuse to go: he just won't get out of bed. Two of his older siblings went through similar periods, lasting years each. One of them is on a mission in Denver, the other married a nice man in the Newport Beach Temple a couple of years ago. My folks lost a lot of sleep over them both.

I wonder if the non-overwhelming praise is not a lack of praise, but becoming accustomed to the level of spiritual gifts/praise that he gives? Taking it for granted? The withdrawal of the Spirit is pretty obvious and quick to one who is accustomed to the companionship of the Spirit. Perhaps, as you say, the "big" praise recedes, but still, there is something.

I think that to a large degree adults work for praise/rewards: employees work for money -a type of reward- but happy workers get pats on the back & other sorts of recognition. The happy marriages I've seen all have some variety of thanks/complements/ect., even if they don't make a huge deal out of it. It just makes sense to reward behaviors that you want repeated. You give me hand-me-downs, I send a thank-you card.

Now, obviously, we want to teach our children to do the right thing because it's RIGHT, out of a love of God. But I think that setting up situations where they have the chance to see the rewards - and to see that echo of God's love & dealings in our actions ass parents, it seems like a great way to set them on the path to building that sort of relationship with Him. Relationships take time. I'm happy with passing out "cookies" in the interim!

Hopefully this all make sense: I wrote it in spurts over the whole afternoon!

Ritsumei said...

Oh - I missed something. No surprise there.

Yesterday I started working on asking once. I asked once, waited, then dished out consequences. It really wasn't as strict as that looks in black and white. For one thing, I have been noticing that he does do what I ask him most of the time, but he's terribly inefficient & frequently distracted. I didn't really penalize him for that. But I did try not to actually ask again as I was working with him.

I learned that this is a type of thing I have to do in a calm, calculated sort of way: think about the requests I made, about the time I allowed, about the ways to work with him to get the toys up without just repeatedly asking him to pick up the toys as we worked. I've already been praising him for "good listening," but if I hadn't been, then I'd definitely try to catch him at doing it right & say specifically what I liked.

Today I really struggled with not falling into old habits. And I found myself thinking about how to phrase things to best make my requests.

Jenny said...

Hi DoriAnn,

I hope your tooth removal went well and that Monkey is feeling better. Here is that little article I was telling you about. I was reminded of it when I read your post.

A Soft Answer

Peggy Climer, “A Soft Answer,” Ensign, Mar. 2007, 73

During tense moments with your children, try whispering instead of yelling. When our children were young, I found that they often paid better attention when they had to strain to hear me. Whispering also helped me to communicate instructions in a more loving way, thus encouraging them to more willingly cooperate. Now that our oldest daughter has children of her own, I smile when I hear her whisper, “Please, clean up your mess,” rewarding with a soft-spoken “thank you” when they do as they’re asked. I am grateful that our children—and now grandchildren as well—know how “a soft answer turneth away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1).
Peggy Climer, Arkansas

Since reading this in the Ensign I've tried to do it and it works. I've especially noticed it working with Josh as he's struggling through the wonderful 2s. Even today he was in the other room and I "yelled" for him and he came to me saying, "OK Mom. Don't yell." I have rarely raised my voice to him and when I do he doesn't like it and gets really hurt by it. I came from a home of yellers and I didn't want that in my home. So by whispering everyone is calmed and you are calmed and can explain, teach, etc. without getting upset or having contention. Most times my first reaction when I'm ignored by my children is to yell because obviously they didn't hear me the first time. But since reading this bit of advice, I stop my first reaction and calmly go up to the child and touch them gently on the arm or hold their hand and whisper my request--a lot more love involved there and thus a deeper respect for mom and what she says.

Thanks for the thought-provoking questions.


Ritsumei said...

I'm inclined to be a yeller too, to a large extent. When I look at myself and ask why that is, I think that it's a yer basic lazy/selfish flaw. I'm doing something that I don't want to leave (scrapbooking, cooking, reading, what have you) and since I'm able to make a lot of noise, I don't have to get up off my backside and go do things quietly. Yep. And then there's yer ordinary anger management issues. I've been experimenting with whispering some too. What age do you find that it starts to be effective? I've still been working on getting Monkey to do stuff the first time that I ask him, and he's pretty willing, pretty cheerful about it most of the time. But I find that I'm repeating myself a buncha times to get the job finished.

I re-read that section of the book this afternoon and realized that they do have another book that they recommend reading, but I can't remember what it was. I'll have to look at it again.

Transforming the Difficult Child: the Nurtured Heart Approach is a book that we used at my facility. I think that it's very well in line with the doctrines that we talked about. If you scroll down to the part from chapter 2, comparing parents to video games, it's pretty thought-provoking.

Keeley said...

Yes, I think you're right; it really is a lazy/selfish thing that causes one to yell. Also, a lack of self-control coupled with a desire to control others is a factor in mine. Not very attractive really, seeing it in print. =Þ

Ben is also a control freak, which is why he and I have really been getting into it lately. I've been trying to teach him to not force Andrew to do things. It's hard to teach him to do stuff that I haven't mastered myself. =Þ

I need to try the whispering stuff. I've been trying to simply say what I need to say and then keep my mouth shut no matter what the provocation. Hasn't worked thus far. As I said...no self control. I'm going to have to pray for that one.

You're asking me what age do I find it starts to be effective? Are you kidding? You're way ahead of me on this stuff. =D =D

Thank you for the book recommendation. I'll check it out.

Ritsumei said...

Jenny's the one that's been doing the whispering thing, not me! I was hoping that she'd share a little more about when it starts working!

I must say though, I've been having some good results from praising "good listening." I had a temple recommend interview this evening, and Andy was at work, so Monkey went with me. At one point in the interview Monkey was exploring the office & noticed a drawer that didn't quite shut right. He started opening it & I asked him not to. So he stopped, shut the drawer, and moved away! No fuss, no problem. I was so proud of him!! I gave him a big kiss on top of his head & told him "very good listening, Monkey!" But before you go blaming too much of that sort of behavior on me & Andy, it's only fair to say that this kid is "easy to be entreated" and "quick to observe" and has been all of his short little life. Now I just need to bottle his willingness. I'm sure that I could retire quickly!

Keeley said...

YAY for monkey being obedient! =) That's when you breathe a sigh of relief that he didn't throw himself down on the floor and scream.

You know, I think parents blame themselves for a lot of things that just don't have anything to do with them. I mean, it's our children's choice whether they obey or scream. We can be doing one thing one day and they'll obey, and we'll do the same thing another day and they'll scream. Doesn't have much to do with our parenting skills - just more to do with our children's choices. So why base our worth as parents on how good our children turned out?

I know a wonderful bishop and his wife who had a couple of children go really far off the deep end; it's nothing they did. OTOH, I see my children turn out well despite the fact that I mess up on a regular basis.

Um. Hopefully you're able to tie that meandering post into the topic of conversation....


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