Happy Girl


What does it take to make a happy girl?

Here’s the recipe:

* Knowing she is a daughter of God
* Chances to work hard and serve others
* One-on-one time with Mom
* Challenging enough academic studies
* Time to read uplifting classic books
* A hobby to keep her hands busy
* Friends who share values
* Assurance that she is pretty and pleasing in personality
(. . . to name just a few)

The words “I’m bored” are taboo in my home. I guess it is because Grandma always says, “Only stupid people get bored!” Every moment of a girl’s life should not be occupied and busy. There needs to be time to think and daydream, time to ride her bike and write in her journal. I like to teach my girls at an early age to manage their free time by developing some hobbies to keep themselves content. Something as simple as cross-stitching, playing the piano or sketching can give a girl a project to look forward to. Beware not to over-fill her time with outside-the-home commitments, lessons and classes.

DianeJune2007-2Every girl needs a friend. In a culture that grows girls up way, way too fast, old-fashioned mother-daughter camaraderie is getting rarer and rarer, and yet nothing makes a girl as happy as being best friends with her mom! Take the time when they are young, and that devotion will pay back with smoother teenage years and a lifelong friendship!

Besides mom, a couple of like-minded, value-sharing girlfriends can help make life delightful. A girl doesn’t need a whole class full. I have always been surprised to find that a few friends is enough.

Sweet words are just as important as daily breath, and they live in the memory to keep a girl feeling loved and lovely when the world may shout a negative message. Apply loving praise liberally!

Isn’t it fun raising girls? Remember, love is spelled “T-I-M-E” to your daughter!


May I recommend:

3partplan The “1/3″ Plan for Kids

Big Bear Hugs

Self-Government Picture Books

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Mad Teenagers

lifeoflouisaI just listened to yet another mom describe her “mad teenagers”. This is a problem that seems all-too frequent amongst homeschooling families. And it is not necessary.

A family starts off excitedly homeschooling their little ones, and things go pretty well. Life is fun day-by-day being together. The kids are excited and learning. Mom is delighted with their progress. Read-aloud, field trips, library trips, hands-on science experiments, and more blend together to make a very satisfying lifestyle and educational experience. It seems her children will turn out the best ever! She teaches them about God, about honesty, about manners. They are smarter and more mature and respectful than their peers. Everything is going well.

Fast forward 10 years and it can be quite a different story. Teenagers now, those once-happy-little-ones may be sullen, angry, resistant, unmotivated.

What happened?

Basically, a young child’s needs are easily met within the family circle. But as that child grows year by year, those needs change. And if Mom the Teacher doesn’t flex and grow to provide for the teen’s needs, frustration and anger can result. This can be especially challenging because mom is probably still having babies, and the little ones are still responding joyfully to her “method”.

For a growing pre-teen, the family circle is becoming a bit cramped. And, because growing-up is new to them, they often can’t really express the growing unrest and resistance they feel. Once you’ve raised a few kids, you come to watch for this malady around 11 years old, give or take. It seems to correspond with self-awareness. Right before you eyes, your child changes from a carefree youth who doesn’t care if his socks match, to a self-conscious adolescent who looks in the mirror too much. If you jump right on it when you see the symptoms, and provide for his needs, life goes on happily. If you continue homeschooling-as-usual, then anger and resistant or sullen behavior can surface, a symptom of those unmet needs.

So what is the cure? Open the circle. Help your teens by striving to provide:


*Association with members of the opposite sex

*Venturing out in the world beyond home

*Relating to adults (outside family relations)

*More challenging schoolwork

*More responsibility in areas that truly contribute (being treated like an adult)


My teenagers, goofing off

So, how does one put that prescription into practice? Well, a good homeschooling support group can meet lots of those needs all in one swoop. Getting together with other homeschool families that have teens, and rotating the moms as teachers is one of the best ways to give your teens the friends they crave and truly need, as well as other adults to learn from and relate to. It also gives them time out of the family circle, more challenging schoolwork, someone besides Mom to be accountable to, and something to look forward to (and dress for!) When you put your efforts toward building such a group, you will find that your children have opportunity to make friends with those who share your values.

