Category Archives: parenting philosophy

Transfer ownership of behavior

Do you focus too much on obedience? Is there an alternative? Yes. While it’s all well and good to teach our children to obey our word, at some point, we need to teach them to take responsibility for their own behaviors.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have been a bit blinded when it comes to this idea. My kids are doing pretty well with first-time obedience, but the mornings continue to be a pain in my side. Here’s how it typically goes:

7:30 am: They wake up and play while I shower.
8:15 am: I bring them their clothes and cajole them away from their toys to get them to get dressed.
8:25 am: They play while I make their breakfast.
8:30 am: They play while they eat. 🙂
8:40 am: I encourage them to hurry up and finish to put on shoes and coats. (Yes, we’re still wearing coats in June. Don’t ask.)
8:42 am: They start dawdling. With very little time to spare, I sigh and go get their shoes and coats for them. No socks? I’m the one to run upstairs to grab a pair.
8:48 am: They squeeze in every last minute of play while we get in the car to be at school by 9:00.

As you might imagine, mornings are my least favorite time of day. Can you picture me yelling “hurry!” 50 times before the morning is over? And do you see how we have less and less time for each task as the morning progresses?

I’m sad to say that it took me this long to figure out what our problem is. Now that the school year is over (as of today), I have figured out that I have made no attempt to transfer ownership of these tasks to my boys. Age 3.5, Lucas still needs some help, but William, age 6.5, is certainly capable of taking responsibility for getting himself ready in the morning.

Here’s my plan. Now that school is out, we’ll use our lazy summer mornings to teach this. If it takes him two hours to put his shoes on, it will be okay. We’ll work on it. I will clearly outline each child’s tasks and make cards similar to the ones we use at bedtime. We won’t go anywhere until they accomplish each task on their own. I might even withhold breakfast until all the important tasks are done.

Hopefully we’ll have our act together in time for summer camps in early July so we can be ready and out the door by 9:00 without much yelling and cajoling. When school starts in September, I’ll allow him to be late. I’ll email the teacher and ask him to make a BIG deal if we don’t get there in time. It’s one thing for mommy to say it’s bad to be late, but if it comes from a well-respected teacher, it will carry much more weight.

How have you done when it comes to teaching your kids to take ownership of their behavior? Here’s what the Ezzos have to say about it:

“Childwise Principle #12: Constantly reminding a child to do what is expected only means you have no expectation.”

“Instilling self-generated follow-through is a life skill worthy of any parent’s attention. … Please note the difference between obedience training and responsibility training. Parents unintentionally tend to do more of the first and less of the second.

“Obedience says: the child will do it when reminded. Responsibility says: the child will do it before he needs reminding. Which category of training would you rather be in? That is why we encourage you to seriously consider this ownership issue and the verbiage associated with it.”

There’s one hitch to teaching children to take ownership of behaviors. They need to be ready for them. With our first-borns, we are often tempted to ask too much of them too soon. With subsequent kids, it’s easy to treat them as “the baby” and not require enough of them.

As Childwise says, “Remember principle one. Parents own all behaviors until the child is both ready and able to take ownership. Moms and dads own not only behaviors but decisions governing behaviors until they are able to successfully transfer the rights and responsibilities to the child. Someday, going outside to play, picking out school clothes, and visiting the refrigerator will be the child’s decision.”

Do what I say and not what I do. Be prepared for this day! Teach your children today to take ownership of daily tasks. Note, however, that these are tasks that you assign to them. William is quite independent and very capable of accomplishing many tasks. The issue is getting him to do things that need to be done, not things that he wants to be doing.

 

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Filed under first-time obedience, parenting philosophy

Character foundations: respect, honor and honesty

I flipped open my Growing Kids God’s Way workbook just now and came upon a passage I had previously highlighted. I’ve been thinking a lot about my children’s character lately, so it’s fitting that the book opened to this page. Here’s the quote:

“The quality of your character and that of your children is best exemplified by the presence or absence of three attributes: respect, honor and honesty. … Respect, honor and honesty are critical fibers in the moral fabric of our being. To respect our fellow man is to honor him, and to honor him is to live honestly before him. The parent’s job is to take the intangible concepts of respect, honor and honesty and make them tangible—to take their abstract meanings and make them concrete. They must show their children what moral truth looks like,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 90-91).

With this in mind, I looked at the house rules I have displayed on my white board to see if they help accomplish this goal. I have had these rules on my board for quite a while and considered revising them simply because my kids are older, but ultimately I decided to leave them as they are. This tells me that these rules—founded on the basis of respect, honor and honesty—are constants in our lives. Following is a list of house rules you might consider as you expect these character traits in your children.

