Living Simple Saturdays- First time, all the time


(We now interupt our regular broadcasting to bring you this special announcement: Stephanie is a very real, very normal person who simply did not have enough time this week to read her chapter in From Clutter to Clarity, much less consider it and attempt to apply it’s principles to her life… next week, God willing, we’ll be looking at Chapter 4 or 5)

Sometimes, God uses even the blogging world to get my attention. Both this post, and this, as well as a few other happenings in real life came together last week to make me realize that something needed to change in how I was disciplining and training my children.

Confession time once again: I really struggle with requiring first time obedience. There. I’ve said it.

I tend to let myself believe that it won’t be a big deal and that I will be able to get more done, if I postpone disciplining or training for just a few minutes. So, I sometimes end up giving first and second (even third) chances, trying to reason (with a three year old- now seriously, what am I thinking?), or worst of all, ignoring until the steam builds up inside of me and I get angry and blow it.

It’s just the absolutely wrong approach, all around. I *know* that requiring first time obedience, immediately in the moment is what needs to be done. I agree with the concept. I admire others who do it. I want to do it myself. And yet, I find myself struggling to carry it out day after day. There are a lot of things I could try to blame it on, but the yucky truth is that the main reason I don’t do what I know I need to do is usually laziness and selfishness.

The longer I don’t do this completely, and keep letting “little things” slide with my children rather than immediatley stopping what I am doing to discipline and/or train them, the greater the problem will get. It feels easier in the short term, but the long term consequences are enormous for my children,and ultimately require much more work and effort and time on my part. Procrastinating on things that must be done is never simple and never time saving.

I’ve made a commitment, with my husband’s help and support, to try to turn this situation around now. Time to stop flip flopping between my inconsistentcy in this area (some days, I really am on the ball and doing well, and others days I’m not- what a confusing message to send to my children!). What I’m really telling them is that obeying Mommy(and Daddy) isn’t truly the most important thing, it just depends on Mommy’s mood and energy level and how preoccupied she is. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

So… lesson well learned. All else on my to-do list has lost any prominence or urgency (hence, not doing my regular From Clutter to Clarity post, and not getting this up until Saturday morning), as I have committed to stopping everything, to love my children by dealing with behaviors (but more so, the underlying issues of their hearts) right away, the first time, all the time.

And although this feels like a sacrifice because of the effort that it is taking to do it now (because there’s so much to undo first, it feels a bit all-consuming), this is ultimately a much more simple way to do life. The long term payoff will be well worth it, in every regard (in my children’s hearts and attitudes, in my own response, in a more peaceful and orderly atmosphere).I’m aiming to tomato stake all next week, and I don’t know if I’ll accomplish anything else around the house, but simplifying my priorities like this makes it easy. If I’m being faithful to love and train my children above everything else, no matter what does or doesn’t get done, my week will be a true success.

Does anyone else struggle with this issue? Any encouragement for me from moms who have worked to overcome inconsistency in their mothering?

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  1. Stephanie, If there was anything I could do over again– have a second chance is INSISTING on first-obedience from my oldest child. What begins as a slight to the family’s rules continues to snowball into full fledged rebellion in the teen years. Thankfully she is making her way back after consequences of young adult choices. We have applied our “lessons” with the next two children and we can see the fruit. I cling to the prodigal son Scripture. God will use it all to His Glory — in this I find peace and rest. Press on dear sister-in-Christ.

  2. I could have written this myself. We have tomato staked in the past with fantastic results. We would all really benefit from it again.

  3. Very timely – we are on the same page lately! I have been letting it slide more with my two youngest, in an effort to avoid the conflict and get things done. Great post – thanks for motivating me to step it up.

  4. Very timely for me as well. I have noticed lately how inconsistent I have been and that no wonder my daughter seems confused by some rules and not obedient. Although at the same time, we have really been working on the issue of respect and the tone of voice she uses. As well as working on a 0 tolerance policy for tantrums which our daughter started to throw about 2 months ago now. I expected this when she was younger, not when she is almost 4. Again though, I believe the tantrums are a direct result of not spending as much time with her and focusing more on the tasks that have needed to be done. Thanks. This gives me food for thought and prayer.

