Early Child Training


My youngest daughter (18 months old) has entered “the moment of truth”.  It is crucial, IMO, that child training starts very early–even as babies we begin using certain words to get them familiar with our expectations, but between the ages of about 1-3, training is intense…they are

testing the waters

     checking the boundaries

                          making sure the perimeters are in place–’cause it’s going to be a scary world if they’re not.

It is AMAZING how much you have to “be on top of it” to teach these little ones and work through their fallen natures.  It is almost constant, which reinforces yesterday’s post about the necessity of  “being there”.

Number one rule I’m being reminded of this go-round:  They know and understand SO much more than we think!  Just because they can’t talk in full sentences doesn’t mean they don’t understand your words.


I called for Kyla to come to me very clearly, and she ignored me.  I began walking to the kitchen to find a spanking “disciplining” utensil and she immediately said “OK” and started walking briskly toward me.  Nice.

Since we are dealing with it full time, I thought it might be helpful to post some of the things we are working on–it’s easy to forget sometimes what should be expected and how to practically carry out the training.

  1. Come here.  Teaching our children to come to us when we call them is really important.  (Especially if you ever find yourself in a crowded parking lot and the little one has gotten away!)  And please, for the love of all that is motherhood, DON’T count to your children 😉
  2. Stopping the fuss.  This is our biggest issue.  Little ones are very prone to whine/squeal/scream when they want something or something isn’t going their way, simply because of their lack of vocabulary and practice.  They need you to be always ready to guide them to the right response.  I might react to a typical squeal by saying, “No, you may not scream…if you want that cup you say “Please”.  Would you believe after a few days of working on this, Kyla needed the chair pulled out and she started to fuss and stopped herself and said “Pees”.  It works, I promise.
  3. No.  Most children don’t have trouble learning this word, but we need to try to be careful to use it in a calm tone, making sure they understand it “universally”, in every situation.  It really bothers me to see a mom yelling “no” at her children in public.  But they need a firm understanding of when to stop doing something.  Sometimes we say “no ma’am” or “you may not”, or whatever.
  4. Sharing.  Sharing is a tough one for littles who think they own the universe.  Again, it’s more of a matter of talking to them, reminding them that “so-and-so had it first, you wait for them to get finished”…and then discipline if the protest continues.
  5. Patience.  Or self-control–it is highly important to begin when they are little!  For example, at the table Kyla gets impatient when she is hungry.  So she fusses and holds her plate out.  We just try to remember to tell her to “be patient” or “wait–don’t fuss”…consistency is the key.  If she continues to fuss, we may lightly thump her leg while speaking the command in a normal tone of voice.
  6. Helping.  It’s never too early to teach them that they are helpers–part of the family.  One of the first jobs I give my little ones is throwing away their diapers.  They usually love it!  Just tell them “go throw it in the trash” and walk them to it a few times and they catch on quickly!  Always lots of praise when they pick something up or try to help.


Very simple things, I know, but it is remarkable what a difference staying consistent in this early training phase will make on their behavior later on!  Our children are as normal (and sinful) as can be.  But I’ve really never had major discipline issues (i.e. children hitting me, throwing tantrums, calling me bad names).  I’ve mentioned before that I think it’s a sad commentary when someone points out your “well-behaved” children.  I think well-behaved children should be the norm.  It takes work for sure, but it certainly isn’t rocket science ;-D


P.S.  I would kindly ask that you refrain from anti-spanking comments.

48 Responses to “Early Child Training”

  1. Carmen says:

    Very good advice! Couldn’t have said it better myself! : )

  2. Katie LaPierre says:

    love it! I need to hear this. I have to remind myself too often that “I am the parent, I am in charge!” :0) Children want parents that lead, that discipline. Believe it or not, I had resentment toward my parents for their lack of discipline toward me when I was growing up because I am still dealing with some very selfish tendencies that were never disciplined/pointed out as even being selfish/sinful. I am not resentful toward them now but I just wonder some times why they didn’t act more like my parents… Also, Kelly, thank you for your answer to my question earlier today from the previous post. Trust and obey is ALWAYS excellent advise!

