“How have you raised such well-behaved kids?!”

People often ask me how we’ve raised kids who are so well-behaved and I usually don’t know what to say because I think there are LOTS of different things I could point to.  I just read an awesome comment from a friend who has 16 children and I think she hits the nail on the head…

“…the best advice I ever got got 16 years ago (from a father of 13 wonderful children, over 1/2 now grown, who are all independent thinkers, no robots among the group and really great people to be around) was that he was nearly done with discipline by the time they were out of the high chair, (18 months) and he could spend the rest of their lives discipling them, and enjoying them. He trained his children to obey his words (Come to papa, no, don’t touch that, stop right there, be very quiet, etc) As a result, he had children that he could take everywhere with him, that could do things with everyone, that no one dreaded coming over. Their obedience gave them so much freedom, and the open doors were great…”

Early training is probably one of the biggest reasons my children are well behaved, and I can take them everywhere with me (we once attended a symphony concert with a two year old!)  One of the things we try to do is train them in the behavior we want, as opposed to disciplining them after they’ve already done what we DON’T want them to do.  For instance, when we started music lessons and I knew I’d be taking all of the kids with me, I started teaching them to sit quietly.  We’d all sit on the couch and set a timer for 5 minutes and everyone sat without talking.  Eventually, we increased the time to 10 minutes.  We never really needed to practice the entire 30 minutes (or eventually, 2 hours) that was needed during their lesson, because they knew what was expected.

I used to pretend to talk on the phone, to teach the kids not to interrupt me.  When the kids are around 6 months old or so, I’ll start putting things in front of them and asking them not to touch them, and teaching them what “no” means.  All of this is done deliberately and during times when I am able to be consistent, not in the midst of craziness when I’m frazzled and overwhelmed.  It’s the difference between “training” children and “disciplining” them.

Usually, when parents discipline, it’s when their children have touched the off-limits item for the 18th time, Mom has had it and she spank’s Little Johnny in anger.  Training involves teaching Little Johnny not to touch something BEFORE he starts attempting to, and during a time when Mom doesn’t have dinner on the stove, and a crying baby in her arms, and a telemarketer on the phone.

Have I been 100% consistent?  Absolutely not!  My fifth child broke every single special nick-knack in our house and he was the only child we ever child-proofed our kitchen cabinets for.  And I’ll be the first to tell you that my kids aren’t QUITE as well behaved at home as they are in public!  But I can say that when we’re consistent, and when we take the time to train them early, we see awesome results!  And we have children we can take anywhere with us.

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7 Responses to “How have you raised such well-behaved kids?!”

  1. Patti says:

    Rina, I read on the ticker the post abt homeschooling. I get so tired of hearing abt socialization. As you said, your kids are not going to always be with people their age. Amber was teh only one I homeschooled. My others went to Christian school when they were little and people used to ask me what I did to make my kids so well behaved. After public school, that all changed. That’s where my problems all began. Not with their learning ability, but they were so far ahead of the classes that most of them had to be put in the gifted and talented class, but it was with their socalled socialization. Children don’t need friends when they are trying to learn, they don’t need to have to worry abt what someone else has on, or where they went. A lot of mine had to do with what they were learning in school too. They had almost stopped American history, and several other things abt our heritage. I couln’dt post on the Babynet thing, but keep up the good work.

  2. Sabrina Pate says:

    Love this post. This is the type of parenting y husband and I want and are trying to do with our 16 month old. But bc I have never seen it modeled, it’s funny how it doesn’t come naturally. The putting something in front of them to teach them not to touch is so smart, and would have helped a ton!!

    When you did the “couch timer” training, how did you go about that? Like with my 16 month old would I just set a timer and keep telling him we can’t move until the timer goes off?

    • Rina says:

      Sabrina, by the time we were doing this, the kids already understood and obeyed the word “no,” so that’s basically what we did – just set a timer and told them not to get up or talk until the timer went off. We kind of made a game of it. I would smile at them or make silly faces, and they would make silly faces back, and we all had to be quiet. If someone did talk, I would just remind them not to. We also got a special little mat for my youngest at the time (2 years old) to sit on, and she was really excited to sit on her mat and be quiet like the other kids – it was fun for her.

      I think the key to it is doing it often enough so that the kids know that when you tell them to sit quietly, they’re expected to do just that. If I knew I had a toddler who might challenge me in the future, I’d keep doing 5-10 minute sessions each day for at least a couple of weeks, expecting them to challenge me (better that they challenge me at home than during a symphony concert!) And then I’d make sure I had a consequence ready… whatever consequence you and your husband have agreed on that works for your child. Then, we’d do it again until they sat quietly for the expected time period. That may sound over the top, but I think it would be worse if they couldn’t be relied on and couldn’t enjoy some of the things we’ve enjoyed together. I can’t imagine having to send my kids to the babysitter during recitals, and I think they enjoy going with us just as much as we enjoy having them there!

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