Whenever I hear about homeschooling families that have decided that taking online courses or distance learning would be good for their teens, I shudder. Isolation is the worst prescription for a teen, and that’s what more time on the computer or studying alone brings. It is exactly what will make things worse!

prom2009-13I spend a lot of my time trying to provide the social environment to meet my kids needs. We put on an Annual Homeschool Prom . Within my support group, we have a weekly teen activity, plus our Friday Fun Classes (rotating mom teachers). We have an annual camp-out. Having good like-minded friends and a satisfying social life is important indeed.

In the absence of a good teen group, taking a few classes at a private, charter or public school can fill that need. One drawback is that kids that have been socially deprived may be over-eager and fall in with bad friends, as they are the easiest to win acceptance from. It is worth the effort to seek out a school setting that has the best kids for your teen to go to classes with. Another drawback is that you have mentored your child to this point with solid values which generally include loving to learn, valuing intelligence, not wasting time, not cheating, not focusing on artificial measures of worth (grades, clothes, beauty, brawn) and more. These values will be challenged in a school environment. But going to school part-time is definitely a way to banish restlessness and discontent.

campout4Belonging to a team (whether a ball team, a scouting troop, a dance company, a choir or an orchestra) is a growing experience for teens. They have to be dependable to their peers, and that is the stuff that helps fulfill and define a teen’s sense of “who am I?” Having a job is another way to be part of a team, plus you get paid!

Treating these growing-into-adults kids like adults is excellent therapy. Put them in charge of dinner one night per week, or in charge of grocery shopping or baking the family’s bread, or keeping track of the library books so they don’t get overdue fines, balancing the family checkbook and paying bills, fixing the computer, or any other responsibility that truly contributes in an adult-like way. Give them the job and don’t bail them out on it. Your teen will learn, you will be off-loaded, plus you’ll come to rely on their contribution to the family, and they will feel indispensable in a healthy way.

When we think of homeschooling, we may think “academic”, but raising a whole person requires focusing on their changing needs. Give teens what they need and they will be happy (well, as happy as possible while going through puberty!)

Best success!



May I recommend:

Chivalry, It’s Up to Us!

But What About Social Life?

Ungame for Teens

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Communal Comparison

EmilyinaspensIt has been so long since I was in junior high and high school that I guess I forgot what P.E. was like. Our family attended an evening performance of the symphony in a local public high school auditorium. Afterwards, a trip to the restroom gave me some surprising insights. Since my children have never attended public school physical education, they had never seen the girl’s locker room before, particularly the communal shower. Julianna (14 years at the time) was shocked!

“What is that?” she wondered. “It looks like they expect the girls to all take a shower together!”

“Yep, that’s it,” I told her.

“No, not really, Mom!”

Her surprise and dismay at the arrangement started me thinking. There is no other time in a person’s life that one is expected to disregard normal modesty and walk around undressed in front of strangers (or even friends). Physical familiarity is reserved for those with whom we have eternal relationships (parent/child, husband/ wife). Unfortunately, having this experience during the very self-conscious teen years makes it even more detrimental.

I have often wondered why teenagers seem so caught up with their physical inadequacies. “My nose is too big, my bustline is too small, my face has too many pimples. . . .”—this sort of comment is all too common. I think it is less common among homeschooled children. Maybe it is natural at an age of intense physical change, but I can’t help but think it is aggravated tremendously by the communal comparison of the daily naked shower parade.

My mind went back to my school days. I can’t remember details, but I do remember looking at other girls’ bodies and making comparisons. I always felt like I was on the losing end (whether that was reality or not). I looked at the girls who were well-developed and physically more mature than I was and I felt childish. I looked at the girls who were thin, and I felt fat. I looked at the pretty girls and I felt ugly. I looked at the girls who were not well shaped, or had birthmarks and felt sorry for them. I think every girl in the locker room was really on the losing end, comparing herself to others strictly by the fickle and ever-changing standards of physical beauty, of which no one can take any direct responsibility anyway.

