I have taken graduate level courses in child psychology and behavior management. I have spent countless hours in classes, seminars and meetings about how to set rules, boundaries, and expectations and how to discipline effectively using positive reinforcements – and had a few years in the classroom using those practices that I was taught. I have read books and manuals and blogs and magazines and read and read and read and studied about how to get my students to do what I need them to do, when I need them to do it.
And my expert, degreed self had a vision of how I would teach and discipline my own kids one day (as if MY kids would ever need it). Here’s how my perfect mommy self would “handle” (for lack of a better word – where’s my thesaurus???) my kids.
1. I would always explain why I needed them to do something. “The reason I need you to be quiet right now is because Mommy needs to make a phone call and I can’t hear the person on the other line when you are also talking.”
2. I would always use positive speak (i.e. “Walk” instead of “Don’t run.”)
3. “Because I said so” would NEVER be a spoken from my mouth. Instead I would always do #1.
(Ok. You can stop laughing at me now. We are always better parents before we are actually parents, right?)
So, then I became a real parent, and you know what I learned when my first born was a toddler? “Because I said so” sometimes IS the reason I need them to stop what they are doing. Maybe because they wouldn’t understand the real reason, or maybe because I just don’t feel like giving a reason (I’m not alone here!), or maybe because there isn’t any time to explain. For example…
When my oldest son was a little over two, I took him and his baby brother to the park with some friends. Up to this point, I believe I had stuck to my ideal vision that I stated above – pretty easy to do when they are in the baby and new-toddler phases.
I was sitting on the picnic blanket nursing the baby who was still in “blob mode”(around 2 months old) and my two-year-old was running in the open field between me and the parking lot. At one point, he decided to chase some older kids who were closer to the parking lot.
Realizing I was a little tied up at the moment (bare breasts under the nursing cover), I decided to raise my voice (not yell… no, never yell) at my son to come play closer to me…
“James, come back!”
Haha, yeah, like that worked. The two-year-old ran a little farther away.
“Jaaaames! Come back over here, please!”
And to my naive astonishment, the kid didn’t even slow down. In fact, I believe he sped up!
Then, it hit me. I had always been close enough to him to be able to explain to him WHY he shouldn’t be doing something. This insta-command thing was new. He had never heard it before. So just as he was nearing the parking lot, I yelled,
“JAMES! YOU NEED TO GET OVER HERE RIGHT NOW BECAUSE YOU ARE ABOUT TO RUN INTO A PARKING LOT AND THERE ARE CARS AND YOU COULD GET HIT BY A CAR BECAUSE YOU ARE TOO SHORT AND THEY WON’T BE ABLE TO SEE YOU AND THAT WOULD HURT A LOT!”
Or something to that effect.
That moment right there, the first time my son completely ignored me. It wasn’t until I gave him that explanation of WHY he shouldn’t do something, completely changed my ideal vision of parenting. Why did he do that? Because up until that day I had explained every.little.thing to him… and don’t get me wrong! That’s how they learn best how to not just DO, but understand right versus wrong.
But in an emergency… when they truly truly need to stop what they are doing. They need to STOP. NOW. There is no time for an explanation. They need to understand that you mean business.
That’s when I invented the “code word.” I needed a shortcut to get my child to listen without question.
We went home and practiced it. FREEZE. When Mommy says that word, it does not matter what you are doing, what you WANT to be doing or what you were ABOUT to do; you are going to stop, put your hands on your head, and turn to look at me.
Now, the “put your hands on your head” part may seem a bit extreme, but trust me, when they are playing with a toy, the only way to get their undivided attention is to make sure their hands are empty.
I recently noticed my 3-year-old doing the same thing as my older son had done years before. This week, I brought back our old friend, FREEZE.
The kids have a great time playing our FREEZE game where they get to cut up and act crazy, then Mommy yells “FREEZE” and they immediately stop with their hands on their head. They also like playing Mommy’s role and telling me when to FREEZE.
With some short reminders in the car when we are about to go into the store or play at the park, the kids remember to respond immediately when I yell the code word. It’s also a great way to get both of their attention when I need them to switch activities. It gives me time to explain how we are going to transition into the next activity.
