Tag Archives: eye contact

Regularly evaluate first-time obedience

Have you ever been blindsided by your child’s disobedience? It goes something like this. You are moving along contentedly, going through the motions of daily life. Most of the time, your daily life can be fairly child-centric without necessarily harming anything. But then suddenly you encounter an adult situation during which your child disobeys miserably, causing huge amounts of frustration and embarrassment for you, your spouse and everyone else involved. You leave the event vowing to your spouse that you will get your child’s obedience under control immediately.

There are two problems with this. First, of course, is that you had to experience the frustration and embarrassment in the first place. Second, your poor child is suddenly faced with super strict parents who have given the child no warning that things are going to change. His likely response will be to rebel even more, which only compounds the problem.

The million dollar question then becomes, How do you avoid being blindsided in the first place? The answer: evaluate your child’s level of first-time obedience (FTO) regularly. Think of the events that happen on a weekly, monthly or bi-annual basis, and set a reminder to yourself to evaluate your child’s FTO. Maybe you decide to do it every Sunday afternoon after church. Or you schedule it once a month when you pay bills. Perhaps you evaluate FTO every six months when you change the batteries in your smoke detectors. Associate it with some other event and jot it down on your calendar so you won’t forget.

Actually evaluating your child’s first-time obedience is quite simple. Just call your child’s name several times in the day and see how well he responds with “yes, mommy” and eye contact. At the end of the day, decide on a general percentage of how well he did. If you are the analytical type and need an exact percentage, count the number of times you called his name and the number of times he responded appropriately. Divide one by the other and you’ll get your percentage.

What percentage is acceptable? This of course depends on how old your child is and how long you have been working on it. If you have a two-year-old who has only been learning how to respond for two weeks, then 20 percent is probably acceptable (as long as you keep working at it). If you have a ten-year-old who has had a high level of FTO in the past, you might only accept 90 percent.

As you proceed through this process, always keep your goal in mind. The percentage does you no good unless you do something with it. If it’s lower than you’d like, that’s your cue that you need to work on FTO before you encounter a situation that will require greater obedience. Save yourselves the frustration and heartache by evaluating and working on first-time obedience before you really need it.

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Give individual instruction

Credit: kiwinz via Flickr

Do you have two or more children? If so, this is for you. Have you ever given an instruction that applies to both children and gotten zero response? Doesn’t it seem logical to give an instruction to two or more kids at the same time than to get their attention individually? We should be able to do so, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work.

If you’ve been following this blog, you’re no stranger to the idea that we need to call our kids’ names and get a “yes, mommy” and eye contact before we give an instruction. It makes perfect sense and works very well when you’re working with one child.

But what do you do when you have an instruction for two or more children? Should you:

  • Option #1: Skip the process and just give your instruction?
  • Option #2: Call both children’s names at the same time?
  • Option #3: Call each name individually and go through the process as you would with one child?

I speak from experience when I suggest that you do the latter. Yes, it sounds very inefficient and like over-kill, but it works. Here’s how these scenarios play out in my home:

Option #1

Me: Boys, go wash your hands for dinner!

Them: Silence and inaction.

Option #2

Me: William and Lucas?

Them: Silence as they each wait for the other to respond.

Option #3

Me: William?

William: Yes, mommy?

Me: Go wash your hands for dinner.

William: Yes, mommy (as he goes to wash up).

Me: Lucas?

Lucas: Yes, mommy?

Me: Go wash your hands for dinner.

Lucas: Yes, mommy (as he goes to wash up).

When you do this, it’s always wise to call the older child first (assuming your older child has a better level of first-time obedience). You want the child who has better first-time obedience to set the example for the younger child. That way, the younger child will easily follow suit.

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Tuesday Triumphs: “Yes, mommy”

Yes, I’m posting my Tuesday Triumph on Wednesday. It’s just been that kind of week. (And I’m not the kind of blogger who has 32 posts scheduled ahead of time.) Three-year-old Lucas is the spotlight of this week’s triumph. Lucas is often outshined by his brother when it comes to behavior. It’s partly my fault. I wasn’t very consistent with him while my husband was recently deployed. And I was blindsided when it became apparent that he had saved his evil ways for his third birthday. He was incredibly obedient at 20 months!

Anyway, our triumph this week is that Lucas has gotten infinitely better about saying “yes, mommy” when I call his name. My slow talker struggles a bit to get the “yes” part out, but it’s clear to me what he’s saying. He also consistently gives me eye contact when he responds.

