Teaching Children Diligence

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This week the 4 Moms, 35 Kids: How Moms of Many Manage are talking about teaching children diligence, specifically in school work.

For the most part we address the issue of diligence outside of academics. It’s a much bigger problem than ‘school’ and it’s much easier to deal with in the physical rather than academic realm.

When we talk about diligence we are talking about self-control one of the fruits of the Spirit. So when we teach our children to be diligent we are teaching them to demonstrate one of the fruits of the Spirit.

Since our goals in homeschooling are not primarily academic, this  lesson of diligence is central to our home and homeschool. It trumps reading, writing and arithmetic.

In our home, it seems that we spend the first 1-2 years of our children’s life teaching them basic obedience and the next years teaching them complete obedience or diligence. We use the maxim, “obey quickly, cheerfully and completely”. We cancel plans, take breaks from school and sometimes don’t leave the house when our children are having difficulty with these basics.  We pray that God will help us to be deliberate as we make every decision and one of the ways this is born out is in our priorities. We believe that it is more important for our children to learn to obey (Col.3:20) than it is to go to the music lessons, get the groceries or learn math.

I can give you all sorts of practical suggestions and things that we’ve done to teach and encourage diligence in our children, but it probably won’t be anything new. If we fail to be diligent in our own tasks, if we fail to be diligent to require and expect diligence in our children (which is one of our God-given responsibilities) all the practical suggestions and tips anyone can offer won’t amount to anything more than words on a screen.

So if you want your children to be diligent, pray to be more diligent.

  • Be diligent in your own tasks and responsibilities.
  • Be diligent to build relationship and to seek your child’s heart.
  • Be diligent in your words. If you say it, do it.
  • Be diligent to train your children.
  • Be diligent to expect diligence. Perhaps this deserves more time, but just allow me to say that a child as young as one (younger actually) is perfectly capable of obeying simple commands (come here, don’t touch, no noise, sit on your bottom), a child of 2-3 is capable of completing simple tasks (pick up the toys, empty the silverware), a child of 5-9 is capable of completing complex tasks (clean the kitchen or complete this list of school assignments) and a child of 10-12 is capable of completing many adult sized tasks (paint the bathroom, mow the yard, get dinner on the table) all ‘quickly, cheerfully and completely’.

Perhaps because of how we handle homeschooling (little to no busy work, lots of group reading and discussion) or perhaps because of our family’s expectations, but certainly because of God’s grace, we rarely run into a  habitual lack of diligence in school work and most of our diligence training comes in the form of chores and helping around our home.

Now visit the other moms of many to read how they teach their children to be diligent:
Smockity Frocks
Life in a Shoe
The Common Room

Recent 4 Moms posts:

For more Moms of Many posts visit the 4 Moms page.

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17 Responses to Teaching Children Diligence
  1. Brandy
    July 14, 2011 | 12:11 pm

    I love this! Very well said. Your family is inspiring!

    [Reply]

  2. Sheila
    July 14, 2011 | 12:28 pm

    If you can get a child as young as one to not touch something, I’d love to hear how. I’ve been trying for quite some time to get my 15-month old to stop picking my tomatoes or stay out of the cat box, and nothing has the slightest effect. The word “no” doesn’t even register and if I smack him — even hard, which I hate to do — he just laughs. I finally had to conclude that he’s just too young to understand what I’m asking … but is there some secret I don’t know about?

    [Reply]

    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Hi Sheila.

    No secret. By just attempting to consistently apply the child training principles taught in Scripture and we’ve found that all of our children have precisely understood the meaning of the word ‘no’ by the time of their first birthday.

    [Reply]

    Sheila Reply:

    Do you have a link or something to what you would consider to be “the child training principles taught in Scripture”? I think I need something a little more specific.

    [Reply]

    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Hi Sheila,

    The most basic duty of a child is found in Ex.20:12, Deut. 5:16, Eph. 6:1-3, Col.3:20, jn.14:13-24 and more. Scripture is clear about the blessing and curse attached children obeying their parents. This is about life and death.

    The people responsible to teach them their duty: Deut.6:6-7, Eph. 6:4, Prov. 1:8;3:1, 4:1-2;6:20, Deut. 4:9-10, etc.

    Tedd Tripp, in his book Shepherding a Child’s Heart, says this,

    When your child is old enough to resist your directives, he is old enough to be disciplined. When he is resisting you, he is disobeying. If you fail to respond, those rebellious responses become entrenched. The longer you put off disciplining, the more intractable the disobedience will become.

    The time and manner for teaching them: Deut. 6:7-9, Prov.29:15-17, 13:24, 23:13, 19:18.

