Last week I promised to write my general thoughts on child training for my physical therapist and his wife. They are two years into the parenting journey and are starting to be struck with the enormity of the task before them. So, here are what the basics are to me, take it or leave it, but thanks, Cory, for the pain relief, it has been a HUGE blessing to me (and to my family).
1)Foundations: Like any building project, a life and family have to have a foundation. There are two types of foundations you can use. (Arguments for more exist, but I only think there are two.) A Christian worldview is what the caer has. This means that you believe that God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth and all that is in them, actually created man and has given us a manual for understanding man,his condition, and how to train up children too. A Humanist worldview is the antithesis and means that you believe man is the center of the universe and basically good in and of himself. I do not mean to be simplistic, just wanting to point out that many people do not recognize they have, perhaps by default, already chosen the foundation of their lives and family. It is important to know which one you are operating on and which one you are going to build upon.
2) Training Yourself: While I know very extensively the child training methods and results of the humanist worldview, I cannot recommend them because it has pretty much given us the self centered and self-focused culture that we live in and my goals are very different. In a previous post, I mentioned that our goal for child training is a faithful, self-governed adult with a magnanimous spirit. This means, that the most difficult part of child training for any parent is disciplining themselves. You need to labor to be what you wish your children to become. You also need to train yourself to train them. For instance, if you are busy in the kitchen trying to put the finishing touches on dinner before your husband gets home and you can hear Johnny and Susie in the living room having a disagreement, you need to stop what you are doing and go deal with it, not just holler at them from the kitchen. Things like that. Sounds easy in theory, more difficult to practice. (Dads are great at being oblivious to children's squabbles and fathers need to work harder at making themselves respond.) Also training yourself means to never respond with anger or having lost your temper. Dealing with your children in a matter of fact way is far more effective and you can think while you do it. (Although if you happen to blow it, asking forgiveness from your child is an important training situation too.)
3)Training Your children: When it comes to verbs, training is an active one. You cannot just go about it in a haphazard fashion. Educate yourself with God's instructions on child training. Then start with a list, usually of what you do or don't want your children doing. We have 2 lists. Our first list is God's laws. The children must not lie, try to harm each other with words, deeds, or equipment! They must honor and obey their parents, they must not steal or give false reports (tattletale). And so forth. Our second list is house laws. These are things that their dad and I decide on the order of our household. Many of these we still are working on, like: if you use dad's tools you have to put them away once you are done! No running on the stairs. No throwing objects in the house. You may not interrupt while mother is on the phone unless someone is bleeding seriously. This second list evolves often when we realize something going on is driving us nuts and needs to be addressed. Sometimes we realize it is a courtesy issue that we have not taught the children yet, like asking to use your siblings things before you pick them up.
When it comes to child training you are going to have to learn enforcement. This is a big politically incorrect area, I know, but nevertheless after watching "The Nanny" tell parents to spend 6-8 hours trying to get a child to sit in one place I have to say this. God says that loving chastisement is the best way to train your child to righteousness. You want your child to act right, then you are going to need to learn to give them a spanking when necessary. We have a process in our house where this is carried out and it is usually given in private, after a major infraction of God's laws (like lying) and then we give comfort and pray with that child so they can also know the forgiveness that is ours in Christ Jesus. So, there I have said it. The controversy comes with parents who do not know or understand the loving nature of this type of training and have listened to way too much humanistic philosophy on this matter. Generations of American were raised this way and we had way less crime, corruption, and violence in our streets. Time has proven that the humanistic methods do not produce self-governed, giving, caring adults or society.
4) Fellowship: By far the best thing you can do to train your child is to have daily ongoing fellowship with them. Do not choose "quality time" over "quantity time". Children need secure relationships with you and that takes a lot of time every day. They need you, your humor, your laughter, your love, your playfulness, your joy, your answers to their very serious questions about why, they need you to play Candyland with them for the fourth time, ride that roller coaster with them for the tenth time, listen to their crazy ideas, build play dough sculptures, and read great literature together. When they get interested in rockets (and you are not), get interested in rockets for their sakes. Lay down your life for them and they will have a daily picture of Christ that they will embrace wholeheartedly.
That's my "nutshell". Favorite books besides the Scriptures: "Shepherding a Child's Heart" by Tedd Tripp, "Hints on Child Training" by H. Clay Trumbull. There are lots more books but these are a good start. Blessings on everyone laboring in the most rewarding work you will ever do: parenting.