Guest Author on Discipline

Posted by  | Monday, February 18, 2008  at 2:01 PM  
My new friend Beth McKenzie is one of the people I have asked to help provide some more practical stories regarding discipline in her home. I have found what she has written to be INCREDIBLY helpful to me, for where I am right now regarding discipline and Laney. Beth learned these helpful ways to discipline from a Navigator's Conference, I do believe.

When our first son was seven months old, my husband and I thought we were on the same page concerning discipline. As the rubber met the road, we realized we were in the same book, probably in the same chapter but not on the same page. We agreed on so much but didn't feel like we had the tools to train and instruct Micah as he began to show his own will. We happened to be at a conference at this point of realization so decided to attend a seminar on how to train toddlers. The gentleman leading the seminar began his talk stating that if we would implement what he was about to tell us, we would never face the terrible twos. Pretty big statement as far as I was concerned! Well, ten years and three more kids later, I feel like I can honestly say that we never really experienced the terrible twos. Not that we had first time obedience each step of the way...we still work for first time obedience!, but I do believe that what John shared with us really helped us to flesh out how to train young children.
His premise is this: train your children to respond to five command words before age two and as the children enter the time of really exerting their wills, they will already be well trained in obedience. I think this is an area that we as young parents make the mistake. We fall into the thinking that because our children can't clearly communicate with us, then they must not be able to clearly understand our communication with them. They understand so much more than we give them credit for!
The five command words are this: no, give, come, hush and obey. This is generally the order of learning these words as well. The age of beginning this training will be largely determined by your child and his behaviors and abilities. For instance, you can't train a child to come that can't crawl or walk. As a parent you will be able to sense when the baby begins to discover the ability to do what you have said not to do - with our boys, this was around six or seven months.
With each word, there are three stages of learning. First is the training, then the discipline and then the consistency. When training the baby with a new word, use one swat or flick. Discipline (at this young of an age) is three swats and consistency is one or three swats depending on the timing. I've never tried to explain this in written form so please be patient with me in the explanation - it should make sense by the end.
We started with no - as couples you need to determine what the "nos" are going to be so that you are both training in exactly the same way for the exact same things. My husband and I both wear glasses and we wanted to be able to hold our babies and not worry about them ripping off our glasses all the time so that became a "no" for us. When Micah would touch our glasses, we would say "No" firmly and then flick or swat his hand one time. Practice on your own skin to see that it stings but that it is not too hard. In order for the training to be effective, IT MUST HURT! If there aren't painful consequences, the baby has no reason to stop. The command needs to be the same every time - so decide whether you are going to say no, no touch, you may not do that - whatever it is, keep it the same. We did this for two reasons - 1. Consistency helps the child know what to expect - disobeying command words always has painful consequences. 2. There will be times when you can't discipline as you would in your own house. At those times you can change how you correct your children so that they are still being instructed, but that you do not have to discipline publicly. For instance, I never allowed our babies to play with my glasses, but at the doctor's office I was not going to flick their hands. So instead of saying "no", I would say something like "you may not do that" or "that's a no-no" and then try to remove the temptation for them.
So for the first few weeks of training, every time Micah would touch my glasses, I would say "no" and then flick his hand one time. You will be able to tell when you cross from training to discipline. Usually this will happen by the child giving you indication that he understands that glasses are a "no". Micah would begin to reach for my glasses and pause. He might make eye contact even. At this point I would say "no" and he would pull his hand away. This showed me that he understood my "no" and that he would need to be disciplined for touching my glasses from now on. I had trained him that glasses were a "no" and he knew that pain would come from touching them. Then over the next few weeks, he would continue to test to see if it was still a "no" and would sometimes go ahead and touch anyway. At this point, I would discipline him with three swats on his hand. Expect tears. And then you get to comfort and hold him close and reassure him of your love. Over the years, my husband developed a song for forgiveness that he would always sing to them after discipline. I always talked to them about my love and God's love and that I disciplined them so that they would learn to honor God with their lives. Even at six months we would start this - consistency develops patterns of thinking and starting early helped me to iron out the kinks in what I wanted to really communicate each time.