  3. April says:

    Hi Kelly. I’ve been reading your blog for some time, but I think this is the first time I’ve commented. I’m curious about the counting. I don’t have children of my own (yet–we’re trying!), but I do babysit two little ones in my home–paid training, if you will. :o) Anyway, I find myself automatically doing the counting thing without thinking about it. I guess I was just brought up with it, and it comes natural. I try to be very specific (If you don’t do x by the time I count to 3, there will be y consequence), and I ALWAYS follow through on the consequence. Is this just a bad idea because it undermines first time obedience? FTO is something these children’s parents are big on, and I try to enforce it in my home as well. I guess I feel like God doesn’t always immediately punish our lack of FTO though, so I feel like by giving them a warning, I’m practicing patience with them. I’d appreciate your input on the matter (feel free to e-mail if you’d rather–sorry for hijacking your comments!)

  4. I would be shocked if you were not familiar with the Pearls of No Greater Joy. I really like their literature and now that I’ve found your blog, I really like your posts. You and the Pearls are extremely similar. This was a great reminder as I feel like I’m constantly having to discipline (or constantly not being consistent) my 19 mo old and 31 month old. I feel so drained sometimes, practicing intentional parenting instead of survival parenting is a 24/7 job!

  5. Kim M. says:

    VERY GOOD POST and helpful tips!
    Kyla is so beautiful. Isn’t it amazing to see each of your children come out looking unique and individual? I wonder what your next baby will look like.

  6. Lisa says:

    Great post, Kelly! I’m also a first time commenter. I just wanted to respond to April. While you are training children to obey by the time you count to 3, you are also training them to NOT obey you until you start counting (or get close to whatever number you usually count to). If they can learn to obey by the time you count to 3, they can learn to obey the first time you tell them something without the counting. It’s just human tendency to push until we have to comply. What if there was danger and you didn’t have time to count before they obeyed? The kids are being trained to wait until the last possible moment. No, God doesn’t always punish us instantly, but sometimes natural consequences do. If you put your finger in your eye (something that’s not good for you), does your eye count to 3 before it decides to make you feel the pain? No, every time you put your finger in your eye, you feel pain instantly, and every single time you do it. Therefore, we learn that you just don’t put your finger in your eye. Just think of how nice it would be to have FTO every single time! Once you’ve got your kids trained in obedience, any other training will go SO much smoother. It CAN be done, with hard work, patience, and *consistency*.

  7. Word Warrior says:


    Ditto what Lisa said! I DO sometimes forego a punishment and choose to show mercy in some area…but as she said, if we can teach them to obey at 3, why not the first time?

    Dr. Dobson made this point to. We draw where the line of obedience is.

  8. Nicole says:

    Kelly, thank you! What a timely post (for me)!

    My daughter (our only, so far) is 17 months old, and my husband and I have been wondering if we will ever get through to her!

    The ignoring me when I call her name to come to me when we’re outdoors especially is frustrating! (yet she follows pretty complex commands eagerly when it’s dinner time and she wants to eat! “please carry your bowl and set it on the table, then come back and get your cup”) We feel if we can’t get compliance for something so simple when she’s not even two years old yet….how can we expect her to listen to us when it comes to a curfew, or other things as a teen? So we’re intentionally being consistent, and keeping at it, hoping it will pay off??? It will, right? When they’re older, and you’ve been consistent for 10, 12, 17 years?

    My daughter was born to two VERY STUBBORN individuals, and we joke about that. But I like to think that even with a stubborn, strong willed by nature child that with consistency, we can eventually teach her that when mommy or daddy says something, that it is REALLY important to listen.

    Loved the tips, very timely – hoping to begin seeing some of the fruits of this labor pretty soon!? Or some encouragement from those with older children that it actually does pay off?

  9. Word Warrior says:


    It will! I do believe consistency is THE key. Firm, patient consistency. (Which is sometimes harder than it sounds 😉

  10. Benita says:

    I hae a 19 month old. Number 4. We still need reminders when this age rolls around. Thanks for the encouragement.
    I have a totally unrelated question.
    I need room sharing suggestions. We have a four bedroom house with four children. Currently, the oldest and only boy has his own room, two girls share, and baby girl has own room. What to do when another baby comes? I could put 3 girls in one room, but they would not then have room for dolls and doll house stuff. We have no playroom or finished basement. What do you think about a two year old and new baby sharing a room? Or new baby with 6 year old and 2 year old with the 10 year old. I grew up with only one sibling 13 years older than me!!! I know nothing of room sharing!!!!