  5. Yep, this is me too. Exactly. I was just talking with my husband about whether he hears me and ignores when he is playing with a toy or if he really just doesn’t hear me. It’s so hard to know. And I have started to do the lowering of the voice, which is so wrong and NOT training him to obey. I almost wonder if a week long purge of everything else on my to-do list would be a good idea. If for a week we ate meals from the freezer, I let my house go (reasonably) and focused solely on training my toddler it may be a good experience for both of us. Perhaps just one or two days would do the trick as well. I will have to talk to my husband. Thank you for posting this and sharing your ‘realness’ with us. I’m there too.


  6. you’re right on, sista! requiring first time obedience is hard, but worth the pay off.

    I *think* it was from Ginger Plowman’s book “Don’t Make me Count to Three” that our family “borrowed” the phrase for obedience: Right away, ALL the way, in a happy way…that’s how we obey.

    We also use the acronym ROCK: Respect, Obey, Cheerful, Kind. You can read the post on obedience here:


  7. Just wanted to add a little more: I was just reading from stephanie’s link to raising Godly tomatoes/tomato staking and can I just say this is the encouragement and direction I needed. I really have been too relaxed with her and not requiring first time obedience. This has been a perfect wake up call to me. I am starting with her today. I definitely see the need to “tomato stake” as well as my husband and I having a pointed conversation about what behaviors we expect from her so that we will be consistent on both fronts and not just on our “pet peeves”. Thanks for your openness Stephanie!

  8. I find that if we let first time obedience slip I have to put some other things on the shelf until we’ve had a period of re-training. It is time consuming, so other things have to wait while I focus on it. The kids seem to get the message pretty quickly when they realize Mom is unwilling to do another thing until first time obedience happens. It’s so worth it! Blessings on your week!

  9. Oh, I so know what you mean Stephanie. It seems to be a cycle in our home. I have noticed that I myself must be clear too in my instructions and expectations. I can’t just say “Stop that.” I must say “Stop jumping on the couch. Do you know why we must not jump on the couch? God has given us this couch to sit on and enjoy and we will take good care of it so it lasts many years.” (Something like that.) Now when she/he jumps on it again I know I have been clear in my instructions and can with good conscience discipline my child. The problem is that we don’t often take opportunity to do this. Usually because when they are jumping on the couch we are ‘busy’ with other things and say it very generically and not with enthusiasm. So yes, it is good for us to focus (almost) solely on our children in different seasons of life for a time and really work on obedience. You’ve read Shepherding a Child’s Heart right? I really enjoyed that book. We also did a study with some members of our church a while back, using his video series. It was very interesting to discuss these issues with other parents as well.

  10. This subject has been on my heart recently, too. We have adopted the saying (from Ginger Plowman’s Don’t Make Me Count To Three!) that obedience should be all the way, right away, and with a joyful heart. It takes consistency and it’s not always convenient, but we are starting to see the fruits of our recommitment to NOT put off training our daughter. Blessings to you!

  11. We learned a little saying from our pastor, that obedience is “without delay, without excuse and without challenge”. We like it, and use it.

  12. I just “happened” to find your blog tonight and what a great blessing this entry was to me! I, too, desire first time obedience from my children, and so often I fail! I have felt so alone…in my quest for first time obedience, and in my struggle to stay consistent. Thanks for reminding me I’m not alone and to keep persevering.

  13. First, thank you so much for putting into words the frustration I have been feeling for quite some time now. I find myself saying the words, “Obey me the first time, EVERY time!” SO SO often to my children, but I don’t follow through. I feel convicted of my sins of selfishness and laziness, and I feel challenged and encouraged to do better. It is going to take a lot of work from me over the next days and weeks, as I work to re-train myself and my children, but it will be oh-so-worth-it in the end! Thank you!

