Sometimes we can use a word so often that the real meaning gets watered down by familiarity. Training is such a word. What does training our children look like?

Before I was married I worked in various offices and needed, on two occasions, to train a replacement. When the young girl started out I gave her the little jobs (in terms of responsibility) – the photocopying, cleaning the kitchen, wrapping parcels, typing letters etc. Then slowly, bit by bit, I would teach her new aspects of the job mostly by having her work beside me. Then I would start giving her more responsibility. I’d give her the jobs I knew she could do well and I would remove myself from that task. I’d say, “I’m going for a cuppa now, you can answer the phones.” I’d be close by in the kitchen but she would have the responsibility. Then a little later I’d remove myself a little further by going to do the banking, and maybe staying out for lunch. She’d cope well and I’d continue showing her new aspects of her new job. Eventually I felt that she had things under control and I’d stay home for the day – I had the phone nearby (these were the days before mobile phones!!) But by this stage my job was done.

This is exactly what our training of our children needs to look like.

We teach them, having them live beside us, then slowly we start giving them more responsibility (expecting them to do it by themselves). Initially we stay close by but eventually they can be totally by themselves.


4 Training Stages:

There are four key aspects to training and these are the same whether you are training in a sport skill, a lifeskill, academic or moral skill:  Model, Teach, Practice, and then Expect action and initiative.

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger,
but bring them up in the
discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Ephesians 6:4

We cannot take shortcuts. When we tell them to do something, and expect it of them and then discipline them for their failures (without any showing, teaching, practising) we are actually frustrating the child. We cannot discipline for those things we have not trained in. God gives parents the responsibility and when we discipline for the things that we have not trained in we are avoiding our responsibility and by snapping at our kids we put the blame onto their shoulders. Once again, I am reminded that parenting is all about being a switched on adult. It is not about what my children do, but what I do with what they do.



The key is that we need to be diligent in each of these stages and not rush onto the next stage before the kids are doing well.  We get caught up in telling our kids instead of teaching our kids.  This is a big mindset change for many parents, especially those who have had an authoritiarian background.  But it is a switch that is so important if we are to give our kids the training that they need.


  • We need to remember that our instruction is never as loud as our example. If they don’t see us doing what we are expecting them to do, they will have a harder time doing it themselves.  Be honest with them and yourself – which may mean you have to change some of your choices.
  • Have them working along side of you from a young age -this develops both your heart and their heart to be together. We live in an individualistic society -we have to learn to live together and enjoy it!

Teach -Instruct

  • Give instructions – say what you mean and mean what you say
  • Have a clear standard and work towards that standard every time
  • Don’t speak unless you can follow it up
  • Use Role-plays and stories to help them understand what it looks like
  • Tell your kids what you are thinking – tell them why this is important to do.  You may have a moral reason, or a practical reason why you do what you do – but tell your kids.


  • Our goal is to help them get it
  • Practice, practice, practice -makes it (not perfect) but makes it mine. We want our children be able to do this (whatever this is) without our presence or prompt. They need to ‘own’ these behaviours and/or skills.


  • You’ve reached the time where they can do it now, give them the responsibility. Let them do the things you’ve trained them to do.
  • Let go, stop telling, reminding, prompting -let them fail and deal with the consequences
  • Hold them accountable -let there be consequences


Keys to remember

  • Repetition, repetition, repetition -you may need to go over these steps, over and over and over again
  • Re-training, or the thought that we are retraining is one of the biggest unmotivating things for parents. But the truth is – If they don’t have it they don’t have it! Being frustrated at the seeming retraining doesn’t help. We need to recognize where they are at and train from that point. If they don’t have it -then it isn’t really called re-training. If they don’t have it you are still in the teaching/practicing levels.
  • Correction is about getting them on course – like corrections that a pilot makes when flying a plane. It is not punishment. Do your disciplines help them get back on track, or are they told off or punished?
  • It takes time to go through this process thoroughly. It may well take 1-3 months for a child to learn something. That is okay. You will repeat this model/teach/practice/expect for every skill that your child needs to learn. It is a long term project!
  • We need to create situations where we have the opportunity to train.  The more you can practice a new skill every day, the quicker your children will pick it up.
  • We cannot avoid conflict, training is bound to cross their wills – but when you delay the expectations of them doing it, until you can see they get it, you do reduce the conflict in your home.
  • Each child is different but the standard remains the same -it may take a child a longer time to get there, it may take using different consequences, different examples in our instructions.  A key phrase in our family is – the destination is the same, the journey differs for each of us.
  • Choose your battles -you choose on the grounds of what is going to be effective at this stage in your life, in your family life, in the life of the child. Be effective in your training.  Don’t be pressured by comparing yourself to someone else’s results.
  • Be there -we cannot train if we are not there right next to them.  Get used to living life with your kids, having them in your space, being aware of what they are doing and how they are being challenged.


Further Reading:

The Battle to be a Consistent ParentBeing consistent as a parent is hard. The key to being consistent though is knowing the value of what we are doing. Is it important enough for our efforts?

4 Excuses you Don’t Want to Make as a Parent: When we hear ourselves giving excuses about our kids behaviour it is a signal we are missing some of our responsibilities.

Our Children will need to be told more than once: Our children will need to be told more than once – it’s a fact! Parents need to adjust their attitude and focus on the training that needs to happen.

What Heart Messages do you Communicate when you Discipline your Child: After reading “Discipline that Connects with your Child’s Heart” I have a fresh appreciation for the heart messages that we leave when we discipline


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