Monthly Archives: November 2009

Where’s the discipline?

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you may be wondering why I haven’t discussed discipline or correction ideas. Until now, most of my posts have been about the theoretical fundamentals that make up the Ezzo parenting series.

So why has it taken me so long to discuss discipline and correction methods? Well, aside from the fact that I don’t post as often as I’d like to, true followers of the Ezzo principles must have the basics under their belts before they can correct their children in good conscience.

Train yourself first
If you are new to the Ezzos or are starting with older children, you may have skipped straight to the discipline chapters in the books. I know I did! I felt like I needed to get my son’s behaviors in line and I needed to do it ASAP. I figured all the rest could wait until later.

But it doesn’t work that way. If you believe in the Ezzos’ teachings, you must work on yourself first. You need to change your habits. You need to change your perception of your child’s misbehaviors. You need to formulate a plan.

Prevention is key
You may have clued into the fact that the Ezzo principles are all about prevention. All of the work you put into your parenting and your marriage will prevent misbehavior from your child. Before learning about the Ezzos, our life looked something like this: 80% frustration, 15% discipline (mostly in the form of yelling, threatening and repeating) and 5% prevention. Today, it looks like this: 90% prevention, 9% discipline and 1% frustration. (I think even the most perfect parents get frustrated with their children at some point.)

Fundamentals
To recap my earlier posts, here is how you go about preventing misbehavior:

  • Put your marriage first. Do couch time, go out on dates, and make time for yourselves.
  • Make sure your child knows he is not the center of the universe. See my posts on child-centered parenting.
  • Create and follow a schedule. Do this even if your child is in school six hours a day.
  • Do non-conflict training. Make sure your child knows what is expected of him and don’t confuse him. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
  • Don’t repeat yourself. Don’t allow yourself to become a threatening, repeating parent. It happens to the best of us, so make a conscious effort to avoid it.
  • Make sure you have your child’s attention when you are talking and especially when you are giving an instruction. Getting eye contact and having him say “yes, mommy” are crucial.
  • And most of all, love, encourage and praise your child.

Follow the tags on the right or do a search to review my posts on these principles.

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Filed under first-time obedience, parenting philosophy, prevention

Teach the value of others

This is my final post on child-centered parenting. Here I will discuss one of the most fundamental consequences of making your child the center of your family: selfishness. In my previous post on the topic, I said:

“Child-centered parenting fosters innate selfishness and reduces the significance of morality. The child often feels he is above morality.”

The child rules

The fundamental idea behind child-centered parenting is that the child has all the power in the family. The child decides what he wants to do and when he wants to do it. The child decides what he will eat and how he will dress. The child decides how he will treat others. Giving the child so much power at such a young age encourages selfishness. It encourages the child to think only of himself.

Two sides of the coin: me vs. we

There are two important factors when it comes to selfishness. Not only is the selfish child only concerned with himself, but he also has little regard for others. On the “me” side of the equation, the selfish child is most concerned about his own needs and wants. More importantly, on the “we” side of the equation, he won’t let others stand in his way when satisfying those needs and wants. While selfishness should be discouraged, the lack of concern for others is most damaging. When you juxtapose the two, you see the difference:

  • Selfish: Hordes his toys.
  • Disregard for others: Steals toys.
  • Selfish: Is consumed by the idea of getting gifts (especially at birthdays and Christmas).
  • Disregard for others: Shows no appreciation to the giver or for the act of giving.
  • Selfish: Always wants to win.
  • Disregard for others: Will cheat at a game of Candyland and even gloat about his win.

Morality becomes a non-issue

One of the most dangerous effects of a lack of concern for others is that it makes morality unimportant. When a child is only concerned with himself and his own needs, morality becomes a non-issue. The child disregards any moral directives that are opposed to his own beliefs and desires. For example,

  • A child who has little loyalty to others will see no harm in lying.
  • A child who doesn’t consider the dominion of others will have no problem stealing.
  • A child who feels he is above “the system” (school, work, etc.) will cheat the system.

For this child, his own wants and needs take precedence over any moral direction he may receive. Those around him may attempt to teach morality, but if the basic concern for others is not there, the moral teachings simply won’t take hold.

What can a parent do?

