Training A Child in the Way He Should Go

abigail_blocksI feel close to Hannah from the Bible. Hannah wanted a baby—a feeling that I fully comprehend. I don’t understand, however, how Hannah was willing to give him up (back) to the Lord when he was weaned. I can imagine that lengthy and emotional nursing relationship!

Hannah did not just mother Samuel. She trained him up in the way of the Lord. Young as he was, Samuel already “knew better” when Hannah delivered her son to the temple into Eli’s care. He had been trained to honor the Lord.

To train our children in the way he should go is a vitally important job!  You only get one chance at it, and you can’t go back and re-do it. The future depends on parents to do their job well. Here are a few gems of wisdom, gleaned from other wise mothers, that I have depended on in training my children.

Start Early and Look to the Future

water-263054_1280One evening my husband and I were eating in a restaurant when I observed the family at a table next to us. The mother and father were blessed with two darling little boys, probably one and three years old. Having raised boys, I looked at those sweet boys with tenderness. They were so precious, so teachable, so vulnerable. As they were waiting for their meal, the little ones began dabbling in their water glasses, dripping water down their sleeves and all over their clothes, place setting and chairs. I watched, appalled that the mother did or said nothing. Eventually she commented that they were getting all wet. How I yearned to tell that mother that neglect in training now at their young and teachable age would yield teenagers that had little self-control and scant respect for proper table manners to say nothing of authority, property, or law and order. It is so easy to teach a three year old how to act and so impossible to teach a thirteen year old. Start young when your gentle guidance is so effective. Young ones are so eager to please you! Teach them how!

Honor Daddy

baby-539970_1280Studies show that children imagine God as they view their own father. God planned for daddies to lead the family. Mom, you will do yourself a favor if you make sure that Daddy gets the biggest piece and constant gratitude for what he provides by working daily for the family’s upkeep. Just as Heavenly Father grants us blessings, Daddy’s diligence at work brings the needed material blessings. I have tried to make it a habit to include gratitude for our Dad in our family prayers. I wasn’t surprised to hear my children begin to follow my pattern, but I was surprised to hear them also to thank Heavenly Father for all their Mom does too! Nice payback!  If you are critical of your husband, the children will also criticize him, plus they will criticize you, too. Appreciation creates respect.

feet-266848_1280Don’t Train Your Children to Ignore You

“What?! I don’t train them to ignore me!” we may protest. But that is exactly what we parents tend to do. First, we ask our beloved child to get his pajamas on. Then we do nothing to make sure he obeys. Then, after awhile, we say it again. Then we do nothing to make sure he obeys. After a third or fourth repeat of the command to put on pajamas, we feel angry and scolding and wonder why our child just won’t obey us! But we have very effectively taught a memorable lesson which is, “I only mean what I say 1/3 or less of the time so chances are you don’t have to obey me”. In the end, our own inconsistency creates a parent-deaf child.

haflinger-320030_1280Don’t Give Your Children a “Hard Mouth”

A neighbor who works with horses taught me that you can ruin a horse with a heavy hand. If you consistently pull too hard on the reins, the horse’s very sensitive mouth will eventually harden to protect itself. Then instead of an instant response to your slightest pressure, you will have to tug and yank at the horse to get it to follow your directions. Ah, and true with children! A three year old does not need a harsh scolding when he breaks a rule. He needs a gentle nudge in the right direction. If you are too heavy handed, just as with a horse, your child will become insensitive to your discipline.

Take No Lip

It is not okay for a child to complain, pout, grumble, sulk, sass, badmouth or judge his parents when asked to do something. I used to think if my child obeyed my command, I had succeeded. I used to say such things as, “You don’t have to like it, but you have to do it.” I allowed complaining and back talk. Now I realize that the seeds of disrespect are sowed in negative words. Don’t let them have a place to thrive! Thumper was right all along: “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all”.

One mother solved homeschool grumbling by setting a little cup for each child on the school room table. Every complaint by the children went uncorrected, but sure as shootin’, a button clanged into their cup. At the end of school time, buttons had to be paid for by completing ten math problems. You can get creative here…washing 10 dishes…etc.  In our house, we’ve tried having teenagers pay for a sassy response with a $5 bill. It is amazing how quickly these little measures can teach us all to control our tongues. Keep it playful, but don’t allow your children to disrupt the family leadership with grumbling.