The last stage of training with a command word is consistency. Now that Micah knows he'll be spanked for disobedience, he might not try to touch my glasses for three or four weeks. So the first time he touches them, I say "no" and give him one training swat on the hand. After that one reminder though, the next time it needs to be full discipline again. Freebies will breed disobedience. Consistency will breed obedience. As parents we really choose how hard we want it to be - it is so cyclical. I work to get my children to obey and then I slack off with training and discipline and before you know it, the house is chaotic again and I feel at a loss to gain control. This just happened again in our home about a month ago as I was too slack - give them an inch and they take a mile. Be consistent and we love our home - the children play well together, are respectful to me and to each other, obey when told to do something....
So briefly with "give" - have you taken a toy away from your child and they scream, fuss, throw their head back, arch their back? You should be able to take a toy or anything from your child and have them respond appropriately. You should not have to bribe them with something else. Training them with give will help with this. Say "give" and take the toy away. Then, when the baby reacts negatively, you say "no" and give him a training swat or flick. (Often we would flick the cheek if the inappropriate response was fussing or screaming, but would swat if it was trying to hit or arching their back.) Eventually, the baby will give the toy without a fit. Then you will know that from now on, you need to discipline.
With "come", you train the child by saying the word and then going and getting the child and carrying him to where you were when you called him. This one can take months of training, but one day you will say "come" and you will see the baby begin to crawl or walk towards you. At this point you need to praise a lot. Same with all of the commands - let the baby know you are pleased with obedience. With come, we did not do the training swats until they showed some evidence of understanding the concept. They would stop what they were doing and look at me or they would take a step and then stop. This is when I would swat once. After a few more weeks and once the child comes to you completely, then you change over to discipline.
"Hush" is a great word for helping your toddler sit through church or listen during a meal or prayer time. This one we did not start until around 12-15 months. And the training flick was a littler softer than normal. I want them to hush, not burst into tears. So I would speak softly and get right beside them before saying "hush" and of all of the commands, this one is the one you need to train with a flick by the mouth and then turn to spanking on the bottom for discipline. Three flicks on the mouth would probably be too much. We used this word as well if our boys were throwing a bit of hissy fit and needed to stop. We still use this command word in our house. If there is fighting going on, I'll say "hush" and then allow one person to talk at a time, not allowing the boys to interupt.
Finally "obey" - the catch-all command. I often have found myself saying "Obey Mommy." If I asked Micah to pick up his shoes and put them by the door, I might word it "Micah, obey Mommy and put your shoes by the door." At 15-18 months and with so much training throughout the last the year, they catch on pretty quickly to obey. Also, when I discipline I always talk about obedience so by the time I start using obey as a command word, the child already has a decent understanding.
Going from hand swats to bottom swats is again determined by the child. We had one boy that when I said the word "no" he would burst into tears. We didn't start spanking him on the bottom until he was 1 1/2 years old. Another boy, strong-willed from conception!, was being spanked on the bottom at seven months of age. I'm not joking. Hand swats meant nothing to him. Often with spanks, he would look up at me and smile afterwards. Or I would pick him up off my lap to comfort him and he would slap my face. I spanked him more times than I can count and so repeatedly for the same offenses that I would put him in his crib for a long time because I couldn't bring myself to spank him for the same thing again! But the interesting thing is, he is our son with the most sensitive heart to sin now. He can't hold it in and can't hide it. He truly repents over his sin and has a beautiful start to a deep understanding of forgiveness and grace.
I hope this hasn't created more parenting headaches but has helped give some practical ways to help your young children begin to learn obedience to God through obedience to you.