The best way to teach morality to your child is to teach him to value others. And the best way to teach him to value others is to show him that he is not the center of the universe. Teach him that everyone in our lives holds a special place in our hearts and that they are to be valued and accepted for who they are (not for what they offer). Show him that the actions he commits against others damage the relationships that we have with those people. Teach him that if we want to be cared for, we must care for others.

Here are some ideas you can use in your daily life to encourage your child to value others:

  • Model the behavior you want to see in your child. Don’t lie, cheat or steal. Even the smallest transgression will get noticed.
  • Teach your child how to interact with others by sharing, taking turns, being honest, etc.
  • Encourage your child to thank others for any act of kindness.
  • Let your child lose at a game of Candyland. Teach him how to lose gracefully.
  • Teach him the value of playing by the rules. Let him make the mistake of breaking a rule and receiving the consequence. Don’t bail him out or make excuses for him.
  • Show him through your words and actions that adults and others in authority are to be respected.
  • Teach him how to handle disappointment by saying no to his requests. The earlier he learns this the better off he will be.

Almost any experience in your child’s life can be a lesson in the value of others. Use it to your advantage.

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Teach the value of relationships

Here is another post on the effects of child-centered parenting. In my original post on the subject, I mentioned how child-centered parenting teaches children to value relationships only as a means to an end. In that post, I said:

“Child-centered parenting creates a child who develops relationships only for what they offer.”

This is one of the scariest and most damaging effects of child-centered parenting. When a family builds its whole identity around the child and gives all the power to the child, he learns that people are there simply to cater to him. This results in:

  • An inability to develop loving, loyal relationships
  • Innate selfishness that is encouraged not discouraged
  • The inability to please those around him
  • A lack of family loyalty
  • Morality taught by peers not parents
  • An inability to manage in the real world with those who don’t cater to him

Child-centered parents train their child to take but not to give. They wrongly believe that if they show the child how to give, he will naturally become a giver. But this just doesn’t happen. The child only becomes more intense in his determination to take from others.

When a child is taught that he is the center of the universe, friends, parents and siblings play a peripheral role in the child’s life. The child only invests in a relationship if there is something for him to get from it. The child is loyal to no one and lives a life of selfish independence.

This can begin in infancy and extend through the teen years. Permissive parents will run to their baby’s every whimper and feed him every 30 minutes if that’s what he “demands”. Toddlers teach their parents to chase after them and clean up their messes. School-age children develop an attitude, demanding their parents to satisfy their every want. Teenagers remove themselves from the family almost entirely and no longer need their parents for much more than food and shelter.

Imagine a teenager who has sorted out who provides the things he needs and wants:

  • Dad: clothes, allowance, a roof over my head
  • Mom: food, clean laundry and rides to social events
  • Siblings: nothing but headaches
  • Friend #1: increased social status
  • Friend #2: someone to talk to when everyone else is busy
  • Friend #3: help with homework

It’s ironic that those who seek to develop an emotional attachment to their children are doing the exact opposite. Permissive parents work to create a strong bond with their child by fulfilling their every desire. But by doing so, these parents are teaching their child that satisfying your needs and desires is more important than love, loyalty and friendship.

Plus, the child who is driven by his selfish desires is not pleasant to be around. If this child sees no benefit from interacting with certain people, he will ignore them or treat them with contempt.

Even worse, when a child sees no value in developing relationships, his family loyalty is nonexistent. As he gets older and spends more time his peers, his loyalty shifts from his family to his peers. Then his peers become the people who influence the child’s morality. And when your child is more influenced by his peers than he is by you, you have no effect on the adult he will become.

Ultimately, this child is ill prepared for the real world where teachers, bosses, coworkers and others do not cater to him like mom and dad do. Life then becomes frustratingly difficult, filled with failures and disappointments that he wasn’t prepared for as a child.

As you can see, child-centered parenting can have far-reaching effects. Show your child that the world doesn’t revolve around him. Teach him how to develop genuine relationships with those around him.

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Teach self-control first

This is the continuation of my posts on child-centered parenting. In my first post on the topic, I mentioned how self-reliance precedes self-control in the child-centered home. In that post, I said:

“Child-centered parenting creates within the child a false sense of self-reliance. The child becomes wise in his own eyes. He believes he is ready for freedoms before he has developed self-control or a level of responsibility that indicates he is ready for those freedoms.”

