My mom asked me to correspond with a lady she knows about childrearing. This lady has a daughter that is just turning three and getting a little out of control. She (the mother of course)had tried to avoid spanking and it was not working. She wanted any help I could offer and so I compiled all I could think of on childrearing (that would apply to her situation) and sent her the following reply. It is a bit rough, but she (and my Mom) thought it was really helpful so I post it here just in case it might be helpful to any of you. I also thought that it might start a good dialog in the comments section. Any input would be appreciated. It will take about 10 minutes to read.
First of all I would like to say that since you said you are open to any advice I have I am going to just get right to the point and be frank. I won't beat around the bush. If you have any questions about what I mean just ask away and I will be happy to clarify. Second, sorry it is a little bit long, but I did not have time to edit it enough to make it really short. It always takes lots of words in e-mail to get a point across you know?
I want you to know before I say anything else that I think most of your time with your child should be happy and positive and cheery. I love to enjoy and spend time with my kids. I try to not always be "on them". They make mistakes and do childish things and that is fine. But when they act in a way that is unbecoming of a Christian then it needs to be addressed (and quickly). Sometimes they just need a little verbal reminder. Especially when they get a little older. But at Jessica's age most of the time spankings work the best. You cannot reason with a three year old all the time. You cannot "convince" them that you are right. After all, obeying when she agrees is not submitting. Submission is doing something cheerfully when she really doesn't want to do it. This is a hard lesson to learn, but it is critical.
There is definitely not an easy formula for these things. What works for one child might not work for another. Other than spankings we have also had them sit up straight with their hands in their laps for as much as an hour in very extreme cases. (that only happened once). Another time with my first one he was throwing a very physical fit and I actually sat on the floor with him in my lap and held him with my arms around him. I was holding him until he would submit to my arms and not fight me anymore. I talked to him during this and tried to soothe him and help him know I loved him and was not mad at him. But, he had to finally give in and let me hold him. I could not let him win and fight his way away from me. Eventually he did submit and I think it was quite a turning point for him.
The main goal of this age is to teach her that she is a child under authority. Look at her through the eyes of a stranger. Does the way she talks to you look respectful? Does she treat you and her Daddy with respect? Anytime you see that disrespect it has to be dealt with fast. You can tell her "Jessica, you may not talk to Mommy like that. You have to be respectful. You can talk to me about anything, but you have to be respectful when you do it." Things might look cute when she does them now, but see past that to what is going on in her heart.
As for using non spanking with a child...Proverbs is full of advice to parents and it talks a lot about physical punishment. Some of the language even makes us feel uncomfortable
Proverbs 23:13-14 Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell.
Now I will say straight off that I am not encouraging you to beat her! :0) But my point is that God knows that we as a people are bent on sin and the quickest and easiest way to train a child to obey is to cause them some physical pain. God tells us that spankings work (and I mean this in the context of a loving relationship! not whacking them we we are mad but controlled and loving even while giving the spanking). And, one note about that: We usually give one or two really hard spanking with a wooden spoon. If it was something they have done lots of times, or they bite their brother, or if they lie to us then we will give more. But, it seems to do the job usually to do one , but make it hurt (not through a diaper). That works so much better and shows them that you mean business when dealing with their sin. It is a serious matter and you want to teach them to kill their sin. They should be used to that language. They will have to fight with sin all their lives and the goal is to try to kill it! Jeremy used an illustration of killing a snake. You don't just poke it. You cut off it's head and you keep whacking at it until the thing stops moving!! So it is with our sin. Jessica has to know that.
Administer the spanking with sympathy and respect for her. I usually tell the boys, "I don't want to spank you sweetie. I love you so much. But, you (fill in the blank) and you know that you can't do that. You do not get to disobey Mommy. Now I am going to give you two spankings and then it will be all over." I spank them and then hug on them lots and pray with them (I usually lead them in a prayer that they say about what they did and ask for forgiveness and thank God for forgiving them) and make sure things are all better when it is over. I even do this with our almost two year old. He knows how it works. At the end he is smiling and we are ok. Also, remind them that Jesus died because we sin. Sin is yucky etc.
Be careful what you say to Jessica. If you tell her to come over to you so you can put her shoes on and she doesn't come then you have to follow through until she does. This goes both ways. Sometimes you need to avoid things like this and sometimes you need to plan things like this. If you are in a rush then just go over to her and pick her up and put the shoes on. If you have time at home then tell her to come to you as a "training excercise". Your job is to train her, not just react when she does not do it right. So, you might need to create some opportunities for training. Deal with and train the areas that she has trouble with. Now, I don't mean all the time of course. But if she has had an issue with obeying the first time then don't wait until you are in walmart to train her in that. Do it at home as often as needed so that she gets enough training and does not have to think about it every time. She will (hopefully :0) "get used to" obeying the first time. Kids get used to how your home runs and what you require.