  11. Mrs W says:

    Great list Mrs Kelly, except that we don’t do “sharing” exactly. We believe that the concept of “sharing” is all wrong. The Bible doesn’t tell us to share, and I had a bad time with this growing up. I’d share, because I was forced to, and my sister would smile with glee and break my stuff on purpose because I “had” to share.

    We are teaching our children ownership. That means that if it belongs to a certain child, it is THEIRS, and if they don’t want you playing with it, then you have to give it back. You can ask nicely to play with it, but you may not fuss if they say no. We are teaching each child to take care of his own belongings. Of course, we then teach kindness also “it would be very kind for you to let your brother play with that because he really wants to”. We want it to be a heart thing.

    After all, “sharing” is kind of like socialism. And do we “share” our house, our car etc with anyone who decides they like it and want to use it? No, we keep it for our family.

    Anyhow, I have been trying to train my almost two year old, and there are a lot of things we can tell he doesn’t understand. We suspect that he is autistic…it runs in the family in boys and he acts like all the autistic boys in the family, and he’s HIGHLY intelligent in one or two things. We’re at a loss of how to train and discipline a little one with special needs.

    We don’t believe in “treating all children the same” their personalities are different and their understanding is different.

  12. Ashley says:

    I posted one comment already to Nicole, but don’t see it – yet. I’m going to trust it shows up! 🙂

    We also believe as Mrs. W commented about sharing. We will give things to our son, with the understanding he is to “give one/share” with his brother, BUT we do not expect toys to be “shared”.

    On the other hand, all toys are Mommy’s and Daddy’s (to a degree) and if someone picks up a toy, they are free to play with it unless there is an age issue or it’s likely to be damaged. I have a 3yo and a 20mo, and the 3yo would quickly hoard every toy he’s ever played with if he were allowed to. And the 20mo really doesn’t have any intrest in an item until his brother has touched it first!


    First, I would probably have fewer toys. But that’s me. Too many toys and I start to hyperventalite; if my children can’t keep it picked up, I’m not going to close a door on it. Right now they have about 2 gallons of toys and they are perfectly happy.

    Anyway. My boys have shared a room since #2 was 3mo, and my oldest was 21mo. 🙂 The key is staggered nap times. Really. Put one, either one to bed, wait 15-20 minutes and put the other one to bed. About 90% of the time that works.

    At 3yo and 20mo I can sometimes put them down to nap at the same time, but they have to be really tired!! Bedtimes we have never had an issue with – it’s something about it being really dark or something. Even though I have light-blocking curtains for naps, it’s not the same.

    I would have put my daughter in the same room, but we were trying to make our house look bigger so we could sell it (which we did! yay!) but you just say “quiet, baby’s sleeping!” and even if they cry baby usually keeps sleeping.

    Anyway, I’ve enjoyed having my boys together, you have hickups and days they don’t want to nap but I think you have that even if everybody has their own room! At this point, my boys love going to sleep together, it is really sweet watching that bond develope.


  13. Lynn says:

    We have two daughters that I stayed on top of them daily. I would discipline after I counted to three and they knew what was coming….not harsh but what was needed at the time.

    My daugters still talk about… I never just let one time go…I knew that they needed to know what would come each time.

    When we go out and see children acting up at the store… they would say mom you would have not put up with that…if we were in trouble you didn’t wait until we got home or until dad got home I just took care of it where we were!

    My daughters have friends that they see that are talking back to their parents and they ask why they don’t act better and I always say I showed you when you were smaller what I expected and now you still act that way…it was harder when they were little but they know now why I did what I had to do….

    I have so many people tell me how good my children are…I took the time when they were smaller to correct them….and I know God has blessed me with children that want to serve Him most of all:)

  14. Ashley says:

    I just had another thought. Sorry to double post!


    We have a three bedroom with three children, and will most likely move to another three bedroom with every intention of having more children.

    FWIW, I do not plan to ever let any of my children have “their own” rooms. The challenge will be with like, your older son and then all daughters. I guess I would still have him sharing a room, as dreadful as that sounds. I shared a bunk bed with my brother until I was 10yo, then I shared with my baby brother when he was a newborn until he was 2yo.

    I would much prefer to have the same genders in one room … but …

    My thinking is several fold. One, I want my children to grow up and be able to graciously share space with a spouse or roommate. I do not think it’s realistic to get a child used their “own room” for 18yrs and then expect them to share a room with someone else 30 or 40 or more years. I just don’t think it’s sound training.

