|“Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old,
bear? ... Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”
--Genesis 17:17; 18:12
Training Children (and Parents!)
by Tamara Eaton
The first key to successful Biblical child-training is
"Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not
thyself?" --Romans 2:21
It all starts with us--are we seeking the Lord for wisdom?
Do we have a positive attitude toward our child or do we view him as
a burden or a problem? Are we disciplining calmly, in love, or are
we giving into anger and raising our voices? The Lord delights in
working in our own hearts as we strive to be responsible, loving,
We can look to Him for help in being consistent and reasonable in
our expectations, too. Failure often results from a lack of
parental consistency or from unrealistic expectations. We should
neither write off negative behavior as "just a stage", nor
expect our children to behave as miniature adults. (After all, even
adults aren't perfect yet!) We need to pray for wisdom and
discernment in parenting-- the Lord understands our child's heart
and will help us train him in the way that he should go!
Here are some helpful tips gleaned from Andrew Murray's
excellent book, How To Raise Your Children For Christ.
- Don't give too many commands at once; begin, if need
be, with only one. If you secure obedience to one, your own and
the child's consciousness of your power to rule is established.
- Don't command what you cannot enforce or what the child has
not the power to obey.
- Prove your authority when it is easy for you to secure
obedience and for the child to render it. In all learning we
proceed from the easy to the less easy.
- Let the command be given in quiet, deliberate tones, with
full self-control; hasty, ill-regulated injunctions lead to
- Self-rule is the secret of all rule; as you honor the
law yourself in self-command, others learn to honor it, too.
- Remember you are God's minister, doing God's work. He
loves the children, and wants them trained for Himself. Depend
upon Him for your help and strength. Yield yourself to Him.
- Don't just pray for help, believe most certainly it is
given. Act in the assurance that it is given and is
beginning, little by little, to work in you.
- Say to your Father that you desire to do your duty at any
risk, and to honor Him with your children. And in the spirit
of a quiet, restful assurance, you may count on God's strength
working in your weakness
A Glimpse from the Past
[This was written years ago when I had a new baby, active
toddler, and was busy homeschooling four older children.]
I love homeschooling my children, but there have been
challenging days when I've had to ask the Lord to help me overcome
feelings of frustration and inadequacy--and I've often asked for an
extra measure of GRACE! I have found in Him all I ever needed. He
never allows more than I can handle--sometimes I just find I can
handle more than I thought!
If everything seems overwhelming, I stop and analyze the
situation to determine the causes...sometimes it's that "Wha!
Wha! Wha!" in the background from a baby who is tired of
playing and wants to be fed and put to bed. Other times (often this
has been the case lately!), it's my two year old getting into things
and not obeying me when I tell him to stop. It's not easy to be
consistent and stop what I'm doing to take him in hand--especially
when I'm nursing or extremely busy. But if I discipline myself to
be consistent with him, peace reigns once more!
He is such a sweet, cuddly, precious little two year old but
he is also very curious, active and likes to do whatever his older
siblings are doing, or get into things. He is strong-willed, but I
have to make sure my will is even stronger and that I don't give in
to his disobedience or make excuses for it saying, "That's just
how he is!" The Lord wants to use his determination in a
positive manner, and it's up to me to make sure I don't allow it to
be bent in the wrong direction!
Sometimes that means redirecting his energies by a big
hug, cuddle and prayer, then finding something better for him to do.
Other times it means disciplining him, in love--calmly letting him
know that his disobedience is not going to be tolerated. I also
make sure I focus on all his positive qualities and activities,
instead of viewing him as a "problem child". I plan
fun things for him to do with me and try to include him, as much as
possible, in our homeschooling.
We believe it's very important to train our little ones by
acting out various situations and teaching them the correct
response, instead of merely reacting to wrong behavior. So we
have had "toddler training" sessions for all our children.
I would tell them-- "We are going to practice obeying the first
time you're told."
They would take turns practicing coming when called and
following simple instructions while the other children applauded and
cheered them on! I would tell them that they had done a terrific
job, and this was what I expected every day. Usually we ended with
refreshments to celebrate. We would tell Dad about it when he got
home and he would tell them how happy he was to hear that they knew
how to obey right away! We always enjoyed giving Dad the good
reports of the day, and made sure he didn't just hear what all went
I also try to keep them on a positive track-- instead of
just reacting to negative behavior. Sometimes that means finding
interesting things to do if they're getting fussy--like
"putting on the garment of praise for the spirit of
heaviness" and listening to uplifting music and letting them
dance to it! Or exercising with an exercise video for little ones.
Or taking a run around the yard--a change of pace works wonders.