I recall dashing into the shower after P.E. with a undersized towel for protection, whirling around once, and rushing to get dressed before I could “be seen.” Nobody took showers, not really. No one stood there and washed their body with soap, and enjoyed a shower, although the “towel check” required a wet towel to prove you did. (There are other ways to get a towel wet.) There were confident girls that didn’t seem in a rush to get dressed, but no one washed up. So what is the shower famdec2006-12requirement for? Growing up with it, I didn’t question it, but now I do.

After seeing the locker room facilities, Julianna was certain she’d never want to take the dance class or the other P.E. classes that had looked fun on the school electives listing. She was appalled to even imagine that undressing daily in front of others would be required of her. I found her innocent perspective refreshing. She has never been self-conscious in the least, in spite of the fact that she is very tall for her age (5’9” and wears a large shoe size). She is self-assured and graceful. I pondered if her freedom from self-consciousness would have remained had she been thrust into a daily comparison from age 12 through 18 years.

Something to think about.


May I recommend:

Mad Teenagers

Secret Keeper

God’s Will for my Body

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What Will You Trade Your Time For?

coinsWe all get a finite amount of time to live on this earth; our days are numbered. Imagine that the time given to you is a bag of gold coins. Just what will you trade your coins for? It will run out no matter how you spend it. When you’ve spent the last coin, just what will you have?

I recently read the statistics on the effect a working mom has on her family. They were sobering: a professional woman is more likely to get divorced, more likely to be disloyal to her husband, less likely to have children, and, if she does have kids, she are more likely to be unhappy about it. A study in Social Forces (Aug. 23, 2006), a research journal, found that even women with a “feminist” outlook are happier when their husband is the primary breadwinner.

Be cautious before you trade those gold coins of time to earn money. You have so much more influence and power right at home, in training and educating your own children! It is easier to buy children things, or to provide entertainment and classes for them, that it is to give them our time. Yet nothing is so valuable to them as our time!



Recently, after a morning of homeschooling and then the excitement of shopping for new clothes, my young daughter Louisa sat on the couch looking at her new clothes and feeling contemplative. Suddenly, she pronounced, “It is better than all the clothes I have, and cotton candy, to have you alone to myself!”

I am not sure how cotton candy fits in (as she has only had it once at a fair) but I guess it ranks high on her list of “desirables”! But I was blinking back tears as I remembered that nothing is as delicious to a child as a loving parent’s attention.

I love old stories! Read this tender, yearning glimpse of what a working mom feels like from a child’s perspective: “Mama’s Boy”.

Enjoy your time with your children!


May I recommend:

First, A Relationship

Come Play with Me

Pink Blush Porcelain Tea Set

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Never Reward Negative Behavior


boy-504326_1280One of the most important lessons that I ever learned is: “Never reward negative behavior!” That one line can make a world of difference in your family life. It is so simple, really!

Think of the little boy in the shopping cart seat who is whining, whining for candy. We’ve all seen it (and maybe lived it too!) The little guy is working up to a pitch, and his exasperated mother is getting frustrated. Next scene, the little boy is happily licking an ice cream cone. What lesson was just taught? “If I whine loud and long enough, I’ll get a treat!” You can bet that behavior will be repeated every time they go to the grocery store!

grass-632219_1280The husband who forgets to take out the trash (or mow the lawn, or pick up his socks) finds that his wife has become impatient and done it herself. Lesson learned? “If I wait long enough, somebody will do it.”

The child who can’t find his book (shoes, mitt, etc.) and keeps complaining until his mother finally gets up and finds it for him. Lesson learned? “If you bump around complaining long enough, Mom will do it for you!”

I don’t mean to suggest that loved ones are conniving. It is just human nature—no hurt is intended, but if it works, the behavior will be repeated. So, never reward negative behavior.

What about the child who can’t sit still and behave during a class or church service? If the parent gets exasperated enough, they may be taking a trip out into the hall for awhile. Nice reward! What if being taken out entails the parent’s displeasure—is it still a reward? Yes it is! Any undivided attention (even negative) is better than being ignored.