    Simply because our children are young we do not allow them to regularly participate in what God says will bring a curse and judgement to them. If our child is knowingly resisting our authority, he is sinning against God.

    [Reply]

    Sheila Reply:

    I don’t think I could follow your methods, then. Very young children do not have the full use of reason (we call them “under the age of reason” till seven or so), so they are not capable of sinning. I believe in helping instill good habits before that age (because seven years of bad habits would be hard to break), but God will not curse my children for being children.

    I don’t have time to track down every passage you mentioned, but I can’t help but notice they are almost all from the Old Testament. The OT says that children should be stoned if they disobey, as well as all kinds of strictures of the law that we no longer follow. The New Testament informs us that we are no longer bound by the Law. It’s why I eat pork and celebrate the sabbath on Sundays. Though the Old Testament is very useful advice, it is not binding on us the same way the New Covenant is.

    This is kind of a complex topic, because of course we follow the commandments and so forth. However, I think the whole Bible, taken together, tells us much more than specific OT passages pulled out separately.

    I discipline my child, but I do so to give him good habits and help him out, not because I believe he is sinful or disobedient when he acts according to instinct and self-interest. He does so because he doesn’t know better, so I teach him to know better.

    >sigh< Anyway, I'm a little disappointed to find that you follow the very strict child-training school of discipline, which does not seem right to me, and which also has not worked in my family of origin. My older brother was raised very much in that way and barely communicates with the family anymore. I was raised in a more "lax" way, though still admitting room for discipline, and I remain close to my family and active in their church.

    I guess I was hoping for an approach the balances the need to instill good habits with the reality that very young children are not capable of sin. But I think there may not be any such method that will leave me with an obedient one- or two-year-old.

    Thanks for answering … I don't mean to be a hassle commenting for so long on such an old post!

    [Reply]

    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Sheila,

    Where in the Bible do you see it taught that children under 7 are “under the age of reason” and so are not capable of sinning. Because I see something completely different taught in God’s Word.

    Since you didn’t have time to look up the passages I referenced in my above comment, I’ve taken the time to type these out for your here.

    I pray that God will give us a heart for turning to the Scriptures as the Bereans did in Acts 17, receiving the Word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.

    For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Rom. 3:23

    There is no one who does good. The LORD has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men To see if there are any who understand, Who seek after God. They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt;
    There is no one who does good, not even one. Ps. 14:1-3

    This passage is repeated in Ps. 53:1-3 and then is quoted in Romans 3:9-18.

    “When they sin against You (for there is no man who does not sin) 1 Kings 8:46 and 2 Chron. 6:36

    Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned Romans 5:12

    And do not enter into judgment with Your servant, For in Your sight no man living is righteous. Ps. 143:2

    If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.1 John 1:8, 10

    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Sheila, you say,

    I don’t have time to track down every passage you mentioned, but I can’t help but notice they are almost all from the Old Testament

    Nearly 75% of our inspired Scriptures are contained in the OT, therefore it should not be surprising that nearly 75% of the passages I referenced are from the OT.

    You continue with,

    The New Testament informs us that we are no longer bound by the Law.

    I’m not sure to what NT passage you are referring, however, this is what Jesus says about the law,

    “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets ; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Mt.5:17-20

    If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.

    He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me;

    And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

    Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.Rom. 13:8

    After admitting that you didn’t take the time to look up the Bible passages that I referenced you say,

    Anyway, I’m a little disappointed to find that you follow the very strict child-training school of discipline, which does not seem right to me,

    I believe that this is a very dangerous hermeneutic (ignoring the Bible and making a decision based on what “seems right to you”). Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25 say,

    There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.

    You certainly don’t need to agree with me on this particular issue, but I urge you to search the Scriptures and let them be your authority, rather than leaning on your own understanding (Prov.3:5) or making decisions based on what worked (or didn’t work) for your family.

    I’ve written about this in the past, but if you reject God’s Word as the standard, then you have no standard left but one of our own making.

    Sheila Reply:

    Okay, I’m going to start out by saying that I’m quite sure you and I will never agree on this topic. Apparently you believe in “sola scriptura,” whereas I am Catholic and accept the interpretations of Scripture handed down by the apostles. I have met many people who believe in the Bible alone, who try to take it literally, and yet they all seem to end up disagreeing. I don’t think we would be given the Bible alone and no help for interpreting it, because we would so easily go wrong.

