Thoughts on child training…!?
One part of the Charlotte Mason type of schooling is the formation of good habits and character traits.
Originally I wrote that bit off as silly, thinking we aren’t that type of parent. I’m really not into Biblical child training, like Pearls or Babywise. Charlotte Mason didn’t even have children, so how could she be an authority on how to train children to have any sort of habits or morals, anyway?
The entire thought of training children put me off–it goes back to feeling like I’m training my dogs. Children aren’t like dogs, or monkeys, or robots. It makes me uncomfortable to think of training. I don’t even call it potty training, I prefer to call it potty learning.
Recently I’ve come to notice something unfortunate. Rosie did not seem to be learning manners or morals through osmosis like I’d previously hoped. I mean, she wasn’t exactly learning by example. She wasn’t rude, at least not that bad. But she also wasn’t sweet and polite, not like the children of others we know.
What could the difference be?
Certainly not…child training.
Is it possible to “train” a child without spanking? I never really considered it, being so put off by word “training” to begin with.
I spent a lot of time reading about these things with more of an open mind. Now I really wish I’d started this earlier with Rosie. Way, way earlier.
As a matter of fact, if I admit to any huge mistakes as a parent not doing this from an earlier age would be it. (And for the record it’s the only major mistake I can think of, haha.)
Beginning at age four has been difficult, to say the least, but I’m sticking to it with firm consistency.
It *is* still possible to teach your child to have manners and morals (character traits) in a loving, respectful way!
This is what we’re doing:
We are reading Aesop’s Fables. One every day, or several a week, and discussing the moral of the story. Having these discussions with a four year old is interesting. She is capable of understanding quite a bit!
We have character traits I printed out, laminated, and put magnets onto. I hung them on the fridge. When anyone in our family is not displaying one of these traits then someone gets to call them out on it, and we move that trait to the side of the fridge until the person works on it and has it back under control. This goes for us as well as Rosie. I don’t mind if Rosie calls us out on something because a) we should be setting a better example anyway, and b) it’s getting her to pay more attention to how we should be behaving.
The words on the fridge are:
Doing my best
Obedient the first time
I think others might use these words as part of a reward/punishment system, but again that’s not really how I roll so we’re doing it in a more thoughtful way. It’s working great so far.
We also have a laminated set of character trait cards that I made. Each card has a character trait on it with a definition and a Bible verse. Each week we hang a different card on the fridge, and that week we memorize the verse. (Or the most important part of the verse if it’s too long.) We also discuss the card at least once a day and read a story pertaining to the trait each day.
This week it’s forgiveness. It’s amazing to see that Rosie is actually LEARNING these traits! She didn’t understand what forgiveness was prior to this week. When we talk about it I ask her for an example of forgiveness and she makes up all kinds of things that are correct. I love that this is working!
The formation of good habits is also something I want us to work on. I’ve begun assigning Rosie small chores to do. This is the hard part, and another thing I wish I’d began sooner. Rosie resists helping out–it’s too hard she tells me. It’s not fair. She doesn’t want to. OMG. Too bad!!
This ties into obeying the first time you’re asked to do something and doing work with a joyful heart. Tough for little children to learn. I am being calm and consistent. If she starts screaming, growling, or throwing a fit then she has to go sit in her bed until she can calm down. I’ve explained to her that we don’t behave that way out here in the rest of the house. It’s ok to be upset, but you can’t be upset and ruin everyone else’s day. Go be upset by yourself. I tell her that I understand if she doesn’t want to do something, but we all have to help out with chores, just like I cook her food and do her laundry.
I’m still careful to acknowledge her feelings and keep in mind if she’s hungry or too tired or whatever, and of course the chores are always age appropriate. Today she had a half an hour long freak out over being asked to push the kitchen chairs back under the table after I mopped and the floor dried. After screaming and growling at me, then sitting on the couch pouting at being asked to do such a horrible hard task, she finally got up and did it without any trouble. Four year olds! *sigh*
It’s hard for me too because I’m not letting her slack–she’s not going to scream at me or walk around growling and rolling her eyes. I am so done with that. I have to be on top of it every time she starts up. Possibly the hardest thing for me is hanging on that fine line between grace, forgiveness, and gently teaching (discipline).
Seems to be helping–she’s stopped doing the talking back, growling, huffy, eye rolling attitude so often, and she actually seems genuinely happier a lot of the time! She’s so proud when she helps out successfully too. I used to think that child training was sort of like brainwashing your children to be perfect but I don’t think that anymore. It’s more like teaching your children how to have a positive attitude. That equates with teaching them how to be happy people instead of someone who is negative, always complaining and dragging around. Won’t positive, hardworking children grow into compassionate adults who will have the drive and focus to dedicate themselves to what interests them? Those are the kind of adults I want my children to be. It takes self discipline to be successful, doesn’t it? Who is going to teach my children self discipline if I don’t do it? It’s not just going to happen by magic or something…
Again, I really wish I hadn’t have waited so long to start “training” Rosie. I’m starting all of this with Ada as soon as she’s old enough to understand! (Some of which is right now…but not much.)
We have friends who train their children like this–intensively practicing manners and positive character traits and good habits–and they are so polite, kind, and well behaved. If I plan to be a mom of many then I’d better get on the ball! I can’t be a happy parent if I’ve got a home full of crazy uncontrollable children bouncing off the walls!
Funny how parenting has so many layers. With each age and stage I’m learning something new I never realized before.
(While I’ve been sitting here quickly writing this Ada has realized that some of our Schliech action figures can ride on the horses. She’s marching the horses around with faeries riding on their backs chanting, “ride you ride you ride you!” Oh, I love her.)