I once watched a young mother who was so sweet with her children but suddenly went “deaf” whenever a child whined. She didn’t scold or remind, she just couldn’t hear them, apparently! I was amazed at how quickly her “whiner” changed her tone when she could no longer get a response. Next time you observe behavior you don’t like, watch for the reward. People don’t keep doing things unless there is some kind of payoff. If you are involved in paying, stop! . . . and the behavior will stop too.

Now, you know the secret, Mom!
(Never reward negative behavior.)


May I recommend:

How to Stop Bickering, Fighting, Teasing…

Zoned Out Kids

Teaching Self-Government: Set of 4 Picture Books

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That Indispensable Gift Box



I have something tucked away in my closet that I refer to often. Here is what is does for me:

  • saves me time
  • stretches my money
  • prevents last minute shopping trips
  • gives me incentives to help motivate my children
  • keeps me feeling prepared
  • enables me to take advantage, at short notice, of opportunities to serve others
  • provides me with unique, creative ways to show love
  • makes me well prepared for weddings, birthdays, graduations, new baby and other occasions

I am talking about my “Gift Box”!

This is just a discarded grocery-store apple box, but it is what I put in it that counts!

hang-tags-234566_1280Whenever I shop, I cruise the clearance racks. I have a purpose—I am on the look-out to stock my gift box. If I see a quality product that is marked low price because it is off-season, or for other reasons, I consider it. I want top-quality gifts, not “dollar store” things. If I find something great, I buy it and stash it in my gift box, replenished to meet the next need.

When is the best time to shop? The week after a holiday will offer some excellent bargains on seasonal merchandise. Don’t go the day after the holidays such as Easter, Valentine’s, St. Patrick’s Day, however, because it takes the stores a bit of time to drastically reduce it. When it goes to 75% or even 90% off the retail price, then I am ready to shop!

Change of season also provides great bargains. In January, all the winter clothes go on clearance making way for summer clothing. You’ll see that happen again in July and August, as the stores clear out their summer merchandise. This is a great time to pick up seasonal clothes, a baby sun hat or a beach towel, for example, that can make a nice gift.

little-girl-570865_1280Look at merchandise with a creative eye. Plain red, burgundy or gold Christmas decorations, tableware, or wrapping paper can serve as Valentine’s party decor. Solid or floral pastel items from Easter, such as tablecloths, dishes, arrangements can be lovely all year long. Just avoid the dead give-aways—motifs such as bunnies, pumpkin faces, or candy cane stripes. Another idea: outlandish jewelry, hats or shoes can be a fun dress-up play gift that kids will love!

Can it be remodeled? I once bought several white super-soft bunny stuffed animals to stash in my gift box. When I needed a baby gift, I just exchanged the Easter-themed neck ribbon to either pink or blue ribbon to make an expensive (originally) and much appreciated baby gift!

Can it be used for a different purpose? A bed comforter that is too bright or unusual can be a fun picnic quilt to sit on. Give it for a wedding gift, complete with plastic picnic dishes tucked inside the plastic-zippered quilt bag. Include a picnic label so the receiver knows how to use it.

I love to buy “liquor bags”! I don’t drink but these bags (sold alongside the gift wrapping or tablecloths) are very fancy—made of velvet or metallic thread tapestry, decorated with tassels or sequined, and closed with a drawstring. Most people who don’t drink, (nor give liquor as a gift), just overlook those elegant bags seeing them only as what their label declares. But when they end up on the clearance rack for next to nothing, I buy all of them as long as they are gold, silver, red, etc. and not specifically Christmas-themed! They make lovely gift-wrapping bags for small items all year long, that will make the receiver “ooh” and “aah”.

Another great buy I stumbled upon was a clearance sale post-Christmas on candles in big glass jars with lids. I sorted through them and selected the most multi-purpose fragrances. These large, quality candles with a $15 price tag were marked at 90% off. . .just $1.50 each! I give these for house-warming or friendship gifts, and they make a hit. I also bought extras, (30+) to store away as an emergency light supply just in case.

