Monthly Archives: October 2006

Cat Training = Child Training?

We recently moved into a new home, and soon after the move, heard some squeaking sounds that we were unhappy to discover were mice. We quickly put out traps and poison, and waited for the end of our mouse visitors. No luck. We got more traps, including some from a professional exterminator that can’t be purchased in a regular hardware store that catch everything, supposedly. Still no luck. A friend told us about a major mouse infestation they had in the old home they purchased, and their unsuccessful attempts (similar to ours) to take care of the problem. What finally worked, she said, was getting a cat. I was reluctant to try this, since we have family members with allergies, but after seeing that it was either get a cat or live with mice, I borrowed a cat from a friend.

This cat was an outdoor pet, and in any case, different homes have different rules. I didn’t want her jumping on my furniture, or going up to the floor where the bedrooms were located, but she needed to be taught what our rules are. Since my kids were trying to be helpful with the training, I explained them what to do – not to move her before she did anything wrong, but to catch her starting to do it, and right away firmly move her; to speak to her firmly but not meanly when correcting her. I stressed that she couldn’t be allowed even once to stay on the furniture or visit the upstairs rooms. Every time she started to jump up or go up the stairs, I immediately moved her off and told her, “No”.

After one day of this, the cat no longer needed to be told – she just avoided the areas that we had taught her to stay out of. As I explained to my kids my approach and why, I realized that I had unconsciously been using the same approach I use when disciplining my children. And it works just as well for kids as for cats!

We can’t assume that our kids know how what our expectations are unless we take the time to teach them. They shouldn’t be held responsible for being unable to read your mind. It’s our job to help them learn what the guidelines in our homes are. But it’s not enough to tell children what the rules are. It’s crucial that you follow up and show that you mean what you say. Children need to see an immediate and consistent response from their parents, not long after they have done something wrong, but as soon as you see them starting to break whatever rule is involved.

An example of this would be, your child begins to throw something down – you immediately catch his hand, ideally before he has time to finish throwing it, and take whatever it is away, telling him firmly, “No throwing”. A child who starts to speak disrespectfully is immediately corrected, not after he finishes talking, but at the first hint of an improper tone. By dealing with issues as soon as they arise, you give your children a clear message. You are able to discipline without the anger that comes from waiting until it’s really too late and then feeling frustrated and resentful.

This seems like very simple advice, and it is – but very few parents do this. The younger you begin this process, the easier it will be for you. It is much harder to start teaching a twelve year old to respect what you say and show that you mean it, than it is an eighteen month old. There is no harshness or anger involved – just the commitment to following through on what you have said, every single time. This idea may seem very intimidating – I know it was to me. Establishing limits in your home will take time, but once your kids see you mean what you say, they won’t keep testing you. Your need to discipline will drastically drop, and result will be time you previously spent in some kind of conflict will now be time you can spend together doing much more enjoyable things.


The Amish Tragedy and Their Response

I had planned to write about something else tonight, but felt that it would be appropriate to delay that post in light of the below.

About every month or so I drive a couple of hours to Lancaster County where I regularly frequent a couple of Amish stores and farms. As a result of these excursions, I have had the opportunity to have regular casual dealings with the Amish, and find them to be wonderful people. I have enormous respect for them as people who are committed to their faith, and they have likewise been very respectful of me and my family.

Just two days ago, there was a terrible shooting at an Amish schoolhouse in the area. Though I had seen an online headline regarding the shooting before my shopping trip today, I wasn’t aware of the specific location. I felt almost ill when I got home and then read the more detailed news, and realized that it had within a couple of miles of where I was today. After becoming familiar with the area and the people living there over the course of the last year, this was especially horrifying to me – I felt it could have been any one of them. It was terrible when I first read about it, but when I realized tonight that I literally drove right down the street of the home of the sisters who were killed lived, I felt just sick inside.

While shopping, I didn’t want to be intrusive and ask any of the Amish women who were working or shopping alongside me what the general reaction was (and at that point I had no idea how extremely close to home it was). But a lovely Christian woman happened to approach me and we began chatting. She brought up the news during our discussion – she has lived in the area for a number of years, and she told me the entire community (ie, Amish and non-Amish) was devastated by what happened. She also told me that she knew the man who killed the girls – they had attended the same church when they were younger, and apparently he lived in the same community. I asked her how people were dealing with it, and she said that the overwhelming media influence is very unwelcome. But she said that people have faith in God, that He will give them strength to get through this. They believe that there is some higher reason for everything that happened, though they don’t know what it is or why it happened. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t pain and anger – there is.

As I discussed with my children as we were driving down the back roads of Lancaster county, a person never knows what day will be their last. That’s why it is so important to try to live every day as if it were your last – very lofty, I know. Bringing it down to earth, one thing that it means to me is: when I say goodbye to my children or husband, to try to leave with a good feeling – a hug, a kiss, an “I love you”. I am not always successful, but I try. Closing our interactions with a message of love is something that a person will never regret.

My heart just breaks for the parents and families of the young girls killed, particularly the Millers, who lost both their 7 and 8 year old daughters. I just can’t imagine the pain, and I hope that none of us will ever have to go through anything like what these parents are dealing with. At the same time, if I am ever faced with a challenging situation of magnitude, I hope that I can find the faith, courage, and strength that the Amish community has shown.

My prayers go out to the families of those injured and killed, and to the entire Amish community.