Thursday, July 16, 2009

Violet's Chore

We trained Violet to do this at 18 months. She takes such pride in helping Mama in the kitchen, and this was her first chore she can do literally all by herself. What a joyful thing to watch training in action!

I have to give credit where credit is due, in this case. Michael & Debbi Pearl wrote a book called To Train Up A Child, which gets a lot of flak from different circles around the country. People seem to object to the Pearl's concept of TRAINING a child, vs. disciplining (punishment for disobedience, usually on a graded scale) or nurturing him (showing him kindness and gentleness and "leading" him to obedience). The Pearls use an illustration of a dog to prove their point, and many people seem to take offense at that, claiming that children are people, not dogs! How can you treat your child like a dog? What I got from the "dog dissertation" was quite different. Let me attempt to explain. Chapter 1 reads:

"Careful training can make a dog perfectly obedient. If a seeing-eye dog can be trained to reliably lead a blind man through the dangers of city streets, shouldn't a parent expect more out of an intelligent child? A dog can be trained not to touch a tasty morsel laid in front of him. Can't a child be trained not to touch? A dog can be trained o come, stay, sit, be quiet, or fetch upon command."

When I read this I actually got excited. I thought, Of course we should train our children, and not just irritatedly discipline them when they "cross the line"! I mean, we bestow that amount of dignity upon a mere beast, should we not bestow it on our own offspring? Shouldn't we offer them an opportunity to be in control of themselves enough to accomplish tasks that make them a real help to their family? What a source of pride for a 2-year old to be able to see his or her actions contribute to an adult world! I trained Violet to withdraw her hand on the command, "Don't touch!" at age 6 months. What a delight to see a wobbly, chubby 6-month old withdraw her hand with a toothless grin when told! She has been such a delight! The training process has, indeed, been joyful for us.

I think that the belief in Original Sin is fundamental to this training process' success. One must understand that unlike the dog, whose nature is subject to a mostly benign instinct, the child has an evil instinct. If you can accept this, you might come a little closer to accepting the idea that you are fighting for your child against the evil nature inside him by instilling an instinct to obey at an early age. The method of doing this, the Pearls go on to explain, should be matter-of-fact, tempered with a consistent JOY. You are joyful, seeing your child learn to curb his evil instinct and use self-control, with the consistent help of a switch in your hands, and the affirmation of a smile on your face.

I have to say, as Violet has matured, we have almost grown past the "training the Obey Instinct" portion, and have altered our methods into something which includes more rationale.....but, thank the Lord, the Instinct To Obey is still within her, and even if she struggles with whining or other issues, she still comes when called, and drops it when I say, "Don't touch!"

What a precious muffin! We love her so awfully much!!


Herb of Grace said...

Ooooooo!!!!!!!!!!! Precious!!

Great post! I am soooo proud of you guys :) Not that I had anything to do with it. I just love to see how she is benefiting from your wise parenting-- because I love her sooooo much!!!

Denise said...

Firstly, I know by observation on the 3-4 times I've seen you guys with her, that she indeed has been lovingly and diligently trained so far. She is a JOY to be around because of this, instead of a little terror. Staying with you for 2 weeks when she was 14 months old was a breeze, and your hard work showed.
Secondly, I have so much to ask!!! 6 months she understood "don't touch?" Wow. Elyana will be 6mo on Sunday, and I'm not sure she understands much/anything I say. She has object recognition, but not my words. How did you do that?

I guess it's time I read a bunch of books anyway...

Susannah Forshey said...

Well, believe it or not, the minute you begin to associate "Don't touch" with a flick to the hand, she WILL understand what that means. Especially if you don't "talk it up" too much. Just repeat the 2 words in the exact same tone of voice, firmly and gently.

When I taught Violet, I made sure I didn't wait until she touched something dangerous where it was imperative that she obeyed or would experience terrible consequences. I actually placed a toy in front of her and told her "don't touch." Then, as soon as she put her hand forth to touch it, I flicked her hand smartly. (If you want to use a switch at this point, fine, but as Violet was confined to a high chair this time, I used hand-flicking). I repeated this until she merely responded to my voice, without the flicking. It only took about 2 minutes that first session! She did test the command at later times with situations that were unfamiliar....which is a good thing, because she must learn to hear my voice and obey even in "foreign" environments. I can't tell you how amazing it is to be able to tell her, "Violet, put your hand on the car and stay." when my hands are full of groceries and I'm in the parking lot. Or, "You may look, and you may touch, but you may not take things off the shelves." when we're shopping together. She's happy, I'm happy!

You can order copies of TTUAC from the Pearls' website, They have a military family special you should check out.

Hosanna said...

It's like horse training also. People have difficulty with naughty horses because they don't take the time to train them, and they don't want their horse to "hate" them for telling them "no".
I don't have kids yet but I'll be darned if I let my horses be terrors. I train them and they still "love" me. I trained my draft cross, who towers over me, to lower her head into her halter so I don't have to struggle to halter her over my head. Plus, I have trained her - a horse - to understand voice commands, and that amazes people. It wasn't magic; all I did was start when she was BORN by not letting her get away with the first naughty thing, and was consistent, firm, but always kind.She is now an amazing horse who obeys (almost) 100% of the time. You did hand flicking for Violet - I did muzzle thumping with Halley. Same thing!
You could be a horse trainer, Su! :)
Makes since that these same concepts work on children.

Herb of Grace said...

Right on, Hos!

And Denise, you mught be surprised just how much Elyana does understand. If you're interested, I have a bunch of articles and books on infant development studies. Researchers are finding out more and more about how much infants understand at an early age. Much, much more than we used to think :)