Should We Train Our Children for Non-Moral Personal Traits?

Should We Train Our Children for Non-Moral Personal Traits? //

Here’s 4-minutes of my off-the-cuff thoughts about training our kids’ quirkiness.



  • 00:25– “it’s just an annoying habit; should we train for it or not?”
  • 01:00– example from my real life, yesterday, with my two-year-old
  • 02:00– encouragement from Gregg Harris
  • 02:45– why this is extra-important to me as a homeschooling mom
  • 03:00– how I learned these lessons in my life vs. what I’m striving for now
  • 03:20– what my motivations and goals are


Please share your thoughts — about both:

  • (a) the topic and
  • (b) the use of video (as opposed to my normal text/article format)

in the comments. :)

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast ( I write and wrangle kids.

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37 Responses

  1. Stephanie says:

    I love the video. I think it is easier to hear the tone of voice that things are said in and its easier fore to process. I totally agree with training our kids with their quirks so they can function in society that is necessary for them to be able to share the Gospel with others. We are trying to raise adults, not children. Thanks for the encouragement.

  2. Melanie says:

    Fun to hear your voice for a change! And I’ve been pronouncing your name wrong all this time (with the emphasis on the first syllable).

    • Jess Connell says:

      Yup, that’s common. Conn-ull is the way most people think it is.

      I’ve thought about putting something on the “about me” page- like… the first syllable is pronounced like ka- in “kaboom.” LOL

      One of those different things about us I guess. :)

  3. Libby says:

    Great reassurance! We’ve been working with our almost three year old to use “real words” when responding to adults. He’s very verbal and knows the words but has been very silly lately. My husband and are fine with when it is in the context of playing with toys or a joint game with us, but we want to establish that there are times when it’s not appropriate to be silly. Thanks for addressing it!

    • Jess Connell says:

      Great example. Yes! We want to establish those healthy norms for our kids… build good social habits that won’t be a hindrance for them to overcome as they grow.

      Thanks for adding your thoughts.

  4. shannon bradbury says:

    I love the video! And I liked what you said about training our children so that we can enjoy them and others around them can too.

    • Jess Connell says:

      Yes. I think this idea has fallen out of favor in our culture, but we’re seeing the negative effects from it. There was an insidious idea that came about, perhaps as a result of, “you should just love your kids, however they are” thinking… that we shouldn’t then train our kids in things like this, but just ‘accept’ them.

      Problem with that is that kids are just weird sometimes.

      And, also, culture is a real thing. Some cultures have noises and sounds that are totally different from ours, that we would see as rude, and vice-versa.

      It all reminds me of the verse in Hebrews 12 that says, “they [earthly parents] disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.” Ultimately, we’re all– in every culture & in every family– disciplining “as seems best” to us. I want to keep growing in what I deem “best” but ultimately never rely on my “best” to produce any real good in my children apart from what God does in their hearts.

      Thanks for your feedback, Shannon!

  5. Katie S says:

    I like what you have to say about the topic – I agree, and it’s good to be reminded. It seems like these sort of training issues creep in while focusing on the more black-and-white ones. I’ll find myself increasingly frustrated about some silly behavior and then I’ll realize I can (should) just EXPLAIN that it’s not socially acceptable or just that we would prefer a different habit…and all of us are better off.

    Like others have mentioned, the video was fun – it’s nice to hear tone (and see some of real life happening). That said, I nearly always wish for a transcript with a video. Perhaps it’s because I’m more of a written-word learner than an auditory learner, but I find it easier to scan back through a transcript to solidify the points in my mind, compared with re-watching a video. I did enjoy this, though!

  6. Emily says:

    Good topic… one I have wondered about but couldn’t articulate!!

    We have a 3 yr old … and sometimes I tell him to stop doing things that aren’t necessarily “disobedience” or sins but more my own preference or things that are a bit bothersome (such as , playfully but LOUDLY shrieking to imitate his baby brother or making pretend cough or gag noises during dinner). Sometimes I feel bad like I’m squashing his little personality. But I agree about training them for winsome-ness, and approachability. We all know those folks who grew up to be a bit “odd” or outlandish (which isn’t necessarily a sin or anything) but it makes relating to them or listening to them a bit difficult / distracting. I don’t want to make little cookie-cutter children who conform to my own definition of “Normal” but I think a good way to look at it is deferring to others… it may be easier or more “fun” to act goofy / quirky but it may not be taken well by those around us, and there is a time and place for silliness. I also know of a few adolescents & adults who seem to take pride in their “weird”-ness or outlandishness (being different/defiant solely to push back against the norm), when it can be a bit off-putting. Maybe that’s just me being too uptight, though?

    I do like the video format; it makes me remember you are a real mom like me, haha. I like the summary you gave as well because sometimes I’m in a place that I can’t watch a video at that moment. I wouldn’t necessarily want to watch a video for every post, however. (I’m sure you don’t want to do that either!) :)

    • Jess Connell says:

      No, I think that you’re exactly right. It’s a good rabbit trail– that our society has lost the art of deferring to others. When our society was more solidly influenced by Christian thinking, the ideas of the golden rule (treating others as we want to be treated) and of putting the needs/desires of others ahead of ourselves were more a part of our collective thinking. Those values have been replaced by individual expression, the “right” to be who I am (and for that to never change, and never be questioned/challenged/rebuked/corrected), etc.