I marvel that Hannah did so much to train her child in the few short years given her! To raise up a child to bring honor to the Lord—I am certain there is no more noble and worthy work.  Sure makes home life a lot more enjoyable too!


May I recommend:

How to Stop Bickering, Fighting, Teasing…

Paper Clip Social Skills

Uncommon Courtesy

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Don’t "Un-train" Your Kids!


This past week, we visited Sea World in San Diego and enjoyed ourselves! I couldn’t help noticing the children in the crowd—and the training their parents were unknowingly giving them—in contrast to the sea animals and the purposeful training they were carefully receiving.

When the walrus even turned his head in the right direction, the trainer responded with a big handful of fish, stroking his skin, and praising him. It was obvious that if the trainer ignored good behavior, or approached wrong behavior with a slap or criticism, the walrus would quickly “un-train”. It took constant positive reinforcement to keep the animals willing to do the trainer’s bidding.

walrus-74080_1280Children are not walruses, of course, but as I observed the crowd, I saw parents interacting with their children and it was very instructive. I saw children behaving wonderfully well, but they were given no positive reinforcement or attention at all. Misbehaving children were given plenty of negative attention, scolding and occasionally a spank. Some misbehaving kids were actually bought off with treats or souvenirs to shut them up and keep them happy. It is amazing with this kind of parenting that we don’t “un-train” our children and numb them from ever trying to please us, or respect any kind of authority!

Soothing words, kind treatment, genuine quiet praise, focused attention, sincere appreciation for cooperative behavior, rewards skillfully given to those who are really trying to control themselves and behave—this is what truly works in the long run.

Both with walruses and kids!


May I recommend:

Don’t Ask Twice

Why Listen?

Teaching Self-Government Books

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The Girl I Used to Be



        The Girl I Used to Be

She came tonight as I sat alone,
The girl I used to be.
And she gazed at me with her earnest eye
And questioned reproachfully,

“Have you forgotten the many plans
And hopes that I had for you?”
“The great career, the splendid fame,
All the wonderful things to do?”

“Where is the mansion of stately height
With all of its gardens rare?”
“The silken robes that I dreamed for you
And the shining jewels in your hair?”

And as she spoke, I was very sad
For I wanted her pleased with me . . .
This slender girl from the shadowy past,
The girl that I used to be.

So gently rising, I took her hand,
And guided her up the stairs
Where peacefully sleeping, my babies lay
So innocent, sweet, and fair.

I told her that these are my only gems,
And precious they are to me;
That silken robe is my motherhood
Of costly simplicity.

And my mansion of stately height is love,
And the only career I know,
Is serving each day in these sheltered walls
For the dear ones who come and go.

And as I spoke to my shadowy guest,
She smiled through her tears at me;
And I saw the woman I am now,
Pleased I’m the girl I used to be.

                       —Author Unknown



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The Silent Work of Women

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It’s Up to Us, Mom!


Emily makes a quilt for her future family

I wish I could say that we have arrived at the modern age and now we can breathe easier and relax a bit and turn over the instruction and entertainment of our children to some electronic device or nanny or government program or Sunday school class or something. But the fact is, it is still up to parents to raise the world’s next generation of human beings. And unless your husband is independently wealthy and available all day long, then it is mostly in mother’s hands. And how fine will the next generation be? How polite, articulate, kind, intelligent, sensitive and ammondec2009spiritual will they turn out?

It’s up to us, Mom!

In times past, all the work had to be done by the family members, and in so doing, side-by-side, they created lasting bonds and parents taught their children through modeling good behavior. When everyone works together in the fields to grow the family’s sustenance; the lessons of persistence, dependability, hard work, even-temper, and other virtues are built right in. It isn’t quite so easy these days to pass along our values.

One day I was talking with a spunky elderly lady who had just found out that her husband was terminally ill. She used a term I had never heard before, saying, “I guess I will have to pull up my socks and be a woman”. (I suppose in the olden days only little girls wore turned down socks.) That term stuck in my head, and recently, I had a little talk with myself over my “tiredness” and I said, “It is time to pull up your socks and be a woman and do this job of child-raising!”

gunnysack_racesThe job is ours. We can use resources to help us, but ultimately we cannot transfer our responsibility to the school or the daycare or the scouts or the neighborhood or the community recreation department or the television/computer games. It is you and me, Mom. The joy will be ours if the job is done well, and the heartache will be ours if we are too tired to nurture and train our child. If you have a husband who is a good father and helps in this process, you are blessed indeed. Even without that support, we just do all we can, as mothers, and it will make a difference!