Time to get out there and go shopping to fill that very handy “gift box’!


May I recommend:

A Small Price

Don’t Ask Twice

Metal Jacks

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Paper Clip Social Skills


Manners! It seems like a constant challenge to try to inculcate excellent social skills into our young’uns. My favorite way to teach good manners has been using the book The 21 Rules of This House. My children can recite every rule and explain it perfectly, and still we need work at being courteous and selfless. After going through the 21 rules, we came back to some of them to practice more. It was easy for the children to understand that it is wrong to tell a lie or to hurt someone. But it was harder to follow this rule: “We speak quietly and respectfully The 21 Rulesone with another.” We had discussed at length what it means to follow this rule, and how it includes not interrupting others or criticizing or gossiping about others. But to know is one thing, and to do is quite another!

Finally, I thought of a way to make keeping the rules of good manners into a game that everyone in the family enjoys playing all day long. And it is really helping us to be good!

The game of Paper Clip Social Skills can be played for a few hours at a time, and repeated continually. To begin, choose a social skill, manner or rule of courtesy to work on. It could be from the 21 Rules book, or it could be something that you see your children lack training in, such as answering the phone correctly and politely.

Each person makes a paper clip chain by hooking 10 paper clips together. (I bought some fancy designed polka dot paper clips, to everyone’s delight!) Hook the first paper clip onto a safety pin and pin it on your clothing in plain sight. Every family member will be wearing a paper clip chain. Remind everyone of the rule you are working on and explain that if anyone catches another family member breaking the rule, the rule-breaker must (cheerfully and in good fun) give one of his paper clips to the person who caught him.

Since we were working on speaking kindly to each other, each negative or critical remark meant the offender had to relinquish a paperclip to the person who calls them on it, who may then add it to their own chain. At lunchtime, a reward is waiting for the family member who has the most paper clips! Start again with a fresh chain of 10 paperclips for the time period from lunch to dinner, and again from dinner to bedtime. Make the reward simple (a treat, biggest piece of dessert, getting to choose the dinner menu (within limits), getting to choose which game to play, book to read after dinner . . . or let them skip their part in clean-up from the meal, etc.).

One of the great benefits of this game is that everyone suddenly gets quiet. . . (hee hee!) Everyone is thinking before they act, which is a very good practice to develop. I was amazed to find out that I was losing my paper clips right and left! No wonder my children are not as mannerly as I’d like—look who trained them! Pretty soon, I was catching myself in the act, and voluntarily giving up my paper clips whenever I goofed up. It was so helpful to have a constant check on my words!

Another benefit of this little game is that the children learn good sportsmanship. I remind them that this is just a game, a game we choose to play for fun and to help us become better people. It isn’t something to get upset about. Children can learn that principle from your good attitude when you goof up. It teaches them to be a graceful loser, and even catch themselves happily and laugh at themself. . . a most endearing trait.

Really, though, it is not a game to become a kinder, more respectful, loving person. It is the great task of our lives! So this is a very meaningful exercise.

Since we started playing our Paper Clip Game, we have all become more aware of the rule we were working on: “We speak quietly and respectfully one with another.” We also have come to realize that words are just expressed thoughts, and that we can learn to squelch critical words before they ever form on our lips.


May I recommend:

Polite Answers

Kind at Home

The 21 Rules of This House

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How to Stop Bickering, Pestering, Fighting, Teasing…


Does life at your house feel like this?


My son (age 11) and daughter (age 9) seem to bicker and “pick” at each other endlessly—even though they get in trouble for doing it. While we’re doing our schoolwork, it seems that they try their best to annoy each other…and me (making gross noises, talking nonsense in silly voices, humming, etc.). If he’s not complaining about her (“why does she always…”, she’s yelling at him to be quiet so she can work (or whining about it). They have desks and sit across the room from each other (not facing each other either!). This doesn’t happen just at school time, but all day long! They’ve been punished in various ways, but to no avail. I try to keep a good, patient attitude, but some days it’s really difficult. Do you have any ideas to stop the bickering?


