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Toddler Training – Practice Makes {It Easier}

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This whole parenting thing is kinda hard.  I knew there was no manual but when Wyatt was less mobile, less willful and a bit slower I felt like we had a handle on things.

Then he started to walk……..

……and talk, sometimes loudly……….

…..and exercise free will………

….and have an opinion………..

….and climb everything……..

Now I have gray hair (and he has none)…..


I’ve read a ton parenting books than I can count and there are a zillion more out there. Some I’ve all but tossed in the trash and others I’ve read through several times.  One thing I have gleaned is the idea of training and practice.

I have found that practicing and reviewing things with Wyatt has been a game changer in some areas for us.  No, he’s not perfect, and neither am I, but I see much improvement.

Here’s an example of training and practice from our life:

I Am That Mom

Since being laid off in May we save money by going to the dairy for our milk rather than having it delivered.  They have a wonderful little bulldozer ride that’s free for kids to ride on in the store.

The first week we went for milk he got on, I got milk, paid for milk and headed toward the door to leaving telling him it was time to go.

He didn’t listen.

He cried, flopped around and looked like a fish out of water.

I finally gave “the look” and threatened him……

He got up………..

….and ran at the speed of light to the other end of the store, past the cashier and into the back office…..

Here I am, with what felt like 50 pounds of milk and butter in my arms trying to shuffle after him and not break 3 gallons of glass bottled milk.

I was that mom and he was that child.  Mortified doesn’t even come close to describe it. This is a small country store.  There was no anonymity…I’d be back next week and they’d know it was me…..

So I cried and prayed and prayed and cried about this to God and He brought back to me some things I’d read in Ginger Plowman’s Don’t Make Me Count to Three book.

Training and Practice

So the next week before it was time to go to the dairy we talked about what we’d do when we got to the dairy. What Wyatt could do (ride the bulldozer), what I’d say when it was time to leave and what he’d do in response (“Yes, Mommy”.…and (usually) promptly come to me to carry the butter tub like a big boy.)

Slight improvement.

I had to ask twice and he dilly-dallied getting off but no running, no screaming, no crying, no waterless fish.

Every week we went over the “rules” for about a month.

If he asks to see the calves and time permits we talk about not running or yelling and obeying when I say it’s time to leave.

Since the infamous May tantrum we have had one other issue at the dairy and we go weekly.  Not too bad.

People get all up in arms when someone talks about training a child and they just about faint when people use “the puppy” example.  I get it, kids aren’t dogs, but age appropriate training isn’t just for animals.  If you have a job you more than likely went through a training period and no one though you were less human while you were being trained.  As Christians we are all in training while we’re on this earth so why shouldn’t we train our children?

I think the dog and puppy comparison isn’t meant to insinuate that our children are beneath us or that they are less human.  It’s an illustration to make a point that most people can understand. I’m pretty sure Jesus used illustrations too.

When Wyatt disobeys at home we talk about it, discipline if necessary and we take “corrective action” as we said where I used to work.  We walk through what he did or didn’t do and we practice doing it correctly.

Our phase for obedience is a motto we should all live by and comes straight from one of the books I love; Our goal is to listen “all the way, right away, with a happy heart.”  Isn’t that what God wants of us?  So we practice, time and time again.  This comes from Don’t Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Plowman.

I’m not sure he fully understands the happy heart part, but he is only three.  “All the way” and “right away” are getting better.  I think sometimes we assume that if we’ve told them once they should automatically remember and know what to do.  But realistically, we adults can’t get that right when God tells us something can we?  We do good and then sometimes get off course and need a reminder.  I have found if I he starts to whine or ignore me when I say “Wyatt, what do you do when I tell you to do something?” He’ll say “Yes, mama,” and scamper off to do what I’ve asked him to do.

I don’t expect to have to remind him every time I tell him something for the next 18 years.  I’m sure his understanding of respect and obedience will improve but we’ll have our moments I know.

I used to think “training” was such a negative way to treat a child. (Before I had one.)  Now I understand that training a child is one of the best gifts you can give them.

The bible tells us to train up a child in the ways he should go and when he is old he will not stray from it.  I am starting to see that training is about practice, correction, discipline, prayer, rebuke and love.  It’s multifaceted and complex.  It isn’t like training for a job.  We should not expect our kids to go through three weeks of training and then be prepared to be accountable for what we’ve taught them with no further help.  Children are not done growing, learning and developing. What we train them at age three will be different from age four, and so on.  It’s a process and might I add the most important thing we will ever do; training a soldier for God’s army.

What’s one thing you’ve learned about parenting that you never realized before children?

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  1. Always on time for something I need to hear!!

  2. How often you have to repeat yourself! I’m thankful we both agreed on (and like) our son’s name, because we’ve said it A LOT more than I realized we would. 🙂 During the throwing food stage, we wondered if he was even listening, was it worth repeating, etc. Now that we’re on the other side, I wonder what it would’ve looked like if we’d stopped reminding him that throwing his food was not a “good choice.” Hopefully we’ll make it through this next stage where he is unplugging anything and everything he can… 🙂

    Training is worth it…but sometimes the vine is slow to bear fruit. Just keep tending to it. 🙂 Blessings.

  3. Wow, Danielle,
    That brings back so many memories…it IS a process. It is a hard-won conquering of our own wills so that we don’t set up bad examples of OUR having a tantrum over their behavior. We did spank, but I had to learn to keep an even demeanor. It was SO much easier for them to obey me when they respected me and I was a good model for them. Thank you for your helpful story and transparency!

    • It’s so funny you said “our having tantrum” I caught myself doing that the other day when Wyatt wasn’t listening and I thought, “Wow, how childish of me.” But God is good!

  4. Your post is a great reminder. Thanks. We sometimes balk at training because of the time and effort involved, but it saves so much time and effort ( not to mention sanity) in the long run, it is well worth the upfront investment!

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