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!!