Jen said...

Thanks for your post! It really does change so much as the kids get older and you have more than one. It is so important to start early and be consistent. Thanks for the reminder and for the ideas. my third child has lots of special needs and discipline has not been center stage for me like it was with my other kids. I really like your practical suggestions and see these as easy things I could work on with my little one.


Leah said...

Thank you so much for contributing, Beth! I am almost crying because now I miss you so much! You are a very wise and godly woman that I look up to a lot and I have learned a lot from this post. Thank you for taking time from raising four boys and loving your husband to teach us.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't going to comment here, but I can't stop thinking about this. It is obvious that everyone here is a loving mom who wants to do what is right and best for their children.

So, please before using the methods in this post ask yourself some questions...

Is it okay to deliberately inflict pain on a 7 month old baby in order to "train" them? Is this what Jesus would do? Can teaching/training (not punishment, but teaching) be done without inflicting pain? Is this the way our heavenly Father teaches us?

While it may be a method that "works", it is not okay to inflict pain on a baby, it just isn't. Jesus wouldn't do it. There are better ways to teach a baby, they take time and effort, but they don't involve pain. Patience yes (just as our heavenly Father is patient) pain no.

Anonymous said...

First of all, please know that there were many wonderful points that I agree with and found very helpful and insightful in the Prayer of Hannah posts on discipline. I'm all for setting boundaries and expecting first time obedience, and for teaching our children that their actions have consequences. Consistency and follow through truly are key to successful training....

BUT, I have to second what the previous anonymous comment says. I, too, am a Christian mother trying to emulate Christ's love in the way that I deal with my children...and I can honestly say that I have not ever felt that hitting them would be an appropriate way to share with them the love of their Heavenly Father. There are many disciplinary options available to "train" your child that DON'T involve inflicting pain on them. I suppose I simply can't wrap my mind around a parent's ability to hit their child either with their hand or a paddle or a spoon, on the hand, on the bottom or on the cheek. I realize that each author on this blog is a woman of faith who deeply desires to honor God with her role as mother, which is why I'm so confused by the reasoning that it's okay to inflict pain on your child in an attempt to "train" them. I agree, again, with the previous comment that while your pain inflicting methods may work, that doesn't make them okay to use. Training a baby is a tough job that requires all of the fruits of the spirit, and I honestly have a hard time seeing gentleness in a parent's decision to inflict pain on their child in order to "train" them.

marymstraits said...

(1) I don't think any mom WANTS to "hit" her child or "inflict pain." It's more about what a child NEEDS.

(2) God is not only patient but also just. He says clearly in His Bible that he disciplines those whom He loves. Read any section of Exodus. Read Revelation. God deals with deliberate disobedience and sin--with His people and with non-believers.

(3) I will say that "spanking" is not for every child. I think parents need to really evaluate what works for their children. And I KNOW that discomfort is a very good motivator to correct behavior. I'm not saying it has to be physical discomfort, but discomfort on some level. We have to be careful as moms to be alright with letting our kids experience discomfort for their long-term good. Too many parents don't want to see their kids in pain, which leads to the pre-teen brat syndrome. (I teach 8th grade and see this every day.)

(4) When I "spank" my 12-month-old, it's more to get his attention. I give him a firm "tap" on his diapered bottom, and he very quickly gives me his attention. I repeat my command, and show him what is appropriate. (Instead of playing in the dog's food, play with your truck.) I've found that he's learned boundaries very quickly this route, making both of our lives a lot less frustrating. I say "No touch" a LOT less since he learned what to stay away from. We can enjoy our time together without stopping for time out every 5 minutes.

That's my two cents . . .


tenjuices said...

To the two anonymous commentors:
Do you think it is ever OK to spank children over a year old or at any point?

great2bmommy said...

Ed--In short, no, I don't believe there is ever an appropriate time or age to spank a child. But please allow me to explain my answer:

My husband and I choose to NOT spank our children. We instead implement an effective timeout procedure that works like a charm to mold and shape our children's behavior. We started using this when the kids were 6-7 months of age. For example, if we were holding the baby and he went for our glasses or pulled our hair we would say "no touch" or "no pulling hair" and then say "timeout" and put the baby down (in a safe spot) and walk away (we were still present and able to monitor our child for safety purposes), fully removing from him any and all of our reinforcing attention for a brief time (like 30seconds). Our children quickly learned what "no" means (or "hush", etc.) and they avoid doing the things that they know will earn them a timeout because they would much prefer to remain engaged with what's going on versus being removed from the fun/attention/interaction/etc.

I am in no way condoning spanking, but should a parent choose to use this form of discipline, I agree with James Dobson's stance that a spanking should only be administered with a parent's bare hand b/c otherwise the parent can't fully judge just how hard they're hitting their child... Again, I don't feel it's ever okay to hit a child, but beyond being troubled by the thought of a parent spanking/swatting/thumping their precious little one (on the bottom, hand or cheek), I'm even more disturbed by the idea that at times a wooden spoon or paddle may be involved.

I suppose the reason I commented in the first place was to demonstrate that there are many well behaved, God honoring children who have never had a hand raised to them. They have parents who love the Lord with all their heart and who desire to honor Him with their parenting. I just wanted to present this truth in hopes that perhaps even just one parent might rethink their actions as they're raising their hand to swat their child the next time.