Do you have a code word? What do you use? Comment below to share!!!
Sean Patrick started his new school year today, and being the procrastinator that I am, I stayed up last night making a Toy Time Out Box for his teacher:
How To Make This Toy Time Out Box:
1) I printed the following labels onto regular computer paper (you can use card stock) using the print option “Multiple” to print them the size that I needed.
[purchase_link id=”3975″ style=”button” color=”green” text=”Toy Time Out Box Labels”]
2) I laminated them with my cheap laminator that I love and use for everything!
3) I cut them out and then hot glued them onto my $12 crate from Hobby Lobby that I found on the “Wood” Aisle in the craft section.
Why I Made This Toy Time Out Box:
I got the inspiration to make the labels for this toy time out box from Casey (who co-writes here at TMT) because she has one that her son helped her paint:
How I Use A Toy Time Out:
When my kids (or their friends) are fighting over a toy:
1) I walk CALMLY over to them, get on their level, look them in the eyes, say their names, and then calmly say “There is a problem so stop just a minute so we can figure it out. This toy is causing y’all to fight – each take a turn to tell me why.” (wait and listen)
2) Okay Well ___ was playing with it so you can either wait and find a new toy while you wait, or you can see if your friend wants to find a way to play WITH you with the toy.
3) And to the Friend who had the toy, can you find a way to share the toy or do you need me to set a timer and he can play with it when the timer goes off?
4) I warn them that if neither child is willing to wait or to share then I tell them the toy will have to go to time out until they can come up with a solution to play with it together or to take turns.
5) I try to follow through. If they are both willing to make it work then I take it back out. If not, the toy stays there. It is that simple.
However, you can also use this box as a place where toys are held until a chore is done or a certain change of attitude takes place. It can be used in more ways than just the example I provided.
If you come up with a use for it then please share your thoughts in a comment 🙂
Thanks for joining us on our daily devotions journey! I gotta be honest, doing this daily with our kids, our activities are hit or miss. My kids are not always cooperative, my activities are not always the most exciting, and yes, apparently looking back at the week, we completely forgot to do it on Monday! I didn’t even realize that until I started writing this post! So, hang in there! Bible study is not going to be perfect every day – some days it will be so far from it, but your children are still hearing God’s word and are seeing you set an example for daily obedience.
If you are just now following us, here is a recap:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” – John 14:27
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
“Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.” – Psalm 105:4
It can be hard to “visualize” Jesus when we have never met him face to face. For kids, this can be hard for them to understand that He was born into this world like you and me yet, though he no longer walks as we do on this Earth, we can still have this amazing relationship with Him.
Ask your kids to describe Jesus and what He looks like.
Google some images of famous paintings and images of Jesus. Talk about the likenesses between them and how this is what some believe He looked like when He was here. This will help your children visualize Him when they talk to Him.
I know I like to visualize Jesus holding my hands when I pray. It helps me to feel more connected to Him. Describe to your children what it feels like to feel His presence.
Pray with them and ask them to visualize Him when they do.
Day 2: Autopilot
“Your world is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” – Psalm 119:105
Today, we made compasses – simple compasses. I drew a circle and cut out arrows for them to glue “point the way to Jesus.”
I scaffolded the activity for the different ages of my boys.
“Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.” Psalm 63:7-8
Day 3: The Light of the Son
“The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it. The glory of God is its light, and the Lamb is the city’s lamp.” – Revelation 21:23
We found a box that just so happened to have a hole big enough for the kids to peer into. “What do you see?” Well, there’s really not much to see inside of a dark box… it’s dark and empty. We saw nothing. Without Jesus in our lives, everything would be dark like the inside of the box.
I opened the box and put a flashlight inside and closed it again. We looked through the hole once more and saw the entire inside of the box! Jesus lights up our world so we can see and live and so our spirits will be filled with light.
Take this a step further if you have prep time before your devotion begins: draw or tape pictures to the inside of the box so that when you turn on the light inside your kids can see what they couldn’t see when it was dark.