    Also, I have been reading here for quite some time. I really enjoy popping over to see what you have to share, and find all of your posts so informational and helpful. I am an ovarian cancer survivor, mother of four (two in Heaven and two here on Earth with me), and am currently obese. I am making changes both for myself as well as for my family. I want to do better, feel better, be better. It is easy to become discouraged, especially with all of the hurtful things people say and do, but I am determined to do better. I picked up a copy of The Maker’s Diet at a garage sale today (for 25 cents!!) and have just started to read it. I wanted to hop on here and say thanks for mentioning this book, and directing me to it. I am encouraged already, and I am still in the first chapter.

    God bless you and your precious family! God is so good!

  14. I am in this exact place right now. I was doing so well until I got to the end of my pregnancy and now have a 7 week old. I’ve been trying to justify my actions, but it’s not working…. It has definitely not been easy to motivate myself to actually put the baby down (or scoop her up) and run to discipline one of the other 2 (yelling from the other room is NOT working!!). And oh, how I’m reaping that right now. My 2 year old has been misbehaving more than ever in the last couple of weeks and I fully believe it’s my mixed signals and inconsistency.

    Thank you for this post and it’s good to know I’m not alone in this.

  15. i didn’t mean to link myself to the post, could you please erase mine? I was trying to leave a comment to encourage you but I am so scatter brained that I did it wrong. I do enjoy your blog but don’t have any answers. I feel the same way you do and at this point my children are 7,6,4 and 18 months. I’ve read all of the books, taken classes, done it all and i still am working on it. I will say that I pray so much to be a better mother that my daughter’s prayer request in SS the other month was for her mom to be a better mom. It sounds so bad..but I was able to explain that the reason she said that was simply because she had heard me pray it. I guess I just pray pray pray. Pray out so that my children can hear me all day long so that they realize it is a constant conversation between me and my Lord…maybe that will make up for not being consistent? Oh, well. It has been a long day and I am rambling on your blog..please forgive me but just know that there is a mama down in Georgia who is still working on that too.

  16. We did tomato staking, only we called it m&m training when we taught them that way in order to teach first time obedience. Our boys are 15 and 19 (he’s in college now) and they have been homeschooled from the beginning. We have been blessed to have a close, loving relationship with our boys and we are so thankful to the Lord that we haven’t had any of the teenage rebellion that you hear about. We were careful with them (to an extent we still are) and some said we were over-protective, but I don’t believe it’s over-protective to set outward boundaries for your child until they develop internal ones.

  17. Thank you so much for letting me know I’m not the only one. . . it is such an encouragement to hear other moms walking through the same thing, and taking the time to do something to change it. I don’t know how many times I’ve stared at my three year old, very confused about why she is not obeying when she has been disciplined four times already that morning. Thank you for the reminder to put invest the time now.

  18. Stephanie, thank you so much for your transparency and honesty. It is so easy to idolize women like yourself who have been blessed with wisdom, and while I certainly don’t rejoice that you struggle, I appreciate that you share your humanity with us, and remain humble. I also want to thank you for reminding us this week as Christians what our true priorities are. I was quite convicted when reading the post about cooking for your husband, and while I am not yet a mother, reading this post reminds me that it requires sacrifice, and that our children are to be a priority. I will pray this week that God will renew your motivation, and that your children will respond in kind.

  19. Completely! I am right where you are. And I love the tomato staking! I found it a month or so ago. Now if only I could figure out the minute by minute details of it I’d be all set. 🙂

  20. You wrote this last year, but I have recently come across your blog (among others). Thank you for your words and transparency!! God has been showing me more and more what “home building” looks like and He has been transforming my thoughts on women as wives and mothers. I have been gleaning so much wisdom and information from you and other women like you. As my hope and excitement for a more biblical way of life has been mounting, so has my discouragement and frustration of time wasted on my part. I have so much to learn! It helps to hear that I am not alone in my sin and struggles. Over the past month I have become consumed with organizing the house and figuring out a more natural and healthy way of living. Meanwhile slowly neglecting my time in the Word and not making instructing/disciplining my children come first. God has begun to show me that I can give my kids a healthy lifestyle physically, but if I am not first nurturing them spiritually and training them biblicaly it doesn’t matter how healthy their bodies are. It would all be for nothing. This post was a breath of fresh air. Thank you for your honesty.

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