Controlling Chaos vs. Obedience Training for Young Children

10 05 2009

I love training my children.  There are few things more exhilarating than watching a self-centered, flesh-dominated, God-hating, sin-loving little hellion steadily transform into a soft-hearted, God-loving, others-serving contributing member of the family.  I often joke when holding a new baby in our family that I can’t wait until they get to be about 9 months old where I can begin to discipline them.  As much as I enjoy cute cuddly babies (as anyone who is friends with me in facebook can attest) I enjoy even more the process of training young children.

But I’ve noticed more and more lately that my passion is not shared by many around me.  This has confused me for a long time but I think I’m just now beginning to see possibly why.  Most parents actually don’t train their children and Christian parents seem no exception, but almost all parents still discipline their children.  When I would see a parent discipline their child I assumed it was for the purpose of training, but as I’ve observed more and more families over time, I’ve discovered that their discipline is not really training. It’s for the purpose of controlling chaos.  The two couldn’t be any more different.

Here’s an example.  You’re at a public place with your kids and a couple of friends and their kids and you begin to realize your child is being too rowdy, loud and disruptive.  You call to your son Johnny as he walks by saying, “Johnny, come here, I want to talk to you.”  But he’s having too much fun so he ignores you pretending to not hear.  “Johnny,” you call more loudly this time.  He ignores you again.  Now you’re realizing you’re causing as much noise as he ever did and he’s quieting down so you go back to your conversation.

I’ve seen this scenario so many times and it has often puzzled me.  My thought hasn’t been judging the parent but seriously curious as to why they were willing to let that perfect training opportunity pass them by.  I treasure the rare moments when my children deliberately defy me or my wife because they provide the perfect moment to reinforce the child’s need to obey his or her parents.  But, in the above scenario, I’ve watched parents ignore sometimes 10 opportunities in a 30 minute conversation.  What is going on here?

This is my hypothesis.  These parents aren’t trying to train their children to obey, they are trying to control chaos.  Their discipline is based on the amount of chaos they can handle at a given time.  Deliberate disobedience is far less of a concern.  Therefore the child learns to monitor their parent’s mood and the situation closely knowing that the things they can get away with are not dependent so much on them and their behavior as on their parents and the environment.  This is a disaster for kids.  It makes the parents patience and tolerance the real trigger for discipline instead of the child’s behavior.  It trains kids less how to obey and more how to manipulate a situation.  This leads the child to routinely push his or her parents to the edge since they have been systematically trained to find that edge of tolerance and keep their parents there continuously.  How exhausting for the parents.  How destructive for the children.  And when they see an obedient child their reaction is, “I wish my child had that temperament”.  So they blame their child when they have spent years training their children to behave in this manner.  There’s a much better, easier way.

Parents need to intentionally train their children to obey.  This is a very simple process.  All you need is to 1) believe two passages, 2) have three disciplining tools and 3) to embrace one management style.

Here are the two passages –

1. Proverbs 19:18 – “Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death.”

2. Ephesians 6:1-4 – “1Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2″Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3″that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” 4Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

The three discipline tools vary greatly from child to child but for each child there needs to be tools at at least three levels of intensity.

1) Intensity Level 1 – A tool when you are trying to train a child in a new behavior (i.e. to remember to clear their plate). We typically use only positive reinforcement here.  We give our kids a marble (= $.50) to reinforce each time they do something new we’re training them in.  When they get 30-40 marbles we head to a toy store to buy let them get something special.

2) Intensity Level 2 – A tool that represents when they are reverting in a behavior they’ve already been trained to do.  This, in our family, is usually simply taking away a marble.

3) Intensity Level 3 – This is a training reaction when they are doing something dangerous like run out in a busy street, hitting another child or …. deliberately disobeying their parents.  Yes, disobedience belongs in this category of intensity (if you don’t believe me read above verses).

“But I would be doing level 3 intensity constantly.”  With some kids it can last a couple of years, others a couple of months (and they all occasionally slip) but it will be worth every bit of energy to 100% of the time react to disobedience with the highest level of discipline you believe is healthy for your child.

But if you are going to discipline in this way you need to, as soon as possible, macro manage your children and not micro manage them (Ephesians 6:4).  What this simply means is you can’t create 1000 obedience/disobedience scenarios for your children daily.  The older they get you need to give them more and more freedom and not dominate them but understand the goal is for them to grow up and wisely make decisions on their own allowing for feedback and discussion to disarm the disobedience bomb from going off when it doesn’t need to.  But they have also learned to respect and obey their parents and have learned they can control their will to do the right thing in almost any circumstance.  That is the ideal state in which to begin to train a child how to walk in the Spirit and in obedience to their heavenly Father.

