When you have small children, and you want to train them up in a way that pleases God, you’re going to need to remind yourself of some basic principles pretty often. I still remember going over these and going over them again to keep my bearings.
1. Pick your battles carefully and always win. I can remember talking with Doug about some little habit or behavior in the children that I was concerned about, and we would decide together whether it was really worth making an issue over it. Let’s say nail biting. If I say, “You may not do that,” I have to be willing to enforce it now. What happens if the nail gets bitten after I have issued a command? If nothing happens, then I have just undermined my own authority. We decided to let that kind of thing go, and teach on it without laying down any law. But if it was an issue of more importance, like hitting your sister, that was a battle I had to win.
2. Obedience must be in the little things and the big things. This goes back to being very careful about issuing commands. If I say, “Pick up your toys,” but the child wanders off and I forget about it, I have just taught the child that obedience doesn’t really matter. It is so easy for parents to fire off commands one after another and then ignore whether the children are obeying or not. Better to not issue any commands! If you don’t establish your authority clearly, you won’t have any.
3. Mothers can be tempted to go soft. You issued a command, the child disobeyed, and then you start making excuses for the child. When you told the child to do the thing, you did not take into account what you would do if he didn’t obey. And now you’re sorry you said it! Either quit issuing the commands or follow through. Better to give the child one command and see that he does it, than give three commands that he ignores.
4. Don’t get into an adversarial relationship with your children. You are in authority over them. Don’t argue with them! “Yes, you did!” “No I didn’t!” Certainly you can answer questions and discuss things. But arguing undermines your authority. Listen. Think it over. Make a decision. But don’t argue.
5. Don’t take disobedience personally. If your child disobeys, don’t get your feelings hurt. You are the adult! Don’t attribute motives to the child.
6. Decide which things are most important and work on those. Don’t try to do everything at once! Think of how overwhelming that would be to your child. If he is getting in trouble with you all day long, it’s time to reduce the commands and restrictions. Simplify!
7. Assign a name for the particular disobedience and call it that consistently. If you are always calling it by various names, they won’t get what it is you are trying to correct. Example: fussing, grumpiness, complaining, arguing, disrespect. Which is it? Call it that each time so they get the picture.
8. Keep a minimum of rules. My husband’s house had three rules: no disobeying, no lying, no disrespecting Mom. Disobedience goes back to my earlier points. Keep the rules simple so they know when they are disobeying.
9. Try reproof before you resort to the rod. Be wise and firm, but never angry. If you are angry, you are in no condition to administer discipline to a child. Get your own heart disciplined first. Remember that discipline is not for your benefit because you are annoyed and have had enough. Discipline is for the child because you love him!
10. All discipline should be judicial, calm, and righteous. I remember giving my son some well-deserved swats once and thinking, “I’m pleasing God!” You can’t say that if you are fuming mad.
Charles Bridges says, “Awe of parental authority is the foundation of the utmost freedom of childlike confidence. It is a valuable safeguard against a thousand follies of uncontrolled waywardness.”
32 thoughts on “A Mother’s Law”
Thank you. There was a nice combination of specifics and overall vision and exhortation. Lovingly well said.
Very, very helpful!
Thank you so much for sharing this!
Thank you – good reminders! What about when the small children grow bigger, on in to the teens? I’d love to hear about that! 🙂
Wonderful, practical advice. Thank you!!
Wonderful, practical advice. Thank you!!
Thank you for a helpful post. Muchly appreciated, very practical.
A query – would it be possible to expand upon point number 9? In your estimation, what does it look like to, “try reproof before you resort to the rod”?
Much needed – thank yoU!
Thank you for this. I needed a good re-focus, as I prepare for the day with my peeps.
I love what you said about picking your battles. That’s one lesson I’m REALLY learning right now. 🙂 I’m preg with our third and trying to catch EVERY little thing (read: OVERPARENT) with our 5 and 3 year old is stressful on all of us! I’m learning to show my children more and more grace–just how the Lord is with us. 🙂 Loved this article and will share it on my blog!
Thank you so much for the much needed encouragement. It is always so good to come back to the basics and remember why we are doing what we are doing and just keeping it simple!
I am so thankful for a husband who has a BIG picture of where we are going. It’s so easy for me to forget and get bogged down by all the little, necessary things. I am so thankful my hands are full of such sweet little blessings!
