Tag Archives: child-centered parenting

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: 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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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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Maintain your roles in marriage

In my next few posts, I will discuss in greater detail the problems I first described in my post on child-centered parenting. Here I will describe the first problem with child-centered parenting: your roles as husband and wife change to mom and dad. In my previous post, I said:

“Child-centered parenting redefines the husband-wife relationship. You and your spouse are no longer husband and wife. You are mom and dad. And as mom and dad, you are less accountable to each other and yourselves. You are solely accountable to your child.”

Perfect in your child’s eyes
As parents, we are perfect in our child’s eyes. We maintain this perfection for many years. This parental perfection is so important to a child that you can probably remember the exact day you realized your parents weren’t perfect. Believing you are perfect in your child’s eyes makes your roles as mother and father more appealing than your roles as husband and wife. When you are accountable only to your child, you are perfect. When you are accountable to your spouse and yourself, you cannot deny your own imperfections.

Children make us feel needed
Unlike any other role in our lives, our roles as mom and dad allow us to feel needed. Our children give us purpose. Even at the height of our careers, we might not have felt as needed as we feel with our children. Your child depends on you for his health and safety. And when you allow it, as many attachment-parenting types do, your child depends on you for his own comfort. When you don’t teach your child to be independent, you feel more needed than ever. In fact, some moms encourage their children to need them even when they show signs of independence. Many moms thrive on this need to be needed which makes it easier to adopt the role of mom in favor of that of wife.

Cultural perceptions of motherhood and fatherhood
These days, it’s often more acceptable to prioritize our parenting roles over our husband and wife roles. Our culture says that we can do anything as long as it’s what we deem best for the child. Our culture says that our spouses are fully formed adults who can take care of themselves. Our children need us most, so we will take on that motherhood or fatherhood role with gusto, no matter the effects on our other relationships.

Allowing the child to come between you
Put yourself in the shoes of attachment parent types who spend all day literally attached to their children. When dad comes home and wants a hug and a kiss, he is rejected since mom has nothing left to give. She has given all of her attention and energy to the child and wants nothing more than to be left alone once the child is asleep. Also consider the “family bed”. When dad has a busy day of work ahead and cannot sleep with a child’s foot in his ribs, he often finds a new place to sleep. The “family bed” then becomes the “mom and child bed”. These are just two examples of many that separate husband and wife in the name of parenting.

The beginning of the end
If you consider that it’s more pleasing to be mom and dad rather than husband and wife—and that our culture promotes this ideal—then you must consider that this can be the beginning of the end for the marriage. If you devote all of your attention and energy to your children, you have little left for your spouse.

All relationships, especially marriages, must be maintained. Like a garden, they must be tended and cared for or else they will die. By prioritizing mom and dad roles over husband and wife roles, child-centered parenting can be the beginning of the end for the marriage.

The child rules
If you consider that the child replaces the husband as the mother’s primary focus, you realize how the child then becomes the head of the household. As redundant as this sounds, by putting the child at the center of the family, you continue to put the child at the center of the family. Child-centered parenting builds upon itself.

All of the problems of child-centered parenting, which I will continue to discuss in future posts, are interconnected. These problems not only harm the child but they allow child-centered parenting to build upon itself to the detriment of the marriage. It becomes a vicious cycle—with very high stakes.

If you do nothing else in your parenting, make your marriage a priority. Allow your child to be a welcome member of the family rather than putting him at the center of it.

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Child-centered parenting

Think back to the day your child was born. When the doctor or midwife placed your newborn on your chest, you immediately felt a love like you’d never felt before. In that same instant, your life changed forever. You now spend very little time alone. Spontaneous trips to the movie theater are a thing of the past. You enjoy going to the park, the zoo and even fast food play places. You see life through your child’s eyes. You may have even quit your job to stay home with your child. You do anything and everything for your child. Before you know it, you have built your life around your child.

Yes, this is completely natural and very common in our world. But is it best for your child? The Ezzos say no. This is what the Ezzos call child-centered parenting.

“Often parents leave their first love, each other, and focus extensively on their children. Although this may be done in the name of good parenting, it is the first step to the break-up of family relationships. This leads to the second threat to successful parenting: the belief that children are the center of the family universe, rather than welcome members of it…. Instead of integrating the child into the family where he learns the basic give and takes of life, they elevate the child above the family,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, 5th ed., p. 35).

The marriage is priority #1
So if your child isn’t your first priority, what is? Your marriage. See my posts on the marriage priority and couch time for more on this.

You may be thinking, what exactly is so wrong with putting my child at the center? He’s a toddler or young child and requires a significant amount of care. All of my time is spent caring for my child, so even if I didn’t want to put my child at the center, it’s somewhat unavoidable. Yes, this is true in your day-to-day life, but your belief system must be built on the foundation that the family, not the child, is your focus. If you’re not convinced, consider these (enormously important!) problems of child-centered parenting:

Husband and wife become dad and mom
Child-centered parenting redefines the husband-wife relationship. You and your spouse are no longer husband and wife. You are mom and dad. And as mom and dad, you are less accountable to each other and yourselves. You are solely accountable to your child.

“In marriage, neither man nor woman can lose themselves. Marriage forces revelation. We are revealed for what we are…. We are less revealed in parenting, thus less honest about who we are. Attempting to avoid the truth about ourselves, we conveniently find, in the name of fatherhood and motherhood, a more pleasing image, so some think. Whenever we pull away from marriage, no matter how noble the goal, we leave our accountability,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, 5th ed., p. 35).

Self-reliance precedes self-control
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.

“Child centered parenting reverses the natural process of moral development… The child becomes, in his thinking, self-sufficient prior to the establishment of self-control. This happens because the [child-centered parenting] philosophy grants freedoms beyond the child’s ability to manage those freedoms. Self-reliance apart from self-discipline is a destructive influence on young children,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, 5th ed., p. 35).

Relationships become a means to an end
Child-centered parenting creates a child who develops relationships only for what they offer. This fosters independence of the family rather than interdependence.

“Where there is no relationship investment, there is no reason for family loyalty. Other people (parents, siblings and peers) matter only to the extent that advantages are gained by maintaining relationships. What the child can get out of relationships, rather than what he can give, forms the basis of his loyalty,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, 5th ed., p. 35).

Selfishness takes precedence over morality
Child-centered parenting fosters innate selfishness and other sins and reduces the significance of morality. The child often feels he is above morality.

“Child-centered parenting magnifies the natural conflict between the natural way of the child and his need for moral conformity. With child-centered parenting, the [moral] standard is perceived to be the problem rather than the faulty [child-centered parenting] philosophy,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, 5th ed., p. 35).

Worship is turned on its head
Child-centered parenting comes close to idolatry with children becoming little gods who their parents worship.

“Child-centered parenting, for some, comes perilously close to idolatry. When a child’s happiness is a greater goal than his holiness, when his psychological health is elevated above moral health, and when the child, not God, becomes the center of the family universe, a subtle form of idolatry is created. Children become little gods who have parents worshiping their creation and not their Creator,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, 5th ed., p. 35).

While it’s so easy to put our children at the center of our universe, this is one of the most important principles of good parenting. Keep these issues in mind when developing your parenting beliefs. If you want a child who values others more than himself, avoid child-centered parenting.

This is a very philosophical post. Look to my next post for practical ideas on how child-centered parenting can play out in day-to-day life.

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