Spank first...not when all else fails. Your kids learn how far they can go. If you count to ten then they will know to obey at 9. If you start getting frustrated and give them "the look" then they will know it is time to obey. Or, you can train them that when you say to go wash their hands, you mean it the first time. If you tell her to come to you, you want her to do it right then. That makes for a happier mom and a happier Jessica. She does not have to wait around figuring out how much she can get away with. It might be a rough week or two (or longer if she is really strong willed!) of initial training, but it is crucial to a happy home. After that first week or two things are so much better! The cut off should not be when you are frustrated because you have asked 4 times. If you wait till then then you're mad at her and spank her in anger or yell at her. If you expect first time obedience then you are in control of your attitude and can just deal with the facts. "Sweetie. I told you to come to mommy and you did not come. You have to obey all the time. Even when you don't know why. Ok? I love you." It is hard not too feel guilty when you are spanking over little things like that. But, you have to see the big picture. You are not spanking her because coming to you right then was a life or death matter. You are spanking her because obeying you cheerfully the first time is a life or death matter. Literaly it could save her life (parking lot etc), but more importantly you are teaching her submission to authority and that will serve her very well. She will be a delightful wife and daughter!
The goal is not her obeying a lot of rules. The goal is for her to understand that she is God's child and she needs to act accordingly. Those who love God keep his commandments. She needs to be trained to love God because He is so good and then her discipline will come out of that. We want her to love God's standard not a bunch of dos and don'ts. If she sees Religion as a bunch of things not to do then she will hate it. That is not what Christianity is! It is a new life that is abundant because we love and serve God.
If you see her attitude coming out don't think "Oh, I don't want to provoke her." If you start to see her attitude just do what you need to do and don't be afraid to deal with her reaction. If there is a bad attitude there then pray that God will show it to you so that you can deal with it. It will be a blessing to her.
Look at her behavior and imagine it continuing into her teenage years. This can be seen well in thinking about boys and pornography. If a 3 year old cannot take "no" for an answer and gets everything he wants then what will he do when he realizes that he has access to pornography and his hormones are raging? Will he have learned how to master his desires and tell himself no? Our children will face real temptations and we have to teach them how to deal with them. This training happens when they are very little. If they fuss now and throw a fit then they will only get worse. They may learn to act in more socially acceptable ways, but God will see what is going on in their hearts and He will see they despise instruction. Some of the things that she does are just immaturity I am sure, but there are many people that are 30 years old and still immature!! No one ever made them get out of their "phase"! Some of it might go away, but some of it might not and so when you see disrespectful behavior it needs to be dealt with.
Also, make sure her physical needs are met...that she is not often hungry, or tired. If she is hungry or tired she does not need to hear you use it as an excuse for her behavior. If she is hungry she still has to act respectfully. But try to help her out by not keeping her up two hours late and then going to Wal-mart first thing the next morning if you know what I mean!
Having a proper attitude...that is tough. We still deal with this. My oldest especially has a lot of trouble with it. One tip on this. They reflect you. TOTALLY!! When I am fussy, my kids are fussy. But, almost without fail, when I am cheerful and enjoying them and smiling, they are like that too. They fight less and scowl less. I sometimes even tell them that I know how it feels when you want to be fussy. Sometimes I am in a bad mood and I just have to make myself smile. It is hard, but if you can force a smile it makes you feel a little bit better. The way that we feel is not an excuse for sin. The way we feel just makes it harder not to sin, but we are still supposed to try hard! We fail sometimes, but we just keep on trying!!
I cannot stress enough that you kids will be what you are. You see it over and over. Parenting methods work to a certain extent, but most people become like their parents in a lot of ways. So if you want her to be cheerful then she needs to see you being cheerful. If you want her to be grateful she needs to hear you being grateful. If you want her to be generous then she needs to see you being generous. Also, you might have to be pro-active in making sure that she sees these traits in you. Put some thought into it. Just because you want to be generous does not mean that she sees you being that way. I got this from a book called The Parent You Want To Be...here is the link to it.
It was very good. You need to talk to her about how a grown up woman acts. You need to be able to say to her, "I know that you are sad that you cannot have that sucker, but does mommy throw a fit when I cannot have what I want. No, that is not how a lady acts. We need to be thankful for what we have and be content. It is silly to be fussy. We don't want to look like that do we?!. No way! :0)"
She may be acting out to get attention even if it is negative attention. Sometimes just sitting on the floor stacking blocks or reading books will do wonders for these little ones!
In the end you have to parent by faith. You have to be as faithful as you can with your "methods" and then pray and ask God to bless your kids, to give them more of his Holy Spirit to help them obey, to help them love Him and His ways and to never turn their back on God. Don't worry too much about her embarrassing you in public, but instead be more worried about her little heart. She will be able tell if you are only worried about her making you look bad.
In public...first of all if you get it under control at home then you will not have near as many issues in public. But, if you do have an issue then that is the most important thing right then. Leave the cart if you must for the first few times, but deal with it then. Take her to the car if you need to. Stay calm, but let her know that the same rules apply while running errands. If you don't do anything she will know that she can do it every time. Kids will embarrass us in public, but it is what we do about it...how we react. We have to train them.
I sometimes use a little pinch in public, but this will only work if they usually obey at home. It is not to bruise them or hurt really bad or anything, but just to get their attention and remind them that they need to stop what they are doing. My friend told me she did that a long time ago and I thought I never would, but it has actually proven usefully sometimes. Just don't do it like you are mad at them. Be in control and speak calmly to them. The physical just helps get the point across like no amount of talking can. Even if if does not really "hurt" them, they get the point. Just be careful. I did this to Alex in church one time and he YELLED out "OUCH!!" It was pretty comical. He is my dramatic one.
Well, like I said, this was a bit long, but that was all I could think of to say. Now you can respond and we can have a little dialog about it. Let me know your thoughts or things that were unclear. I hope some of this helps!