      Great thoughts. Yes, we want our children to be relatable/accessible to others– to not have characteristics that put unnecessary barriers between themselves and the people around them– and to grow in that as they are in our home.

  7. Barbara H. says:

    Honestly – I almost never watch videos on someone’s post. I’d much rather read: that way I can either skim or slow down and read more thoroughly at my discretion.

  8. Emily Jensen says:

    This was really personable and it felt like I was sitting down with an older mom / mentor who was just helping me navigate issues of training. Great video! The only thing that’s hard about videos is I have to make time to come back to it later, but I’m glad I did. Also – the length was easy to watch and the video checkpoints made it easy for someone to really hone in on the content most applicable to them.

  9. Steph says:

    I will listen to your video at some point, but because I often read blog posts when my kiddos are going down for naps (I sit with them for a bit, waiting for them to calm down), I almost never watch videos or listen to podcasts. I would also be along the same lines as Barbara H. above, in how I enjoy reading posts. =). Interesting how we are all so different or just have such different family/home dynamics.

  10. Paola says:

    Loved the video format! :)

  11. Natalie says:

    Great advice! I love your video, it was so nice to hear your sweet voice and “meet” you. You sound like a super sweet mom.

    • Jess Connell says:

      Haha, well, I’m definitely not *always* a “super sweet mom.” Sometimes I sound shrill and selfish and embarrassingly awful. But yeah, I guess I’ve got this toddler-correction thing down pretty well.

      My poor 13-year-old gets a first-time mom with every stage he hits, and my little 2-year-old gets a seasoned mom who he can’t get anything past. I guess they both have their advantages and disadvantages. Anyway, yeah, I manage to be much more sweet and reasonable with as much practice as I’ve had correcting toddlers. If only I could transfer that patience and don’t-take-it-personal-ness to the way I interact with my 13-year-old.

      Ahhhhh I’ve got a lot of growing to do. :)

      Anyway, thanks for the sweet comment.

  12. Valerie says:

    How timely! One of my sons has a neurology appointment next week for some concerns, including vocal tics. I never try to train those things, and go out of my way to encourage and build up. But…over the years he also is prone to developing habits and quirks that are not a blessing. It has been hard to discern true medical issues from childish, clueless phrases, noises, habits and other things. Plus he has three, soon to be four younger siblings who repeat everything he and his older brother do. Talk about mental exhaustion for mom! Thankfully he’s not one of my strong-willed ones. I have three of them. Hint hint… I need a post on strong-willed children! :)

    Love the video format also. Thanks!

    • Jess Connell says:

      Yes it takes such work to really discern what’s happening with our kids… disobedience? manipulation? childishness? personal quirks they can change? personal quirks they can’t change? silly nonsense stuff that doesn’t matter? but which things DO matter?

      This mom stuff ain’t for the faint of heart.

      Thanks for the feedback about the video format. I felt a little silly making the noises, but I actually think it worked well for this topic to get a sense of what the noise was and why I corrected for it.

  13. Tamara says:

    I agree videos allow tone of voice etc to be conveyed however it does mean I have to make a particular time to watch it as when I normally read blogs I can’t watch videos eg whilst waiting for my baby to wake up or on public transport. The short time frame of the video does help me find the time.

  14. I liked the video, personally. I usually prefer print, as I read fast, and it takes more time to sit and listen to a video, BUT I enjoyed seeing you, the dog, and how you related to your little boy. It was fun, for a change. I agree with you that children need to be trained to be “normal” citizens without weird quirks–especially home schooled kids. I also agree with you that each child has his own personality, and you have to find that balance. Good stuff! God bless you!

  15. Jennifer says:

    This was a great post. As a mom of two adult daughters and 3 teenagers/preteens still at home, I agree wholeheartedly that we need to train them to be pleasant to be around. Frequently, toddlers speak in high pitch whiny voices. I would always have them “speak in a normal voice.” Also, putting hands in their mouths, fidgeting when speaking to others, laughing in an irritating way and making odd facial expressions (to name a few) all need to be gently redirected. (I continue to work on the gently part.) Our main purpose in life and hopefully in the lives of our children is to point others to our Savior. It’s easier when we’re fun to be around.
    The video was fun, but I like to read your blog when it’s quiet. Thanks!

  16. Katie Hughes says:

    Jess, I just found your website yesterday and have been reading these articles with a passion! I am a young mom with triplet three-year-old daughters and a seven month old son. I have had so many questions regarding parenting as my children grow, and no real direction from older godly mothers around me. Your posts have been a great encouragement to me. Thank you!
    I agree with this completely! There is right and wrong and there is appropriateness. It’s the difference between enjoyable children and irritating children of my own acquaintance.
    I definitely enjoyed the video but I honestly prefer the written posts- for no other reason than the fact that the majority of my reading time is while nursing.?
    Thank you again for sharing what you’ve learned!

