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    On Training Children

    November 20, 2009 by Brandy Vencel

    Mystie and I got into a discussion on manners in the comments, and that made me think about a little “trick” {if I may call it a trick} we learned somewhere along the way. I think of it as “car-training.” I really wish I remember who taught this to me. They deserve a thank-you note, for I am in their debt.

    Let’s say we’re on the way to church. Our children sit in church with us, except for the baby younger toddler, who I take into the Cry Room and with whom I have a wrestling match for about a third of the service. They are expected to behave. This means that the two-year-old needs to sit still on her bottom {except during standing times}, not talk, and remember not to wet her pants. This means the four-year-old needs to sit still on her bottom {except during said standing times}, try to sing, and draw quietly during the sermon. This means the seven-year-old needs to conform to adult-like behavior, take communion reverently, try to sing the songs he knows, and take notes during the sermon.

    Most Sundays, we remember to do some form of Car-Training. This means, before exiting the car, the children are reminded of what good behavior looks like. If we don’t instruct anyone else, we must remind the two-year-old, who is most likely to disobey.

    This is an approach that we have used before going into a store, spelling out to each child what is good behavior in that store. We might say to Q. before going to the grocery store, “You are going to sit in the cart and you are not to suck on the handle {I know. I hate that I have to say that!} and you will not stand up and you will not grab anything from the shelves.” Before going into a restaurant, which we rarely do, we might explain to the children where and how they will sit, how they will act, and so on.

    We went to a restaurant with Granmama and the Great-Grands last Wednesday, and I kicked myself for not remembering their car training. The four-year-old had to be scolded more than once for wallowing in the booth, and the two-year-old kept getting out of her booster seat.

    It is amazing to me how much car-training helps. I remember when we were intensively training Q. to sit nicely in church. We reached a point where if we remembered her car training, it went well, and if we forgot it was horrible. There was a direct connection to whether or not we put instructions fresh in her mind.

    Car-training has saved me a lot of discipline, I think. And also a lot of stress and/or embarrassment. It really is amazing that a few extra minutes of instruction can make such a difference.

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  • Reply Mystie November 23, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    Now I do! 🙂

    It’s #5 on the list.

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts November 23, 2009 at 7:29 pm


    Do you have a post or series of posts that explain your morning notebook? When you said that you used it for this sort of a function that clicked for me and I wondered if something like that would help me get a handle on other systems in our home that often fall by the wayside….

  • Reply Mystie November 22, 2009 at 1:03 am

    I always forget about doing this until after things have started to fall apart consistently. One reminder I’ve needed to start incorporating is before friends come over to our house. It would go something like this: “If friends go somewhere you aren’t supposed to or get into something you aren’t supposed to get into, it’s not ok. You can politely tell them the rules Mommy & Daddy have made, and if they continue you can come tell us. Them starting it does not make it ok for you to follow them when you know it’s disobeying. They don’t know, so you can tell them politely, but you may not go into the office/open the gate/etc. etc. just because your friends did it first.” But, once more, remembering before the temptations come is key and is hard!

    You know, actually, my morning notebook kind of is this tactic for myself. I printed out my habit posts and my series about housekeeping from last year and reread bits every morning. It really does help me remember what and why I’m doing. I’m going to be making a school set to read before we start school every morning, too. 🙂

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts November 21, 2009 at 9:03 pm


    You wrote:

    parents expect them to somehow intuit good behavior and get angry when they don’t

    I was so like this when my oldest was a toddler! I really think it comes from reading secular parenting magazines. I know now to reserves those for learning how to bake a nice birthday cake, or for craft ideas! But back then, at least (what? five years ago I guess), the magazines were very much about how the problems we have with our children are developmental stages that the children will naturally pass through. So I ended up having to intensively discipline my oldest at the age of four because he never outgrew throwing tantrums. Around that time, we met some wonderful older parents who had listened to wise counselors (I didn’t even realize who I was listening to), and things have gone so much better in our home ever since.

    Dawn B.,

    I am glad to know that it is helpful over the long term! I was actually thinking lately that maybe, since I get nervous before events where I’m going to meet new people, I should use this to “train” myself!

  • Reply dawn b November 21, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    I have always done this! I didn’t call it that though. My youngest is 15 and it was the best thing when he and his brothers were little guys. Every once in a while I still use it to keep them in line. Best thing you can do for a child!!!!!

  • Reply GretchenJoanna November 21, 2009 at 6:20 am

    You are so smart to do this. I have always been amazed at how many parents don’t prepare their children and teach them, but the same parents expect them to somehow intuit good behavior and get angry when they don’t. It works better to think of them as aliens who just dropped in and need intensive instruction in our ways.

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts November 20, 2009 at 11:18 pm

    Dawn, I love that you make it a conversation! We will have to try that on Sunday. Also, I love that you began with the catechism. Another approach I’d like to try, especially since it gets to the heart of the matter.

    Using the bathroom between worship and SS is something that I had forgotten about…but something my two-year-old freaked out about last Sunday. I’ll have to put that on my list. 😉

  • Reply dawn November 20, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    We do this too, although ours sounds more like a Q&A. For stores, I’ll ask, “What do we use in a store?” (expected answer: eyes) “What don’t we use in the store?” (expected answer: fingers) …

    For church there are a lot more and we weave in questions from the Catechism for Young children, too. So, starting with the questions up to “How ought you to glorify God?” then spring off into how worship and fellowship of the believers is one of the commands we are to obey. Using this introduction, we talk about everything from sitting still and letting mommy & daddy help them obey, to not distracting others (children, adults and mommy & daddy!), to only adults (and sometimes M-girl) are allowed to hold hymnals. We also talk about how to behave in Sunday School, the order of service (where do we learn how to love and obey God? ties into the sermon), oh! and going potty between SS and worship. We have a longish drive to church, so we spend about the last half going through this, lecturing as necessary. They know the answers (even the 2yo, ’cause she’s heard them so many times), but we have found the reminders to be invaluable.

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