We can get parenting help from living in these modern times, if we choose wisely. A dishwasher is a marvelous time saver! I fear, however, that instead of sighing relief when the dishwasher goes on, and scooping up our kids to read a story or do a project together, that we are perhaps just jamming more work, hobbies, or entertainment into that freed-up time. Labor-saving devices can truly enrich our lives by making us more available to our kids—if we give our energy to our kids instead of dishwashing. But, we must make that choice!

“I believe our problems, almost every one, arise out of the homes of the people. If there is to be reformation, if there is to be a change, if there is to be a return to old and sacred values, it must begin in the home. It is here that truth is learned, that integrity is cultivated, that self-discipline is instilled, and that love is nurtured.” —G. B. H.

Work with your kids today!


May I recommend:

Kids to the Rescue!

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Don’t Ask Twice


balls-712026_1280When my kids were younger, going to the grocery store with them could be such a struggle! Each of them in turn was bedazzled by some treat or toy that they caught a glimpse of and the begging would begin: “Can we buy those cookies?” . . . “I want ice cream!” . . . “We don’t have any juice, Mom!” . . . “We need a big ball!”.

It is hard enough to grocery shop on a budget surrounded by convenience foods, heavy advertising, coupons and more, but add begging kids and it put me over the top! I found myself aggravated and just making a blanket “no” to any and every thing they asked! That’s when I decided to adopt a “don’t ask twice” policy.

I taught my children that they could ask me one time for what they wanted, enabling them to express their desire or getting me to “look” at what they thought was so exciting. But not twice!

Asking once is fine, but if they were to ask twice, the answer was an automatic “no”. No discussion, no questions answered, just an automatic “no”. This took a while to teach them. I had to remind them, “please don’t ask twice or I can’t say yes”. I overheard the older ones tutoring the little ones: “Don’t ask twice or she’ll say no!”

But then—oh—what peace we had!

I was able to do my shopping and think clearly and make good decisions without being bombarded with pleading for this or that. I was able to reasonably consider and occasionally grant their desires. And it was extra fun to hear them squeal with delight when I steered my cart back to the aisle of their desire and asked them what color of a ball they’d like!



May I recommend:

Teaching Kids to Interrupt Politely

The King of Me

A House United

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Farm Wisdom


fence-422990_1280Eighteen years ago we moved from bustling southern California to rural Utah and tried to learn to work the land, to plant an orchard, to raise animals—to live a country life. It didn’t come easy! But, we were blessed to have old timers as neighbors and their farm wisdom was profound.

One adage that I heard repeated was, “A plant in need is quick to seed.” Whenever you see a plant that is immature and small, but blooming, you can be sure it isn’t getting what it needs to thrive. It senses that conditions are dire, and tries to bloom and set seed as quickly as possible, or its life will be in vain.

I have pondered this law of nature, and realized how much it applies to children. When children live in emotionally healthy conditions and are secure, nurtured and loved; they have lots of interests and hobbies. They feel there is plenty of time to grow lush and full and mature before they must concern themselves with reproduction. There is no rush. Rather, there is a feeling of full contentment in the growth process. They have lots they want to learn and do and see and try.

hahn-287466_1280However, when home life is unsatisfying, when God is left out of their lives, when the culture overtakes them via the media, when great meaning in life, and a cause is not taught to children, it seems their focus jumps prematurely to being “quick to seed”. It amazes me how “boy-crazy” girls have become at such a young and tender age. It seems even 9-year-olds want to wear bras and make-up. Appallingly, they are concerned with looking attractive to the opposite sex! Few are “bashful-about-boys”, demure young ladies. More and more common are girls that are aggressive flirts.