“Many are asking, ‘Who can show us any good?’ Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord. You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound. I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” – Psalm 4:6-8
Day 4: Before You Work
“Depend on the Lord in whatever you do. Then your plans will succeed.” – Proverbs 16:3
Today we made a challenge for ourselves to remember to pray before we get started in the morning. Write that challenge down and post it somewhere, maybe on the kids’ bedroom door, so that you all can see it first thing before you start your day. It is one thing to say we are going to do this, and intend on doing this, and quite another to follow through. So set an alarm on your phone if you need a daily reminder and teach the kids to come gather around so you can pray over them for the day.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens; They do not sow or reap they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” Luke 12:22-26
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12
Day 5: The God Who Forgives
Practice role playing forgiveness with your kids. If you have multiple children, have them role play this back and forth: one who makes a mistake and the other forgives. Pray with your children and teach them to ask for forgiveness and also to ask for help to be able to forgive others. Just as God forgives us, we need to forgive others, too.
“Where can I go to get away from your Spirit? Where can I run from you? . . . If I rise with the sun in the east, and settle int he west beyond the sea, even there you would guide me. With your right hand you would hold me.” – Psalm 139:7-10
– Genesis 16:7-14
“The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” – Zephaniah 3:17
If you are just now following along with our Devotions posts, please read our Week 1 post.
Day 1: I Am Calling You
“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.” -Psalm 37:7
Our devotion today talked about spending time with God and turning off all distractions that can keep us from having a relationship with Him. We practiced standing really really still and listening. We heard birds singing, tractors in the field, and bees buzzing.
We then tried to stand on one foot and noticed that by not staying still, it was hard to concentrate on all of the things we heard a minute before. Being distracted by busy things in our life makes it hard to focus and be still to listen to God.
“Instead I have calmed and quieted myself…” -Psalm 131:2
“You give him blessings forever; You cheer him with joy in Your presence.” -Psalm 21:6
Day 2: The One Who Heals
“He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.” -Psalm 103:3
Today, we busted out the band aids and talked about God healing our bobos and our hearts. Our activity was super simple: we put band-aids on us and talked about how they help heal our wounds. (Lucky for me, I had just 2 band aids left! Now I need to remember to buy a new box at the store.)
“You do not have because you do not ask.” -James 4:2
Day 3: I’ve Got Plans for You
“O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in all of heaven above or on the earth below. You keep your covenant and show unfailing love to all who walk before you in wholehearted devotion.” -1 Kings 8:23
We talked about walking hand in hand with Jesus down the right path. Leyson had a late nap on this day, so I used this opportunity to do a focused writing activity with James. He had to come up with a take away sentence from what we talked about and then draw a picture to match.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peae, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.” -Galatians 5:22-23
Day 4: Shout it Out Loud
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” -James 4:7
When we talk to God and tell him our troubles, he can help us overcome them. Today we talked about our fears and how we only need to lean on God when we are afraid.
Me: “James what are you afraid of?”
James: “Pretty much nothing because I’m a ninja and I can karate chop the devil’s head to a million pieces.”
As you can see, I had a hard time getting my super brave boy to admit that he had any fears.
After much deliberating, both boys decided they were afraid of wasps (well, James said he is, “ALMOST afraid of wasps.” – close enough.)
I wrote their fears on a piece of paper and we prayed about them. Then we wadded the papers up, ripped them up, stomped on them and threw them in the trash can representing how God helps us to overcome our fears.
Leyson telling me about crushing the wasps
“Indeed, God is my salvation. I will trust Him and not be afraid. Because Yah, the Lord, is my strength and my song, He has become my salvation.” -Isaiah 12:2
Day 5: Growing Up
Today we deviated from our devotional because James needed some extra encouragement.
We pulled out an old favorite verse that we have been praying over for a while for each of our children.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” -Jeremiah 29:11
I made this sign for James to hang over his bed. He had to say the verse 3 times before bed as we prayed over him. This really helped calm his little spirit and give him a new attitude for the night. Our activity was just good ol’ conversation. Sometimes, that’s the best way to really help them get into the Word.
If you are interested in ordering a sign, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can customize with a different verse and/or different colors. $15 + shipping