Monthly Archives: February 2011

Tuesday Triumphs: Character development

Just last week, a parent who frequently volunteers in William’s classroom complimented me on his character. She said, “William is such a confident child, but he’s sweet and kind-hearted, not arrogant.” Her implication was that confidence often brings out arrogance and that William proves that the two don’t necessarily go hand in hand.

Her comment made me smile, of course, but more than that, it made me wonder what it is that makes him this way. There’s no doubt that he is confident. And he is a very sweet child.

When I think of his confidence in school, I immediately feel validation for our decision to delay Kindergarten. His birthday is just two weeks before our state’s cut-off date, so no matter which way we went, he was going to be either the oldest or the youngest. There was no middle ground. His first year of pre-K, he was the youngest. His immaturity was blatant. His second year of pre-K (same school, same teachers), he was one of the oldest, and his teachers (and I) were amazed by what a different child he was. The confidence and maturity he gained made all the difference.

But aside from his age compared to his classmates, I knew there was more, especially since he is in a mixed-age class right now. I know that I would never accept arrogance from my child, but how exactly did that translate in a way that an outsider would notice? What I couldn’t figure out was whether this is just his personality or whether I did something as a parent to encourage this in his character. Then I picked up my copy of Childwise, and the first page I turned to gave me my answer:

“Certainly a child is born with a particular temperament on which personality is built. However, these do not excuse a child from appropriate character training. The combination of virtues instilled in a child’s heart must be the same [no matter his inborn temperament].

Character, in fact, is not about a person’s temperament or personality. It is the quality of a person’s personality and the moral restraint or encouragement of his temperament. It is the outward reflection of the inner person. Our character reflects our morality and our morality defines our character. They are inseparable,” (pg. 89-90).

To be honest, I have never consciously worked on William’s character. I remember once finding a list of character qualities and wanting to incorporate them into our daily routine, but it never really happened. What I think happened is that by implementing the Ezzos’ parenting philosophies, building his character became a natural by-product of all of the other work we had been doing.

The book makes it clear that we are to teach our children to respect authority, respect property, treat others with kindness and encourage service to others. By spelling out the character traits we should instill in our children, the Ezzos have validated all of the traits that I have always wanted in my boys. And not only do they spell it out, they give me a road map to achieving it.

Ultimately, what this shows me is that the relatively minor details of my parenting—like developing a schedule, defining a discipline plan and working towards first-time obedience—are all part of a much bigger effort in character development. I’m happy to see that it’s all working as I had hoped.

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Tuesday Triumphs: Sibling love

I love how much my boys love each other! They have their squabbles (what siblings don’t), but they play so well together and usually turn to each other when they’re looking for company. One day, when I was researching school options for William, I asked him about homeschooling and how he would feel about not seeing friends every day. He said Lucas would be his friend. So sweet.

I can think of so many more examples that demonstrate my kids’ love for each other. But in the spirit of this Tuesday Triumph, I’ll keep it to this week. A few days ago, Lucas was in my room with me, and William called his name from downstairs. What was Lucas’ response? He didn’t ignore him. He didn’t say “what?” He didn’t start going downstairs. He said, “yes, William?” He’s got the “yes, mommy” thing down pat and is now using it with his brother.

Of course, the parent in me is a little worried that it might elevate William to the level of a parent, which he would be more than happy about. We have the “third parent” syndrome already. But I’ve decided to let it go. I don’t want to discourage Lucas from saying “yes, mommy” and he knows that when he says it, he gets a positive reaction.

And just this morning, I saw more evidence of brotherly love. Most mornings, when Lucas wakes up, he says, “mommy, mommy, mommy” over and over until somebody gets him out of his crib. (Yes, he’s still in his crib and loves it.) Well, this morning, I heard him on the monitor and instead of calling for me, he said, “William, William, William.”

This brought a mixture of joy and sadness to my heart. The joy comes from the strength of their bond. The sadness is from the fact that my babies are growing up so much that they don’t need me as much as they used to. Lucas is a mama’s boy to the core, and even he is starting to show signs of independence.

My boys are each other’s best friends, and they would regularly choose to play with each other over any other friend. And despite their extreme differences (two different sets of genes there), they play so well. They are three years apart and they do play differently, but that doesn’t stop them from playing together. Lucas looks up to William. And William takes care of Lucas.

I haven’t seen a relationship like theirs in many kids or adults. But I can compare their bond to my relationship with my sister. My sister and I are very different and always have been, but we are very close. I can’t say there has ever been a time when we haven’t gotten along. Even through high school when most annoying little sisters (like me) are cast aside, my friendship with my sister was stronger than ever.

I can only hope that my boys are this close when they get older. If what I see today is any indication, I don’t have anything to worry about. 🙂

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Freedoms equations

Thanks to the Babywise and Beyond Facebook page, here are three equations to keep in mind as you manage your child’s freedoms.

Freedoms > self-control = developmental confusion

Freedoms < self-control = developmental frustration

Freedoms = self-control = developmental harmony

Are your child’s freedoms greater than his level of self-control? If so, you’ll end up with developmental confusion. The true litmus test for this is making sure the child knows how to use the freedom responsibly. Any object should be used for its intended purpose. For example, a toddler should not be playing with a remote control because he has no idea what the buttons are supposed to do, nor should he be allowed to operate the TV on his own.

For the second equation, decide whether you restrict your child’s freedoms too much. His freedoms should grow as he ages and as he shows more responsibility. If they don’t, you’ll not only frustrate him, but you’ll hinder his development as well.

