Tag Archives: parental authority

Tuesday Triumphs: Character development

Just last week, a parent who frequently volunteers in William’s classroom complimented me on his character. She said, “William is such a confident child, but he’s sweet and kind-hearted, not arrogant.” Her implication was that confidence often brings out arrogance and that William proves that the two don’t necessarily go hand in hand.

Her comment made me smile, of course, but more than that, it made me wonder what it is that makes him this way. There’s no doubt that he is confident. And he is a very sweet child.

When I think of his confidence in school, I immediately feel validation for our decision to delay Kindergarten. His birthday is just two weeks before our state’s cut-off date, so no matter which way we went, he was going to be either the oldest or the youngest. There was no middle ground. His first year of pre-K, he was the youngest. His immaturity was blatant. His second year of pre-K (same school, same teachers), he was one of the oldest, and his teachers (and I) were amazed by what a different child he was. The confidence and maturity he gained made all the difference.

But aside from his age compared to his classmates, I knew there was more, especially since he is in a mixed-age class right now. I know that I would never accept arrogance from my child, but how exactly did that translate in a way that an outsider would notice? What I couldn’t figure out was whether this is just his personality or whether I did something as a parent to encourage this in his character. Then I picked up my copy of Childwise, and the first page I turned to gave me my answer:

“Certainly a child is born with a particular temperament on which personality is built. However, these do not excuse a child from appropriate character training. The combination of virtues instilled in a child’s heart must be the same [no matter his inborn temperament].

Character, in fact, is not about a person’s temperament or personality. It is the quality of a person’s personality and the moral restraint or encouragement of his temperament. It is the outward reflection of the inner person. Our character reflects our morality and our morality defines our character. They are inseparable,” (pg. 89-90).

To be honest, I have never consciously worked on William’s character. I remember once finding a list of character qualities and wanting to incorporate them into our daily routine, but it never really happened. What I think happened is that by implementing the Ezzos’ parenting philosophies, building his character became a natural by-product of all of the other work we had been doing.

The book makes it clear that we are to teach our children to respect authority, respect property, treat others with kindness and encourage service to others. By spelling out the character traits we should instill in our children, the Ezzos have validated all of the traits that I have always wanted in my boys. And not only do they spell it out, they give me a road map to achieving it.

Ultimately, what this shows me is that the relatively minor details of my parenting—like developing a schedule, defining a discipline plan and working towards first-time obedience—are all part of a much bigger effort in character development. I’m happy to see that it’s all working as I had hoped.

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Surrender with dignity

Do you allow your child to surrender with dignity? When you give your child an instruction, which is the more likely scenario:

  • You stand over your child with the expectation that he will not comply.
  • You walk away feeling confident that he will obey.

I hope it’s the latter. With this concept, the Ezzos implore us to allow our children to keep their dignity intact while submitting to our will. Take notice, however, that allowing your child to surrender with dignity does not require you to relinquish your authority in any way.

In On Becoming Childwise, the authors describe a scenario where little Stevie refuses to thank a relative for the birthday gift he has received, despite multiple prompts from mom. Consider this passage (page 228-229):

“There is a way to defuse such potential power struggles and maintain the integrity of your authority. After the second instruction, you should humbly apologize on behalf of the child…then direct stubborn Stevie to his room for some well-needed think time. Voila! The power struggle is unplugged and you have retained your authority.

“Children should be allowed the freedom to surrender with dignity. A child will often defy a parent when the parent makes the option of surrender intolerable. That is, a child will persist with wrong behavior if a parent does not give him room to surrender with dignity.”

“When Stevie’s mom battled him toe-to-toe, her direct insistence made surrendering to her authority in front of everyone difficult, if not impossible. Another response would be if she had walked away from the table after her first verbal reprimand…. Mom’s presence, however, extended the conflict.

“By stepping away, mom would have given Stevie room to surrender with dignity rather than face a continued challenge. If Stevie still chose not to properly respond, then removing him would have been the best option. Wise parenting is better than power parenting.”

As with everything in parenting, our goal is to teach submissiveness with a sincere intent: to pave the way to teach our children. To allow them dignity while they submit to us is not only kind, but it also allows us better opportunities to teach. When our children know that we care enough to allow them that dignity, they are more likely to receive and obey our instruction.

So the next time you give your child an instruction, walk away and see what happens. Walk away with the expectation that he will comply. Allow him to surrender to your will while keeping his dignity, and I bet he will be more likely to comply.

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Tuesday Triumphs: Strength in learning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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FTO Fundamentals: Without complaint

In my last two posts, I discussed the importance of your children coming immediately and completely when you call their names. Now we’ll discuss the issue of attitude. In many ways, making sure your child’s heart is in the right place is much more important than the mechanics of them coming completely and immediately. We want them to submit to our authority without complaint and without challenge.

