This is a topic that I feel so unworthy to talk about because sometimes as a parent I see my flaws WAY more than I see the things I have done well. However, with a 17 and 15 year old, living in my home, I have been through a few years of "training a child in the way they should go". So here are some idea's that we use and have used in the past. I'm still learning and cannot believe how the more I know, the less I feel like I know! I do believe that the most important thing we teach our children are how to imitate the character of Christ. It must start from very small child on. I even start when my children are newborns!
*I do that by laying them down for nap or bedtime and EVERY time telling them Jesus loves them out loud. You probably are thinking, "They don't understand that yet, why would that matter?" Well, first of all, the one main thing I want my children to know is that God loves them unconditionally. By telling them about His love before they even understand it, is essential to them understanding it later in life. My two year old was asked when he could barely talk, who loved him and his reply, "JESUS!" He was told that EVERY time he was laid down. (I still do this when I tuck my children in!) They WILL get it! After I tell them of Jesus love, before they can understand, I gently tell them, "It's time to go to sleep now." They also learn that when I say, "go to sleep", they know a few months later, when it is time to sleep and they have no choice. I have NEVER had a problem putting my children to bed. We have had the same bedtime routine and been consistent with the time. Even when they get to be older, bedtime is bedtime and that is it! That is one of the first ways, we train them. No stalling, no games. Bed time is bedtime.
*As they grow, we begin teaching them the word of God. Simple verses. Proverbs is always our starting place. This is also a verse that all of our children know, I Timothy 4:12~ Do not others think less of you because you are young, be an example to all believers in word, in spirit, in faith and purity.Or Proverbs 20:11~ Even a child is known by his deeds, whether what he does is pure and right. They don't learn these ever night, word for word but they will begin to understand them with gentle reminders throughout the day of examples they can "prove" these verses to other's. I then begin to teach them memorization of these verses bit by bit.
*My husband at around 18 months to 2 years old, will set things on a table to tempt them. Things that will test self-control and encourage it. Something they will really enjoy. A piece of cereal, cookie, or something that they really want. He will then sit on the floor with them and gently tell them to wait. As they begin to reach for it, again, he will say, "wait". When they are finally able to just stare at it without reaching out for it, he will say okay to them and let them have it. This also takes time but it teaches them to not always grab something just because the "want" it. It really pays off later on, when our goal is to have them ask before they take something. Looking back, we have slacked with some of our children on this training technique and they have the hardest problem with impulse and lack of self-control. Personality also plays a part in that! Some kids are just more impulsive and some are more careful, but as a whole, we see a pattern. The better we have stuck to it, the greater the payoff later.
*With young children, we have encouraged them to learn how to sit at a young age. Blanket time is something I used quite often with my older ones but have found it harder because of a "busier" life with my last 6 or so. I still use play-pen time, up to 18 months old. This teaches them to stay on a blanket or in a play-pen for a time to learn to focus on something for a while. More on this HERE. The next step to that is teaching them to sit on a lap or small chair quietly for a few minutes at a time. Getting up is not acceptable until told it is okay to get up. My husband has sat through MANY crying fits because a child did not want to hold still. He just quietly continues to hold them until they quit crying and gently speaks to them as many times as needed, telling them when they are quietly sitting for a time, they may get up. After a few sessions of this, you will be amazed at how they will sit when they know it is necessary! It works great for Wal-mart and strollers also, once this has been taught. When they are in a cart or stroller, gently remind them, they need to sit until mommy says so. I have hardly ever had problems with a child when it comes to sitting somewhere for a time. Now, I also don't abuse this and I understand at a certain point, children need time to wear off some energy but there is no reason a small child cannot sit through a church service at a VERY young age, if trained properly at home.
*One thing we are "religious" about is is Bible time/family time. EVERYDAY we meet with the children for a small amount of time together. That is where some of the things mentioned above can be practiced and utilized. When we slack in this area, which is rare, we notice that we always have to go back and "remind" them of the expectations. Lots more work then just sticking with it! It is a time we all look forward to.
These few things, we have done to BEGIN character training. More to come in Part 2 for the child a little bit older...
I would LOVE any idea's you have for the younger child age group!