Renee' for The Van Clan said...

I used to think that spanking was an important part of discipline. I accepted the mainstream Christian view of spanking without really thinking critically and studying the Word for myself.

Over the years, as God has moved me along the path of grace, I have been challenged to look at what the Bible says again on the subject, as well as listen to my own heart in submission to the Holy Spirit. I can't really answer the question right now,(whether I think spanking is ever okay) because I am in a transition period in my thinking. I do think it is a grave mistake to take 5 verses from Proverbs and use them as our foundation for discipline of babies and very young children. If you study the verses you will find that this was most likely not the intended audience.

There is so much that could be said here, and it is not really the best place for an in depth discussion. Let me just say, for those mom's (and dad's) who want to look deeper into how our Heavenly Father would have us parent our precious gifts, there are good resources out there. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you, we all know that is the most important part of being a parent!

tenjuices said...

Thanks for the return comments.
Renee surely guessed my question regarding Proverbs. I am not a advocate for hardline punishment and lording fatherhood over the child, but the wisdom of the Bible does seem to include spanking or corporal punishment of some form in parenting. If you exclude spanking from parenting, you would have to exclude what the Holy Spirit specifically has told us to do as parents (2 Tim 3:16). I don't see the NT saying anything different from the OT. Honestly, as much as I may personally want to avoid it, the Bible instructs 'spanking' and I don't know how you get around it. I have known godly Christians who didn't spank and think highly of them (and you all). I don't mean to be argumentative and inflammatory, but is not what the Holy Spirit instructs via Solomon applicable to us? I truly think Proverbs was written to us as Christians. I say this to try to understand the other side of the coin.

Renee' for The Van Clan said...

You are definitely not being inflammatory, Ed. As I mentioned, I used to be a believer when it came to spanking. I used Proverbs and Hebrews to defend my position. I did not find spanking to be something I wanted to avoid, but rather something I must do to raise my children right. Over the years I was challenged to think critically and study and examine the Word for myself, rather than reading what some Christian "expert" had to say.

Every part of God's word is useful and inspired and valuable for teaching and training in righteousness. I believe that wholeheartedly. But I don't put a knife to my throat when I overeat (Proverbs 23:2). I don't wear a head covering when I pray. (1 Cor. 11) We don't stone rebellious youths to death.(Leviticus) And I don't use the rod verses as my foundation for parenting. I do use the gentle example of Christ, I do use the "one another verses" and the admonishments about not provoking our children or discouraging them.

I am convinced that as I let the Holy Spirit lead me, He will reveal it to me if there is ever an occasion that requires the use of the rod in my parenting. But I am also convinced that using the rod (pain) to teach (condition) a very young child is not what the Father had in mind in Proverbs.

tenjuices said...

I think it is one thing to recognize hyperbole in Prov 23, or not being under the Levitical law, or see the head covering as culturally constrained. But there are more than several Proverbs on discipline than can be easily explained. Deut 8:5 says that as a man disciplines his son so God disciplines us. Paul seems to have this in mind and restates it in Hebrews. I would agree to not listen to experts on most things. My thinking is to rely on Scripture and apply it. Christ drove out the temple with a whip and also said he did not come to bring peace but a sword. Sometimes his example was not so gentle. In John 18, Jesus says that He is the one the Pharisees came to arrest and knocked them over with His words. Peter through the Holy Spirit a married couple when they lied. I am just trying to make the point that it is not OT vs. NT as harsh vs. mercy. The consistent witness of the Holy Spirit through the Bible seems to me to be that discipline, though painful, is for our own good in the long run. Do you think you could be lead to understand something apart from or opposite of Scripture? How in particular does the Spirit lead you in this area? These are honest questions. Ed

Curt, Mariah, & Carli Badura said...

Just wanted to share this info on discipline:

This book was highly recommended for discipline by the Bible- For Instruction in Righteousness: A Topical Reference Guide for Biblical Child-Training" Pam Forster; Spiral-bound; $31.50 on amazon.

I also thought these books sound interesting and thought I would share them with you:

My ABC Bible Verses: Hiding God's Word in Little Hearts"
Susan Hunt; Hardcover; $10.19

"Slow and Steady Get Me Ready"
June Oberlander; Paperback; $15.63

I found this neat website about homeschooling:

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