I have been walking each morning for the last 2 days. I live in an area that has some beautiful manicured gardens and some not quite so manicured yet still beautiful gardens.
I was looking at some hedges around the area and realised something that relates to my calling as mama. The hedges that looked the best were compact and no big gaps in the greenery. Others were shaped but had obviously been left for quite a while before being trimmed back, probably with a trimmer in a "hacking" manner. The end result was that the shape was good in a superficial way but it didn't have a good "body" to it.
Training my kids works in a similar way. If I leave teaching and guiding them until they are "scraggly" and overgrown with bad habits I can "train" them back to the right shape, usually with a bit of "hacking" but they aren't whole with good "body". There will be gaps in our relationship where I have to prune roughly just to get the shape to look right. If I instead prune gently and pay attention to when a "branch" or habit is starting that could lead to a really straggly shape/character, then my "hedge" will have better shape and will look good with strong structure/character under the good looks.
When I have let some bad habits creep in I need to remember to gently prune them away, bit by bit, consistently. If I try to "hack" my kids into shape when I have let things get out of hand I will damage the end result, ending up with a character that is hole-y and not as strong as it could be, even though the shape looks good and our relationship will suffer.
Now to figure out how to stop one child from being bossy and another being a complainer. Ah, the joys of motherhood, one of the hardest jobs on earth, but the rewards are immense.