    Secondly, I want a bit of accountability. I do not want my children to have “areas” in the house where they can lock themselves and it feels like an invasion of privacy to check on them. I think this might be a temptation to sin. If three of my sons share a room, yes, all three might conspire to sin together, but it is much more likely that expecting to have the other owners of the room walk in (or try to!) at any moment might hinder certain activities.

    These are just some thoughts I’ve come to watching my three brothers each have their own room, and my husband talking about having the entire basement to himself.

    Just some thoughts, is all. Take it for what it’s worth! I don’t think privacy is all it’s cracked up to be, really. 😉

  15. Mrs W says:

    My boys also share a room. Right now, they share one out of necessity. We are trying to buy a four bedroom house, and if we get it, they will still be sharing a room. I think it helps them be far less selfish. We have strange ideas these days about what children are “entitled” to.

  16. Word Warrior says:

    Mrms. W.

    I agree with the sharing thing (Michael Pearl enlightened us about sharing being equivalent to socialism 😉

    In the post, I guess I was pointing out more of not allowing the baby to just grab everything thinking he’s entitled to it. But we do go back and forth on the sharing thing because I keep having thoughts from Scripture…”If someone asks you for your cloak, give him your tunic also”…it can be confusing 😉

    But I definitely know it has to be a heart issue, as you said.

  17. Word Warrior says:


    We are big room-sharers–when we had house plans before we moved into one already built, we were going to build 2 rooms for our children–boys and girls.

    I would put the next baby into the room with your two-year-old. That’s exactly our arrangement right now. Then 3 older girls are together, and our 2 boys are together. We actually have an extra room or two that we use for other stuff. We don’t spend a lot of time in our bedrooms.

  18. Mrs W says:

    By the way, aren’t bedrooms for stuff like sleeping and getting dressed? Since when did they become play centres or areas for children to hide from the parents to sulk?

  19. Tina says:

    Thank you for another great post.
    I agree that it’s so important to follow through on discipline from the early ages. When my oldest girls were young, I remember being very sure to follow through – when I told them to do something it was going to be done – either on their own (more pleasant) or with some “encouragement” from me (not so pleasant). Basically it was going to happen, they just had a choice in how pleasant it was going to be carried out. (I feel this is scriptural – God’s will is going to happen. We have the option of if we will be involved in it, thereby experiencing positive consequences, or not willing obey, thereby incurring negative consequences. However, His will is going to be done.)
    Another thing that I think is important, which you have pointed out, is that the consistency is carried out with each child. I know that when my 4th child was about 1-2, I commented to my husband that it really seemed to be easier with the 4th. He very gently shared to me that it may not be easier – that I’d just gotten a bit more lax in my follow through. He was dead on – I was allowing more to slide simply because I didn’t feel like putting the energy into following through. Not wise. It’s so important to follow through with all of the children. (I’m very thankful for a sweet husband who gently pointed out to me where I was needing to change.)
    Thanks for another great post. 🙂

  20. Quinn says:

    I appreciate you pointing out a different side to the sharing issue Mrs. W. I’ve never thought of it like that. You certainly have given me something to think about. I also completely agree with your last comment about bedrooms being for sleeping.

  21. Benita says:

    I don’t think my children use their rooms to hide and sulk. And yes, they are for sleeping. However, we have no other space for toys and we do not have an over abundance of toys anyway. The girls have a very large handmade, family heirloom dollhouse. They also have 18 dolls and a tower for the doll clothes. I have no problem with children sharing. My children are entitled to love and security. I would like the same shown to me. I really just wanted ideas as to the best ways to split up ages.

  22. Benita says:

    Thanks for the encouraging advice. I am leaning towards putting the two youngest together. I don’t have a problem with the 11 yr. old boy sharing. It’s just that it would be with a girl and at some point I think that is not acceptable, at least for our family. I am glad they “have” to share. I think it will help them to work out lots of patience, love, service issues that all children need help with. The family really is a great training ground. Thanks for all of your advice and encouragement. So helpful.

  23. Benita says:

    Sorry, let me clarify. they don’t have 18 dolls!!! I meant several 18 inch size dolls. Good heavens, we would need a bedroom just for 18 dolls!!!!

  24. Mrs W says:

    Mrs Benita

    My comment about bedrooms was not directed at you personally and I’m sorry if it seemed like I was being harsh or whatever. I was just “throwing some ideas out there” to everyone really.

