Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mothering Mistakes

I thought I had all the answers before I became a parent. I had the answer to fix a picky eater, a strong-willed, disobedient child, a toddler who refuses to sleep, a noisy toddler who won't sit still in church, etc. etc. I was prideful and ignorant, and most definitely clueless, even though I thought I knew what I was talking about. Well, I've learned my lesson (I hope!) :-). The Lord has given us a delightfully rambunctious, strong-willed child...who is currently...yep, you guessed it...a picky eater, has sleeping issues, is noisy and restless in church, and is not very obedient yet. And I thought I had all the answers to all these problems...
Well...somehow our baby turned into a toddler (when did that happen??), and our cute-as-a-button toddler is very intelligent.

Here's a little story...did I ever tell you how she figured things out pretty quickly with me when we tried potty training? After a few successful goes at it, she suddenly started refusing to even sit on the potty. So, I started giving her a sticker every time she would sit on the potty. Well, it wasn't too long before I was hearing "mama, potty, pee pee" every 5-10 minutes. She'd run to the door, indicating she supposedly had to "go", sit on the potty, and ask for a "sticka, sticka?". Of course, she had to go at the most convenient times...you know...bed time, nap time, quiet time, etc. etc. After I finally clued in to what was going on...I stopped giving stickers for just sitting on the potty. We are currently not trying to potty train anymore. We have a few other issues that need our attention first :-).

Anyway, so after attending church this past Sunday, I think I finally clued into the fact that I have not taken the time to train her properly. Although I thought I had, I am definitely doing something wrong. If there's one thing I think I've learned, it's that I can't expect her to behave properly and obey me instantly if I haven't taken the time to train her how to behave and to obey instantly. (And if there's anyone out there who thinks that she isn't old enough or understands enough to obey simple commands...well...you haven't met our daughter! :-). And rest assured, I don't expect her to obey a command unless I'm 100% certain she understands the command and I've demonstrated it several times. )

This last Sunday was really eye-opening for us. Picture a toddler squirming up and down, running back and forth on the floor in our pew, crawling under the pew, pitching a fit when we pulled her out from under the pew, scarfing down handfuls of rice puffs as fast as she could, pulling everything out of the diaper bag, making as much noise as possible if she wasn't doing exactly what she wanted to do, and then you have the scene of our family in the last church service. Oh dear. After we got in the car, we said...we have got to do something about this! Well, that "something" has to start at home.

Today is a new day, with new opportunities. And although I will be setting aside some specific training time for "sitting still and quiet training", I know there will plenty of opportunities for training throughout the day as we go about our regular business. The key is that I must be totally okay with stopping whatever I am doing in order to correct each and every act of willful disobedience. I do know if there's one thing I need to be, it is consistent. The main task at hand is teaching obedience.

Looking back, I think this was where I've been making a big mistake. I've been focusing on having her complete a task (such as "come here") instead of focusing on the heart issue of obedience (immediately do what I say). As another example, I have been teaching her to clean up her toys (the task). However, I was emphasizing having her complete the task (cleaning up the toys) rather than obeying the command (immediately do what I tell you to do). So, if she would hesitate to clean up her toys or clean up some toys and then play for awhile and then clean up toys again after a few minutes, I would praise her after the toys were cleaned up (a completed task) even though she hadn't actually fully obeyed me (perhaps she had played with her toys, asked for a drink in between, or done something other than clean up her toys in the process). I'm thinking this is why she does not always obey when I tell her to be quiet, sit still, stop whining, etc. Although these are all things she understands, she doesn't think she has to obey because I haven't taught her to obey...I've just been teaching her to complete separate tasks (clean up toys, come here, etc.). There is a subtle, but big difference. I am realizing that I need to focus on instant obedience instead of a completed task.

Even today as I was trying to teach her to obey me when I gave her a simple command (the command was to put her head on my shoulder as she was tired and getting ready for a nap), it took several tries before she submitted her will and obeyed. At first she tried to distract me by saying "book, book" and then stiffening up and whining. I suddenly realized that I have often been catering to her and giving her things to distract her from doing what the original instruction was. In the past I probably would have just given her the book. This time I did not give her a book as I realized it was her way of trying to get out of doing what I asked her to do.

Ahh...parenting...definitely not the easiest job in the world but one that has potential to be the most rewarding job in the world :-). Oh, and I hope I don't sound like I suddenly have it all figured out. That is not what this post is about! It's about my struggles in training, mistakes I've made, and perhaps some things I'm learning along the way (maybe - we'll see). I most certainly do not have it all figured out. I haven't yet raised a child through to adulthood, and I do not yet have a cheerfully compliant toddler! (Several hours after writing this, I found myself dealing with a horrible temper tantrum (her, not me. LOL). After trying tips I've heard about dealing with tantrums, it still wasn't working. Finally I resorted to completely ignoring her while asking God for wisdom. While I'm not convinced ignoring her worked, she eventually settled down and then I put her down for a nap. She fell asleep right away, so maybe she was just overtired??? I really don't know for sure!)
So, I'm praying for wisdom...much wisdom. Training seems like an impossible task without the grace of and wisdom from God. Oh, I know I will make many more mistakes...many more...but hopefully by being prayerfully patient, persistent, and consistent, our precious little one will learn to accept she is under her parents' authority and that by obeying us, she is obeying God.

Here are couple of helpful articles I came across about training children to sit still. I am going to try some of the tips to see if we can remedy this issue (please note, again, the real issue I think is actually obedience).
For Her:

"Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord".
Colossians 3:20

For Me:

"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Proverbs 22:6

P.S. Any tips on dealing with picky eaters are welcome! Our current rule is she must eat what we are having (unless it's completely not toddler-friendly). If she refuses, she does not get any dessert and does not get any snacks or milk between meals (only water). We are on Day 2 of this method, and it is sort-of working. However, she seems to just take a few bites to waive off the immediate hunger and then is stubborn and strong-willed enough to wait until bed when she gets 1 bottle of milk. I do not allow her to have milk right after supper when she asks, but I make her wait until her bedtime. We are hoping this method will fix the picky eating. It's not that she can't eat what I serve (she will gladly take a couple bites of what's served, but then she'll decide she doesn't like it, refuse any more, and then ask for things she likes such as bananas, yogurt, milk, etc.). She can gobble down grilled cheese sandwiches, bananas, toast, and macaroni fast and furiously, but if it's not one of those choices, she becomes very picky.

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