The third equation is exactly where your child’s freedoms should be. You want his freedoms to equal his level of self-control. Not too many freedoms; not too few. Give your toddler the freedom to read his own books, but don’t allow him to play with Grandma’s prized photo albums. Give your three-year-old the freedom to put on his own shoes, but don’t allow him to brush his own teeth. Give your ten-year-old the freedom to play at a friend’s house without you, but don’t allow him to go without asking permission.

They key to maintaining developmental harmony is to regularly evaluate your child’s freedoms. When he shows greater self-control, you allow more freedoms. If his self-control slips, you take away freedoms (not as a disciplinary measure but merely to keep his freedoms in check). Think through all of your child’s freedoms and make sure they are promoting developmental harmony and not developmental confusion or frustration.

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Tuesday Triumphs: Thinking of others

If there is one lesson that I have learned in my six years of parenting, it’s that my marriage must stand at the center of all parenting decisions. Avoiding child-centered parenting doesn’t always come naturally, but there’s no doubt that it helps us teach our children to think of others and not only of themselves.

The idea is that parents who build their lives around the child can end up with self-centered children. The child learns that his parents and family put his needs above all others. By extension, he learns that his needs and desires are more important than anyone else’s. And while it’s not usually a conscious parenting decision, the child is never taught to think of others.

Babywise parents, on the other hand, are taught to build their family identity with their children, not around their children. There is a common saying among Ezzo circles: the child is a welcome member of the family but is not the center of it.

Now on to my Tuesday Triumph. Just yesterday, after pulling a muscle in my back over the weekend, I was in pretty severe pain all morning. I had to push through because I had to get William off to school. I winced and whimpered my way through a shower, and when it came time to get them both dressed and fed, I told them that I would need their help.

Initially, I wasn’t expecting much of a change in their behavior. They typically try to squeeze in every minute of play they can get before we head off to school. But both kids seemed genuinely concerned and immediately responded to my request for help. William helped me make their breakfast and pack his lunch. And Lucas was particularly obedient with every request I made of him. I could even see a change in his eyes.

The experience offered subtle evidence that putting my marriage first has paid off. I’m happy to see that at the young ages of three and six, they are well on their way to learning that they must think of others before themselves.

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Surrender with dignity

Do you allow your child to surrender with dignity? When you give your child an instruction, which is the more likely scenario:

  • You stand over your child with the expectation that he will not comply.
  • You walk away feeling confident that he will obey.

I hope it’s the latter. With this concept, the Ezzos implore us to allow our children to keep their dignity intact while submitting to our will. Take notice, however, that allowing your child to surrender with dignity does not require you to relinquish your authority in any way.

In On Becoming Childwise, the authors describe a scenario where little Stevie refuses to thank a relative for the birthday gift he has received, despite multiple prompts from mom. Consider this passage (page 228-229):

“There is a way to defuse such potential power struggles and maintain the integrity of your authority. After the second instruction, you should humbly apologize on behalf of the child…then direct stubborn Stevie to his room for some well-needed think time. Voila! The power struggle is unplugged and you have retained your authority.

“Children should be allowed the freedom to surrender with dignity. A child will often defy a parent when the parent makes the option of surrender intolerable. That is, a child will persist with wrong behavior if a parent does not give him room to surrender with dignity.”

“When Stevie’s mom battled him toe-to-toe, her direct insistence made surrendering to her authority in front of everyone difficult, if not impossible. Another response would be if she had walked away from the table after her first verbal reprimand…. Mom’s presence, however, extended the conflict.

“By stepping away, mom would have given Stevie room to surrender with dignity rather than face a continued challenge. If Stevie still chose not to properly respond, then removing him would have been the best option. Wise parenting is better than power parenting.”

As with everything in parenting, our goal is to teach submissiveness with a sincere intent: to pave the way to teach our children. To allow them dignity while they submit to us is not only kind, but it also allows us better opportunities to teach. When our children know that we care enough to allow them that dignity, they are more likely to receive and obey our instruction.

So the next time you give your child an instruction, walk away and see what happens. Walk away with the expectation that he will comply. Allow him to surrender to your will while keeping his dignity, and I bet he will be more likely to comply.

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Tuesday Triumphs: Bravery

Of all the qualities that I strive to instill in my kids, bravery is not high on the list. I want my children to cry when they feel like crying, but when I see bravery in my kids, I do feel a sense of pride. It shows me that they are learning to navigate this world and are able to manage their emotions in the most troubling of circumstances.

Last Thursday, right after I put Lucas down for his nap, I got a call from William’s school. The minute the director started to speak, I began to worry, as I never get calls from the school. It turns out William was injured quite seriously on the playground. While hanging from a rope, he leaned his head back and hit his eye and cheek on a very unforgiving metal pole.

With no neighbors at home, I pulled Lucas out of bed and went to pick William up. As you can imagine, William was in quite a bit of pain, yet he handled the experience very bravely. While it was certainly warranted, he didn’t shed a tear. It wasn’t that he was too uncomfortable or too self-conscious to cry, and nobody would have minded.

In my mind, his brave reaction speaks to the level of maturity William has reached these past few months. I believe this maturity stems from the high standards we have learned to expect of him at home, many thanks to the Ezzos’ principles. The bravery and maturity he exhibited in this incident prove to me that he feels confident in the world around him, no matter what it may throw at him.

One bonus from the whole incident was all of the attention he received from friends and neighbors. A bonus for mommy was that Lucas had no trouble going back down for his nap. My brave boy and healthy sleeper both put a smile on my face that day.

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