In our house we work together as a team, a unit. It does not matter how small or young, each child is still a vital part of the “family team.” If there is nothing the youngest can do, we create a job for him to make him feel a part of the work. This creates a sense of belonging and team spirit. Many times during a family project, we gave attention to making sure the little ones were happily involved. For instance, this morning my 2-year-old was vacuuming while the 4-year-old dusted and the older children cleaned the table and washed the dishes. At lunchtime I took the bread and sandwich stuff to the table and laid it out so my 2-year-old could make the sandwiches. He made a mess but was happy and smiling from ear to ear that he was serving his buddies. He wanted his picture taken with his thumbs up to show his brothers and sisters what he had done. The goal is more than just learning to work; it is causing your children to feel they are important, that they matter. It is building confidence that they can do “big” jobs, and it is building in them a desire to serve others.
I have been reading a great book called Intentional Motherhood, and one of the chapters is about teamwork and how important it is for the family dynamic. The book explains it beautifully: Mom and Dad are the coaches and the kids are the ALL-STAR winning team. As coaches, it is our job to shout from the rooftop how proud we are of our team, to encourage them, train them, and build up their confidence, and to make sure all the team is working together in harmony.
Mom, are you standing with the head coach? Are you showing respect and honor? You can’t expect your children to be team players if the coaches are not united. So start there. Become united. Respect the head coach with your actions! Honor him by praising him and building him up to the kids, letting the All-Star team know how amazing the head coach is and how excited you are to work with him. If you struggle with unity, your players are going to struggle.
As the assistant coach, it is your job to rally the troops, to get the team pumped up and working together, doing training drills and working together to build the spirit and strength of the team. And you can’t wait until the children are “big” and “good enough” to treat them like they are on the team.
I started doing drills when my children were infants. I began when they were still unable to crawl by saying things like, “You are daddy’s big helper. You are such a big boy. We are so proud of you.” When you value and need your kids, they will value and need each other and learn to play and work together with joy! By the time they could crawl, I had them handing me something or taking something into the other room. It was training them to function as a team member.
Parker, my 9-year-old, is the man around our house, and anyone that knows our family would be fast to agree. He is smart and strong and very kind to his little brothers. When he was just a baby, I began preparing him for the day he would stand up and protect his future little brothers and be their guide and example. I would brag on him and give him respect and honor. His younger brothers often hear me say how cool Parker is and what a fine big brother he is. I have always told Parker how sweet he is to his younger brothers, what an example and help he is. It is so rewarding to see how his brothers rely on him.
Parker is quick to show his little brothers how to do things, and they always respect and appreciate his input. Just yesterday my truck happened to have a dead battery and I, without even thinking about it, asked my 9-year-old son to open the hood and hook up the charger. I know he has often done such things with his dad, and I also know that Parker quickly and easily assumes responsibility. My bossy oldest daughter (15 years old), who loves to handle responsibility and leadership, was completely under her little brother’s guidance as he told us what to do and how to do it. We both showed him honor with our words and smiles. A while later I asked Janelle Grace why she so easily surrendered to Parker’s authority. She said, “Parker knew what he was doing and was confident that he would get the job done, and I was thankful for him.”
There are always issues that will come up, and adjustments will have to be made. I talk with my kids daily and do training drills in a fun but reinforcing way so they know what is expected of them. Many times frustration is the result of un-communicated expectations. Children by nature want to please and work with you, but if you push them aside and they feel unheard, they will seek attention in silly ways.
Before we start the day we all sit together at the table to eat, pray, and talk about what is to be done that day. I add little tips on how they should treat each other and reminders on good behavior.
Most every day we do a simple, interactive training drill. It only takes about five minutes but makes the whole day go better. I think it is the most beneficial thing we do to create unity, teach the younger ones training skills, and reinforce to the older children that they need to be good examples.
We all sit on the floor in a sort of circle and I will give simple commands: touch your nose, toes, feet, stand up, sit down, say “Thank you,” say “yes, Mom,” say “No, thank you,” and so forth. I look at an older child (even my teens) and give a direct order, while the younger children are watching. The older child knows this is “training little brother time.” The older child quickly obeys the order and we all cheer, praise him, and clap. Then I give another order to another child, and so forth. Then the older children take turns giving orders to the younger ones. The drill is effective for so many reasons. It helps with obedience training, it helps with attention training, and it is face-to-face, interaction time with the children. It is a time to encourage and praise the older children, and it helps them to show love and patience as well as learn how to train little ones. My favorite part of this drill is that it teaches the younger children to respect the older team members.
Yesterday morning as we were sitting on the floor, we incorporated colorful playing blocks into our training drill. Our drill became a combination of pre-K school time, training drills, and teamwork training. We talked about the colors. I looked at Hudson, my 4-year-old, and told him to pick up one blue block. Hudson knew he was teaching his little brother to recognize numbers, the color blue, and to do as he was told. Understanding our goal makes the moment so much more fun. I congratulated Hudson, then turned to my watchful 2-year-old and gave him the same order. He tried to pick up two blocks but I stopped him, showing him what I wanted. "One blue block, like your big brother." Ryder, the 2-year-old, put the blocks down and then picked up the one blue block. We praised him.
Think outside the box when playing, doing dishes, or cooking. Ask yourself, “How can I make this a training drill and a fun experience?” After a while it just comes naturally, and everything you do becomes an opportunity to pour into the lives and brains of your children.
Have fun with this and, most of all, enjoy your children in all that you do. You can follow my stories and life with boys on Instagram:@brandclanadventures or on Facebook: @Shalom.Brand.