    I mean, what about passages like these:

    “If any man takes a wife, and goes in on her, and detests her, and charges her with shameful conduct, and brings a bad name on her, and says, ‘I took this woman, and when I came to her I found she was not a virgin…” (Deuteronomy 22:13,14)

    “But if … evidences of virginity are not found for the young woman, then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones…” (Deuteronomy 22:20,21)

    Do you believe a bride should be stoned if she is found not to be physically a virgin? If not, why not?

    “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched.” (Mark 9:43)

    Do you sever your children’s hands when they touch something forbidden? Wouldn’t that prevent them sinning by disobeying you and touching a forbidden thing? If not, why not?

    There are so many passages like this. Do you have a guide that tells you how to interpret this, that shows you what of the Old Law should be followed today and what should not? We know that not all of the Old Law should be followed, for Paul was told to slaughter and eat unclean animals, and he ate with Gentiles. Christ himself “broke” the Law when he healed on Sabbath, allowed his disciples to harvest grain on the Sabbath, ate with sinners, and did not wash before meals. Yet He claimed He did not come to abolish the Law! Instead He came to fulfill it, to show us what it *really* meant, while lifting from us the burden of trying to fulfill the works of the Law, a burden that “neither you nor your ancestors were able to bear.” There is so much about this in the Epistles. If love is the fulfillment of the law, if the law is all summed up in “love your neighbor,” why do I keep hearing so much emphasis on the harsh, punishing aspects of the Old Law. Keep in mind the Mosaic Law, apart from the ten commandments, was given to the Israelites after they worshiped the Golden Calf. It was to punish them and train them until they could actually follow the ten commandments.

    In the Scriptures, there is no statement about what children understand or what they are capable of. I realize that they possess original sin, inherited from Adam and Eve (which explains why we say ALL are sinners), but they don’t have the reason in place to commit personal sins. Otherwise we would have to hold people responsible for their dreams, for sleepwalking, for insanity, and everything else that is done without full reason and free will in place.

    As far as the age at which spanking is appropriate, the word used in all of these passages is na’ar, which means “young man, preteen” (http://mustbeaftermidnight.wordpress.com/2011/02/17/naar-in-proverbs-what-kind-of-child-are-parents-to-strike/) That doesn’t really support your statement that spanking should start before the age of one.

    There’s a lot more I could say, but the fact is, you will never believe me. You will only interpret the Scriptures in the way you have been told to do so, and I will interpret them based on the tradition of the apostles and their own disciples.

    I have read the Scriptures quite extensively, though I do use my “own understanding” to do it, because that too is a gift of the Holy Spirit. I also believe in the oral tradition, as mentioned in this verse: “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.” (2 Thess. 2:15)

    I’ve loved your blog so far, but now I feel such a disconnect between your beliefs and mine, I don’t think I’m going to keep commenting. There is just nothing I can say to you that will be meaningful to you, since you believe it is valid to throw out everything a person knows by observation and experience simply to stick by an interpretation of Scripture you feel is right.

    I guess I just have this warning for you: if you are wrong about your interpretation, you are striking young, helpless children who have no understanding of what they have done or why you are hitting them. I would want to be pretty darn sure I was right before I did a thing like that.

    Sheila Reply:

    Okay, I just noticed that you did not post my second comment, after I had looked up all the verses you mentioned, in which I answered them. It must have gotten lost in cyberspace, which is sad because it took me a ton of work!

    I ended up posting about it on my own blog, though, so you can read my answer here: http://agiftuniverse.blogspot.com/2011/08/children-are-not-evil.html

    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Hi Sheila,

    I do believe in Scripture alone. I’ve clearly stated that is the basis for discussion and disagreement on this blog and while I’m sure that there are many venues where this topic is hotly debated, this is not one of them.

    You say,

     I don’t think we would be given the Bible alone and no help for interpreting it, because we would so easily go wrong.

    Do you have a guide that tells you how to interpret this, that shows you what of the Old Law should be followed today and what should not?

    God has told us in His Word that He has given the Holy Spirit to Christians to help us interpret His Word.

    But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? but we have the mind of Christ. 1 Cor. 2:10-16

    “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. John 14:15-16

    If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?

    You say,

     I will interpret them (the Scriptures) based on the tradition of the apostles and their own disciples.

    This is one of the things that Jesus had to say about the traditions of men,

    Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:
    “‘This people honors me with their lips,
    but their heart is far from me;
    in vain do they worship me,
    teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. Mt. 15:1-9

    Each of the examples that you site of Jesus ‘breaking the law’ are actually examples of Jesus breaking the traditions of the church leaders, not the law of God.  I would encourage you to read the entire passage in Matthew 12 where Jesus explains that His ‘violation’ (according the the church leaders of the day) of the Sabbath was not a violation of the law, but merely of their specific (and inaccurate) application of the law.