If this is how you qualify first-time obedience, as Carla Link claims, then we’re about 85% there! Not bad for a three-year-old!

He’s doing really well in school, too. My baby boy can barely string ten words together, but he can spell his name! He’s always so pleased with himself when he does.

If there’s any doubt that parenting is a process, Lucas offers explicit evidence. I started working with him when he was a baby, and my efforts paid off. I still remember comments from friends and strangers who were amazed by his obedience. Then he followed my lead when I slacked off a bit. We’re now back on track and seeing the fruits of our labor.

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FTO Fundamentals: Immediately

In a recent post on first-time obedience (FTO) and self-control, I said I would write a post on the mechanics of FTO and how you can achieve it with your children. This is the first of three posts that should give you all the detail you need to start your FTO training.

Before we continue, let me refer you to my existing posts on first-time obedience. Go back and read those to lay the groundwork for your FTO training. Once you understand what first-time obedience is all about, then you can move on to training your child in it.

In her Mom’s Notes presentations, Carla Link goes into great detail on what exactly first-time obedience training means. Specifically, she defines FTO as having your children come to you at the call of their name immediately, completely and without challenge or complaint.

Today, we’ll discuss the immediate component of FTO training.

Counting to three

In the Mom’s Notes, Carla Link provides a little history on her parenting before she met the Ezzos. “In Growing Kids God’s Way, we learned that obedience needs to come ‘first time.’ Before we came across GKGW, we used to count to three to our children. If I called Michael’s name, wanting him to come to me, I would start counting 1-2-3. My thinking was that he needed time to choose to obey me. Taking time to choose to come at my call was not obedience. True submission (obedience) is coming at the moment of my call, whether he felt like it or not—whether he wanted to or not—whether it was convenient for him to or not.” (Mom’s Notes, Understanding First-Time Obedience)

Coming immediately

When you consider that your child needs to obey you the first time you call his name, you can see how coming immediately is a very important factor. Here’s what immediate FTO looks like:

  • You call your child’s name. (Just say his name. Don’t say, “Matthew, it’s time to pick up your toys.” Just say, “Matthew.”)
  • You wait a short amount of time for him to stop what he’s doing.
  • He says, “yes, mommy?” and comes to you.
  • He gives you eye contact when he comes and waits for your instruction.

That’s it! It’s so simple. When you think that first-time obedience can play out in our lives in so many ways, it can be overwhelming. But when you narrow it down to just him coming to you at the call of his name, it’s very simple.

Once you have achieved this immediate FTO (we’ll get into the other components in future posts), you’ll start to see this heart of submission carry over into other areas of your day.

Not coming immediately

While this training seems so simple, you must think through the scenarios where your child might challenge your authority and not obey you the first time. It can be subtle or overt, so let me give you some examples of what not coming immediately looks like. You call your child’s name and:

  • He says “yes?” when he clearly knows he is to say “yes, mommy” or “yes, mom.”
  • He says “hmm?” or “yeah?”
  • He says “yes, mommy” but doesn’t come to you.
  • He says “yes, mommy” and comes to you but doesn’t look you in the eye.
  • He comes to you and says nothing.
  • He says “yes, mommy” but keeps doing whatever he is doing.
  • He says “yes, mommy, but I need to finish this one last thing.”
  • He says “yes, mommy” and looks you in the eye but doesn’t come to you.

What this requires of you

To set yourself up for success in your FTO training, you need to expect a few things of yourself:

  • You train yourself not to tell your child what you need from him when you call his name. You say his name only and then wait for his response.
  • You don’t call his name casually without waiting for a response.
  • You don’t repeat his name when he doesn’t respond. First-time obedience is exactly that. It’s not second- or third-time obedience.
  • You make sure your child can hear you when you call his name.
  • You call his name and expect FTO whether you need something from him or have something to offer him. Don’t let him learn that every time you call his name, he’s going to have to stop playing and do some chore he doesn’t want to do. Call his name before going to the park or offering him a cookie.

Go back to the posts I mentioned above for more on this.

In my next posts, I’ll discuss the other two components of FTO training which are coming completely and without complaint.

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Surviving the holidays

If you’re like me, you may already be traveling to stay with friends and family for the holidays. The season is full of joy and excitement, especially for the kids, but it can also be chaotic since it often requires us to stray from our usual routine. Here are a few tips to get you through what’s left of the holidays.