  • Obey mommy and daddy; say “yes, mommy” and “yes, daddy”
  • Be true in all things; never tell a lie
  • Always use nice words; nasty attitudes are never tolerated
  • Be polite; say “please” and “thank you”
  • Answer when spoken to; say “hello” and “goodbye”
  • Respect and obey adults; make eye contact and respond kindly

As I was writing this, I started to wonder what the real difference is between respect and honor. According to Microsoft Word, the words are synonymous. Yet, there is a wise quote from a 19-year-old girl in the GKGW workbook that distinguishes the two:

“I can never remember a time in my life when I was not required to show all those in positions of authority respect. It is second-nature for me to do so, although it is hard sometimes to respect a person who is in authority over you because of a lack of integrity in their personal life. It helped when my parents explained the difference between respecting the person and respecting the position. I can always respect a position of authority out of a sense of duty. When I respect someone in authority because of the way they conduct their life, I am honoring them out of a sense of devotion. Understanding the difference between ‘duty’ and ‘devotion’ helps me always respect authority figures,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 91).

I think of respect as being action-oriented while honor is more of an attitude or belief. While our children are young, we ought to expect actions that reflect respect. With such a foundation then, they are well equipped to develop a sense of honor for those things they have been taught to respect.

How well does your parenting teach your children to show respect, honor and honesty?

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Tuesday Triumphs: Family stability

Notice how the parents are in the center of this picture. In most family pictures, the children are in the center. I like it much better this way. 🙂

On Friday, my husband went to a friend’s house after work, so the kids and I were on our own for dinner and bedtime. I took them out to dinner, and while we were out, I told them that I would need their cooperation since I would be putting them to bed by myself. William looked at me like I had three heads and asked, “How are you going to do that?!”

What makes his comment noteworthy is that not long ago, I put them to bed by myself every night—for six months. My husband was deployed to Afghanistan and just came home in November.

I reminded William of this, and he seemed to remember, but I’m still shocked by his initial reaction. My husband has been home less than four months, which seems like nothing to me, but I suppose in the life of a child, four months is a long time.

But more important is the idea that my kids have bounced back so easily from the deployment. Those six months were definitely a struggle for all of us. We all had times when we missed him terribly. I expected William to have a harder time with it since he’s older and more aware than his brother, but I didn’t expect him to forget about it less than four months later.

The experience tells me that my kids are resilient to any change or difficulty in our lives, and it’s probably because of the stability we have here at home. Despite the change and difficulty that the deployment brought, our family life is very stable.

This circles back to the marriage priority that I have learned from the Ezzo books. Honestly, if I hadn’t been introduced to these books, I never would have thought to make my marriage a priority for the sake of the children. In fact, most parents these days believe they must put the children above all else, including the marriage. Yet, if we make our marriages the priority, we establish firm family stability—for the children.

Feeling grateful

Ever since I started writing these Tuesday Triumphs, I have become all the more aware of how great my kids are and how meaningful the Ezzos’ books have been to my parenting. Yesterday, when I started contemplating what to write about, I couldn’t really think of much. The troubles we’ve had this week seemed to outweigh the good times. But then I was reminded of this one little comment that William made, and not only did it turn into a whole blog post, but it makes me think about the big picture and validates almost everything I’m doing as a parent.

Your opinion?

So I love to write these posts, but of course, I’m not writing for myself. I’d love to get your thoughts on this series. Do you enjoy reading about our triumphs? Are they entertaining? Are they helpful at all? My intentions are to continue blogging about general parenting, but there’s only so much time in the day. Given that I have a limited amount of time to blog, would you prefer that I offer more generic parenting advice and stick to the books, or should I keep going with my Tuesday Triumphs? Are there any topics that you’d like me to blog about?

Let me know what you think! Please leave a comment below.

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Tuesday Triumphs: Strength in learning

This demonstrates William's handwriting and detailed drawings. He knows he's only allowed to throw balls. 🙂

At the risk of sounding arrogant, I am amazed by how much and how quickly William is learning in school this year. He is now six years old and in full-day Kindergarten. His private school’s curriculum is a year ahead of public schools. So while William is an older Kindergartner (by design), he is learning first-grade academics. He’s a very confident reader and is beginning to explore multiplication in math. Art will always be his favorite, but he also loves Spanish and playing the recorder in music.

This shows what William is learning in math. Adding 3 numbers!

A couple incidents this week demonstrated his academic success. One night, while my husband was reading a chapter book to him before bed, William corrected my husband’s pronunciation of a name while reading over his shoulder.

And just the other day, while discussing a spelling app I had installed on my phone, I mentioned that the words were pretty easy (cat, bird, ship). He said, “I can spell hard words like ‘information.’” He proceeded to spell the word and got it right until the tricky “tion” part.