Challenging your authority

For effective first-time obedience, your child must respond to you without challenging your authority as a parent. There are some subtle and not-so-subtle ways that children challenge our authority:

  • They say “yes, mommy” with a smart, sarcastic tone.
  • They mimic you.
  • They say anything but “yes, mommy” such as “what?”
  • They say nothing.
  • They say “yes, mommy” so quietly you can’t hear them.
  • They say “yes, mommy” appropriately but don’t give you eye contact.

In all of these examples, the child is refusing to submit to your authority. Do not allow your child to respond in this way. Make him repeat with the appropriate response and if he still refuses, send him to his bed to sit in isolation.

Complaining

There are some people in life who are more prone to complaining than others. I’ll admit that I’m one of them. But I’ll also admit that whining and complaining are done in habit. I’m starting to see it a bit more in my son. When I give an instruction or have to deny one of his many requests, I’ll often get a “but mom…” or “but why…” or “I was just…. If I don’t nip it in the bud, he’ll go on like that for several minutes.

Complaining doesn’t always mean they are challenging our authority, but it is definitely a habit we want to discourage. Even if the child doesn’t like what you have to say, they don’t have a choice in obeying. This is what first-time obedience is about. They must obey whether they want to or not.

So evaluate your child’s attitude when you strive for first-time obedience. Don’t forget that much of parenting is training our children’s hearts and that their outward attitude is the window to their hearts. If you do nothing else in your parenting, make sure your child has a submissive and obedient heart.

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Choose your battles

Yet again, unfortunately, life has gotten in the way of my blog posting. But now that we’re back from vacation and the taxes are done (mostly), I’m ready to get back to the blog. Today’s topic: choosing battles vs. inconsistency.

After fielding a few questions on the topic, I’ve discovered that many parents are rigid with their children for fear of being inconsistent. They believe that they need to fight every battle, lest they lose their parental authority. Let me assure you that you really can choose your battles without losing your authority.

In fact, I recommend that you choose your battles. When you fight every battle, your home becomes a war zone. Your children grow up thinking you are unfair and too strict and will start talking back just to be heard. Eventually, as they get older, they rebel just to gain a bit of freedom.

Think before you speak

The key to choosing battles is to think before you speak. If you haven’t said a word to your child about a particular behavior, then you really can choose to let it go. But once you tell your child to stop doing what he’s doing, you must follow through.

Here’s an example of how you might choose your battles without losing your authority:

Your child is pulling every book off the shelf to see which one he wants to read. The shelf is bare and the books are spread out all over the floor. The mess starts to nag at you and you’re tempted to tell your child to stop and start putting all the books back.

But you stop yourself. You realize that free playtime isn’t over yet and he really can see the books better when he spreads them out. And you always want him to read more books, so you don’t want to discourage his newfound interest in books.

So you let it go. You don’t say a word. He can clean them up when playtime is over.

Inconsistency

Here’s how the same scenario might go for a parent who is too quick to speak and ends up being inconsistent:

The set-up is the same. The child is pulling every book off the shelf and spreading them out on the floor. The mess starts to nag at you and you immediately tell your child not to make such a mess. You tell him to start putting them back. He whines and tries to state his case that he can see the books better.

So you think that maybe he’s right. Maybe it is okay that he makes a mess in free play. Besides, you really do want to encourage his interest in books. So you decide that the mess is okay. You decide that you’re just choosing your battles, and that it’s okay not to follow through.

The minute you told him to put the books back, however, you lost your opportunity to choose your battles. You gave him a command and by not following through on that command, you are being inconsistent. Choosing your battles is all about not saying anything and letting a behavior go. Once you say a word, you have chosen to fight that battle.

Being consistent and maintaining authority is all about saying what you mean and meaning what you say. So if you want to be able to choose your battles, you need to stop yourself and really think before you speak. It won’t hurt anyone if you take a few seconds. If you end up regretting what you say (which has happened to me many times), you must still follow through.

The caveat

There is one caveat to choosing your battles. If your child willfully disobeys a house rule that he knows is a rule, you can’t choose to not fight that battle. Say your child is jumping on the couch (always a no-no) and you dealt with the behavior consistently five times that day, you can’t choose to let it go the sixth time.

If you let it go the sixth time, then he will think that you really didn’t mean it those five other times. Even if the behavior continues the next day (and you’re in a better mood or you got your coffee or whatever), you must still follow through. Your child won’t respect you or your rules if you don’t enforce them.

