Tag Archives: consistency

The new year offers a new start

Here we are at the beginning of a new year. What resolutions have you made? Despite all the failed resolutions I’ve made over the years, I feel particularly inspired this year. Yes, January 1st is just another day, but I’m choosing to see the new year as a fresh start.

I’ve decided that many of my former resolutions failed because they weren’t specific enough. This year, I decided to forgo the usuals: exercise more, lose weight, be healthy. This year, I’m being specific. I’m giving up soda. Completely. Cold turkey. I’m doing it primarily because it’s a healthy thing to do, but I also hope that I’ll shed a few pounds.

While making healthy choices is important, the new year also gives us a chance to make new parenting resolutions. It’s a great time to take stock, reset our goals and make sure we’re on track.

So in the spirit of the new year and the fresh start it affords, consider the following:

Reevaluate your parenting goals. Be specific. Don’t say, “improve first-time obedience.” Say, “have my child respond with ‘yes, mommy’ three out of five times in the day.”

Evaluate your schedule. Is it still working? If you’re having a hard time sticking with it, pare it down.

Take stock of your child’s freedoms. Does he have too many? Too few? His freedoms should grow, not as he ages, but as he shows more responsibility.

Revise your discipline plan. Make sure your child’s most chronic behaviors are at the top of the list. Add new ones as you tackle the old ones.

Pledge to do couch time. Make your marriage a priority. Set a specific day, time and place. Be realistic and shoot for three nights a week if you can’t do five.

Evaluate your attitude. Are you encouraging your child enough? Correction must be balanced by encouragement.

Vow to be consistent. Nobody’s perfect. We all slip sometimes. Just remember this: Say what you mean. Mean what you say.

Have fun. While our job as parents is to train and teach our children, we can’t forget to live in the moment. Play and be silly with your child. Before you know it, your toddler will be in preschool, your preschooler in elementary school and your teenager in college.

Here’s to a fresh start and a fruitful 2011! Happy New Year!



Filed under first-time obedience

Maturity in children

Have you ever received a comment from a stranger that validates your parenting? Amid the daily ups and downs I have with my kids, I occasionally get such comments. I got one just last week.

Someone told me that William, my oldest, seems particularly mature for his age. Mature. We have our struggles, especially when his SPD (sensory processing disorder) rears its ugly head. If we get basic good behavior, I call it a good day. So why did this word strike me? I can think of a slew of other characteristics that I’d rather be complimented on:

  • Well mannered
  • Confident
  • Selfless
  • Respectful
  • Smart

But the word mature is especially flattering. Mature is how I would describe the children of the parents I most respect. When a child is mature, it means to me that they have all of these qualities and more. When a child is mature, it tells me the child has been taught how to confidently navigate his way through this world.

When a child has been taught how to navigate the world, he is given the foundation that allows him to develop confidence. With that foundation, the child is free to learn and grow.

What is that foundation built upon? Obedience. Yes, everything circles back to obedience.

“Freedom is not found in autonomy, it is found in obedience.” (Shepherding a Child’s Heart, Tedd Tripp, p. 27)

I’m reminded of a story my contact mom once told me. She said she and another mom were on a hike with their kids and reached a particularly treacherous area. The path was surrounded on one side by water and on the other side by a steep drop-off. It was a dangerous spot. The other mom held her children’s hands tightly to keep them from running away and to keep them safe. She couldn’t trust them.

Meanwhile, my contact mom had taught her children to obey her word. She was able to tell them to stay near her while still letting them walk freely. Because of their characteristic obedience, these children were given the freedom to appropriately explore their world. They could be trusted to keep themselves safe, and because of this obedience, they were allowed more freedom.

So do I want my children to be happy, respectful, confident and a host of other qualities? Of course. But will I strive most for obedience and maturity? No doubt.

