Tag Archives: freedoms

Freedoms equations

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

Freedoms > self-control = developmental confusion

Freedoms < self-control = developmental frustration

Freedoms = self-control = developmental harmony

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

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

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

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

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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!

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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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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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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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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.

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Funnel Pitfall #3: You don’t require your child to ask for permission

One of the most important things you can do to keep your child inside the funnel is to require him to ask for permission. If you’re ever unsure as to whether your child should be engaging in a particular activity, have him ask for your permission first.

My contact mom taught me this concept when we first started implementing the Ezzo principles. We were on the phone talking about William’s behaviors and I mentioned that he was putting on his rain boots to go outside. By then, he could open the sliding glass door by himself and before I knew it, he was outside playing on the deck. I asked her if she thought it was okay that he go outside on the deck by himself, and she asked if he had asked for permission first. Of course, he hadn’t, and I couldn’t believe I had skipped such an important step in my parenting.

Here are some signs you need to have your child ask for permission:

  • It’s very quiet in the other room and you discover your child elbow-deep in playdough…on the carpet!
  • Your child goes out back (or front!) by himself.
  • Your child pulls out bubbles and other messy crafts at will.
  • You’re playing outside and he pulls out his bike, scooter, soccer ball and tennis racket. By the time he’s done, the entire neighborhood is scattered with your belongings.
  • Whenever the mood strikes, your child rummages through the pantry or refrigerator for a snack.
  • Your child acts like the house is his playground. He is allowed free access to any room.

Think about the things your child does that nag at you a bit. If that little voice of intuition is speaking to you, it means something. Take note of that feeling and make a list of activities your child will need to ask for permission first. These will often be activities that he is allowed to do (like the playdough) but on a limited basis (not on the carpet!) or only under your supervision.

Sit down with your child at a time of non-conflict and explain to him what asking for permission means. Show him the importance of getting your eye contact when asking for permission and waiting patiently for an answer before he moves forward.

The great thing about having your child ask you for permission is that it gives you time to decide whether you should allow a particular freedom. Rather than letting something go because he didn’t ask or disciplining after he has already started, having him ask for permission will allow you to think through whether it is an activity you want to allow. It prevents any problems or frustrations before they arise.

The other nice thing about this concept is that you don’t have to make everything 100% off limits. There should be certain things that are completely off-limits, but if there is something you think your child will grow into or if there are activities that take more time than others, having your child ask for permission first will give you the opportunity to allow those freedoms at some times and not others. It allows you to maintain control over your child’s activities.

After working on this for almost two years, William does a good job of asking for permission. Our problem now is that he will often tell me he is going upstairs or whatever it is rather than asking me. I will stop him and say, “Are you asking me or telling me?” It’s my little reminder that he needs to ask for permission before he goes.

Even your non-verbal toddler can ask for permission. Teach him the sign for please and have him look at you and point to the activity or toy he wants while signing please. Now that Lucas is walking, I will start reinforcing this idea. I might even teach him to come get me and bring me to the toy if I’m in another room.

Having your child ask for permission is one of those key concepts that prevents disobedience from your child. Use it often!

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Filed under first-time obedience, parenting, parenting philosophy, prevention