The Family Huddle: Where Toddler Training Begins

Every great team circles up for a pep talk and families are no different. If we want to raise children who understand and embody what we value, we have to set aside time to talk about those values consistently. Like good coaches, we need to offer guidance, correction, and inspiration so the family team feels empowered to defeat that foe called selfishness. The toddler years is the ideal season for this training to begin.

At our house it was called Conference. Not sure why I came up with that name, but it began when we were home schooling as a daily routine, and continued weekly until everyone graduated high school. In those early years, we not only read the Bible and prayed; we also pointed out particular behaviors in the children that needed work. When the kids were toddlers, I made up tunes to Bible verses and the following was the first verse I ever set to music: “Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.”(Eph. 6.1).

You don’t have to be musical to be an effective coach at home. Maybe you just need one solid mission statement. Joe’s admonition to the children was this: Remember who you represent. It stuck. Our kids have never been perfect, but they have always been quite loyal to what we stand for as a family.

Your instruction can stick too, and it’s never too early to build team unity. Start this week, form a huddle in the family room, and let your children know that your household values kindness, obedience, and hard work so much that you are going to train them how to behave in public places, how to take a no, how to be responsible, and how to serve others. These are the principles outlined in my booklet More than Potty Trained.

And below are testimonials from two of our daughters who valued our family conference. They even wrote almost identical reflections about our humble huddle.

In all honesty, it’s a challenge picking only one way I feel I was positively impacted by training. I have very fond and specific memories of Family Conference. Once a week, the whole family would gather for a time of Bible reading, prayer; and as we got older, review of the calendar for the week. It was a means by which a sense of unity and bond was created. Family Conference also served as a way to teach us children the importance of learning God’s word and being together as a family. In many ways, I believe Family Conference has helped to shape our family unit. During the major holiday breaks when we are all together, Dad seems to find a way to gather everyone in the same room to encourage us through God’s word and/or prayer, and to chat about our plans while everyone is home. It feels so normal and like an essential part of our identity. (even though most of us are grown adults!) Family Conference is something that I look forward to doing with my children.

Andrea, Age 31

Wedding Father Daughter Dance

Andrea is our firstborn. She and Joe definitely share a special bond.

Andrea and Tony (2)

Andrea and the new man in her life: her husband Tony.

Andrea graduated from James Madison University and now works as Volunteer & Community Partner Manager for a non-profit that supports the academic success of inner city students.

As the serious-minded middle child, I cherished our family conference times. I loved having the family gather together to seek the Lord, share with one another and learn together. Not only that, it was incredibly practical, as it allowed us to prepare and plan for the week ahead (a must with so many of us!). I know that our family conference time has had an incredible impact on my spiritual foundation, and I hope to one day do something similar with my own family.

Kellye, Age 25

Kellye and Joe at Andrea's wedding (2)

Kellye loves her dad a ton. I am grateful for Joe’s influence upon our children.

Kellye grad photo

Huddling up after Kellye’s graduation from college?

Kellye Newborn

Kellye is the day-old newborn in this photo. I guess it was her first Conference.

Kellye graduated from Elon University and now works as an Outreach Coordinator for a non-profit that supports first-generation college students.

Order More than Potty Trained.

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