I think this is the lamentation of every mom! Kids naturally seem to squabble. Still, I do not approve of it nor treat it as acceptable behavior. It is the result of selfishness and children have to be trained to think of others rather than just their own satisfaction. It is a process, but by age 8, a child can definitely learn to act peacefully, even if they still feel selfish inside. Learning self-control is the central lesson of childhood.

Bickering and picking on each other undermines peace and happiness in the home for everyone. Home needs to be a “refuge from the storm”, a very safe place where each member can be themselves and feel protected. Relentless squabbling can make children feel emotionally vulnerable and uneasy. Home ceases to be a safe place. In our home, I have a “zero tolerance” policy on any kind of negative interaction between any family members. This is easier said than done, like everything else in child raising!

My favorite books for stories that teach good values!

My favorite books for stories that teach good values!

Here is how I enact it in my own home. Through daily devotionals and regular family teaching times, I teach and reteach and reinforce that we are to love each other and care for each other. I tell my children that making the other person feel happy and feel good about themselves is their duty. I use stories, scriptures and quotes to back it up. I often remind them, Think! Would saying that or doing that make the other person feel good?”

When I hear a snide remark, I confront it every single time. Everyone knows they will not “get away with it”, but that there will be a consequence for their action. Knowing that there is someone in control, for those who will not or cannot yet control themselves, is a very safe feeling. So if one of my children cannot behave in the family setting, they have to go away from the family setting until they control themselves. If a child is making trouble at meal time, I remove him to the kitchen where they can eat alone, while we laugh and enjoy each other in the dining room. (I do not remove them to their room where they can have fun). If they can’t be civil while listening to family read-aloud (with something like drawing or crocheting to keep their hands busy), then they miss hearing that portion of the book. It is simple and children can learn it fast provided your are consistent.

eye-691269_1280I try to remember the rule James Jones, family therapist, teaches: “Never reward negative behavior.” Giving a child attention will reinforce the behavior—even if it is unpleasant attention from Mom such as talking to them, correcting them, calling their name, asking them to stop, spanking them, etc. It is almost as if the formula works like this: “irritating annoying behavior from me = Mom’s eye contact + Mom’s attention + Mom’s voice + more of the same from sister”, which means less time having to control oneself to focus on potentially difficult schoolwork or chores. Any attention seems to be preferred to no attention.

If my child does anything annoying, I ask him quietly to stop it, without making eye contact or giving the issue any emotional charge. I often voice the very words I want to hear from the offender (to make it easy for him to get it right—also a form of practice). For example, I may say out loud in the presence of my son, the offender: “I am sorry, Louisa, for tapping your chair. I won’t do it anymore”. The second offense results in action on my part (removing the toy he is banging, or removing him to another room). It is really so important that consequences are administered in a matter-of-fact, non-emotional manner so that feelings don’t get in the way of learning the information, which is: undesirable action results in an immediate and unpleasant consequence. If you allow yourself to get upset, lecture, scold, cry, plead, threaten or otherwise muddy the water with emotion, your misbehaving child will get a big pay-off in seeing that he can rile you up. Any attention is better than no attention, in the mind of a child.

This reminds me of an experience I had while teaching singing to the children at church. When I came on board, the children were not accustomed to having a leader in control, apparently, because as soon as we began to sing, the antics began. One boy was pinching and teasing the child sitting next to him. Another child was making ridiculous faces. A girl on the front row took off her shoe and balanced it on top her head (I am not exaggerating!)  You get the picture. Without missing a beat in leading the song, I inched my way over nonchalantly to the boy who was misbehavinshoes-429944_1280g. While smiling and singing and leading the group, and without looking at him, I stepped on his shoe rather firmly. I did not give him an ounce of attention or reward or eye contact or even the benefit of getting upset. I just quietly made sure he knew I did not approve, via pressure on his big toe. His eyes got big in disbelief of what I was up to, and he immediately stopped the mischief. The children around him who noticed quieted down also. Next, still while leading the song, I worked my way over to the girl on the front row and picked up the shoe that was balanced on her head. Smiling and singing all the while, I pitched her shoe to the end of the room where it hit the wall with a bang! And there it remained until I dismissed the class, even though the girl was most distressed.

