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    Childrearing #12

    October 9, 2006 by Brandy Vencel

    Replace bad behaviors with good ones.

    This helpful hint is courtesy of Reb Bradley’s book Child Training Tips. I read this book over the past week, and I’ll be sharing more about it later on as well, but for now, this was something that set the book apart from most other parenting books I’ve read.

    When I spoke with my mom about this idea, she equated it with the biblical concept of casting off the old, sinful self and putting on the new man offered in a life in Christ. I was excited by the thought of another reflection of the Christian life being available in how we parent our children. Yes, God tells us what not to do. Some things are forbidden. But He also shares good things to do with us. The same, I am learning, can be true in training children. We will now not only tell our children what not to do, but also give them a good behavior to replace the bad one with, and practice with them until they get good at it.

    Here are two examples, one for our son and one for our daughter:


    • E. has developed a bad habit at meal times. Once all of us sit and the food is before us and we are preparing to pray, he will inevitably pick out something that looks bad to him and declare that he doesn’t like it. This started during a time of an extreme bad attitude in regard to food. Though much of the attitude has dissappeared with time and discipline, the habit has remained. And, truly, it seems to be just that — something he does and says without thinking. So, after reading Bradley’s advice, we have decided to give him something else to do. He is to thank whomever prepared the meal {usually me, but sometimes Si}, and pick out one thing he likes and say something positive about it. This should give him direction and help him to practice kindness in speech and gratitude for how others are serving him.
    • A. has recently become the sort of toddler who likes to run the other way when she is told to come to us. I have already been chastising her because I fear the eventual danger should she decide to do this outside near a busy street. However, she has continued the behavior each new day, regardless of the previous day’s discipline. Bradley writes, “A toddler who does not come quickly when called is chastised and then given 5 or more practice ‘walks of obedience’ with praise for good performance.” This is definitely my new plan with A. Hopefully, the diligent practicing of good behavior will decrease the amount of time spent training her in this area.


    After reading Bradley’s work, Si and I determined that we should be more diligent and proactive in our parenting. Bradley writes, “Surrounding them with Christian influences is certainly good, but it is no substitute for ‘training.’ Training is a conscious, active effort of instruction, discipline, and modeling, and not a byproduct of a good environment or a loving home.”


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