“Rinse, and Repeat”: the Art of Practicing

by Laura on January 13, 2011 in Cleaning, Inspiration in Child Rearing, Uncategorized

One of our most effective training tools has been practice. We’ve been teaching our girls how to practice good behavior since they were the tiniest cutie pies, and we’re not about to stop now!

Raising Homemakers doesn’t often include baby-training advice, but I’m so thankful that we established a positive, unoffensive attitude towards practice when the girls were infants, that I wanted to share it with you! Our work has been worth its weight in gold; and yours will be, too!

We started with the little things when the girls were young. For example, we didn’t want to wrestle them to the ground  every time we wiped their messy faces, so we’d happily say, “oh, let’s practice that again!” And we’d wipe, and rinse, wipe, and rinse, until the little one understood how to behave when we wiped her face.

Or when Vivienne was pitching a two-year-old’s fit in the bathtub as I rinsed the soap out of her hair, I’d calmly say, “In our home, we don’t throw a fit when we rinse our hair. So, we’ll just practice until you can have your hair rinsed without fussing.” Then, I’d wash her hair again (using very little soap the second time through). If she would have continued to fuss, I’d calmly finish rinsing her hair, and begin a third time. She’s a smart little girl, so I only had to do this two times, until she learned how to behave when her hair is washed. Because she’s been a happy hair washer ever since, Lia’s witnessed her example and has always been a happy hair washer. (Oh, the powerful influence of the first-born!) I sure am glad we practiced the right way, right off the bat!

These days, if the girls have to practice feeding the cat, or setting the table, or winding the clock until they do it correctly, I know that we can dive right into a practice session without any of us becoming angry. Oh, sure, they might whine about having to work on the behavior, but that’s precisely why we are practicing it together: so that they can do the task correctly and happily!

As we increase our daughters’ responsibilities around our home I’m preparing to join forces with my daughters and practice their chores ahead of time so that they can feel confident and happy about their work, instead of nit-picked and nagged.  For example, soon, they will be held responsible for cleaning up the school room and their bedroom at the end of the day. We’ll practice this in a fun way, by playing some music, pulling out some toys, and cleaning up exactly how I’d like the rooms to look every time. Then, we’ll pull out more toys, and clean it up again! I’m guessing that by the third go-around, they’ll want to try it on their own. And, hopefully, thereafter, they’ll know just what is expected of them, they’ll know they can meet my expectations all by themselves, and they’ll happily complete their tasks. (Or else… more practice!!)

By Laura, 10 Million Miles


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Donna @ Comin' Home January 13, 2011

Laura, This is just beautiful! I love this article. We did something very similar though I never thought to call it ‘practicing’. My phrase was always, “Let’s say that one more time or do that one more time..but this time, we’ll do it the ‘right’ way.” They understood very clearly, that there is a right way to do something and a wrong way. Precious! I’ll have to share this with my daughter. She will certainly love it!


Narelle January 13, 2011

Love it – think I’ll take our practicing to another level!

We did have family ‘chair pushing in practice’ last week – I have been getting one person to come back push the dining chairs back into the table – for everyone that left them out; it looks so messy with them all out… Everyone came back and stood behind their chair and then practiced 3 x, putting it back in under the table.
We use the same thing for a slammed door etc – though usually if it’s one person doing a ‘practice’, I require it to be done 5 times, not just 3
If it’s a verbal practice, how to speak nicely, we just do it again until whatever it is, is spoken nicely. Works a treat.

Laura January 13, 2011

I really love the way you’ve phrased this- practice! It’s great. Thank you! We have some practicing still to do, I think! 🙂

kelly January 13, 2011

practice makes progress! Great tip. =0)

Joy January 13, 2011

I love this, Laura! Positive reinforcement is always better and much more fruitful than negative. Very encouraging!


Mary Joy @Seeds of Encouragement Sewn with Grace January 13, 2011

I must say, “Thank YOU!” This is exactly what I needed!! LOL I have two little boys who need a lot of practice! I love this approach…just wasn’t sure how to go about it. Now I know! 😀 You have made my night! Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us today!

Building Home with Him,

Mary Joy

Veronica Arthur January 13, 2011

I believe this also helps the mamas practice the much needed spiritual fruit of patience! =0)

Missy January 13, 2011

What a wonderful post! I don’t have children yet but I love the idea of “practicing” each task until its done right and with a cheerful attitude, instead of getting upset. Great advice!