Explain your expectations
Whether you’re visiting the usual family members or just having dinner at a friend’s house, clearly tell your child what you expect of him. Tell him what he can and cannot touch. Practice the interrupt rule. Tell your child he is to give you a “yes mommy” and eye contact when you call his name. Give him any special instructions so that he is fully prepared for the situations you will encounter.

Sleep and meals
Most of us will find ourselves operating on other people’s schedules over the holidays. Do your best to keep your child on his normal routine. Explain to family members how important it is that your child gets the sleep he needs to grow and be well behaved. The same goes for meals. Try to eat at normal times and limit sugar. If your mother-in-law is known for putting dinner on the table two hours late, bring a can of soup or something else to tide your child over or so you can feed him early and put him to bed.

Giving and receiving
With retailers starting their holiday sales before Halloween, gifts often become the focus of Christmas. Be sure to explain to your child what Christmas means and why you exchange gifts. Explain that giving and receiving gifts is a way to show our family members that we love them. When you put it in these terms, showing appreciation means more than just being polite. It impresses upon your child the importance of being thankful and receiving gifts graciously.

Also, teach your child the mechanics of opening presents. I sat down with my five-year-old today and we practiced opening gifts. I “wrapped” an old toy and gave it to him, pretending I was grandma. I told him to open it then look in my eyes and say thank you and something like “I love it” or “I’ve always wanted something like this”. I also told him he is not to toss it aside and greedily open gift after gift without stopping to show his appreciation to every giver. I also prepared him for receiving a gift that he doesn’t necessarily like. I asked him what he would say and he said “no thank you”. While this is polite, I told him that to show his love for the giver, he still has to say “thank you” and even pretend that he likes it.

A couple years ago, when my nephew was four or five years old, he opened one of our gifts and said, “I didn’t want this.” It was a purely innocent comment, possibly related to a list he had made or what he had told Santa he wanted. But it caught me a little off guard. Of course, I laughed it off, but it also made me realize the importance of teaching my kids how to receive graciously.

Discipline
There will undoubtedly be times when you will need to discipline your child when you’re away from home. This may be at grandma’s house or even in the store for last-minute shopping. Wherever it may be, scope out your location to look for a place to isolate your child when a timeout is needed. If grandparents disapprove of discipline, politely stand your ground and explain to them the importance of teaching your child (through your actions) what is and is not acceptable behavior. If you slack off on discipline, your child’s behaviors may snowball out of control and nobody will be happy.

Allow your child to take a break
We all get overwhelmed with all the people, food and chatter that happens during the holidays. Allow your child to escape it if he wants to. Find a spot in the home you’re visiting where he can sit and read books or even watch a video. If your child is acting up it could be that all he needs is a little peace and quiet.

No matter how you celebrate the holidays, be sure to prepare your child for what’s expected and do your best to stick with your usual routine and disciplinary methods. Happy holidays!

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Where’s the discipline?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Achieving first-time obedience

In my last post, I described what first-time obedience looks like. Now we’ll get into the details of how you can help your child obey the first time. It’s not easy but so worth it!

Lay the groundwork. It’s all about your tone.
Before you start requiring first-time obedience, you need to ensure your own attitude is in the right place. For those of you unsure of your ability to command authority, reach down within yourself and find your courage. Do not fear your child. Do not let him make the choices for the family. If you have read one or two of the Ezzo books, you are no stranger to the idea that the marriage takes priority in the family. Your child is a welcome member of the family but is not the center of it. Let that attitude carry you through your daily interactions with your child.

Some of you may have a strong handle on your authority but might take it too far. Don’t expect that he will disobey or he will. Don’t think that having authority over your child means that he’ll comply with unreasonable expectations when he’s tired and hungry. Don’t equate authority with anger and power. We want wise parenting, not power parenting.

If you have found the right attitude, you are likely at a place where you want to set your child up to succeed but will maintain a matter-of-fact tone if he doesn’t. When your child disobeys, you don’t accept it or get angry. You say to him, “Oops, I see you’ve made the wrong choice. Too bad. Here is what your consequence will be.”

Be consistent!

One of the most important things you need to require of yourself is consistency. If you want first-time obedience from your child, you must be 100% consistent. If you slip, he will too. But if you require it, he will meet your expectation. Your child will only rise to the expectation you set for him. Set the bar high but keep in mind you need to do the work to help him get there.

