A few years ago, my husband and I started attending a family integrated Bible study. I well remember my shock and the feeling of inadequacy that followed, when I realized everyones children except for mine could sit through an hour long message(at least that's how it seemed to me at the time.) After the Bible study I asked a friend of mine how she got her two year old to sit still, and she said that they practiced the right behavior at home so he would know what was expected of him when he got in the real situation.
That one piece of advice has become the foundation for almost everything I do in child raising. If a child is having trouble standing next to me at the grocery store, I make a mental note to have that child practice standing still at home. If one of my kids has had a tough time obeying their teacher in Sunday school, I'll have them practice giving the right response at home(i.e. asking Jack what he should say when his teacher tells him to come to the table.) I've discovered that as long as I stay consistent, discipline problems decrease significantly.
I use this same principle for teaching my kids how to share toys. For example if Anna is playing with a doll, and Lily tries to take it from her, Anna is suppose to say in a kind voice,"Lily, I'm playing with it right now, but would you like me to get you something else to play with?" As long as no one is fighting, this method seems to work rather well. However, if there is fighting the toy is usually taken away, and I have them practice what they should have done. The more they practice the right way to respond, the easier it is for them to remember when conflicts arise.
Having your kids practice right behavior does take a lot of work, but I honestly think it cuts down on discipline issues when you stay consistent. It's not fool proof(my kids still fight over toys, and I still get frazzled in the grocery store), but it does help them learn how to obey and teach them how to handle conflicts.
Read parts one, two, three, four, and five to find out more about this series.
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