A Summer Project: Getting Children to Behave

When we homeschool we are facing two fronts; we are not only having to deal with the shortcomings of our children, but we are also being forced to face the realities of who we are (or aren’t). This, I believe, is the amazing aspect of teaching one’s own children; the revival that happens when parents begin to parent in earnest.

getting children to behave

Misbehavior and bad attitudes are not confined to those who attend public school. Many, many mothers reading this right now are struggling daily with their own unruly “students.”

And this is not strange. After all, children are just young people, and we as people struggle with nastiness, stubbornness, and all sorts of negative evils simply because we are all sinners.

I think this is something we don’t want to share in our blog posts, something that we rarely admit to others. Not only do we battle with the idea that Jamie is having trouble reading, but the surly replies, the sighs, the crying and whining, are things that derail us quite often.

Youngsters at home don’t have to worry about what everyone will think of them when they whine, complain, or cry to gain Mother’s sympathy so that they won’t have to complete their math sheets. They can bop their younger siblings and cause chaos whenever they are bored with copywork or would rather be digging in the sand in the back yard.

So many times we become duped into thinking, “If I give in, then I will have peace!” But we fail to realize such a peace is only temporary and by giving in we are encouraging more of the same.

Now, I am a great advocate of more natural learning, something that I learned early-on when realizing that I have some very creative children who need room to explore and follow according to their individual enthusiasm. This is something I emphasize over and over in my writing and what I choose to share on all my social media.

But there is a balance.

We may not follow any “scope and sequence” as laid out by the educational establishment, but this does not mean that our learning is one massive, monstrous, boisterous, chaotic free-for-all. If it were, I would not be able to type this right now because my arms would be wrapped up in a straight-jacket and I would be sitting in a padded room!

No, every homeschooling mother MUST have order, and that order must be gained at the expense of one’s own comfort.

obedient children are happy children

In other words, we not only need to discipline our children, we need to discipline ourselves. We need to be respected, so we must become respectable. We need to have attention, so we must pay attention. We need to have instant response, so we must be available and responsive.

Summer is a perfect time for this. School work is usually light or nil and life moves at a slower pace so we can focus in on order and behavior.

Rearing 15 children has given me much practice and many years to think and re-think how I discipline my children. After 32 years we are still dealing with childishness, and we find we are having to back up and revisit all of the essential fundamentals over and over again.

Most of our current practices are just the same as when we first began our family, although many of them have been refined through experience, perspective and a better understanding of God’s ways. I thought it would be a good idea to compile these and share them with you today!

  • Use the Word.

All scripture  given by inspiration of God, and  profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.

2 Timothy 3:16

This is the go-to source for parenting, since God is the Parent of all, and if we study His ways, His intents, we will never be far off. The first place to go is Proverbs for basic instruction in wisdom and righteousness, then to go through and glean gems from the rest of the Word of God. I try and have scripture keys at the ready whenever it is time for correction, such as

Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Romans 13:10

which is terrific to use when one child is abusing another in any way. I also, we try and teach these principles deliberately daily to our children so that they will be very familiar with them as we bring them up.

  • Gain the child’s full attention.

For me, eye contact is a must. Jesus said the eyes are gateways to the heart. When I take the time to ensure their attention it takes much less time to correct or advise.

  • Be fully engaged.

Especially in our crazy, busy age, this is one of the most difficult. Gadgets, phone calls, social media and entertainment all vie for our attention. But parenting is just like investing; we cannot expect a return on what we are not willing to spend. Do we desire well-behaved, respectful, children? Then we must be willing to give them our full attention. Neither the computer, nor the DVD player, nor the preschool program will be able to perform the job that God has laid at our feet. Even if the pastor himself should call up and ask to divert our attention for some other “good” cause–we must make the better choice and be mommies to our children!

  • Beware of the “monologue.”

The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.

Proverbs 29:15

There is certainly a place for “lecturing,” but too many of us rely on the wagging of our tongues to do the job of correction. This is the most inefficient of methods. While we are called upon to reason with our children (reproof), it is a sign of laziness and neglect when a parent continually harps on the same subject or gives numerous “warnings” without taking action. Our own children have been known to purposely encourage us to talk about some principle or story of illustration (remember, we are older and have a lot of these to share!) so that they can postpone (or forget) correction.

  • Make correction meaningful.

Proverbs 29:17 training children, getting children to behave, happy children, hopeful children, peaceful children, peaceful home, peaceful homeschooling

Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.

Proverbs 19:18

If you are too reluctant to cause your child discomfort, you will cause him great harm. There are just certain things that can only be learned through the application of the unpleasant; and these measures have to cause a measured amount of pain in one form or another.  A child that has never had his will trained in this way is being prepared for a life full of misery, for everyone whom God loves receives His correction, and those who have been trained to recognize it are the most blessed.

