Today we finish Joyce's popular series on homeschooling with preschoolers in the house with the final post from the series: Discipline for Children.
Webster defines discipline as, “training that is expected to produce a specified character or pattern of behavior, especially that which is expected to produce moral or mental improvement.” Using that definition, this week’s blog discusses training for children that will last a lifetime.
The Bible promises us that if we will “train up a child in the way he should go, when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) That should be the goal of all parents—to train their children so that when they are adults they will continue to live their lives in a manner that glorifies God and is an asset to society. Training, however, is multifaceted and takes a great deal of time on the part of the parents. Last week we discussed training for babies; this week we will discuss training for older children.
Children should be assigned household chores as early as age two. They need to learn that they have a job for which they alone are responsible. At our house a child’s first “job” was picking up his toys. I always insisted that they put their toys away every time they finished playing with them. That usually involved picking up toys four or five times a day, but I taught them that picking up the toys was their responsibility. At first it was necessary for me to supervise them. I would point to each toy and tell them to pick up that toy and put it in the toy box. That was a very time-consuming process, and I had so many things to do that I felt I could not afford to stand pointing at toys while they put them away. After all, I could have done it in a fraction of the time. However, I forced myself to go through this process every time the toys needed to be picked up. Fortunately, the day finally came when I could simply tell them to pick up their toys, and they would do it. After a few years, I did not have to tell them to pick up the toys; they knew that it was their job, and they did it. But, as in most things, the key was consistency. If I had picked up their toys part of the time, they would never have picked up their own toys. They would have learned that if you wait, Mom will pick up the toys.
I believe that the reason training is so often neglected is that it takes so much effort on the parent’s part. Most of us are not willing to spend hours teaching a child to do something that, in the first place, they do not want to do, and, in the second place, we can do much faster and more efficiently than they.
As the children grew older and could take on more responsibility, I gave permanent job assignments for household chores. The training process for each chore took a considerable amount of time, but because a child kept his job assignment for several years, he learned to do it quickly and well. I did, however, try to respect a child’s personal feelings about a particular job. If a child were genuinely opposed to his job, I would listen to his reasons for wanting a different job assignment, and it I thought his argument had merit, I would make the change.
At our house we had rules about almost everything. We had daily Bible reading and prayer where everyone was required to be present. The older children often read their Bibles on their own, but they were required to also attend the family Bible readings. Everyone was also required to memorize scripture each week. I kept this requirement fairly simple, and we all memorized the same verses which had to be recited word perfect by the end of the week. Television viewing was strictly monitored in terms of language and content, and everyone was required to keep the rules, regardless of age.
Although I required a great deal from my children, I always adhered to the same rules that I set for them. I memorized the scriptures and had one of the older children quiz me on my recitation. I followed the same guidelines that I set for them in terms of television and movie viewing, and I never slacked on my household chores.
I believe that if we are to succeed as parents, we must lead by example. Our children are always watching us, and if they see that we are only giving lip service to the rules we have established for them, they will not feel obligated to adhere to them either. If we want our children to learn to live the kind of disciplined lives that will not only make them a blessing to us and to society but will bring them into obedience to God and result in their salvation, we must be willing to provide an example in our own lives which will point the way to their salvation. And that is what training a child in the way he should go is all about.
Joyce Swann is a nationally-known author and speaker. Her own story of teaching her ten children from the first grade through master’s degrees before their seventeenth birthdays is retold in her book, Looking Backward: My Twenty-Five Years as a Homeschooling Mother Her newest novel, The Warrior, is available on Kindle and in paperback. For more information visit her website at http://www.frontier2000.net/ or like her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/frontier2000mediagroup