Oh! Now there was rapt attention in the room and our singing sessions were ever so pleasant and mannerly. I meant businessship-157789_1280. I was nice and smiled and did not ever lose my composure, but everyone knew I was not to be messed with, and we did have a very fun time singing together from then on! By the way, nobody really can have a fun time (or a learning time) while someone is misbehaving. It blesses everyone to put a stop to it. It especially blesses the child who is misbehaving to know someone will care enough to control him! Did anyone misbehave again in my singing group? Yes, someone would timidly test the waters every month or so, but I kindly and unemotionally made sure they knew that the ship still had a captain!

You mentioned trying to be patient. Patience truly is a virtue! But, it can be misused by us moms sometimes. Immediate, swift action (rather than patience) is needed to train children. The biggest challenge to me is that I get tired and feel too lazy at times to be absolutely consistent. But, if you let one infraction of the rule slip by unheeded, you will have a revolution on your hands! Either mom is in control and expects children to behave, or Mom is not in control and chaos reigns in one degree or another. We can’t choose both options. And patience (if it means putting up with misbehavior without giving it an immediate consequence) is a detriment to teaching children how to act.

I want to assure you that I am not mean.  I make every effort to smile, keep a low, calm voice and be nice. That is why it is so effective. If a mother is out of control, the consequence has little effect, because the pay-off is attention.  If a child can get you flustered, he is in control, not you.

Child raising is a tricky profession indeed, and so very important too! Here are some creative ideas I have heard of from other mothers:

  1. Tie one of their hands to their sibling’s hand and make them walk around the block together (requires cooperation and lets off steam).
  2. Put them in a room together and tell them they cannot come out until they settle out their problem and agree to get along. (I’m a little scared of this one.)
  3. Negotiate with them. You be the mediator and ask each one to honestly express his concern in respectful words, and you try to negotiate a settlement. Sometime they will set rules and consequences for themselves and be swift and fair in executing the consequence–self-government.
  4. Isolate the misbehaving child in a boring place (on a chair in the laundry room . . . ?)
  5. Assign chores. Dishwashing has a very sobering effect on children, if done long enough. Read about Mad Kids and Work.
  6. Assign extra math facts problems, 10 for each offensive remark, to be done immediately.
  7. Play the Paper Clip game. Each family member starts the day with 10 paper clips looped in a chain hanging from his shirt. Each negative or critical remark means they relinquish a paperclip to the person who calls them on it, who may then add it to their chain. At lunchtime, a reward is waiting for the family member who has the most! Start again with a fresh chain of 10 paperclips for the time period from lunch to dinner, and again from dinner to bedtime. Make the reward simple (biggest piece of dessert, getting to choose the dinner menu (within limits), getting to choose which game to play, book to read after dinner or let them skip their part in clean-up from the meal, etc.).

I also prefer to reward (rather than punish), so a consequence for good behavior, which puts the attention and focus on the positive action. Just like learning to ride a bike, learning to be positive and peaceful is an acquired skill improved with practice. Our children’s behavior is a product of our training. We have trained our children to wear clothes, use the toilet, eat from dishes, etc. because we consistently insisted on it in a kind way, and we would not tolerate any other behavior. Children can also be trained to be loving peacemakers who speak positively through our consistent, insistent training. Our own example is wonderful, but it is not enough—we all know parents who are very good, respectful loving people who have disrespectful hellions for kids! To learn any skill, there must be practice, practice, practice. Lovingly enforced by a parent.

children-512601_1280Remember, this is a process and child raising takes 20 years to complete. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Just try everyday to be consistent and firm with your children on this one important quality that you are trying to train them in. Smile and give them lots of positive feedback for getting along and not bugging each other. You will be greatly rewarded as the years go by and they enjoy each other and bring you a lot of joy through their peaceful, positive interactions.


May I recommend:

Paper Clip Social Skills

Mad Kids & Work

Wisdom and the Millers

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