Hugs and kisses and laughter go a long way, too! Maybe they're tired
and need a snuggle and a story or a soft song--sometimes we all
need a break and a few minutes spent in the rocking chair restores
Our little ones NEED our time and attention. We must
make sure we're not always pushing them off, trying to get
"more important" tasks done.
One exhausted homeschooling mom described her toddler as
extremely active, never content with anything longer than five
minutes, and to top it off--she "communicated" by
Pray for wisdom in dealing with your child. She needs to
understand that screaming will not be permitted, and that she will
not, under any circumstances, get her way by resorting to such
measures. If you're serious about her not doing this, no matter how
determined she seems, you're just going to have to be even
Determine your response beforehand and let the discipline be
consistent each time so that your child knows exactly what to
expect. Then concentrate on training her in this area--try not
to have too much on your schedule for that day so you can nip the
problem in the bud!
Create a positive atmosphere in your home and plan fun activities
together, but if that behavior manifests, then instantly deal
with it-- calmly, firmly, and lovingly. Soon the little one will get
the message that Mom and Dad love her too much to allow this
negative behavior to continue!
It's important to follow through the rest of the week, month--
however long it takes. It doesn't take long for children to
learn that certain things are just not acceptable. (And both parents
need to be in agreement on how to deal with it so they can be
Don't worry about trying to find ways to make her attention span
longer at this age, instead, have a safe, pleasant environment for
her and rotate various creative toys. Spend time directing some
of her activities and playing with her, but allow her to have time
to learn to entertain herself, too. Little ones (especially
youngest children!) have to learn that someone isn't always going to
be entertaining them, that they are responsible for playing by
themselves sometimes, too.
One thing we tried to convey to our little ones from the start
was that they were loved so much, and welcomed into our home as a
precious gift from the Lord, but our whole life didn't revolve just
around them. There were times they had to fit in with what the
family was doing. Now, don't get the wrong impression, we
also really treasured our times spent taking care of them, nursing
them, playing with them, rocking them, carrying them around the
house while doing things, etc.
By taking the necessary time to train them, we had even more
time to enjoy them because we weren't constantly having to deal with
negative behavior. It just didn't make sense for one child to be
allowed to constantly spoil the whole family's activities, or the
atmosphere of the home.
The children quickly realized that "power plays" didn't
get the desired results and it was a total waste of their time and
energy. On the other hand, we taught them how to clearly make their
needs known in a pleasant manner, without screaming, whining,
fussing or crying (we're talking about toddlers here.). And we
taught them that there were times that they had to wait a few
minutes for their turn to get our attention. (Although we were
always available if there were emergencies!)
We pray that you and your husband will have an opportunity to sit
down and make specific goals and discipline strategies for your
extra-special two year old, if you haven't already, and that the
Lord would clearly lead you in the way you should deal with your
child. We've always felt that's why God gave us principles in His
Word, more than just lists of do's and don't's--He wants us
dependent upon His leading and has given us His Holy Spirit to help
us discern His Way.
"Home life is a school as much for training parents as
children....As we think of our love to our children, the joy
they give us, the tender sympathy their troubles wake, the patient
kindness their dullness or waywardness requires, the ready response
with which their needs and requests are met, Jesus wants us to
look up and calculate HOW MUCH MORE all this must be in God, the
good and perfect One, the Fountain of Love. He wants us to
banish every shadow of unbelief from the heart, and live our life in
the sunshine of God's love."
"True authority has its root and strength in a life in
which we exhibit ourselves what we ask of our children. A life
of childlike trust in the Father's love, of submission to His
authority and surrender to His training will make itself felt
through the home. It will awaken our sympathy for a child's needs
and failings. It will awaken their sympathy with our teachableness
of spirit and our quiet restfulness in the divine rule. And the
nurture of our children will be to ourselves and to them truly the
Lord's nurture--God's nurturing us by means of them that He may
nurture them by means of us."
--Andrew Murray (1828-1917)
Oh how we need the Lord, and how He delights in giving us wisdom
in this area! He knows our child better than anyone and He makes
Himself available to us every day, if we'll just trust Him.
"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who
gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to
him. But let him ask in faith, with not doubting, for he who doubts
is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind." --James
"Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but
bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." --Ephesians
"Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is
old, he will not depart from it." --Proverbs 22:6
[For more articles on child-training, see Homeschool
Boot Camp: Dealing with Attitudes! (Biblical Child Training
Principles), and Living
in Harmony. For additional tips on toddlers, see Homeschooling
with Toddlers! ]
© Copyright Tamara Eaton 1994-2005, all rights reserved.