I’ll illustrate with an example. When Rachel was a newborn, she slept in a “Moses basket” which I had set on a cedar chest next to my bed. It was the perfect height because I could see her, hear her, and easily lift her out for those middle-of-the-night feedings. But, her brother was two years old, and it was the perfect height for him also. One morning I noticed a strange quiet, and I dashed back to check on what he might be doing. There was Rachel lying on the edge of my bed with her brother admiring her. I spoke with Nathan about how lifting the baby out of her bed was a “BIG NO.” I realized that he was curious and affectionate, and I had not ever mentioned this restriction before, so I simply gave him a serious explanation of why he should not do this EVER AGAIN. There’s the reproof. However, when the same thing happened a couple days later, the time for reproof was past. He got swats for disobeying, and it never happened again. Sometimes if I didn’t think the children were listening closely, I would take their little fat faces in my hands and say, “Look in my eyes.” Then I would give them clear instructions and make sure they heard me. This is reproof.
Thank you very much for this post! I have been struggling lately, experiencing unrest in my parenting. These are great reminders!
Excellent overview of what we young mothers need to remember every moment of every day… now if I just could! Thank you for this reminder, especially #2, #6 and #10. I really appreciate it today!!! Thanks, Nancy.
The “look in my eyes trick” is one that I have seen many great parents use. Great suggestion!
Thank you Mrs Wilson, this is very helpful! I finished up listening to “The Pleasant Home” (again!) last night. I’ve really enjoyed it and found it so encouraging, lots of these points came up in the section on discipline. I was very encouraged when you said that when your children were littles, you sometimes felt like “the spanking wasn’t working.” I feel like that all the time! Your next sentence was “don’t worry, it will!” Such an encouragement to keep going, even when it feels like you’re not getting anywhere.
Aha! The light bulb moment has just hit! Thank you Nancy!
Thank you so much! As I young mom, I am in constant need of these reminders. Reading godly advice that deals specifically with my everyday routines is like drinking a comforting sip of hot chocolate before charging out once again for the ice-skating adventure. I’ll return to this post I’m sure. = )
Thank you for the clarification, Nancy. This was a very helpful blog post.
You mentioned in a recent post that as a young mother you didn’t always grasp just how quickly the years were passing – that our children grow up! Just to put in a cheeky request – another post like that would be great. A kinda ‘what I now realise, but didn’t quite realise at the time’ thing. Hope you don’t mind me asking!
This is just the helpful counsel I’ve been needing lately, as my husband and I are walking the path as parents to an almost 2-year-old and an 8-month-old. Much of the counsel I’ve found seems more directed to older kids (3-4 and up) but this is very applicable even now — thank you!
Also, this is very much like what I could hear my Mom saying if I could ask her advice — something I’ve wished often in the year and a half since she went Home with Jesus — thank you for sharing a mom’s loving wisdom. 🙂
Thank you so much! I have been checking every day to see if you ladies had anything new up. I know I can always be encouraged with what you share. Thank you!
Thank you for going into detail here. I sometimes get frustrated when my mentors tell me to pick my battles–it seems like with a 6, 4, 2, and 5 month old, there are so many battles that seem immediate, and not fighting one sets up a habit of disobedience that I will later have to break. But your examples were helpful. I think my husband and I actually need to sit down and hash out what battles I need to fight in this season.
Such wise words!! Thank you so much for being willing to share your wisdom with us.
I can’t help feeling that Im failing my first son horribly because I mess up so much. I have two more and I feel like I’m only getting close to right with him.
These are so helpful – I know I’ve read these before from you, in various places, but this was such a good reminder. We’re just starting to get hip deep into parenting with our oldest almost 3, and all of this is getting more and more applicable.
This is such wise and helpful advice, thank you. The “don’t take your children’s disobedience personally” has been a big one for me: learning that they are not disobeying to spite me, but because they are young and self- absorbed. Parenting my children gives me such a window into seeing my own disobedience before God: so often not motivated by hate towards him, but it is selfish and sinful nonetheless and needs gentle, firm reproof…. Especially in those moments when I feel like The Lord says to me: “look into my eyes!” 🙂
This was very helpful. Thank you so much!
Thank you so much for this post. What a blessing! Needed to read this today.
Thank you, Nancy! Just the encouragement I needed!
Love this! Sharing it with friends from now on…
I have heard these words from you countless times over the years. And each time the counsel sits in my mind during the following weeks, constantly correcting and encouraging me. These last few weeks have been no different. Your counsel gets deeper and wiser as the years pass, and I am glad to be a receiver of it’s fruit. Thanks, it has blessed me and my kids these past few weeks.