    Sounds like you have a good plan. We have no space apart from our living room for toys and I know how frustrating it can be.

    My “hiding and sulking” comment was mostly because I have a SIL who is in her room, with the door shut, for most of the day every day unless she is out. I don’t think that’s healthy. She has a computer with internet access, and a TV with video player, in there, and therefore only emerges to use the bathroom or eat, or do some chores her mom has for her. Apart from that, shes in there all alone not talking to anyone except on the internet and we all know that, while internet can be benefical at times, it is not real life.

    So again I apologize if it appeared that I was attacking you, that was certainly not the intention.

  25. Rachel Falaschi says:

    Consistency is something I really struggle with. Sometimes I just don’t have the energy to follow through and it is easier to just ignore the bad behavior. Yikes, not good.

    As far as bedrooms are concerned, I am having difficulty deciding where the new baby will go. I already have two boys sharing a room, and our only girl in her own room. We already know we are having another boy. Do I put him in with the other boys? (that’s where I am leaning, seeing that the room is big.) Or do I put him in with my daughter? (Her room is nothing more than a large closet, can’t really fit a bed and crib easily). I don’t really like the idea of boys and girls sharing a room, but I don’t want my daughter to feel superior because she has her own room. Chances are she may be the only girl we ever have. My husband’s family produces large number of boys over girls. Out of 20 some cousins my husband only has 4 girl cousins. So far there are 2 girls out of 14 grandchildren for my father-in-law. (the family name will not be disappearing anytime soon!)

  26. Michelle says:

    Thankyou for this post. I use a combination of the Pearl’s method and tomato staking. Seems to work ok.
    I think I may have asked this before, but can anyone give me pointers on how to discipline biblically for my 2 yr old son. He has a reactive airway and the meds that he has to take sometimes mess with his head – he doesn’t listen well, he gets upset easily – and when i *do* dare to discipline him, he launches into a high-pitched whine fest that is very difficult to keep to a reasonable volume. As well he ends it off with an asthmatic coughing fit because the crying made everything in his lungs tighten up – if I discipline him for the crying, its just more of the same.

    I’m at my wits end – I don’t know how much discipline is appropriate because I don’t know how much is him and how much is the meds.

  27. Lucy T says:

    Benita,I don’t know if this would help you or not.We have 3 boys 13,11,and,6 who share a room.We gave them our master bedroom.We have 2 daughters who will share the next biggest bedroom right now my 5 year old has it all to herself because my 6mo old sleeps in her crib in the corner of our room.We have the smallest bed room it fits a rocking chair king size bed and a 5 year crib it is kind of tight but works for us. By the way my oldest daughter can’t wait to have her sister with her.Before we gave the boys our bedroom our now 6 year old boy and our 5 year old girl shared a room .I think they were 2 and 3 when we switched the rooms around.We have 2 other small rooms we use one as a family closet and the other as a library music room.I hope this helped.I know it is hard to find a place for all the stuff especially the bigger a family gets.

  28. Lucy T says:

    Kelly, this is why I read your blog (besides I agree with everything you write)It holds me acountable,reminds me of my short comings and I belive God is speaking through you to moms just like me who sometimes tire of thier purpose and fall of the job a little here and there I do not mean I am tired of being a wife and mother but in my sinful lazy ways I sometimes fail to keep up the good fight.You know discipline, bible study, dishes.

  29. Word Warrior says:


    I really appreciate that word of encouragement. The same reasons you listed for reading the blog are the reasons I WRITE the blog 😀

  30. Meg says:

    Thank you, Kelly! My husband and I have been having many discussions lately about how to handle our two boys (3, 17 mo) without resorting to a constant spanking or (me)yelling. We’ve tried so many different things with our oldest (123 Magic, Tomato Staking, that “pray, spank, pray” technique) that I think we’ve lost whatever battle we might’ve won simply by mixing it up too often. I’m going to print out your list and keep it handy for us to use as a reminder of WHERE WE WERE GOING with this! 🙂 Again, thank you, and blessings to you and yours.