Pruning has its human connection too. When we moved to our land, I was busy child-bearing. I was eager to grow fruit trees, but my days were filled with caring for my little ones and teaching my kids, and I was often interrupted in a task. I walked out in the orchard recently to see grown trees that are bent and leaning, unable to bear their load of fruit because of their crooked trunks. One tree even had its stake pounded neatly into the ground next to it, but for the pitiful lack of a cord, it grew slanted from the wind. Just a thin cord would have trained it straight and upright and able to bear the weight of its fruit.

apple-tree-360083_1280So it is with children. Just a little consistent training when they are young will yield what dynamite can’t fix when they are grown. I didn’t know enough about this when I was a young mother. I didn’t realize that teaching them to say “please” for every favor when they were just barely able to speak would give them a pleasant social manner and a grateful heart. I didn’t think to make sure they they never missed saying their prayers. I didn’t realize that letting them slip out of work before the job was done well would backfire miserably.

Prune any wayward tendencies when they are young and only a slight pressure will hold them upright so they can grow strong and straight. Give them optimum growing conditions and they will grow tall and lush before they feel a need to focus on blooming and seeding. Farm wisdom.


May I recommend:

Want Cooperation?

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The 21 Rules of This House

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Stop Talking

milk-chocolate-271176_1280Yackety-yack! We moms sure love to talk. I sometimes wonder what we sound like to our little children! I wonder, if after the first sentence directed at them, they might catch a word here and there but not grasp the whole meaning of what we are trying to communicate. They love us, and they listen attentively at times, but I don’t think they always “get it”!

Eavesdrop with me on this family’s wordy mother. Three-year-old Susie just entered the living room with her glass of milk, holding it with both hands, tipping a bit. Mom begins:

“Oh no, Susie! You’ve got to sit at the table with that glass of milk and not come onto the living room carpet because you might spill it and milk is horrible to try to get out of carpet. You’re tipping it now, Susie! Milk can smell really bad if it is spilled in carpet! I’ve told you a hundred times to sit at the table with your food. You are not allowed in here over the carpet with any food. Remember Grandma’s old blue car that accidentally had milk spilled on the floor of the car? It was impossible to get out and always smelled funny. Now Susie, you really need to take that glass of milk out of here now.”

Did you stick with it? If so, I am sure your eyes were glazing over, just like Susie’s. She might still be standing—tipping glass in hand—listening to her mother, but Susie is probably “lost in space”.

How much more effective to just briefly, kindly, and concisely say: “Susie, go to the table!” Now, that is a clear and simple command that can be followed! And followed-up on!

“Yes” and “no”, without elaborate explanations, are just right for kids under about 5 years old. Boys, who tend to be less verbal than girls, especially need us to “cut to the chase”. When children get a little older, sometimes they will truly need an explanation. You can tell when the “why?” is defiant (“why can’t I?!) and when it is truly a curious (“why is that?”), needing a brief explanation. But they almost never need a lengthy explanation. I fear we do overkill with our words and explanations.

Perhaps we mothers could do better if we stopped talking so much!

To our mutual mothering success!


May I recommend:

Teaching Kids to Interrupt Politely

Never Reward Negative Behavior

The 21 Rules of This House

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Soak in the Joy!

archeskidsWe just went to Arches National Park for a quick sight-seeing trip. At the last minute, some of our grown kids jumped in too, so our 7 passenger van was full to the brim and scraped bottom if we went over a big bump. What fun we had, singing as we drove along! The joy in each other’s presence was wonderful! The scenery was majestic! All felt right with the world.

As I lay in bed that night, my soul just filled up with such joy at the blessing of having my family around me! I found myself whispering, “Thank you, God”. My 7 children are growing (or have grown) into wonderful people who I love and respect, who are caring and good. My husband is constant and considerate. I couldn’t hold any more joy than I felt at that moment. I wanted to pack it away, preserve it somehow for an uncertain future day when loneliness threatens, or sadness prevails. I wanted to just freeze that moment in time, when so much love surrounded me, and soak in the joy of it!

I wonder if we pause enough, as mothers, to “soak in the joy”—to realize how loved and blessed we are! We marry and have our children and life gets busier and busier as we try to care for them. It can seem overwhelming and hectic. climbingcliffWe don’t often stop and realize what a coveted position we are in as the “most wanted” person in the house, as the center to our children and to our husband. We are engaged in the most important work—nurturing human beings—and the love that surrounds us just becomes second nature. Perhaps we don’t even realize that we have bathed in it, until it is missed.

Crayon-scrawled love notes, a husband to talk to, baby’s wet kisses, someone to share our day with . . . share our life with . . . these are the evidences of the love that surrounds us every day.


Soak, soak in the joy of it!


May I recommend:

Who God Trusts

Magic Words

A House United

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