Tuesday, January 1, 2013


As a mom, I've always practiced a number of non-negotiable actions in rearing my kids. In recent conversations with one of my wonderful sisters, we've talked about parenting and how challenging it is to raise kids. She's had a few bad experiences with other people's kids lately while out and about. As the mom of eight kids, this is constantly on my mind. I'm always interested in what is best for my kids, always focused on what I can be doing to ensure they are going to grow up to know God and also be responsible adults. Here is a list of some non-negotiable things I've practiced over the years, along with the reasons for them:

God comes first - God commanded such (reason enough).

Rudeness will not be tolerated - Rudeness is a cruel form of abuse.

Respect is required - Loving me was up to them, but my kids had to show respect because God said so.

Saying "please" and "thank you" is required. Saying "please" destroys the notion that a child can demand anything. Saying "thank you" teaches a child gratitude, even if they are saying it because it is required. 
The lesson is still there.

Look me in the eye when you talk to me. Looking people in the eye when talking to them shows confidence and respect. This will take a child a long way in life. Even if they were saying, "Mommy, I don't want to..." (do this or that), they had to look me in the eye and say it.

I looked them in the eye when talking to them.  Even in times of discipline, I always tried to make sure they were looking at me, as though we were the only two people in the room, so they could fully understand what I was saying. This gives my words weight in their lives, shows them I am not taking things lightly, and that I respect them as a person.

Dinner is about more than just food.  With eight kids, life can get pretty hectic and life's lessons can get lost in the chaos.  I treated dinner as an event in our house - and I still do - because it was always such a rich opportunity to teach the kids.  A few non-negotiable things about dinner:

Everyone stays at the table until everyone else is finished eating.
Ask to be excused.
Food is served in serving dishes on the table, not out of the pan on the stove. 
(The exception to this is when I make a large pasta dish and serve it from the pan on the table or a big pot of soup served from the pot on the table. But, these pans are stove-to-table ready.)
Napkins are used.
Food is passed around the table in an orderly fashion.
No one starts eating until all food has been passed around.
Silverware is used. We generally set out all silverware - knife, fork, spoon - for each meal.
All dinner conversations include all dinner participants.
Everyone clears their own dishes.

Moving on from dinner: 

Toys are to be picked up before bed. There were times we tripped over toys a lot, but at the end of the day, they had to pick them up. I went by age - the 4-year-old picked up 4 toys, etc - and that worked well. The reason is obvious, everyone has to clean up after themselves in life. Starting young works best.

Each child was doing their own laundry by age 10. This has paid off big with my sons, whose wives LOVE the fact that their husbands help with the laundry and they did not have to be taught. We assigned laundry days and everyone does their own.

Mean what you say and say what you mean. I do not talk in riddles to my kids and make them figure out what I am trying to say. I do not allow my kids to talk in riddles, either. They have to look me in the eye and say what they mean, then they have to mean what they say. This makes them accountable to their own words; they own them, they have to live with the consequences of them. I've heard many parents make idle threats and their kids' behavior shows it because they are not taken seriously. If my kids acted up in church or out at a restaurant somewhere, all we had to do is say, "Do we need to go for a walk?" and they knew that meant trouble for them. They knew this because every single time we threatened to take one of them for a walk of discipline, one of us (my hubby or I) followed through and took them for that walk. So, they knew their parents would not throw out idle threats. I recall only a small handful of times I actually had to follow through, because the reality was a given and they knew it.

As parents, we are a united team; we will never be pitted against one another. If a kid says, "Dad said it was ok..." I always checked with their dad. They learned early on that we would do this. This not only protected them, it strengthened the family overall.

Young moms, if you're struggling with your kids' behavior, practice these non-negotiable things in their lives. It will make a huge difference in their behavior. This not only produces great kids, but it really makes parenting much easier!  I'm not claiming to be a perfect parent. My word, not even a chance Nor do I think I have perfect kids. My word, not even close. Mostly we adopted these practices out of desperation to retain control of our household. We had so many babies so very quickly, it was clearly evident early on that we had to be a united force, get and stay organized, and treat our kids like we want to be treated.

This is discipline. It works. Make 2013 a great year for your kids!

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