Lisa Grace January 13, 2011

Beautiful advice!

Rachel January 13, 2011

This is actually quite brilliant and eye-opening to me. There are a lot of these things that little kids do, (like the hair washing thing) that i have always just ‘taken’. I’ve just assumed that it was an inevitable part of childhood that we just had to get through. My 5 year old no longer throws a fit about getting her shoes on, so i assume at some point the 3 year old won’t either…. But it’s sure unpleasant now. But how nice would it be to bypass that completely! And the part about nit-picking and nagging over chores done incorrectly, wow. That is my poor 11 year old. I expect him to do it right, when he doesn’t, I feel frustrated, and I’m sure he just feels annoyed by me getting on him about it, but what he could really use is some non-threatening practice to ‘remember’ what my expectations are. Thank you SO much. This has really come at a good time and I’m totally going to share this post!

Sandy @ RE January 13, 2011

Awesome post. Been there, done that. My kids are now 18,16,14 … so rewarding the teenage years. I’m in love with my teens and am amazed at how the “hard work” pays off. So much more to share, but little time 🙂 (Not sure if you’ve seen my Balcony Girls … on my blog). Thanks Laura!

Renee Stam January 13, 2011

practice makes progress 🙂

grandmomruthie January 13, 2011

Just reading this post and subsequent comments thrills my heart that perhaps, one day, civility and respect will be restored…one little family at a time!
Thank you all for your sweet loving hearts!

Janel January 13, 2011

Laura, this is beautiful and wonderful advice. I wish I had half your wisdom when I started my mothering journey 16 1/2 years ago. Blessings!

Sandy January 13, 2011

We did the same thing with all four of ours and it really does work. It also helps clean up a bad attitude. If I see someone doing a sloppy job at something all I have to do is remind them that if they can’t yet do it correctly, then they obviously need to practice. And they know we will practice so they usually get with it and do a good job. You’re so right too about this being a great way to train our children without losing our patience. I just calmly tell them that I have all the time in the world; they can practice until they can do it well and with a smile on their face. They catch on quickly.

Crystal January 13, 2011

Thank you! I have two boys and this is great! Like someone mentioned, a lot of times I just accept the behavior as ‘childish’ and deal with the unpleasant. I think this will work wonders on a few things that we’ve been dealing with concerning our boys! I think I’ll put this tip into practice today! 😉

Stacie @ No Idle Bread January 13, 2011

Very interesting! We correct inappropriate behavior right on the spot with what is acceptable in our household. However, the repeating the correct behavior on the spot, as in “now, you said it right, now practice again by saying it right 3 more times”–we haven’t been doing that. This is certainly something to consider.

ladyscott January 13, 2011

THANK YOU!!! What a great idea! I am going to start this with my 2 year old!

I Live in an Antbed January 13, 2011

I love the intentionality of this!! Simply beautiful! And defusing the emotional part ahead of time is so very wise!

Tracy January 13, 2011

I have to repeat everything Rachel said and I am a bit ashamed to own it, but there you have it.
I will start doing things differently from now on. I’m excited to start!

Anna January 13, 2011

I love this!! Thanks for the advice that it isn’t finished when they are a little older. . . We used to practice coming when called at home so that when we were out (park, library, a playgroup) they would all come running when I called. I also used to have my daughter”practice” sitting still!!

Evelyn January 13, 2011

Excellent advice! Now why didn’t I think of it?

Anne January 13, 2011

Thank you so much for this. There are so many clever moms out there in blogworld! Our youngest child is seven, but I still think I’m gonna be using this ‘practicing’ – not only on him but on the older three too. Yep, this is really good advice x

Anna January 14, 2011

As a young mama of an 11-month-old boy I am just beginning to run into these kinds of dilemmas (he screams in agony whenever I wash his face), so helpful tips like these are much appreciated!

Intentionally Katie January 14, 2011

The timing of this post was perfect! I’ve been struggling with my suddenly strong-willed 15 month old today and can’t say, “No, no, no” one more time. I’m going to change my perspective on this and utilize your advice where I can. It just wasn’t this difficult with my first two…I have my hands full with this one!

