Sometimes parents of a youngster who is not behaving in school will tell school officials, “Yes, Johnny is a little hard to control. He always had a hard time taking no for an answer.” What that generally means is that Johnny was not consistently given no for an answer when he was at home or that his parents did not consistently make the no stick.
These early lessons in self-denial can be effectively taught, however, only by “masters” who have the self-denial to persevere in their supervision until the lesson is learned. Preschool children can be trained to obey immediately and sweetly. A one year old can be trained to stop arching his back in protest while he sits in his highchair or to come to his mother when she calls his name or to stop reaching out for a forbidden object when his father states, “No, Johnny.” A three year old can be taught to sit attentively in his parent’s lap for a few minutes while his parent reads to him out of a colorful book of Bible stories. A four year old can learn to pick up his toys and put them in the toy box when it is time for him to go to bed.
A young child faced with a floor covered with toys to pick up, however, may not know where to start. We taught our daughters to play a cleanup game we called “Where Does This Go?” We helped them start cleaning up by picking up a toy, handing it to them, and telling them, “Now ask yourself, ‘Where does this go?’ ” It made them focus on one toy at a time—not a roomful of toys. They always knew the answer to the question and could put each toy in its place. The point is that we had to oversee the task, playing it with them often at first, and even later reminding them of the question to ask themselves. Eventually, they could do it on their own.
These lessons—and dozens like them—will require that a parent consistently and calmly both repeat the command and carry through with the appropriate consequence if the command isn’t obeyed. The child must learn that he cannot have his own way. (Jim Berg, Changed into His Image, 256-57)
Before I had children it was easy to look down on those having trouble with them. Things have changed a bit now that we have three of our own. It seems like a never ending challenge, but I am reminded that with God’s help and perseverance, hard work will pay off in the future. Two Scripture passages that have been helpful to me are:
Train up a child in the way he should go,And when he is old he will not depart from it.—Proverbs 22:6And let us not grow weary while doing good,For in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.—Galatians 6:9
I hope these thoughts are helpful.