  31. Andrea says:

    This post is so far down the list, I’m not sure those I am writing to will get my notes:)

    I have eight children here on earth, and I have found that between about 15 months to 2 years of age seems hard because they are learning to obey. It takes a bit of loving work and it sure seems harder with the “strong-willed” ones.
    I will vouch, along with Kelly, as to the results. Four of my children are currently teenagers and are a delight for most of the waking day (yes, they have their moments). No one EVER believes me when I tell them that my 17 year old daughter was very strong willed when she was tiny. The strong will just got re-directed 😉 Refer to Galatians 6:9 for encouragement!
    Mrs. W – I noticed you mentioned the possibility of autism in your child. Although I don’t have any children with autism, I have read a really great book called Unraveling the Mystery of Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorder by Karyn Seroussi. It may give you some extra insight.

  32. Benita says:

    Thanks for your reply. I understand. It is so hard to read a person’s heart online. I appreciate all of the advice I receive and am glad others are so willing to share encouragement. I will let everyone know how we make out with room switches at the end of the summer.

  33. Hi Kelly,
    I haven’t time to read the comments through right now, so I may be repeating someone else’s thoughts ;o)

    I heard a sermon once described this area of discipline this way – if a child disobeys, they are sinning; if the parent does not correct the child, they are sinning, too!

  34. Christina says:


    We have five kids in a three bedroom house. We have girls (3) in one room and boys (2) in another. It worked out for us because bedroom #3 is a large addition on the house. My husband and I were initially in there, but it seemed like a waste of space for us…lol. So we moved to a smaller room and gave the girls the bigger one.

    That being said, I still kept baby in our room until about 6-9 months old. Get a Graco Travel Lite Pack-n-Play. They are much smaller than a full sized one and perfect for little babies. It has wheels and I could wheel it from room to room. Sometimes baby would nap in our room or I would wheel her into her brothers’ (since they were doing school and not in their room anyway). Eventually, she moved in with her sisters at night but would still need to nap in our room in the Pack-n-Play since the 2 year old needed to nap too.

    Anyway, the point of all of this is I don’t stress over where baby will sleep that first year. It all usually works out, although it takes a bit of creativity.

    In your case, I would leave older bro alone for now. If a new baby is a boy though, I wouldn’t hesitate to put him in there with big brother after baby sleeps through the night regularly.

  35. Great post, and helpful comments! I have had to train myself (bless my cooperative children’s hearts!) to be consistent. My daughters were extremely easy to deal with, and that I think can be tricky in and of itself. They do ALMOST everything as asked and expected, so it’s way too easy to let things slide. Before you know it, you’ve got a mob of half-disciplined whiners on your hands – parents included!

    My son has really opened my eyes to the need for structure in correction. I rarely spank. To me that’s a big deal and I reserve it for abject disobedience that puts any of us in danger, and I make it count. As in, running across a parking lot (why do boys DO that?!?)….as for not listening when I know he hears perfectly well, we’ve created situational discomfort. We went through a phase where he would totally ignore instructions on the playground – so, the next time we went, he had to hold my hand, sit by me while I read, and watch his sisters play, without fussing (we only stayed about 15 min). The next time we went, same thing, only I gave him the opportunity to play on one piece of play equipment. He then had to come sit by me without delay and no fussing. We repeated this for another 2 trips to the park. He is now more cooperative and responsive than his older sisters (sounds like I have more work to do), and comes to me with a smile on his face when I call. I’m sure the honeymoon isn’t permanent, he’s only four after all, but we have established trust in each other through consistency. I knew he would respect me more, but I didn’t know the added benefit would be that he would LIKE me more because I consistently did my job.

    (ps – I’m not a naive parent, and I don’t believe it’s for him to decide whether he likes discipline or not – but it’s still a joy to see a right spirit making a child happy)

  36. I wanted to agree with the commenter who pointed out potential difficulty when attempting to share a room with one’s spouse with no previous sharing experience….my husband and I both had our own rooms growing up, and then our own apartments, and when we married and began “sharing” (I use this term loosely – it was more like tolerating) each other’s space, we were about ready to throttle each other. I still sometimes wish I had my own room – he has the garage, right? 🙂

  37. Mrs W says:

    Mrs Kelly, please delete this if it violates anything you are trying to do here. I am seeking information on how to discipline small children without spanking. I do NOT believe spanking is wrong…it’s just that my husband and I were both abused with spanking and we don’t know any other way of doing it, and so we don’t want to abuse our children. Do any of you ladies know of “other methods” that will work for the training of small toddlers? Boys?