Early empowerment
A child in a child-centered home is given far too much power far too early. Think of examples you might have seen in your friends or even your own home. Child-centered parents tend to ask their children what they want. Do you want to go to the park? Do you want to invite your friend over or go to his house? Do you want waffles or pancakes? The ultimate example the Ezzos give is, Do you want the red cup or the blue cup?

Now, offering a child choices is not necessarily a bad thing. It only becomes harmful when the child sees those choices as his right. It becomes harmful when it puts your child in a position of power over you and others in the family. Think about how your child would react in these examples.

  • He usually chooses a book for reading time, but you decide on the book this time.
  • You ask him to try on the blue shirt but he wants the striped one.
  • You decide that it’s time to play with puzzles when he wants to play with cars.
  • He prefers bananas, but you give him an apple.

Certainly, it won’t harm anybody if he plays with cars or gets the striped shirt. But it’s his reaction that you are looking for. His attitude is everything. If your child throws a fit in any circumstance like this, then it’s likely he has too many freedoms. And when a child has too many freedoms, even verbal freedoms, he has too much power. And when he has too much power, he becomes wise in his own eyes.

Protecting the self-esteem at all costs
You might ask, What’s so horrible about a child feeling strong and having opinions? Plenty. In our culture, parents are often concerned about nurturing a child’s self-esteem. Yes, it is important for a child to feel confident in his own skin. But when he feels so confident that his feelings come before those of others, it becomes a moral issue. In the Mom’s Notes, Carla Link mentions that nowhere in the Bible does it say to think of yourself first. It says to think of others, implying that it is innate in everyone to naturally protect ourselves and our beliefs. We do not need to be told to do so. In the same way, our parents do not need to boost our self-esteem. It is there when we are born. As long as our parents don’t do anything to harm our self-esteem, we are fine. We will preserve it on our own.

When child-centered parents give their children power in the name of protecting their self-esteem, they are allowing their children to become wise in their own eyes. A parent focused on a child’s self esteem might:

  • Always say “yes” out of fear that the word “no” will cause the child to feel bad.
  • Avoid discipline at all costs for fear of emotionally scarring the child.
  • Allow the child to make all the choices for the family to show him that his opinions are important.
  • Encourage other adults to appease the child.
  • Smile and nod even when the child’s behaviors grate against the parent’s belief system.

Wise in his own eyes
In addition to driving any parent batty, giving the child all the power will create a child who is wise in his own eyes. A child who is wise in his own eyes might:

  • Choose to play in the backyard and go outside without asking.
  • Tell you that his sibling needs a timeout.
  • Roam the house at will.
  • Attempt to gather information (about where you are going or who you talked to on the phone) just to prove he knows more than others.
  • Make himself too comfortable at friends’ houses, going upstairs before he is asked, helping himself to food, etc.
  • Convince himself and his parents that he doesn’t need to respect his teacher because of her faulty beliefs.

More important than any particular behavior, being wise in your own eyes is an issue of attitude. This child puts himself before others and believes he is right to do so. Why would you expect otherwise? This is what he has been taught his entire life.

A lack of self-control
When a child is allowed to become wise in his own eyes, he is being taught to be self-reliant before he has learned self-control. Imagine those same behaviors in a child who has learned self-control before self-reliance. The child with self-control would:

  • Ask for permission to play in the backyard.
  • Protect his dominion by speaking nicely to his sibling but allow his parents to administer timeouts.
  • Respect and obey boundaries.
  • Keep his nose in his own business.
  • Use his manners at friends’ houses, waiting to be invited to the playroom, waiting to be offered food, etc.
  • Respect his teacher because she is in a position of authority (and knows better than the child what is best for him).

When you juxtapose these behaviors, the difference is striking. Which child would you prefer? The one who supposedly has a higher self-esteem but who only thinks of himself? Or the child who respects authority and considers others? You may not think that the simple act of allowing a child to make all his own choices could lead to a child who only thinks of himself, but don’t be deceived. There is a direct link between the two.

Teach your child self-control and protect your home from becoming child-centered. Understand that teaching self-control and imposing boundaries will not harm his self-esteem. In fact, it will boost his self-esteem because he will be more readily accepted by the world around him. Do this for the sake of your child.

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