Rose January 18, 2011

I love this and will be definitely be using it in the future with my four year old. Thank you for the great idea.

emma January 19, 2011

so are your children never allowed to have a negative emotion without trying it again? I cannot imagine making my 2-yr-old endure having his hair washed over and over again just because he didn’t like it the first time. Imagine if you went for a medical exam and something hurt you or made you feel uncomfortable and your response to the dr was not completely positive. How would you feel if he made you endure an uncomfortable exam over and over again until you “got it right” and pretended to be happy? Do you have a positive, happy response to everything that happens in your life, even unpleasant things? I highly doubt it, because you are human, just like the rest of us. So why must your children put on a happy face when something is happening to them that they don’t like? I’m not saying they should be allowed to scream or throw a fit about everything, but children should also be allowed to have feelings (even negative ones) and be respected.

Amanda January 20, 2011

This is VERY inspiring to me, 20 weeks pregnant with a 30 lb. 18-month-old who waffles from happy and compliant to a parka’d tornado (who I’m soon not going to be able to heft!). Emma, the point is not having a negative emotion, it is HOW the emotion is expressed. Do you, even in “uncomfortable exams”, writhe and scream and hurtle yourself to the floor (or into the bath tub)? I think I’d be amiss as a parent if I fail to guide my child toward the goal of having a positive, happy response to even unpleasant things! Even if we do chose to ignore what Scripture says about “counting it all joy, my brethren, when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience….” etc (James 1:3-5ish). In my opinion, the alternative–which you consider ‘allowing feelings to be respected’–is to teach them that 1)they have no control over their feelings so, 2) they are entitled to have their every whim respected. At what point do you plan to go ahead and develop character instead of narcissism?

Emma January 20, 2011

Amanda, you missed my point entirel. Children should absolutely not be allowed to scream and kick at every little thing. But they do not have the language skills at 2 to explain themselves very well either. My sons are expected to listen, behave, but absolutely their emotions are also respected. And that does not mean every whim is respected. You are assuming that because I respect my children’s emotions that I am allowing them to have no control. You are so wrong and I am saddened to think of these little ones being treated in such a manner. I was just reading Titus 2 last night–what are we, as women supposed to do–“love our husbands AND children, be kind. I don’t think it’s kind to make a little one endure something over and over again until they put on a fake happy face. As an alternative, why not sing to the little one, tell them that pretty soon their hair is going to be clean and the rinsing will be all over. Children are little people, and deserve the same respect that we, as adults, deserve. That means they should be taught how to control their emotions also, but there’s a kind way of doing things, and I do not think this is a kind way at all. I actually use this method of “try again” all the time. But it’s done in a kind/respectful way. I have a 5-yr-old who has been raised with respecting his emotions and contrary to what you said, he is very respectful and has a lot of self-control over his emotions. And you know what, because I’ve respected him, he also respects me. It amazes me how much tenderness and kindness I see in him, with how he treats me and everyone else in his life. I don’t mean to attack you or even start a big internet fight here, I just want mothers to ponder over the Scriptures, and really ask themselves if they are treating their children with love and kindness the way it is described throughout the New Testament.

Emma January 20, 2011

BTW, I was raised in such a way. My feelings were never respected. I was forced to “put on a happy face” and pretend to be happy no matter what was happening to me. It did not teach me how to have self-control, Amanda. It taught me to stuff my emotions inside and I never learned how to deal with things like anger and frustration other than to pretend to be happy so my parents wouldn’t punish me. As an adult, this caused a lot of problems for me. I was a very overly emotional, troubled person in my 20s. I have gone to counselling to help me with my years of stuffed down emotions. My dear husband, has helped me learn how to manage anger, how to deal with life’s probelms and frustrations in a positive, Biblical way. But I still struggle, daily. It makes me very sad that I have had to waste so much of my adults years dealing with this, instead of just enjoying my life and the peace of Christ. You can’t take one verse (count it all joy…) and make an entire doctrine out of it. Even Jesus had negative emotions. Read the scriptures, he got angry and sad, and stressed. The best gift a parent can give to their children, is to respect their emotions, and teach them how to handle them in a calm, kind way instead of punishing them everytime they get angry. I’m not trying to win an argument here, I’m trying to warn you of the dangers this type of parenting can do, it does not teach chidlren self-control, it teaches them to iqnore their feelings, and trust me, those feelings/emotions will come out somehow. When I was a child they came out in very negative ways because they were iqnored by my parents. You get angry, your child will get angry–teach them what to do with that anger, don’t teach them that “I’m a bad person because I’m mad, I better smile or mommy will punish me”

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