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Filed under discipline, first-time obedience, moral training

Potty training regressions

by Bethany Lynch

I wrote earlier about the need for discipline during our potty training experience. When our son started deliberately having accidents, it was clear that we needed some form of correction. However, accidents are not always deliberate, and it is very common for children to go through potty training regressions. I wish I had known that earlier! Regressions make you question every step and every decision.

There are some important questions to ask if you find yourself in the middle of a potty training regression:

  • Is this behavioral? Are there deliberate signs of refusing to use the potty?
  • Have we ruled out all physical causes and reasons? Are there any signs of illness?
  • Is my child too young? Should we postpone training and resume again in a month?
  • Have there been any changes to routine? Any trips that could have disrupted consistency?
  • If discipline is necessary, what would sting the most? Loss of toy? Time out? No reward?
  • Am I being consistent?
  • Am I sending mixed signals by using pull-ups or diapers except for sleep?
  • Does my child have too much freedom?
  • Am I expecting first time obedience in other areas?

So how did we get out of the mess we were back in? (No pun intended!) We went back to square one…bare bottom with the emphasis of staying clean and dry as soon as he was back in underwear. Every 60 minutes, we put him on the potty whether he could tell us he had to pee or not. If he did not use the potty, we put him back on the potty 15 minutes later. Yes, there were times he was not pleased he had to sit on the potty, but it was done. It was done without emotion and it was done consistently.

I think one trap of potty training is expecting to be told by the child when they have to potty from the beginning. This took a long time to happen, and I think putting him on the potty consistently went a long way in helping him learn sensations and bladder control.

Another interesting tactic that we used was a reward and prize system. Another mom gave me the idea of working towards a prize. We had used that system successfully for a while. Each time he went to the potty without an associated accident before or after that trip, he got a cotton ball. After ten cotton balls, he got a small prize which was hidden in a gift box. During his potty training regression, we also agreed that the novelty of cotton balls had probably outlived their usefulness. On a whim, we decided to put pennies in the jar instead of cotton balls. Being able to put all of his pennies in his piggy bank and still work towards a prize was more than enough motivation to get us back on track!


Bethany is a wife and working mother of two young children. Married 8 years to her supportive husband, Lee, Bethany says that without Babywise her life would be impossibly chaotic. Babywise has helped her children, 2 ½ year-old Kai and 11 month-old Caitlin, become happy, healthy, well-rested and obedient. Despite her busy full-time job as a neonatal pharmacist at a fast-paced children’s hospital, Bethany loves to write about her family’s adventures on a family blog, and she has recently started a healthy-living blog called Babysteps to Organic Living.

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Filed under miscellaneous, parenting

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.


Filed under discipline, parenting philosophy

Create a discipline plan

As with everything in life, success in parenting comes with practice and planning. When you have a plan for discipline, you are not caught off guard by your child’s misbehavior and can respond with the most effective method of discipline. A discipline plan will allow you to:

  • Remain calm in the face of your child’s worst behaviors.
  • Issue a punishment that fits the crime.
  • Ensure consistency.
  • Get to the root of misbehaviors with discipline that teaches a lesson.

Identify chronic misbehaviors

Your first step in creating a discipline plan is identifying your child’s worst and most chronic misbehaviors. Think back a week or two. Pay attention over the next few days. Does your toddler drop his spoon from the highchair after every meal? Does your preschooler give you attitude every time you pick him up from school? Does your preteen frequently forget his lunch?

Be as specific as possible when identifying misbehaviors so you won’t have any problem recognizing them when they happen again.

Identify at least one misbehavior, but try to limit it to four or five. You want to do this for yourself and your child. You don’t want to exacerbate your child by disciplining for too many misbehaviors at once. And you don’t want to feel so overwhelmed that things are so bad you might as well not even try.

Decide on an effective discipline method

Once you have identified your child’s problematic behaviors, sit down to decide which forms of discipline are most effective. If you’re unsure, start small. Perhaps a verbal admonishment (and consistency) is all he needs for one particular misbehavior. But if it’s a behavior that’s been going on for months and none of your other methods have worked to eliminate it, perhaps a more painful consequence will be more effective.