    It is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. -Jesus in Mt. 12:12

    You say,

    In the Scriptures, there is no statement about what children understand or what they are capable of.

    You are correct, that is why I’m careful to point people to the Word of God. Sometimes, if asked, I will relate how Mark and I specifically do things, but I try to always be clear that this is our particular interpretation of the principles taught in Scripture and that God has given each parent the responsibility to train their own children according to His Word.

    You say,

    the word used in all of these passages is na’ar, which means “young man, preteen”

    but this is simply not true. Two of the four ‘rod’ passages I referenced do not contain the word na’ar. Additionally, there are a number of passages that render the “young man, preteen” interpretation of na’ar ridiculous:

    Exodus 2:6 Moses was just over 3 months of age when Scripture says,

    When she opened it, she saw the child (na’ar), and behold, the boy was crying. And she had pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children .”

    Is. 8:4

    for before the boy (na’ar) knows how to cry out ‘My father’ or ‘My mother ,’

    1 Sam. 1:22, 24

    But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, “I will not go up until the child (na’ar) is weaned; then I will bring him, that he may appear before the LORD and stay there forever.

    Now when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with a three-year-old bull and one ephah of flour and a jug of wine, and brought him to the house of the LORD in Shiloh, although the child (na’ar) was young.

    1 Sam. 4:19-21

    she kneeled down and gave birth, for her pains came upon her. And about the time of her death the women who stood by her said to her, “Do not be afraid, for you have given birth to a son.” But she did not answer or pay attention. And she called the boy (na’ar) Ichabod,

    You say,

    There is just nothing I can say to you that will be meaningful to you, since you believe it is valid to throw out everything a person knows by observation and experience simply to stick by an interpretation of Scripture you feel is right.

    First allow me to point out that I have not told you my interpretation of these passages. I have not told you what I feel is right. And contrary to your claim, any biblical argument on this topic would be very meaningful to me.

    However, if you believe that I should choose your opinion, observation or experience over God’s Word then you are correct, I am not willing to trade God’s wisdom for man’s.

    You say,

     if you are wrong about your interpretation, you are striking young, helpless children who have no understanding of what they have done or why you are hitting them. I would want to be pretty darn sure I was right before I did a thing like that.

    First, I’d like to point out that my initial statement was that children as young as one are capable of obeying simple commands. I would never, never suggest that anyone use the biblical form of corporal punishment on a child who has no understanding of what they have done, never!

    When you said that you’d love to hear how we got a one year old not to touch something, I told you we tried to apply the biblical principles of child training. When you replied that you needed more specifics I responded with a list of Scripture passages,  most of which had nothing to do with the use of the rod.

    If from reading those passages of Scripture you believe that God is commanding people to strike “young, helpless children who have no understanding of what they have done or why you are hitting them”, then your argument is with God (or perhaps YOUR interpretation of these passages), I never suggested any such thing, nor do I believe that is what the passages teach.

  3. Amanda
    July 14, 2011 | 1:04 pm

    I too, am having trouble getting my 16 month old to obey. I would say it’s me, however, my older two I never had this problem. I realize every child is different, so I’m assuming I haven’t found the trick to her yet. Just ask I’m typing this, I’ve had to stop 2 time and deal with her. My other two were very submissive and didn’t dream of bothering the things she gets into!!!

    [Reply]

    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Hi Amanda.

    Yes, some children will really test those boundaries. I thought our second was tough until our fourth was born and I though that she was the ultimate in ‘difficult’ until our eighth was born. ;)

    They are all different and all such precious, wonderful gifts from God. Our ‘difficult’ children have turned into such lovely, sweet, loving, compliant children. It’s wonderful to see God’s grace at work in their lives.

    [Reply]

  4. Becky
    July 14, 2011 | 1:28 pm

    GREAT POST!

    [Reply]

  5. sherri
    July 15, 2011 | 9:10 am

    I really enjoyed this post! I think you should write a book! =) Your a fantastic mom! You have all the family values down pat…I love it!

    [Reply]

  6. Naomi
    July 16, 2011 | 9:25 am

    We use obey “sweetly, immediately, completely” because it rhymes. My daughter is 3 so I usually say it and then say nicely, quickly, and all the way. once she understands the larger words more, i’ll leave it at that.

    [Reply]

  7. Alicia Brumlley
    August 3, 2012 | 2:53 pm

    I’m curious about the Maxim method. Is it a book? I love the idea but I’ve never heard of it.

    [Reply]

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