No one is hurt more by controlling chaos parenting than the children.  It is selfish of parents to make their own needs the basis for when and how their child is trained.  Please consider giving your children the gift of obedience training.





How Offensive Faith Frees us From Fear

9 10 2008

Our family just had our 5th baby on Oct. 1 and our 4th daughter.  April and I have been discussing that normal paranoid fear that many of us parents have for our children (and for us particularly, for our daughters).  By the way, we’re both listening to The Shack where the plot centers around the abduction of a man’s daughter so that doesn’t help.

As we’ve discussed these fears I’ve discovered how a certain focus helps free me from these fears.  Often these fears arise out of a misunderstanding of why we are here on this Earth.  We are on a planet dominated by a powerful enemy and the effects of our Fall are all around us.  There is no truly safe place.  Their are no guarantees my daughters won’t experience terrible things.

But then I remember the whole reason we have children.  Psalm 127 says.

3 Sons are a heritage from the LORD,
children a reward from him.

4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are sons born in one’s youth.

5 Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their enemies in the gate.

Jesus told us “The Gates of Hell will not prevail” against the church.  We’re here on offense not defense.  We aren’t here to cower behind our high walls hoping the bad guys will pass us by.  Prevailing against the gates of Hell requires us to be at Hell’s gates and not wait for Hell to come to our gates.  We go out to meet the enemy.  Our children are weapons of the Kingdom.  While we are on the Earth we need to more worried about whether our enemy fears us and lose our fear for our defeated foe.

When the enemy has you up against the wall – ATTACK!  You’ll soon discover he has far more to fear from us than we have to fear from him.





Restoring Families as Multi-Generational Teams Podcast (Seattle, August 2008)

7 09 2008

It’s difficult and confusing being a Christian dad in America.  I felt that both our American culture and contemporary Christian teaching did very little to prepare me with a proper philosophy and theology of family.  This podcast describes my journey to discover a truly biblical philosophy of family and the great discussion we had in Seattle (Kirkland, WA) about the development of a family team.

Listen to our conversation here (right click “Save Link As” to download)-

Restoring Families as Multi-Generational Teams Podcast
To view the slides click here




Raising Kids to be Leaders – Homeschool vs. Public school dilemma

6 08 2008

If you have school age children you are probably familiar with the long lists of pros and cons for both homeschooling your kids and sending your kids to the public school.  For the time being we’ve settled for doing something a bit odd and that is to be 3/4ths homeschoolers.

This is how it works.  Every Fall, at the beginning of the school year we send our kids to the public school and we present it to them as a mission.  They are there to –

  • Make Friends
  • Train how to learn in a social environment
  • Test their ability to resist negative peer pressure
  • Develop their leadership skills
  • Get involved in a team sport
  • Demonstrate the Gospel to their class mates (primarily through acts of kindness and service)

We are going to use the following tools to assist them:

  • Building them up for and reminding them of the mission everyday before they leave
  • Discuss daily how it went (not asking “how was your day” but asking specific questions like “how were you a leader today”, “did you face any negative peer pressure?  How did you respond”, “Did you deepen any friendships?” “How did your actions demonstrate the Gospel?”)
  • Weekly Family Discipleship on Monday evening where we Worship, Encounter the Story, Midrash, Apply and then Intercede for their classmates.
  • Boys Club and Girls club – We want to watch them and help them develop their leadership skills so once a month they will invite all their classmates and any parents who want to come to our house where we’ll have a huge party complete with things like group games, activities, camp fire, tea party (for the girls), Bible story (taught by our kids) etc.

Then sometime in November or December at the latest we’ll pull them out and begin again our homeschool rhythm but keep doing the boys club and girls club once per month.

There is so much we do to train our kids at home I want them in that rhythm for 8-9 months of the year (and we travel a lot as a family) but I feel this is a better balance.  Yah, the school district will think it strange but I’m sure they’ll get used to it.

What things are you trying to help your kids form a powerful family identity and missional identity?  How do you balance the need for advanced education and peer socialization?





Sayings in a Day

20 04 2007

My wife emailed this to me tonight –Elisa cutness

A Day in the life of the Pryor household:

Kelsey [age – 7] – “Mom, thanks so much for e-mailing my story to Miss Leftin.  She downloaded it onto her thumb drive and gave it to me so I could upload it onto the desktop at school and do my editing. It was soooooo much easier than retyping the whole thing.”

Jackson [age – 6] – “Did you know that Sydney fits in her pillow case?”

Sydney [age – 3] – “Mom, say ‘what’s by your eyes.'” Me – “Sydney, what’s by
your eyes?” Syd – “Oh, that’s just my glasses.”

Elisa [age – 1] – “Meeeee!” (When Jeremy asks the kids at the dinner table –
“Alright kids, who wants to learn how to SEO?”)
🙂
Sending giggles your way,
April