A beautiful post by the talented Ann Voskamp reminded me of one of our better parenting techniques: the happy heart chair. My friend, Jen D,. used it with her high-strung little kidlets, and shared her wisdom and experience with me when Nate was going through a tough patch as a toddler.
|This whimsical chair is available from |
We chose swift, direct punishment for only three things: direct disobedience, dishonesty, and disrespect. If misbehavior didn't fall into one of those categories, we felt it was best to employ other techniques.
Most children have a time of day when they're all at loose ends and difficult to live with. Some children are very high strung, and are a trial from the time they wake up in the morning until they go to bed at night. If you've already tested them for "addiction to choice", then it's time to train them to rein in their emotions.
One of the special qualities the Creator put into us as humans is the ability to make a choice when faced with a stimulus. The happy heart chair is for very small children from just under two to about four years old. It is not a punishment. When the child is cranky or upset, wrap them in a hug, and bring them to the chair. Gently tell them they need to sit in the chair "until they find their happy heart". Pray with them that Jesus will give them a happy heart. We put a special teddy bear in your chair to keep you company, and always let you take your special blanket, "Bubby", to snuggle. All three of you (remarkably!) stayed in the chair quietly until you were happy again, and then rejoined the hub-bub of family life. On the rare occasion that you came back out cranky, we gently brought you back to the chair, and told you to stay there until you could be happy. I'm not sure why you stayed there with absolutely no restraint, but part of it may have been that we established our authority very early on with each of you.
Our happy heart chair was a trunk covered with a quilt in the little nook at the top of the front staircase. Usually by 2-1/2 or 3, you'd go there yourself when you needed a quiet break. It's important to put your chair somewhere your child won't be disturbed by siblings or distracted by television.
If your two to three year old is having a full-blown temper tantrum, the happy chair probably won't work. We chose to place the child in an empty crib or pack-and-play until the storm passed and they could be civil again. It's amazing how quickly temper tantrums die down when there's no one around to appreciate them! I remember Nate needing to be isolated for tantrums for about nine months from 22 months to 2-1/2 years old. At first, it was multiple times a day. Over the months it gradually tapered out to once or twice a week, and then finally stopped.
That bring us to Mrs. Voskamp's lovely idea, the peace retreat. We trained you to control your actions even when you felt distressed. Her "peace retreat" teaches a child to run to their Heavenly Father, Who is peace, and Who gives peace. She uses one special chair, a few books and a Bible that draw the child's heart to the Lord, a notebook, and a pencil. She also lights a candle to let other family members know that someone is taking a "peace retreat". This is a very natural progression once a child has outgrown the happy heart chair and has a personal relationship with Christ.
Families are beautifully messy and loud. Having a way for a child (or parent) to escape the tumult is important. I hope these ideas and others you pick up from friends and your in-laws help smooth the inevitable rough patches in your home.
Deep peace to you,