I‘m pretty sure this is my last post on this subject. I’m all about simple, even in Kindergarten, which in my mind is still preschool. Most five-year-olds are not really in need of time in a classroom. Instead, they need time to explore and run and stretch their limbs and their imaginations in the world that God made. When we “step it up a notch” for Kindergarten, we mean our read-alouds become chapter books (rather than all picture books), or that reading lessons have commenced, or that we are more consciously than ever preparing that child for Year One as we walk along the way.
We do not mean that the child is spending, or needs to spend, hours each day, “studying.”
The 4-1-1- on the 4-oh-1
Here’s the deal. I was already thinking about writing this post, and then I went to the conference that I mentioned on Monday. The question as to what to do with preschoolers arose, and all four speakers confirmed that the number one thing to do with preschoolers is…
…drum roll, please…
…develop the habit of first-time, cheerful obedience.
I scheduled this as my 401 post because, though it is universal for all preschoolers, it is by far the most difficult to accomplish.
Or, at least, it has been (and is) for me.
If your preschooler tells you “no” when you ask or tell him to do something, he is in rebellion to your authority. If your preschooler screams at you when he cannot have his way, he is in rebellion to your authority. If you find yourself in constant fear of your preschooler’s responses (and, oh, have I been there, sister), he is in rebellion to your authority. If you have to tell your preschooler five times, and end the last time with “now!” in a firm voice, in order to get him to do what you ask, he is in rebellion to your authority.
I still remember the day that I realized that I was afraid of my Daughter A., who was probably 2 or 3 at the time. That night, my husband and I had a conversation, and my mothering has been different ever since. Even though it was a horrible (and embarrassing) realization, it was also the day I realized that God made parents to be in charge, and He ordained an hierarchical order for a reason.
Why is Obedience so Important?
If your child is obedient he will…
…be easier to potty train…
…be responsive when you teach him something…
…contribute to the peaceful (not perfect, but peaceful) atmosphere of your home learning project…
…and so on…
The most challenging thing about teaching children at home comes on the days when someone decides to challenge the mother’s authority. Ask any homeschooling mother, and she will confirm the truth of this. Rebellious children are almost impossible to teach. They can stretch a five-minute lesson into a two-hour fiasco with ease. They can make us want to quit, even if we know we are called to do this and know we’d be disobeying God to do otherwise.
And they will make us hate our job. Oh, maybe not all of it, but a lot of it.
Let’s all be honest.
Rebellious children, be they toddlers or six-year-olds, are just plain no fun.
Is Obedience a Habit?
Charlotte Mason believed that obedience was a habit that could be trained, and I’m inclined to agree with her. We all have our routines. Once upon a time, during a particularly challenging time in our life, I realized that my oldest and I had a Bad Day Habit. It wasn’t that every single morning, he awoke and decided to challenge my authority. I am sure that in the beginning, it was that way. But after a year or so, the problem was not anyone’s individual decisions, but rather the unhappy habits we had built. Every day, we both played our parts in the same script, with the same tearful results.
Toddlers and preschoolers do make decisions about obedience. I have seen a toddler with That Look in his eyes, deciding whether or not to challenge me on something, considering the wisdom of Experimenting with Mom to see what happens.
It’s that look of consideration, of toying with possible rebellion, that convinces me that these ages are perfect for training in the habit of obedience that will make the paths of lessons at home run smoothly.
The Most Important Thing
There is really only one command given to children in the Scriptures: obey your parents. Everything else flows from this, for this is how a child pleases the Lord. When I had to decide to take the harder road in mothering, it was this thought–that my rebellious child was unpleasing to the Lord–that gave me encouragement.
At the end of the day, I was not doing this to make my life easier, or even to make lessons easier.
I wanted to help my child please the Lord.
All of us are to seek first the kingdom of God. For little children, this means first learning to obey their parents, given to them by God for their protection and nurture and instruction. How can we protect them, if they will not heed our warnings? How can we nurture them, if there is a breach of rebellion between us? How can we instruct them, if their hearts are hardened to our wisdom, if their disobedience has given birth to prideful, unteachable hearts?
And so we start young. We must. We help them build the habit that is foundational to their life in Christ, the part they have in God’s kingdom.
If we do nothing else at this age, our time will be well spent, and the foundation will be laid for our future success with them.
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