Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Ask Annie - Your (new) Favorite Mommy Advocate and All-Around Pseudonymous Advice Giver

Hello. My name is not really Annie, but "Ask Debbie"?, I mean just doesn't sound very inviting, does it? "Debbie" doesn't sound like someone full of wisdom and sagaciousness. ("Debbie" doesn't even sound like someone who would use the word sagaciousness, much less be able to spell it.) Nope, it just wasn't catchy enough for a blog title. Solicit Sarah, now that has a nice sound to it. How about "Inquire of Imogen" ( have a name like Imogen. That's quite the dream for someone who was born Debbie Jones.) I also like the name Paige, but I won't go into that because I doubt if anyone is still reading and I'd like to answer this sweet mom's question:

<<<We are struggling with James 4:17 "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins."

It may be a stretch but I'm applying it to the times when I may not have given DIRECT instructions or requests but the children KNOW it's time to get the school books out or engage in a specific activity. For example, this morning I asked the children to make sure their beds were made and to return with school books. But then my husband called and needed me to find an important document for him. In the meantime, they left the task at hand. So that is disobedience. But then there are times we are wiping down the table (which always comes prior to putting our books down and sitting down for school) and then I'm called away to change a poopy diaper, only ot return to children not doing what they KNOW to do. If asked what they should
have been doing, they give the right answer.

I really would like for them to KNOW what they are suppose to do and not just follow through (I have discipline for that) but to INITIATE it when not directly told. Am I asking too much of children? >>>

Dear Gentle Mother of Flawed Children,

Of course it is totally understandable for you to desire your children to be self-governed and diligent. Everyone knows that true character is "What you do when no one is looking", right? If your children only do the right thing when you're with them, then...........they are immature. Immature in the sense that they are not fully developed or perfected ( So join the rest of us with undeveloped and unperfected children :)

Frankly,I think this is indeed an area of child training that does get better with maturity, which is usually synonymous with TIME (meaning, it probably won't happen this school year) - - -unless you have a younger child that is blessed with natural initiative (according to Webster: The power or ability to begin or to follow through energetically with a plan or task; enterprise and determination.) And you can stop reading and drop to your knees in praise of the Living God if that's the case, because it's practically a miracle to find that in a child.

My husband and I were just talking about a similar aspect of child training on Saturday as we were observing our children do their chores. (We weren't sitting in our LaZBoys, sipping tea and wielding a whip...We were working in another area.)

We have one child who will take several hours to weed a small flower bed that I could weed myself in about 15 minutes. I hate weeding (or anything else involving dirt), but I have the maturity to know that the wiser path is to work diligently and get it done quickly. As an adult home owner, I also have a certain inner satisfaction that comes from having a clean house, a project completed, or a tidy yard. It's the rare child that has that kind of insight and maturity.

If you have an organized child, they may like to keep their room neat and their things in order....but it's usually out of an enjoyment of the process of organizing or even because they aren't comfortable in a chaotic environment. It's usually not about a willingness to "do the right thing" in spite of their feelings. In fact, many young children do the right thing almost out of a sort of selfishness. They like the praise or the reward or the smile on their mother's face. There's nothing wrong with beginning that way, you just want them to move past that as they mature.

I would caution any mom about taking the child's action too personally. The scenario you described is disobedience, but it's mixed with a heavy dose of childishness. Children are easily distracted - and they need direction and supervision for longer than we wish they did. Maybe that's why God has them stay with their moms so long (vs. some of His other creations, which leave the nest shortly after birth :).

What would help them (and in the long run, You)the most right now is for you to make a concentrated effort to help them build habits that once formed will make it easier to follow the routine than to be distracted. It sounds like at this point, the children are headed in the right direction in that they can verbally tell you what they are supposed to be doing in the morning. The next step is to help them be successful....successful for many, many days - until it feels "unnatural" and amiss NOT to make their beds and go get their books right away (or whatever other habit you're working on.) They really don't have a choice if you're right there with them, instilling that habit :)

And don't forget - showing disappointment and frustration with your kids will probably not help your cause. Expect that this will take a month or so of consistent intervention. And don't try to work on a bunch of other habits at the same time. "Overlook the transgressions" in other areas until this one habit is instilled. Then move on to the next one.

Hope this helps some. If not, blame Annie. Maybe she's not as smart as she thinks she is!

I like the signature line of one of my favorite bloggers, Linda Fay, at

"one step at a time...."



lea said...

dear annie,

i was supposed to bring some goggles over to SOMEone's house two days ago, but still haven't done it (hope that isn't willful disobedience, i think it fits under the webster's dictionary entry for "forgetful").

will that friend EVER forgive me and serve me a snack and chat with me when i do finally arrive at her home with goggles in hand?

Davene said...

That Annie is so wise! Next time you see her, tell her a big "thanks" from me, OK? ;)

Anonymous said...

Does Annie have anything new to say?