  17. Amanda says:

    I have been a long time reader since your “Making Home” days, and I was referred there by a friend just before my first child was born (four years ago now!). I almost feel as though I know you! Especially since your last two pregnancies and births have coincided with mine (I now have three precious littles!). THANK YOU for being a grounded, godly voice with solid biblical truths to nourish hungry Mama’s souls. I have learned so much from you, and have been challenged and encouraged both as a mother, and as a sister in Christ. I pray for you and your family often!

    I must admit, I loved this video, because it was a pseudo way to “meet” you! :) I was expecting a little more “y’all” and whatnot though – seeing as how you’re from Texas! haha! You brought up an excellent point – and I love how John Piper addresses it in his sermon “Help the Children Love the Different People”. He mentions Paul talking about being “all things to all people” and demonstrating love for others by the things we do (or don’t do) in certain cultures. Like eating with your elbows on the table, etc. That is what I try to drive home to my kids – is it loving to do that thing when you know it bothers someone? Not to make them paranoid about doing something that might be irritating, but to think about loving others above themselves (and helping to point those things out to them as necessary).

    How do you distinguish between something that might bother everyone in general, vs. your own personal issue? i.e. one of your children cracking their knuckles, tapping incessantly while seated, sniffling instead of using a tissue, etc? Where do we draw the line between things that are “triggers” for us, vs. things that would be generally regarded as uncouth (and therefore unloving) to our culture?

    • Jess Connell says:

      You know, Amanda, where we’ve fallen on that is for across-the-board rude stuff, I correct for it every time. For stuff that just gets annoying or personal habits that aren’t that big a deal but are bothering someone else (like you said, sniffling, or maybe humming a tune is another one that happens here), we have the rule in our home that “once someone asks you to stop, you stop, or you go to another room.”

      So, if you want to hum, fine. But if someone asks you to stop, you stop, or you can move to a room by yourself and hum to your heart’s content.

      We refer back to the “do to others what you would have them do to you” rule here… that we want to prefer others above ourselves, and not do things that they find annoying/offputting.

      Sometimes… occasionally… I’ll find that I’ve not come down hard enough on something. For example, perhaps a child thinks it’s ok to keep hacking away in a church service (I’ve not had that happen that I can think of but that sort of thing), and so then I have to let them know, you’re being a disturbance; you need to prefer others by moving to the bathroom if your cough is that strong. Etc. It’s all

      Hope this helps!

  18. Tracy says:

    Loved this Jess! I always appreciate when you share your insights!

    And I wanted to encourage the moms who said that they had a hard time watching a video or listening to a podcast. I can totally relate, often I will do my “reading” when the kids are sleeping or studying. BUT I have found that I love listening to podcasts while I am folding laundry or doing dishes or cleaning the house. I will often put in one earbud so that I can still keep an ear out, but if kids are happily playing (or sleeping for that matter) then I can think and listen to some deep thoughts/ encouragement/ etc. It has revolutionized dinner-making for me. When I am tired and thinking “oh goodness, how am I going to make it through…” I just think “hey, I think ________ posted a new podcast” or “Jess put up that video I could listen to.” It’s like having a wise friend who is available for encouragement at just the right time- and they are pause-able, in case someone needs my help.

    There are some really great bluetooth enabled speakers and earbuds now that make listening to streaming internet very easy. I use the same speaker to play audible books during lunch or rest too.

    Tracy (mom of 5)

  19. Brittany says:

    A “yes!” vote for the short video with play-by-play notes. It was helpful to hear your voice and tone. Kind of like sitting and chatting on your deck about motherhood. :)

    I do sometimes feel guilty correcting my kids for quirkiness, but you are so right…if I don’t teach them, they’ll have to learn from others who may not be as kind. And that’s part of my job as mama! Thanks for the encouragement!

  20. Kondwani says:

    I liked to see you and hear you, but in general, I also tend to read the blog when settling the children or doing things that mean I can’t use sound. So it is not all that practical for me. But maybe once in a while (and even better with a transcript or summary) is great

  21. Brittany says:

    On non-moral traits…do you have any advice for an extremely thin-skinned child? I have one who gets his feelings hurt so easily over innocent things. He takes everything very personally and even lets his 1 and 3 year old brothers “pick on” him and reduce him to tears (he’s almost 8). Obviously I put a stop to any picking from his brothers that is genuinely unkind, but it’s mostly just silliness. I know the answer isn’t to be mean to him to help him man up, which is typically what happens on the playground. But what’s the better way as a parent? So far, a gentle “that’s not worth getting upset about” doesn’t seem to help. Any thoughts?

    (I already commented once, but this post has been mulling in my mind for a couple of days now. :) )

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    […] at the table, or the way in which they speak to mama when they first begin speaking, or even just with a non-moral annoying behavior, where a mom has the opportunity to teach her children, proactively, the way she wants for them to […]

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    […] ANNOYING HABITS: (video) Should We Train Our Children for Non-Moral Personal Traits? […]

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