I attribute William’s strength in learning in part to the way we have parented him. Despite the struggles we’ve had with his sensory issues, he does really well in school. His teacher says that William is always diligent with his work and has no trouble concentrating on the task at hand.

His handwriting is pretty advanced for his age. Not bad for a Kindergartner!

There are several character traits that I strive to instill in my kids, and they work well both at home and at school:

  • Respect for authority
  • Listening and attentiveness
  • Concentration
  • Thriving in a structured environment
  • Independence in play and in schoolwork
  • High standards for himself and his work
  • Appropriate social skills

This last trait was put to the test four days ago when a classmate punched William in the face. This boy was frustrated that William wouldn’t do what he wanted and rather than speak to him about his frustrations, he lashed out in aggression. As a mom, I am just appalled that this would even happen in school, and my immediate reaction was to protect my baby from the outside world.

But his response to the incident tells me that he knows very well how to behave among friends. Not only did he not hit back or scream or even cry, but he shrugged it off and walked away. Later, he told me that it hurt and that he was sad that his friend would hurt him. The boy was disciplined appropriately (sent home from school), which I take heart in. But even more encouraging to me than the school’s reaction was William’s response.

Thanks to all that I have learned from the Ezzos, I feel confident in William’s abilities in school and among friends. These skills not only help him in Kindergarten, but I’m confident they will inspire strength in learning throughout his many school years to come.

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Love languages

Do you know your child’s love language? One of my favorite aspects of the Ezzo books is their discussion of love languages. The idea is fully explored in a separate book, The Five Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell, but it is a philosophy the Ezzos endorse. As parents, it is our job to learn how our kids express and receive love and to love them according to their unique love language.

The concept applies to any age. Have you ever given someone a gift and received a lackluster response? Has your spouse ever complained about not feeling loved while you feel like all you do is show him love? Everybody communicates and receives love in different ways. No way is better or worse. The key is knowing the specific love languages of your loved ones.

Here’s a basic rundown of the five love languages and ways to recognize them in your child:

Words of encouragement

Words of encouragement means exactly that. Someone with this love language expresses love by offering words of praise. Examples include:

  • That dress looks great on you.
  • I loved the way you helped your brother today.
  • You do a great job of showing your best manners at the table.

This might be your child’s love language if he is regularly giving you and others words of encouragement.

Acts of service

Some people communicate love by doing for others. If your spouse goes out of his way to do things for you, acts of service is likely his love language. Examples:

  • Your spouse puts gas in your car without you asking.
  • You make a special dinner for your family.
  • Your spouse puts the children to bed while telling you to rest.

Children express acts of service by helping you out with chores. Do you find your child helping you sweep, wanting to help fold clothes or do an extra-special job putting away his toys?

Gift-giving

Often a simple gesture, giving gifts is a way to express love. Examples include:

  • Your spouse brings home a souvenir from a business trip.
  • Your dad spontaneously brings home flowers for your mom throughout the year.
  • Your spouse’s eyes light up when you give him a gift.

Think of gifts from a child as something that has value to him, not necessarily to you. Sharing his dessert, drawing a special picture and wrapping up a toy can be signs that gift-giving is your child’s love language.

Quality time

Quality time requires that you invest yourself in the other person by offering your undivided attention. Do you find your spouse complaining that you don’t spend enough time together, while you think you do everything together? The key is making sure that time is quality time. Examples:

  • Your spouse turns off the TV and asks you sit next to him.
  • You plan a special date night.
  • You spouse is thrilled with the idea of couch time.

For a child, spending quality time together means doing his favorite things with him or taking him out for some one-on-one time. You might recognize this in your child if he often asks you to play with him.

My oldest, William, loves his quality time. Before his brother was born, he was always asking me to play. Now, they are each other’s best friends. I’ve also discovered that timeouts are really effective with him because he hates to be alone.

Physical touch and closeness

Physical touch is simple to understand. Yet, this love language also includes spending time together in the same room. Different from quality time, it doesn’t matter what you are doing as long as you are together. Examples:

  • You’re reading a book and decide to go sit in the same room with your spouse.
  • Your spouse doesn’t want to watch the show you’re watching, and rather than leave the room, he will bring his newspaper and sit with you.
  • Your child wants you to sit with him while he does his homework.

This love language is easy to spot in children. They tend to be overly affectionate and easily respond to any touch. My little one, Lucas, is this way. He would hug and kiss me all day if I let him. If I play with his hair or rub his neck, he goes into a little trance. So cute.

There are a few things to keep in mind with love languages:

  • Some people have one or two love languages. Usually, one takes priority over another, but both should be considered.
  • Some parents can’t recognize a child’s love language until they are age 5 or older.
  • Sometimes our loved ones know our love language better than we do ourselves.

