Monday, January 20, 2014

Widsom Learned from Raising Little Man: Teaching a Child First-Time Obedience


To being our new series "Impressing Jesus on Them," I am sharing wisdom learned from raising our third child.   

Little Man. 

Those two words bring up so much emotion. 

A little boy whose notorious stories and amazing conversations skills cause people to flock to him.  A child who within seconds can take me from the highest of joy to the depths of sorrow.  He has broken my pride and brought me to my knees.  I am learning to celebrate in the slightest improvements and be realistic about set backs.

To the praise of God only, I am happy to report that after five years I can see some steps in the right direction with our spirited, ADHD little boy.  And if you have ones of "these" kiddos, I pray that what I share will encourage you and give you ideas to try at home.

Before you read further, if you aren't familiar with our Little Man, I encourage you to read more in the categories: Our Story, Spirited Child, and ADHD.

Step #1 - Come to Mommy! (First-time Obedience)

In all of our therapy, psychology appointments, and my research I realized that in order to make any headway with Little Man I had to stop looking at all of the wrong and focus on one issue at a time. 

That's it.  One.

I was encouraged to ignore - as much as I could - the other issues. (You have no idea how hard this is or how much energy it takes!)

But desperate times call for desperate measures.

I asked myself, "What is the most important rule that I want him to obey immediately, without fail?". 

It didn't take long to figure out that I needed Little Man to immediately come to me as soon as I called.  No if's, and's, or but's about it.  Instant obedience.  Not sometimes or 15 seconds later. Immediate.

To begin, Little Man and I set down to cover the new rule and I introduced a game we were going to play.  I explained that when I say "Little Man, please come to mommy," he is to immediately say, "Yes, ma'am.  I am coming." and run to me.  Then I explained the game.  For the first few days, I would call him for real needs and for silly things but every time he came he would receive a candy corn.  (We did this back in the fall.)

Little Man was super excited to begin.  For the first hour, we had so much fun.  I made a huge deal of success and he loved the positive reinforcement.  Sometimes I would call him as he walked away.  He would giggle at me and say, "Yes, ma'ma.  I am coming."  Other times I called him just to tell him I loved him.

It was of utmost importance that if I call him, I follow through to make sure he came.  If he did not immediately come, Little Man owed me seven minutes of jumping on the mini-trampoline in our living room.  (Seven minutes is the time that was used at Occupational Therapy for all kids, regardless of their age.)  Several sets of jumping helped his ears be more attuned to listening for my voice!

After a few days as a game, the rewards tapered off and the calls to come were for real reasons. 

This exercise laid a foundation for immediate obedience.  It also gave him instant reward for doing the right thing.  The repetition trained his little ears to listen for my voice.  And it provided him attention for doing good.  (Something he doesn't get a lot of sometimes!)

Four months later, Little Man still knows that when I say, "Come!" I better hear his little voice and pitter-patter feet running my way.  Every once in a while, his ears have to be re-tuned and I jump into game mode to help remind him the importance of immediately coming.

Sounds so elementary but this has been a giant leap in the right direction.  Even Peanut (3) has jumped on board and follows suit.  This idea is simple enough for toddlers but with fun stirred in could be used with early-elementary-aged children as well. 

By setting up these expectations at home, the child understands the importance of obeying them when at the grocery store, in a parking lot, at the park, or wherever you go!

Tomorrow:  Step 2 - Lock It Up

Also read:  Which Comes First, Immediate Obedience or Asking Questions?

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The Our Out-of-Sync Life blog focuses on encouraging women to deepen their spiritual life, simplify daily tasks, and impress Jesus on the children around them.