  38. Word Warrior says:

    Mrs. W.,

    There are other methods, but we personally only implement spanking for outright disobedience. (We do more “training” discipline for character issues, or other fitting consequences for the issues that aren’t outright defiance.) I would recommend getting your hands on some good resources about the “how-to” of biblical spanking–“Shepherding a Child’s Heart” is one of my very favorites.

    I have even found that if you are consistent with the light spanking (and I’m talking here about a tiny switch that just implements a sting) for disobedience while they are young, very few spankings are in order as they get older.

    Removing rewards/privileges is a biggie at our house, especially with older ones. The best advice I remember about behavior is whatever the problem is, give them the opposite of what they are trying to get. (Whining for something–they don’t get it…complaining of too much work, give them more, etc.)

  39. Mrs W says:

    Thanks Mrs Kelly,

    I’m not saying spanking won’t have a part of child training at our house at all, we just know what we DON’T want it to look like. Also when to make exceptions like the child is sick and can’t communicate to you and is frustrated about it etc. Stuff like that.

  40. Joanna says:

    Those were some great tips, Kelly. One thing that really helped cut the whining and even their own frustration (especially at feeding time) for our kids was to teach them a little bit of sign language (please, more, food, drink). It *is* frustrating for littles to realize that they have a need/want and not have the language to communicate it.

    I just wanted to respond to Mrs. W. We have a few friends who adopted from foster care, and because the kids were previously abused, spanking wasn’t a good tool for these Christian parents. We had looked into foster care adoption, and because of knowing of these friend’s experience, I began to look into alternatives to spanking (I’m not anti-spanking, btw, but I think it’s good to have a rich set of tools in our discipline tool box, including alternatives to spanking when appropriate). Anyways, that led me into a lot of thinking about what Christian discipline means, and some friends encouraged me to look at the relationship between discipline and discipleship. There are a lot of Biblical principles that extend beyond the four or five “spanking” verses in Proverbs that we can use in discipling our children. For example, there are Proverns urging children to “flee temptation.” I think about that when I redirect my toddlers, and they have learned to walk away from things that they aren’t supposed to touch (even without spanking). But it took me coming alongside them and walking them through walking away many times before it became a pattern for them.

    Also, I hope this isn’t inappropriate here, but there have been some real concerns with some of the extremes of Pearl-based discipline (for lack of a better word), just as a caution, even though some have found much good in their writings as well. Some of the formulations of their discipline (perhaps some ideas that they expressed differently than they meant)–even if unintentional on their parts–have led to some appalling abuse on parts of naive parents. I wanted to know what the controversy was when older Christian women were gently warning others to use caution in reading the Pearls, so I went to their site. One example he uses on his website–in which he pulls his belt off, whips a child (not his own child), without warning he was going to spank her (I think that’s a red light sign, he didn’t tell her what his intentions were), and continues to whip her until he thinks she’s crying the right kind of cry, and uses that as a model of Christian discipline–was rather alarming to me. (I hope I’m not saying too much here, I just think we should be Bereans in reading books written by other Christians as well)

  41. Elizabeth says:

    Hey Kelly! I’ve been reading your blog for a few years, but I don’t believe that I’ve ever posted (at least that I can remember! :)) Anyway, with my first two children, I had never heard of child training or baby scheduling and the little I did was colored very badly by a certain nursing support group. Thankfully, before I became pregnant with my third, God placed some very godly women in my life and through some very humbling situations, made sure I was teachable. We begin very early, scheduling and child training. Our daughter is now only 14 months old, but she already knows to obey the first time. If I or my husband calls her, she comes running immediately; if I tell her to go see her dad, she obeys. The first place we started was being still at diaper changing time. She was probably only about 5 months at the time. All it took was a light swat on her leg a few times, and she knew that when daddy or I told her to “Be still, don’t move” to obey. People are always amazed at how well behaved and contented she is. This past weekend we went camping with several other families, and a friend remarked that she was glad to see her actually fuss a little! This friend was starting to suspect that Avery Mae was perfect! Boy, was this friend surprised when my husband, who was holding Avery Mae, told her to sit still and stop fussing and Avery Mae complied.:) What a joy and blessing children are when mothers take the time to properly train a discipline their children! I’ve also learned that the only way to train and discipline children is God’s way. I’ve been there and done that, and His way is the only way that produces good fruit.
    Much Love, and thanks for your blog!

  42. wordwarrior says:


    Thanks so much for sharing your story!