Choosing battles is for those little things in life that nag at you but that won’t harm anything or anyone in the long run. So be sure you think before you speak and allow yourself that time to decide whether you want to fight every battle or let it go.

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Timeouts the Ezzo way

When natural and logical consequences don’t work, timeouts can be an effective tool. One thing to understand about timeouts the Ezzo way is that the Ezzos don’t believe in timeouts as they are culturally done.

Timeouts the Supernanny way

Before we talk about the Ezzos’ version of timeout, let’s talk about the cultural perception of timeout, often seen on Supernanny. The idea here is that you send your child to sit on a spot in or near the main area of the house. The child sits for one minute per year of his age (e.g., a 5-year-old sits for 5 minutes). If the child doesn’t sit, you spend an hour or more sweating (and going mad) as you keep putting the child back on the spot. Then once the child sits and his time is up, you offer a two-sentence reminder of what he did wrong and demand an apology. If you have seen the show, you know that the apologies the children give are rarely heartfelt. The parents hug and kiss the reluctant child, and all is well with the world (not likely).

Now for parents who are just beginning to command authority from their children, this version of the timeout at least establishes a bit of respect for the parent. But for those of us seeking first-time obedience (or for those of us who already have it), this version of a timeout does little to teach, which is what discipline is all about.

Isolation

The Ezzos’ version of timeouts is more about isolation.

“Children are social beings. Isolation means temporarily taking away the privilege of social contact…. Isolation can be used as a form of correction when a parent isolates a child to his room, not for play, but for contemplation. This approach should be used to draw attention to the more serious offenses,” Growing Kids God’s Way, 5th edition, p. 161.

You’ll notice the Ezzos don’t even use the term “timeout.” The only time you will hear this word from them is in the phrase “reflective timeout” which is done BEFORE the child has committed any wrongdoing. Its intent is entirely different.

Isolation is not some cursory punishment with the child sitting near you and his siblings. As I mentioned in a previous post, we want to discipline, not punish our children. The goal of discipline is to teach, not make them suffer for the sake of suffering. So to have them sit just for the sake of sitting does little to teach them about why their actions were wrong.

The goal: a happy and repentant heart

If you have seen Supernanny, you might recall the “apologies” that are given after a timeout. (Yes, those quotes are meant to convey sarcasm.) The parent requires the child to apologize with a mere “sorry” which is often mumbled through tears or a dejected face that doesn’t convey repentance. That insincere “sorry” sounds more like the child was sorry he got caught, with a bit of surprise that the parent actually followed through on the timeout.

With the Ezzos’ version of timeout, the ultimate goal is a happy and repentant heart. When you send him to timeout, he is likely feeling mad, sad or indignant that you would send him to his room. By the end of his timeout, he must express true repentance, offer a sincere apology and even ask how he can right the wrong. It is only when you see this in your child that the timeout should be over.

So how long is a timeout?

The Ezzos might argue that one minute per year of age is hardly enough time for a child to seriously contemplate what he did wrong and find a happy and repentant heart. You must also consider the seriousness of the offense when deciding how long your child should sit in his room. A subtle form of disrespect might warrant 5-10 minutes while an aggressive action done in anger might warrant 20 minutes or more.

The key idea here is that the parent decides how long the child needs to sit. And when making that decision, it’s not a matter of how much of a punishment the child needs (or how much of a break the parent wants). It’s a matter of how long it will take for the child to reach the point of repentance. Every child is different, so it is up to the parent to decide.

I suggest that you even allow your child to determine how long his timeout should be. A child about 5 years old and up (assuming a healthy level of first-time obedience), should be allowed to determine when his timeout is over. Now, if he sits for two minutes and you can tell his heart isn’t in the right place, send him back. But what you might discover more often is that the child will sit for much longer than you expect. The child knows how much time he needs to achieve a happy and repentant heart and will sit for as long as he thinks is necessary.

First-time obedience is necessary

As you can imagine, sending a child to his room to sit on his bed will take a healthy dose of first-time obedience. If you don’t have it with your child, you will end up like those parents you see on Supernanny chasing after their children for hours on end. This is one reason why first-time obedience is so important.

If you are still working on first-time obedience with your toddler, it’s fine to do timeouts in a crib or playpen. Just be sure they are done away from the main area of the house. You still need him to be isolated. And keep him there for as long as is needed for him to have a happy and repentant heart. Some might scoff at the idea of a 2-year-old feeling repentant, but those of you with toddlers know what I’m talking about. You can see it in their eyes. These kids wear their hearts on their sleeves.

In my next post, I’ll offer more on the mechanics of issuing timeouts the Ezzo way.

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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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