There is a knot tied between the soul and sin, a true lover’s knot; they two became one flesh. It is true of ourselves, it is true of our children, whom we have begotten in our own likeness. O God! thou knowest this foolishness…correction is necessary to the cure of it. It will not be got out by fair means and gentle methods; there must be strictness and severity, and that which will cause grief. Children need to be corrected, and kept under discipline, by their parents; and we all need to be corrected by our heavenly Father (Heb. 12:6, 7), and under the correction we must stroke down folly and kiss the rod.

Matthew Henry’s A Commentary on the Whole Bible, Proverbs 22:15

  • Praise and reward good behavior.

This is not always easy, as we tend to become busy or even grumpy ourselves and overlook some of the best parts of parenting. Here is a fun exercise; one morning, instead of correcting for a bad job, start passing out m&m candies to anyone you “catch” doing something correctly–I do this every once-in-a-while and it is so much fun!

Words are powerful tools–dole out the encouraging ones as much as possible.

It has been said that one critical remark should be balanced by ten positive ones. While doling out the correction, make sure and pile on the encouragement where appropriate (not empty flattery). Here are some words and phrases to use; “You are such a blessing, I am so glad God gave you to me!” “Good job!” “You did that exactly right!” “You work so well that it gives me joy just to watch you!” “I am so impressed by your good attitude, keep it up!” “You cheer everyone up by your smile and happy ways!” etc.

  • Take time to instruct and then explain the consequences of misbehavior.

Children do not automatically know how to act. This can be very embarrassing, not to mention disruptive, especially at times when children need to be quiet and respectful. No one wants to have the meal they paid heavily for interrupted by the unruly behavior of someone else’s children jumping up and down on the chairs or hiding under the table!

Long before ever setting foot in a store, young ones need to have someone explain to them that it is not polite to roam around and touch all of the merchandise (we have the younger ones either keep their hands in their pockets or clasp their hands together behind their backs). They need to have some role-playing on how to act at someone else’s house, at church, during prayer, etc. Then they need to know just what may happen if they do not comply.

I have been known to actually post these things on the refrigerator and refer to them at the appropriate times. This gives children security and a sense that justice is being done.

  • Demand respect.

Yes, as children grow up respect is not just a given, but is hopefully earned by careful parenting. However, at younger ages this must be part of training. It is a comfort and a protection for children to obey and observe propriety when responding and conversing with all elders, including extended family, older siblings, etc. Parents are to be respected above all, and children must be trained to respond correctly. Anyone who encourages a child to question or rebel against his parent’s commands is aiding in his destruction.

If a child fails to respond promptly to me, I require that he “practice” coming quickly 10 times. If he can’t come quickly, he is to call out, “Coming, Mother” as loud as is necessary for me to hear him (we have a large house). When being addressed, he is to be in a listening posture, not allowed to “negotiate” and must answer with “Yes, Ma’am” or “No, Ma’am”, whichever is appropriate.

  • Use chores to gain character.

I have always considered that our chores were an indispensable part of our educational scheme. There have been many individuals who have been talented and highly educated, and yet their lack of attention to the basic details of life, lazy attitudes, and moral failures have all contributed to waste and shipwreck.  Having children help with the responsibilities of family life gives parents an opportunity to diagnose problems and deal with them before they become an element of a child’s personality and character. A child who refuses to respond quickly when called, who constantly talks-back, and who is not held accountable for sloppy, half-hearted work will be a constant drain and make the teaching of every subject a headache for the whole family and enable that child to reap a harvest of heartache in life.

Contrarily, a home full of children, although imperfect, who understand what is expected and the consequences of trespassing on the rules and standards set forth by caring, loving parents, is a happy one indeed!

Here are some visuals to help as you take up this task (PDF link at the bottom):

Training strategies image

quick consequences image

Click here to download the free PDF versions

Sharing here:

A Wise Woman Builds Her Home

9 thoughts on “A Summer Project: Getting Children to Behave”

  1. Thank you for the reminder to have little ones “practice” obedience when they “forget.”

    I read somewhere years ago that talking to boys should be done in conjunction with touch. A hand on the head, fingers gently cupping the chin, or arm around the shoulders as I look into their eyes has gone a long way in getting my boys to really listen to instructions as well as assuring them of my affection.

    • Yes, I think that that may be a key to getting boys’ attention, I probably have done that without realizing it!

  2. I don’t know if you’ve ever read anything by ellen g. white (christian writer and church mover in civil war era)…..but her knowledge is beyond our modern day mothers of dialogue which says children can ‘have it all’….. she points out realities of life.

    Currently reading ‘child guidance’….its a full book filled with wisdom….not just ‘folly’


  3. Thanks for this post, Sherry! I have printed it off for my parenting/devotions notebook.

    I want to thank you so much for your blog. I feel that your heart and your goals are nearly identical to my own desires for my family, and I love reading what you have to say. Thank you for taking the time to share! I don’t comment often, but I am busy reading back-posts and enjoying them thoroughly. 🙂


    • You have blessed me today, Diana! I am so glad what I write helps and refreshes you–that is my heart’s desire–praise God!

  4. This is such a wonderful, helpful, and encouraging post. I’ve printed your post and the pdf’s so I can review them frequently. God bless you!


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