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December 16, 2009

More on Teaching Self Control

Well since the last post, I have recieved some comments asking if I could share how we teach self-control to our babies. So I will attempt in this post to share with you some of the things that have worked for us.

As I mentioned before, self-control is a very valuable character trait and is used throughout a life time. And God must have thought it was pretty important too because it is listed in the Bible as one of the fruits of the Spirit.

So how to teach your child self-control.

Let's start with when to start teaching it. Really you can start teaching it as early as they begin to explore. I don't mean get on the ground crawling, exploring, but rather with their hands. Have you ever had a baby pull your hair? This is something that I have never seen as cute and never allowed to go on without correction. Now of course I am not talking about the little tiny baby getting his hand stuck in your hair and hanging on just because they always like to grasp whatever is in their hand. I am talking about the deliberate pulling of hair. All some babies need is a pushing away of the hand and saying something like, "Be gentle".  But some babies are a little more determined and need a firm squeeze of their hand or a little flick on the hand. You will be able to tell if this had any effect by their response. If there is no response then it didn't phase them and you need to move on to something that does. This method is beneficial for the many things that a baby will explore but that is not appropriate to touch or if it hurts others. Remember, if baby is allowed to pull hair, bite, pinch.....what is to stop them from doing it when they are older. That pattern will have already been set. So why would you be surprised if they do it to their siblings or other children. If you deal with things when they first come up, you won't have to deal with them as often later, and in some cases, not at all.

So let's move on to the high chair. You have your baby in the chair and you keep everything out of reach right? WRONG! This is a perfect opportunity to teach self-control. And really the same methods apply. If they touch the bowl or spoon, just a little firm grasp or flick will usually deter them from touching. Not that they will never try it again, kids like to test their boundaries, and some over and over again. Just to see if you are still on top of your game plan :) And what about throwing food on the floor? Well babies are babies, so it's ok, right? WRONG. Why do you want them to do something now that you will have to retrain later? Nip this thing in the bud BEFORE it gets to be a problem. You will thank yourself someday. Same deal. Baby throws food on the floor, squeeze, flick or slap their hand. And firmly but lovingly say, "No throwing food on the floor." or something like that.

Staying in the theme of the high chair and moving to when baby is a little older. What if for some reason they are being loud, not just happy loud, but upset or angry about something? If we find they will just not settle down, we will either remove them from their high chair and put them in their bed or playpen until they settle down, or we will turn their high chair around, away from the family until they stop crying. We will use the latter more often as we find it is the most effective because you can immediately turn them around when they settle down. This has worked for us really well and we have used it many times. Simple, don't you think? And if they begin to cry again, turn it around again. They willl get the point after awhile. And you will have a much more peaceful meal.

Let's now move on to when baby is crawling around or walking. Now that he is mobile he is exploring his world....and boy does he have LOTS to explore. But in his exploring, he still needs to have boundaries. There will be boundaries all through his life, why not start to teach them now. Don't get into the habit of moving the things that you don't want your baby to touch out of his reach. Use this as a training tool. Take time to watch him as he crawls around and train him. Same deal, he touches, you say 'don't touch'. he gives you that look and touches. Probably by this time he will need more than a squeeze, it might move up to a little more. And you might even have to swat his little bottom (gasp.....yes, we do use this method :) But in doing this, you are again teaching your precious little one self-control. Think about how nice it will be to go to family or a friend's house and know that they don't have to rearrange their things for your little one. Because he is trained not to touch. And you won't have to anxiously follow him all around concerned that he is going to break something. But it starts in your home. Don't try to do this training at someone else's house. It will be exhausting for you and awkward for your family or friends.

So another question that we have been asked many times and I might as well address here is how to get your baby to sit still in church. This is another issue that, the more babies we have the more we found out how young they are capable of sitting for long periods of time. But once again, it begins at home. How can you train a child in church when you and him have to be quiet? Hard, right. So instead practice at home. Have your baby sit on your lap for 15 min. or so every day. No toys, no entertainment, just sitting. What do you do when he wiggles and cries? Well, for sure don't let him down! And if he wiggles so much that he is almost escaping, a firm squeeze on the leg and say, "It's time to sit now." After you find your baby is able to sit 15 min. quietly, up it to 20, 25, 30 minutes. We find that usually after they learn to sit about 30 minutes that they can sit for an hour or more with no issues. Again, train them young, and then when they are older, they will know how to sit. Of course once they are on their own chair it seems a little further training is sometimes needed.We have chosen not to bring snacks, coloring or toys to church. We found they caused more problems and hassle than they solved and it just wasn't worth it. And we also found that when children  have nothing else to occupy them they will actually pay attention to whatever they are sitting through :)

Well this has become an incredibly LONG post, but I hope in sharing some of our experiences it will be helpful to you. We don't at all claim to be experts at this, as parenting is a journey and we are still learning daily and daily relying on God's wisdom in raising our children. But I want to encourage you to think about what your goal is in raising your children and with God's help work towards it. Our personal goal is to raise Godly children that honor Him in their actions and that love Him with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, children that are pleasant to be around and who show God's light to the world. And please let's pray for each other as we know too well that our adversary definitely does not want us to raise Godly children and so we are in a battle. But be encouraged to press on, for one day you will reap the rewards.

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
Galatians 6: 7-9

I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Phillipians 3:14


Cinnamon said...

Thank you. That was so encouraging to me. I had forgotten that we use to turn our babies around when they screamed. And you're right it does work almost instantly. Thanks for the reminder~


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Rosalie!
Even though I know some of this stuff through Growing Kids, its so nice to hear it again from someone whose kids are truly an example that this stuff actually works!! :)

Tricia Thiessen said...

Hi, Thanks for the advice. As a mom of a 2 1/2 year old, 1 year old and one on the way, I read every word. I was wondering how young you start with practicing sitting still? My daughter just turned 1 last week and is quite the mover! I think she would be ready for this practice!


Laura said...

Great post, Rosalie! Thanks so much for sharing. I'm with you 100% on all of this, though I honestly have never thought of putting the food in front of the child and teaching them not to touch it. I've always just kept it out of their reach and required them to sit patiently (without fussing) until I give it to them. But I'm going to start putting Noah's food on his tray like you do with Josiah. Noah is proving to be a stubborn little boy and could use any and all extra practice in self control! The stairs are our biggest struggle right now. He fell down a few of them and busted his lip yesterday, and that didn't even seem to phase him.

He's doing great with sitting all the way through church, but it's his naptime and he usually falls asleep, which helps. :) We agree with having the children sit quietly and listen without drawing, snacks, etc.

I really like the idea of turning the high chair around. We're going to have to try that too. We usually put him in his bed until he stops crying, but that means two trips up and down the stairs. I'm going to suggest your method to Adam!

Josiah is such a cutie! I can't believe he's almost 1!!!