Since we are always on the lookout for good examples, we have accumulated a good mental and sometimes written history of all the families with whom we associate. It has been interesting to see the different family patterns. Some do what they have always done, be it good or bad. Then there are those that have continued to do the wrong thing and have gone down hill; although, most of those around us here at Cane Creek, with or without our advice, have displayed significant improvement in the training and discipline of their children. The family that once provided our best examples of whining kids has actually made the most remarkable improvements. It is their absolute teachableness that made the difference. Their kids are not perfect, but today their family is a model of good parenting and quality family life.
Just last night three of the children (9, 6, & 2) were visiting in our home. We had a delightfully rambunctious good time. I even got my beard stroked by the little 2-year-old girl. As we were loading everyone into the van for the trip home, the 2-year-old, trying to move from the middle seat to the back seat, had trouble getting around the end of the bench next to the door. The cold, still night suddenly vibrated with the piercing wail that only a 2-year-old can muster. It was a cry of, “Help me get around this seat!” Immediately, but calmly the nine-year-old boy said, “No, Amy, as long as you are whining and crying I will not help you. If you are going to cry, you will just have to manage by yourself.” The little 6-year-old girl was voicing a similar exhortation, assuring the child that she was out of order with her whining demands. Amy, seeing the futility of her display, without any assistance and without further complaint, negotiated herself around into a sitting position. The older brother encouragingly said, “That’s a good girl, Amy; see, you can do it yourself; now next time don’t cry and I will help you.”
Sitting in the driver’s seat observing this lesson in discipline was quite gratifying. It gives dual meaning to the term child-training—not just children being trained, but children training children. The beautiful thing about children training children is that the kid trainer is reinforcing his own commitment to order and discipline as he enforces the rule of law upon his younger siblings. The ramifications are astounding. It is the difference between pounding wheat into flour with a wooden mallet and grinding it in a water powered gristmill. Children training each other when you are not present is like the wonder of perpetual motion.
And, talking about sibling harmony, when a 6-year-old is given responsibility to train her 2-year-old sister, she will respond exactly like her parents. I said EXACTLY like her parents. Children learn by emulation. They will mimic your patience, firmness, concern, and repeat the very words in the exact same tone as you have used when disciplining and training them.
One of the marvelous wonders of this is that as they come into the chain of command the children come to appreciate your role as guide and instructor and they more readily accept authority over them. They learn to assume the subordinate role just as they expect the same from those under them. The children all become a part of the cure rather than a part of the problem.
When you have a large family with only one overseer—Mother—every additional kid is an increase in the chaos and turmoil, but where there is a chain of command, having thirteen children is as orderly as a buggy full of Amish on their way to church.
- Michael Pearl