“How many times have I told you…??”

“Didn’t we go over this yesterday??”

“I can’t believe I’m having to tell you this again!”

Uh-oh. We’re stuck on Step 5 again. The pesky one that tends to get our goat when we least want to deal with it…


Teachers, drill sergeants, coaches, and, yes, parents—

How wonderful would it be if we only had to tell our young charges something ONCE? One easy, stress-free bit of instruction, dripping with love and sweetness,

–and they would do it beautifully every single time from then on?

Hmmm. Rarely happens, if ever. Just take a look at this picture and you know, with certainty, it rarely happened in our home.

Parenting is training and training is a process, not an event. It ALWAYS aims at something (the end goal) and ALWAYS involves –

1) Instruction, 2) Modeling, 3) Praise or Reward, 4) Consequence, 5) Repetition, 6) Field Work, and 7) Advancement.

If we lined up a few hundred parents and had them indicate which one of these is the most wearisome, Step 5 would win hands down.

What we observe in our young trainees is the product of our training process; the good and the bad. If we get to Field Work and “my kids just don’t seem to be getting it,” then as trainers, we repeat the process from the beginning. If we don’t get the behavior we want to see, we adjust the instruction.

The responsibility is on the trainer.

I will never forget the days I lined four little boys up on the couch for their pep talk. They had received instruction, the behavior had been modeled, praise and consequence had been dished out, AND we had gone over this time and time again.

NOW, we were ready for Field Work. The trial run.

We were going to T.G.&Y. All of us. At the same time.

Expectations had been explained and discussed. We were all in. Like a little league team piling hands in the middle of the circle—Yes! We can do this!

Off to T.G.&Y. we went so Mom could get her shopping done.

Well, I would love to say it always went well. Granted, sometimes it did and we celebrated our success big time. But, sometimes, we displayed an obvious need for more practice.

My job was to understand this was a process, adjust my instruction, and try again. Without angry words, without scolding, and without despair. Just continue.

Rachel Jankovic is a mom of five children and the daughter of Douglas Wilson. In her 2010 book, Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches, she says the following:

“It is very easy for us to forget about the progress they (our children) make and to ignore the problems that they no longer wrestle with. If you have been faithfully disciplining your children, I guarantee you that there are many, many problems that they no longer struggle with.”

“Try to notice these little mile markers on the path of sanctification. If the sins have changed, it can be a sign of growth. It is not as though our children are going to emerge from their current problems into perfect holiness if only we give them enough swats.  They are going to emerge from one set of problems into the next, and that is good. That is the way of the Christian walk. Treat sins that your children struggle with like basic math. Practice, practice, and you’ll get it!”

Recent research is clear that it can take, on the average, 28-66 times of practicing something correctly for it to become automatic… a habit… a consistent behavior.

In addition, the researchers found that missing an opportunity here and there to perform the new behavior did not affect the habit formation process. So, in other words, you can mess up every now and then. Whew!

This is encouraging news. You can “fail” occasionally and it will not negatively impact your habit forming process. You can come up with a strategy for getting back on track. Give yourself and your children some grace here. Manage your expectations. Brushing teeth properly, turning those dirty socks right side out, speaking kindly to a sibling. Depending on the task and the person, the new behavior may be formed in a mere few days. But, most will take much longer.

It takes time to form good habits of behavior. For our children’s sake (and our own) we have to see this as a process, not an event.

Help your child have success and do not lose heart. It will get better …

If the Field Trial fails miserably, regroup, reteach, and try it again!