Following on the heels of last week’s child-related post, here are a few thoughts I’ve had recently–mainly because of the season of parenting we are in. Please understand that, even with three, we are still learning as parents! These principles have worked for us, but we don’t claim any über-parenting skills or knowledge. :)
We train our children for obedience and responsibility. Just as you wouldn’t expect a dog to follow commands without first being trained to understand them, we believe (and can attest) that children function well when they are trained to obey specific commands from a young age. We have been asked on occasion, “how young do you start to train them?” Long before they understand the meaning of obedience…
Our youngest is 11 months. She was born prematurely, so her developmental stage is similar to an eight or nine month old baby. We have been intentionally training her since she mastered rolling. This is what it looks like:
At each diaper change, I lay her on the floor and place my hand on her chest. I get her attention and cheerfully say, “stay”. Then I proceed to change her drawers. If she begins to roll over, I gently roll her back and say, “stay”. I repeat this any time she tries to roll. After several thwarted attempts, she gets the idea and usually submits to my command–content to lay quietly. Sometimes, however, she decides that “staying” is overrated and will pitch a fit, arching her back and letting loose a cry that would make you think she was being held upside-down by her toes. If that happens, I give her a little flick on her thigh and again–calmly–tell her to stay. I give her a moment to relax again, but if she persists I repeat the process until she complies. When I am finished changing her, I say, “all-done!” My little one is fairly compliant, so it doesn’t take much with her. Your experience may take longer if your baby has a stronger personality, but be 100% consistent and it will pay off later.
Fast forward several months and, if you have been consistent in this training, you will have a baby that understands and obeys the command to cheerfully remain where she has been placed. You can use this in multiple scenarios. One of my favorites is a “boundary blanket”: your crawling baby can be placed on a blanket and trained (with some initial participation and consistency on your part) to stay within its edges, playing happily with the toys you provide. This is a wonderful tool, especially if you have other children.
Fast forward a year or more and, because you trained her from infancy, you now have an obedient preschooler who, when told to “stay”, will do so–anytime, anywhere. When we are in a parking lot and I am unloading our kids, I get out the older two and tell them where to stay. After I get the baby out (watching the other two over my shoulder, of course!), I turn around and there they are, happily chatting with one another right where I told them to be. I make sure to praise them for being so smart and obedient. Other people marvel at this display, I’m telling you! That’s not why I do it, of course. Having well-trained, well-behaved children allows me to be assured of their safety and my sanity!
What parenting ideas do you have to offer? (Especially you wise older moms!!) I’d love to read them.