  43. Leslie Viles says:


    I agree with you. We do need to be Bereans. I haven’t read the Pearls’ book, but I have read babywise and when doing research on that method, I found that much damage had been caused by their method from people who may have been naive, or I don’t know. In some cases brain damage. Also, I think we need to look at our motives for training the children. I agree they need training, but we need to make sure that our motive isn’t our own convenience, but what is best for the child. Sometimes I think we can push them through a phase before they are ready and then problems will arise later from that.

  44. There are so many false teachings with regard to child training -like Dr. Dobson has said, too often the training becomes the focus instead of the right spirit of the child.

    I’ve heard the Pearls mentioned as the “gold standard” for child training. I disagree with the Pearl’s on so many levels, I don’t know where to start. I haven’t researched their child training methods, but the examples I’ve heard given here and other sites leads me to believe I would likely disagree with them on this topic as well.

    Leslie Viles, I’m still befuddled by the whole On Becoming Babywise contraversy. Like you, I did research the method – but only AFTER I had used it successfully, and was saddened by what was reported. I had a hard time finding any actual documentation other than folks who had decided they didn’t like anything other than demand feeding. I suspect there is a lot of agenda driven dislike of this method, but I’ll tell you, I hate the idea that a family would suffer because they felt enslaved to any method, Babywise or another that will remain nameless. Useless.

  45. Christie says:

    My sitter (yes, I work full-time, may the Lord bring me home full-time soon!) has a WONDERFUL method for handling the situation where one child is playing with a toy that the other child wants to play with. (I won’t use the word, “Share” because simply because they ask does not mean they have a right to get it. It never did seem right to me, but I never thought of the socialism connection.) Anyway – the 2nd child (who wants the toy) is encouraged to first get another toy that they think the 1st child would like, and then say, “Would you like to trade?” If the 1st child says or indicates, “Yes” then everybody is happy. (Works great with the littlest ones. They trade and are just as happy as a lark. And they’re not left with empty hands.) But when the 1st child gets older, they are more likely to say, “No, thank you.” Then the 2nd child who offered to trade needs to go find another toy to play with and must wait until the 1st child is finished. Simple – easy. Everybody’s rights are respected and the first child is not forced to give up a toy they really want to play with for the sake of “sharing” or “being nice” . 🙂

  46. Diana says:

    I was wondering about the sharing of a room between a baby and a young child ..say 2-4 yrs old. That seems like it could be dangerous for the baby. I have an 8mo old and my 4yr old doesnt always have the brightest ideas. I would wonder if the baby might get hurt. Of course the 4yr is a boy and the baby is a girl.

    Also, what do you think of older siblings spanking a younger sibling? I have kids 16,14, and 11…and then a 4yr and 8mo old. Should the older ones be allowed to spank the younger two?

    I wish someone would talk about what to do with mouthy or disobedient older children who didnt get disciplined properly when they were younger. We know a lot more now but we really missed the boat with our first 3 and now are seeing some really bad fruit. Trying hard to come up with consequences that are fitting (since they are rather too old to spank). I would love to see this adressed in a blog where many ladies could comment on it.

    Thanks for the great post. I would add teaching “May I?” along with please and thank you.

  47. Barbara says:

    Absolutely wonderful advice/teaching in this post. I am a grandmother, so I thank you for sharing this information because every word is true and wise.

  48. Erin says:

    Hello Kelly,
    I have been blessed and encouraged not only by your blog but by your book When Motherhood Feels Too Hard as well. I recommend your blog often because it encompasses humility/real-life AND perseverance in Godly standards. Thank you for the work you put into it!

    I have five children, 10 and under to 2 yrs. I disciplined my first born with such consistency, dying to myself daily and ending or spending most days with tears coupled with great faith and hope in the fruit that would come from following Christ’s way even when it was hard. Today he struggles a great deal with mercy toward his siblings. He also is not just “transformed” like I read about (when they turn 8 they’ll be this great change). In fact, when he turned 9 I felt like we were starting over. He is a great blessing in many ways: a hard worker, obedient most of the day, etc. But I am wondering what the Lord is trying to teach me and am throwing this out here in hopes that He might speak through someone here. As I have four others to train up, I would love to feel more solid in my direction. I have no doubt that though my heart longed to do God’s will for my children, I did not do everything perfectly. But I cannot imagine giving more than I did of myself. As we all know, it’s exhausting, and I struggle to plunge in 100% again with my others.

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