Get your “yes, mommy” and eye contact
I cannot stress enough how important it is to have your child respond to the call of his name with a “yes, mommy” and eye contact. Before you give any task, especially one that he won’t want to do, you need to get his attention and know that he is listening. Maintaining eye contact while you give the instruction is key. Refer back to these posts for more.

Don’t repeat yourself
One sure-fire way to not get first-time obedience is to repeat yourself. How can he achieve first-time obedience if you’ve already given your instruction 5 times? Give him your instruction clearly and while maintaining eye contact and you have no excuse to repeat yourself. You know he has heard you loud and clear.

So what do you do if your child doesn’t respond after you’ve given your one instruction? Wait. Don’t wait 20 minutes, but do give him a chance to comply. If he still doesn’t respond, don’t say another word. Simply take him by the hand and physically help him complete the task. If you’ve asked him to put his Legos away and he ignores you, take his hand and bring him over to the Legos. Then take his hands in your own and start picking them up together. Be sure to do this with a very calm demeanor or he will strongly resist you.

After you have completed the task together, explain to him that you had to help him this time and that next time, you want him to obey you the first time you ask him to do something. After you have given it a few days of helping him obey you, move on to expecting him to obey you on his own. If he chooses not to, then you move on to your consequence.

Decide ahead of time what your consequences will be
Spend some time with your spouse thinking through your child’s most troublesome behaviors. Then decide on a logical or natural consequence for each of those behaviors. Write them down and post them in the kitchen so you can refer to them often. Perhaps picking up his toys is where he struggles the most. You might decide to take those toys away for a day. Let the punishment fit the crime, and make sure your consequences are ones that you can follow through on, even at your own weakest moments.

The key here is that you plan ahead so that when you’re faced with disobedience, you’re not scrambling to come up with a consequence. You want to respond swiftly, especially as you’re just beginning. Refer to my post on intentional parenting for more.

Do non-conflict training
Whether he’s 2 or 12, take the time to explain to him your new standard of obedience. He needs to know that you are changing the rules of the game and that you will be giving consequences the first time he disobeys. Clearly explain to him that you expect him to respond to your instructions the first time you give them. Be specific. Tell him that if he runs away from you at the park, you will go home the first time. Tell him that if he speaks to you with disrespect just one time, he will lose his TV privileges. Remind him often, several times a day every day.

Follow through
This is where you make or break the deal. You can do all of the work I describe above, but if you don’t follow through when your child disobeys the first time, all of your work will be for nothing. Not only will it have been a waste of time, but now your child won’t believe you when you say you will require first-time obedience. If your child disobeys just one time, issue the consequence, no questions asked. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Don’t repeat yourself. Don’t threaten. Don’t get angry. Keep a calm demeanor and follow through.

Now, don’t kick yourself if you slip once or twice. You are both acquiring a new skill, but do make it a priority. Even set aside a few days when you can stay home and work on it.

Set your child up for success
You want your child to achieve first-time obedience, right? So set him up to succeed. Don’t start your work on first-time obedience by asking your 4-year-old to mow the lawn. Take baby steps. Start by giving him a task you know he’ll do willingly. If he does it the first time, praise him! Expect that he will succeed. Make it so that he wants to give you first-time obedience. Then once he is doing well with simple tasks, move on to more difficult ones.

Be fair
You cannot expect your child to give you first-time obedience if you haven’t done all your work first. You can’t issue a consequence the first time if you haven’t told him what you expect. For all he knows, you’ll repeat yourself 20 times like you usually do. And consider context. Don’t start expecting first-time obedience when your fuse is short and your child is tired and hungry.

Require a happy heart

I started this post by asking you to work on your own attitude, and I’ll end by saying you need to ensure your child has the right attitude as well. A big component of first-time obedience is doing it with an attitude of submission. You might want to spend a week or two working on the mechanics of first-time obedience before you move on to changing his attitude. But once you are ready to do so, explain to him at a time of non-conflict, what you expect of him. Then if he gives you first-time obedience but sulks off after complying or whines about doing the task, start requiring him to respond with a happy heart. One of the best ways to do so is requiring him to do the task over with a better attitude. If he needs a few minutes in isolation to find his happy heart, let him go to his room and then come back to you when he’s ready to comply with a better attitude.

This was a long post full of weighty ideas. Refer back to it often. Good luck!

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