Again, be as specific as possible. Think through how long you will take away his toys or how many days he will go without TV privileges. If you determine that a timeout is the best discipline method, write down the steps to implement one effectively.

The most important consideration when deciding on discipline methods is choosing one you can follow through on without hesitation. If you’re reluctant to take away your child’s favorite toy (and you know you would have a hard time in the heat of the moment), don’t use that as one of your discipline methods. You want to choose methods that you can be consistent with even in your weakest moments.

Post your discipline plan

Post your discipline plan somewhere in the house where you can refer to it often. You don’t want to go through all this work only to forget it all. Post it on the refrigerator or a kitchen cabinet.

Make your discipline plan a living document

Your discipline plan will change as your child does. As you conquer one misbehavior, you can cross it off the list and add another. Be sure to stay on top of your child’s misbehaviors and not ignore the ones that aren’t on your plan. Make notes on your plan about whether the discipline method you chose has been working and how long the misbehavior has been going on. If the behavior doesn’t go away in a week or two, it’s time to choose a new discipline method. Or you may discover that one discipline method you chose is too harsh for the misbehavior. Your discipline plan is not set in stone. Make notes and change it as you see fit.

In my next post, I’ll share my discipline plan with you.


Filed under discipline

5 reasons logical consequences work

Here’s a quick rundown of why logical consequences are such an important discipline tool.

1)    It’s easy to stay consistent.

Once you have tried a few logical consequences and know they work, it’s easy to file those experiences away in your mental parenting toolbox and refer to them consistently. And as we all know, consistency is what matters most in improving your child’s behavior. If you choose a method that you’re not 100% sure of, you’re likely to question yourself in the midst of conflict. And once your child sees the glimmer of doubt in your eye, he will see that your authority is not impenetrable. This can lead to whining, manipulating and negotiating where your child ends up with all the control.

2)    You don’t lose your cool.

When you react swiftly with logical consequences, it’s easy to do them with no emotion—which is what makes them so effective. You don’t want your child to think he has gotten under your skin or that he’s able to push you to the point of insanity. Staying calm is what allows you to maintain your authority, no matter how egregious his behavior may be.

3)    You learn what really makes your child tick.

By testing out a few logical consequences, you’ll find one or two that seem to really affect your child. Sure, it’s best to get creative with your consequences and make them fit the crime, but when you find one or two that really seem to change your child’s behavior—which is one of our primary goals in parenting—then you can keep them in your back pocket and use them when no other consequence makes sense. But be wary of using them too often. See reason #4.

4)    You keep your child on his toes.

If you use the same consequence over and over again, your child will know what’s coming when he disobeys. This will allow him to weigh the odds and see if his misbehavior is really worth the consequence. He may determine that sneaking a cookie when he’s not allowed is worth spending ten minutes in his room. When you mix up your logical consequences, it keeps your child on his toes so he obeys for the sake of obedience and doing what’s right, not because he has weighed the pros and cons.

5)    You teach a lesson and make it memorable.

I mentioned this in my last post, but it’s worth mentioning again. The whole point of administering logical consequences is to teach a lesson and to make that lesson memorable. If you have sent your child to his room for the tenth time in the day, it’s likely he’s not going to remember whatever lesson you are teaching at that moment. But take him back to the store to apologize to the store manager for putting a pack of gum in his pocket—that he will remember.

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Filed under discipline, first-time obedience

Funnel Pitfall #4: You don’t consider social situations

Most of the time, we think about how our child’s behaviors affect the immediately family and our home. We often fail to think about how our parenting will affect the child and our friends and family members in social situations. Yet these social situations are the true test of your child’s obedience and your own endurance as a parent. By keeping your child in the funnel at home, you will be able to face the most difficult of social situations with ease.