There is a whole series of books on love languages by Gary Chapman. Plus, the Growing Kids God’s Way book includes a test where you rank certain acts of love to discover your love language. It’s an enlightening exercise for the whole family.

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Use behavior as your guide

Do you ever question your parenting methods? What parent doesn’t? Do you and your spouse disagree on what methods of correction to use? Perhaps one spouse is more lenient than the other? If you find yourself questioning your methods, your spouse’s discipline approaches and even the books you read, I have a simple answer:

Use your child’s behavior as your guide.

It’s so simple. If you don’t like the way your child is behaving, change your methods! If you like the way your child is behaving, see it as an affirmation that you are doing something right.

As much as we may hate to admit, we as parents must take full responsibility for our kids’ behaviors. Children have parents because they need authority figures who will guide and direct their hearts and actions. There is that little thing called free will that affects how a child will respond to his parents. But for the most part, we have great influence over how our children act and think.

If one parent complains to the other about being too strict or too lenient, then both parents need to observe the child. Our children figure us out faster than we figure ourselves out. The lenient parent must watch the child as he responds to his directives. Does the child obey the lenient parent? The strict parent must watch the child to see if he shows any signs of exasperation.

True, it’s difficult to do this with complete objectivity. Perhaps you can turn a video camera on yourself as you interact with the child. Watch it after the heat of the moment has dissipated and when you can watch it objectively. Or bring in an objective third party (friend, grandparent, etc.) who can offer their insight about how your child responds to your parenting methods. Some of my most prized parenting advice has come from friends or relatives who make simple observations about how my methods don’t seem to be working.

Years ago, a friend was visiting and watched as I gave William a timeout in our timeout spot in the family room. She commented on how he didn’t seem to care. I had gotten so mired in getting him to stay in that spot, and actually felt quite pleased with myself that he would sit obediently, that I forgot to evaluate the timeout for its effectiveness. By that point, William had stopped caring about sitting in the timeout spot in the middle of the family room. After reading a book or two and evaluating our methods, I realized that in order for a timeout to work, it needed to be away from the family. The child needed to be isolated!

If you determine that you need to change your methods, do your research. Read the parenting books and blogs. Identify the method you think will affect your child. Work with your spouse to define your new discipline plan. Write your new plan down. Then see how it works! Give it some time before making any critical judgments. But after few weeks (depending on how chronic the behavior is), you will be able to determine the new method’s effectiveness. If that method isn’t effective, move on to the next one.

Now, I’m not suggesting you flip-flop your methods on a regular basis. After all, consistency plays a huge role in parenting. But if you have noticed that a particular tactic or thought process isn’t giving you the results you want, then by all means, change it. Don’t stick with a method that isn’t working only for the sake of consistency. Doing the wrong thing over and over will never make it right.

The next time your child misbehaves, stop and think. Evaluate your methods based on your child’s behavior and never be afraid to try something new.

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Say “yes” when you can

I heard a wonderful phrase recently that I thought I would share. If you keep this phrase in mind throughout the day, it will help you determine when you can choose your battles and when you must consider holiness over happiness. Here’s the phrase:

“Say ‘yes’ when you can. But say ‘no’ when you must.”

Say “yes” when you can

Many parents are too quick to say “no” to their kids, often for the wrong reasons. The wrong reasons to say “no” include:

  • You don’t want to be put out.
  • You are annoyed by the request.
  • You are in a bad mood.
  • You are holding a grudge over a previous misbehavior. (It’s up to you to wipe the slate clean if you have effectively dealt with your child’s misbehavior.)

If you say “yes” when you can, you and your child will be much happier. True, your child’s little requests might put you out a bit, but if you don’t have a good reason to deny the request, then say “yes.”

Say “no” when you must

On the other side of the parenting spectrum are parents who are reluctant to deny their children’s requests. The wrong reasons not to say “no” include:

  • You fear that the child will throw a tantrum.
  • You worry about hurting his self-esteem.
  • You fear that your child won’t like you.
  • You are afraid to assert any authority over your child

If you plan to teach your child anything of value, you must have the strength to say “no” to your child when the situation calls for it. There are many times when you must consider your child’s holiness over his happiness.

Carry this phrase with you

Even if you feel you do a good job of saying “yes” and “no” for the right reasons, keep this phrase in mind as your child gets older. Consider these circumstances:

  • Your toddler begins to show he is capable of feeding himself, so you allow him that freedom at every meal. (You say “yes.”)
  • Your preschooler gets out of bed every night one week, so you take away his freedom of reading books in bed. (You say “no.”)
  • Your school-aged child shows over a period of weeks that he can complete his homework on time, so you give him the freedom to watch 30 minutes of TV after school. (You say “yes.”)

So while this phrase will certainly help us on a day-to-day basis, it’s also an idea that we should to carry with us throughout our parenting years.

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