Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Moral Training: Love

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Our son Brayden recently turned three. Before he did, I of course read On Becoming Childwise. While I was reading it, one section really jumped out to me for him. It was the section about providing the “why” of your moral training to your child (starting on page 79). I especially like the thoughts about teaching your child we do things because that shows love.

The Golden Rule. Treat others how you would want to be treated. My minor in college was speech communications. Through those studies, I learned of another rule: the platinum rule. This rule states that you treat others how they want to be treated. This is an excellent way of treating people. Anyone who is married can attest to the fact that two people do not want the same response in every situation. In most cases, for me to treat my husband would want me to treat him is far different from how I would want to be treated.

That is a tangent and above the analytical skills of a three year old. Back to the Golden Rule. I had already introduced this rule to my son. My son can probably be best described as dutiful. I have to be careful of what I tell him because he carries out my instructions as well as he can. He also has a rather large capacity for sympathy and empathy for others. Despite these qualities, we were still having troubles with sharing with his little sister. I don’t want to discredit him. By troubles I mean that I often found myself reminding him that he needed to share. He would then do so. Things were slowly progressing, but I found myself repeating my instructions to him every couple of days. I wanted him to naturally share.

I attempted to reach this goal by saying, “Brayden, do you like it when Kaitlyn shares her toys with you?” He would always respond, “Yes.” Then I would tell him that he needed to share with her so she would want to share with him. He would then hand her a toy. Sometimes I would follow it up with, “Doesn’t that make you feel good to share!” He would kind of nod.

I doubt it really did make him feel good to share because he wasn’t sharing for the right reasons. I was attempting to use the Golden Rule, but I was missing the mark. After reading through Childwise, I came to realize I was trying to motivate him to share by putting forth selfish reasons. I thought those reasons would appeal to a 2.5 year old.

Ultimately, I don’t want him to share only to get something in return. I want him to share even if he gets nothing back. I want him to do nice things for others not for the physical reward or the many thanks received, but because it does make him feel good inside. Because being kind and serving others shows our love for others, as well as for the Lord. How was I going to get there?

I got there by emphasizing the love part of it. I read Childwise on a plane while my husband and I took a vacation without the kids. When we got home, I was very excited to put this new idea into practice. The next time Brayden was hesitant to share, I changed my approach. I asked, “Brayden, do you know why we share with Kaitlyn? We share with her because that shows her that we love her. When you share with Kaitlyn, she knows you love her.” That is all I said. I didn’t further lecture and insist that he share. He thought about that for a minute. He then chose a toy and shared with her.


I soon found that I wasn’t repeating myself to share like I had been. Just like that, he began sharing. Yes, we do have our days I remind him the reasons we share, but instead of being every couple of days, it is every couple of weeks. Vast improvement.

Soon after I had introduced this new idea to Brayden, we went out to dinner as a family. The waitress brought Brayden an ice cream cone at the end of the meal. He was enjoying it and was soon sharing licks with me and with Kaitlyn. He wasn’t, however, offering any to his Daddy. I quietly whispered to Brayden that he could share some with his Daddy too. He responded that he didn’t want to. Instead of lecturing him that he wasn’t being nice and that if he couldn’t share I would take the cone away, I simply said, “If you were to share a lick with Daddy, that would show him how much you love him.” I left it at that. He was soon passing his Daddy his ice cream cone to share.

Children are loving. They want to be good. They want to show their love. When we put faith into the innate pureness and goodness of children, and show them how they can express that, they far exceed our expectations. Of course they need reminding and further training, but they can do it. They have pure, willing hearts. They aren’t born knowing what is appropriate and how to express different emotions (and what is appropriate varies from family to family and culture to culture), but as we train them, they will likely surprise us on how willing they are to learn, and how quickly they respond to the correct method of training for them.

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Reader Comments/Thank Yous:
  • Jordan & Nikki said...
    What a wonderful approach for toddlers. They are so pure and good, it makes sense to tap into their sincere goodness. I am eager to try it!
    June 11, 2008 4:01 PM
    Plowmanators said...
    Nikki, it really is wonderful. But do take note that for a two year old, the "why" might be a bit over the head. The -wise series suggests training the actions of your child until age three, then start adding the moral training. But of course, if you think your child is ready before then, go for it. Just keep the three year old mark in mind so you aren't disappointed if it doesn't work right away.
    June 11, 2008 10:53 PM
  • Markus said...
    Thank you for all your work and encouragement. Reading your blog is often the extra boost and help I need to keep going. - SRJ
    June 11, 2008 4:18 PM
    Plowmanators said...
    SRJ--I am glad to boost you up! Thanks for the thanks!
    June 11, 2008 10:53 PM
  • loves2stamp said...
    My 4 yo just learned Eph 4:32 in Sunday school: Be kind to each other. When I see that he is not sharing or being kind to another esp. his brother I remind him what the Bible/God says about being kind. I think I will also add that being kind shows our love to others. And eventually he will come to understand that through us God shows his love to others. :)Thank you for your enouragement through your blog. We did GKGW with our oldest, not to the tee, and life got in the way and we moved and didn't have the ministry where we lived and all the principles we leaned kinda fell to the side. But as my oldest got older I soon realized that we needed to change things. I started reading the -wise books again and started implementing the things that needed change immediately and it didn't take long for my son to pick them up. And I have now leanred, the hard way, to keep up the hard work becuase a day will come when I see the fruits of my labor and my youngest isn't too late to lean them also!
    June 12, 2008 12:40 PM
    Plowmanators said...
    Thanks for your thoughts!
    June 12, 2008 11:05 PM

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