Not Brain Surgery

One of my husband’s favorite sayings is “It’s not brain surgery”. He uses this statement when it comes to all the fix-it jobs he does around the house. “Honey, do you know how to pull a pump out of a well?” “It’s not brain surgery.” And for the most part he’s right. He can pretty well figure out how to fix or do anything. If he doesn’t know how, he asks. When he doesn’t know the best way to solve an electrical problem in our 100 year old house, he calls an electrician friend. When the car won’t run, he calls a mechanic friend. He watches educational shows, surfs the internet in an attempt to gain more knowledge because “You never know when you will need to know how to ____________”, fill in the blank.

Recently I found myself wondering why so many people seem completely lost as to how to raise children and I found myself thinking “It’s not brain surgery”. Now, before you get all angry with me, understand what I am saying, and what I am not. I am not saying good parenting is easy. I am not saying that it isn’t a lot of hard work. I am not saying that it doesn’t take effort and struggle and tears and prayer. I am just saying it isn’t complicated. The basic principles are insanely simple. Truly.

If anyone has ever trained a pet, successfully that is, they can understand the basic premise of parenting. It is child training. The bible says “Train up a child in the way he should go”, not hope up a child, not plead up a child but train up a child. We aren’t in this to hope that everything turns out well without actually putting in the effort to train. We are here to teach them, train them, lead them, guide them.

I have known many people who were not highly educated, most without college degrees and some without even high school diplomas, who have trained their children well. This proves the point that it doesn’t take a high level of education to train children. In fact, every parent trains their child. Unfortunately many do so these days without even know it. Let us look at a couple of scenarios.

Let’s start with a dog. Your dog decides to get into your trash. You tell him “no”. The dog is more interested in the goodies he smells so he returns to trash digging. You say to the dog “fine, you can get in the trash this time, but no more.” Sounds kinda silly doesn’t it.

Now let’s view this in a child. Your child gets into the cookie jar. You say “no”. Your child smells cookies and is undeterred. He returns to the cookie jar and gets into it again. You say “fine, you can have one now, but no more.”

Is the dog likely to get into the trash again after being allowed to do so? Of course. He was just trained to ignore his master’s “no”. He will now be harder to break of the trash habit than if you had persisted with your “no”.

What about the child? He also has been trained. He has been trained to ignore his parent’s “no”. He will get into the cookies again. And each time you tell him no, his unwillingness to obey will get stronger because he now knows, there is a time when your “no” means “okay”. And it won’t end with cookies.

I know there are days when child training is so hard and so frustrating that you want to quit. I have called a friend and said “I quit!” But I know, as does she, that we have to go headlong back into the battle. When my husband was having trouble getting water from our well, he was frustrated. He wanted to quit. He wanted to say “This is too hard, I don’t know what to do next, so we are just going to live without water for the rest of our lives” but he knew that wasn’t an option. He called more people, called professionals, talked to friends with experience. That is what we have to do as parents. We need friends with children to give us suggestions, to give us encouragement. We need professionals, teachers, pastors, people with adult children that turned out well. But we cannot just say, “this is too hard, I will let them do what they want!”

My husband and I get so frustrated when we go out in public and see they way children are being trained to behave. We see screaming fits in stores over toys. We hear children tell their parents “no” and not be made to obey. Understand this, if you cannot make a 3 year old obey you, you will have no chance, and no authority with that child when he is 16.

I receive compliments about my five children and their behavior so often that I find myself thinking “If they really think this is good behavior, what must they see normally”. That isn’t a statement to brag, in fact just the opposite. I will have days where my personal standards are way above that of my children’s current behavior and I will hear someone say “Your children are so well behaved.” Is that a statement that my expectations are too high, or the world’s are too low? Perhaps a little of both.

I think sometimes strangers think I was just naturally blessed with five super well behaved children and therefore I don’t know what it is like in the real world. Let me assure you if you don’t know me, that is NOT the truth. My children are from a long, long, long line of strong willed people, on both sides. We have perfected stubborn and turned it into an art! We have daily spankings, etc. I once heard a lady at church voice surprise at my three year old receiving a spanking (at church no less). “I’ve never even seen her do anything to deserve a spanking”. I explained that the reason you don’t see my children deserve a spanking is because they receive them.

This isn’t a “to spank or not to spank” debate. I frankly don’t care how you choose to “discourage” bad behavior, but you must. We as parent’s have to stop rewarding bad behavior. It encourages it! If you give a kid a cookie for getting into the cookies when you have said “no”, you reward the bad behavior!

We train our children every day either by not following our words with actions or by following through with everything we say. We all “Train up a child” but is it in the “way he should go” or is it in the path of destruction?


2 thoughts on “Not Brain Surgery

  1. Very thought provoking – I have found that intermittent reinforcement of the behavior I want to encourage in my child works very well for our family. The key is in knowing that what works for one, may not work the same for another. Finding what motivates your child to behave is the most important part for lasting behavior modification.

  2. Thank you for your comment, Blogginstein. You bring up an important point that I didn't mention in my post. It is important to encourage the desired behaviors in our children. Intermittent reinforcement seems to be a great way to motivate a child to continue a desired behavior. I do not favor ignoring undesirable behavior and only recognizing and reinforcing positive behavior. I believe both are necessary, disciplining or discouraging the undesirable while reinforcing and encouraging the desirable. You are right, knowing your child is key to successful parenting!

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