Think about what happens when you don’t consider social situations. You may have an idea that allowing your toddler free access to the kitchen cupboards is outside the funnel but you allow it anyway. You have chosen to keep only plastic or unbreakable items in the lower cabinets so allowing this freedom is no problem, right? Wrong. What happens when you go to Grandma’s house? My guess is Grandma doesn’t have only plastic items in her lower cabinets. She likely doesn’t have locks on them either. So your toddler promptly opens Grandma’s kitchen cabinet, grabs a large glass bowl and drops it on the floor. Glass flies everywhere. Your child is in danger. Grandma is upset that her favorite glass bowl is broken. And you want to hide away in embarrassment.

If you hadn’t allowed your child to access the kitchen cabinets at home, he wouldn’t have even attempted to open them at Grandma’s house. Even the youngest toddlers know a kitchen cabinet when they see one, whether it’s at home or at Grandma’s. If you make all cabinets off limits at home, he will know not to open them anywhere else.

This idea applies to many objects and scenarios you might encounter in social situations. Think about the following:

•    You think it’s cute when your child puts all the couch cushions on the floor and makes a trampoline out of them. Do you think your friend would find this so cute at her house?

•    Your child has a tendency to bang your cell phone on the coffee table, but both are old and indestructible so you figure it’s no big deal. What happens when he does the same with the phones at the store?

•    You allow your child free access to your books and photo albums but always watch him super closely when he’s looking at them. But what happens when you’re distracted by adult conversation and he starts tearing up your friend’s photo albums?

•    You always answer your child immediately and allow him to interrupt your conversations at home. What happens at the doctor’s office when you need to maintain your focus on a complicated subject and the doctor is looking at his watch?

But even worse than allowing your child to be destructive and disruptive is the likelihood that you’ll discipline your child when these things happen. That’s simply unfair and confusing to the child. How is he to know that he’s allowed certain freedoms at home but nowhere else? How can you expect him to interrupt politely when you haven’t taught him how to do so at home?

My own parenting was recently put to the test in a few social situations. We just got back from a visit to my mom’s house. Her house is pretty kid-friendly but she was hosting a party. The kids were allowed to be there, but she made it clear that she wouldn’t be giving any consideration to their needs. There were drinking glasses on a shelf a few inches from the ground. The front door was left wide open so people could go in and out. And I was socializing with party guests. Was I afraid that my kids would trash the house or harm themselves? Not at all. Because I have prepared them at home, they know how to behave. Is it ever okay that they play with glasses even when they’re in plain sight? No. Is it ever okay that they go out into the street by themselves? No. There was one occasion when Lucas (now 21 months) wanted to go into the cul-de-sac where a few adults were standing. From the other end of a long driveway, I called his name. He then promptly stopped and turned around.

We have also been spending a lot of time at the pool for William’s swimming lessons. Lucas will either sit patiently in the stroller the whole time or if I allow him to walk around, I’m not worried that he’ll fall into the pool. At one point, he was standing just a few inches from the edge of the pool. I could tell the other parents were a little concerned (especially since I was a few feet away), but I just called his name and told him to move away and he did. Because I have taught him to obey me and have kept him in the funnel at home, I don’t need to worry about him when we’re out.

The truth of the matter is that we can modify our homes as much as we want to suit the child, but we simply cannot modify the world to suit them. The answer is to prepare your child for social situations, not the reverse. And to prepare your child for the world, you must keep him in the funnel. You simply cannot think through every social situation that might possibly happen at some point in the future and attempt to prepare him that way. And you shouldn’t have to avoid social situations simply because you’re afraid of how your child will react. Don’t waste your valuable babysitter hours to go grocery shopping simply because your child wreaks havoc in the store. Don’t cancel visits with friends because you can’t trust your child to behave in their house. And don’t let grandparents be worried about letting you over to their house. They shouldn’t have to fear for their belongings every time you come over.

Teach your child at home how he should behave. Be proactive with what you will and won’t allow your child to do. Keep him in the funnel at home and he’ll know how to handle himself in social situations.


Filed under first-time obedience, moral training