Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Practice Makes Perfect.... or at Least Better
With Peregrine's birthday just a week away you can feel the excitement in the air. One of games he's been playing the last while is that I'm him and it's my birthday; he carefully "wraps" a little toy with a piece of paper or cloth and tells me, with great affection that he has a present for me. I look at him and thank him, then carefully unwrap it. When I see what treasure lies inside I tell him how much I like it and thank him profusely for his thoughtfulness, etc. I'm a bit overboard, but hoping he will learn that this is what you do when given a gift. Then I switch roles with him- me being the Mama again- and have him practice opening silly little presents. He views it as a fun way to play together, and so do I. But, I also see it as training. If we practice this enough times, then hopefully when his birthday comes and he's opening real gifts he'll take the time to thank the giver and tell them how much he likes the gift. I know that instilling true thankfulness goes deeper than just saying the words, but I hope that this kind of play/practice will help.
Ginger Plowman talks about the importance of having your children walk through the steps of doing what is right in her book Don't Make me Count to Three. In the chapter called Training Children in Righteousness she discusses it in detail. She talks about how easy it is to correct and discipline for wrong behavior but neglect to train them to do what's right. This, she says, has two parts. First, use appropriate Scripture so they learn what God has to say about it and how to apply the Bible to their lives. We've found Parenting with Scripture to be a useful book to quickly find a verse that applies. Second, she says, have them go back and do what is right. "When we correct our children for wrong behavior but fail to train them in righteousness, we will exasperate them because we are not providing them with a way of escape..... As a rule, anytime you correct a child for wrong behavior, have him walk through the right behavior. This is how we train our children to walk in the righteousness of Christ." Now I realize that having them "act" what is right will not change their heart necessarily, but it shows them exactly what is expected of them for next time.
I need to do this more often with Peregrine. In some areas we've done it a lot; if I call him and he dawdles with a toy before coming I'll send him back to where he was and call him again. When he grabs a toy from Alethea he has to give it back to her and ask nicely for it. (Depending on the situation, she may or may not have to give it to him.) It takes more time and effort on my part to train him this way, but it really does seem to make a difference. This wasn't a discipline issue, but last year when it was time for Peregrine's check-up we played "doctor" for a week or so beforehand. I pretended to be our doctor and would give him little examinations so that he would know what to expect. His apprehension melted away and by the time we went in he was fine with it. His four-year check-up is coming up and he's already been telling be that he will just wait out in the waiting room! I guess it's time to start playing doctor again!
I love this kind of training. It's usually fun for Peregrine and for me. And it works. Practice may not make perfect, but it goes a long way toward making things better. And like I said, I need to be much more diligent in doing it with him, and keeping it fun. I guess I'd better be going: I've got some presents to wrap in handkerchiefs!