Tag Archives: permissive 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

Children want to be disciplined

Among most parents, it’s understood that children need discipline. But have you ever considered that your child actually wants to be disciplined? Sure, he may protest when you send him to his room, but many experts say children actually crave discipline.

I am currently reading Make Your Children Mind without Losing Yours by Kevin Leman and in the book, he says, “They don’t test us out of orneriness; what they really want to know is whether or not we care. When we are firm and prove that we do care, they may not like it but they do respect us and appreciate us,” (p. 88).

Discipline shows you care
Our children want discipline simply to know that we care about them. When you discipline your child, you are showing that you have a vested interest in how he behaves. You show that you care about what he does and who he becomes.

Some children of permissive parents will act out simply to challenge their parents to discipline them. They will try every misdeed in the book to see if their parents care enough to discipline them. Sadly, this tactic usually backfires on them. Not only do they not receive loving discipline, but also they get shouting, frustrated parents who lash out once they have reached their breaking point. (Think Supernanny.)

Discipline allows children to learn
Our children also want discipline so they can learn to navigate the world around them. In most cases, our children come from a place of innocence and want to please their parents. However, they are still learning the ways of the world and need their parents’ discipline to redirect them towards right behavior.

No matter how young, on some level, your child recognizes that he needs this discipline to learn how to behave in the world. He knows that the world can be a big, scary place, and he depends on you to teach and guide him by disciplining those behaviors that are not acceptable in our world.

Discipline cleanses the soul
Most importantly, disciplining your child can cleanse his soul. When you discipline, the behavior is spoken about openly and is addressed with love. The child understands what he did wrong and has the opportunity to apologize for his actions. He also has the opportunity to receive forgiveness from those he offended. Once he repents and receives forgiveness, his slate is wiped clean.

When a child misbehaves and receives no discipline, he may feel secretly self-conscious about his behavior but has no opportunity to confess his sin or ask for forgiveness. Without being encouraged to apologize to his parents, his sins are left to fester in his heart.

His heart then becomes full of negativity, especially if his whole childhood is characterized by a lack of discipline. He may even carry this feeling into his adult years. Sure, he may understand that the actions he committed as a child are relatively insignificant, but when that negativity stays in his heart for so long, the actions and his feelings toward them can get blown out of proportion.

Be sure to show your child you care about his actions and his heart by disciplining him in love. One day, he will thank you for it.

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Filed under moral training, parenting

Set realistic expectations

One of the most important elements of good parenting is setting expectations. Some parents expect far too much of their children only to exasperate themselves and their children. Other parents expect far too little. I encourage you to constantly evaluate your expectations of your child.

Setting the bar
Many Ezzo parents are proud of the fact that they can expect relatively good behavior from their children. This stems from the fact that we often set the bar quite high. Yet some parents take this too far, setting the bar so high that it’s impossible for their children to reach it. This family finds themselves in constant struggle with children being disciplined regularly for goals that are simply unattainable.

On the other hand, some parents, permissive parents in particular, set the bar too low. They expect very little of their children and achieve exactly that. These parents are often just as frustrated, however, simply because of their children’s excessive misbehavior. The children of permissive parents don’t get off without frustrations of their own. While in their daily lives they escape discipline, they encounter certain situations where the parents decide to crack down. Typically, this is at a friend’s house or some other public location that has left permissive parents feeling so embarrassed they decide to take action. Their poor children don’t see it coming and are confused by the sudden change in the rules.

Find your happy medium between these two extremes. Set your bar high enough that you can expect good behavior and a solid moral conscience, but don’t set it so high that you exasperate yourself or your child.

Childishness vs. defiance
While setting the bar high will help improve your child’s behavior, we must not forget that they sometimes misbehave in innocence. Before disciplining your child, you must stop to think about the intent behind the misbehavior. You must determine whether the behavior was caused by simple childishness or whether the child was being defiant in his actions.

“We use the term childishness to refer to innocent immaturity. This includes those nonmalicious, nonrebellious, accidental mistakes our children make…. Defiance, on the other hand, implies bad motives. The child knew the act was wrong but did it anyway. Childishness is usually a head problem—a lack of knowledge. Defiance is usually a heart problem—the child does not want to do right,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 132).

Clearly, defiance deserves correction. Childishness, however, must be treated differently. While childish acts can be just as grating on a parent’s nerves, they cannot be treated in the same way. Simply explain to your child why his actions were wrong so you give him the knowledge for next time. If he makes the same mistake again (and if it’s not a true accident), then the act deserves correction. If your child clearly understands your instruction and commits the offense again, the act moves from childishness to defiance.

Expectations change
One final note about setting expectations is to realize that they will—and should—change as your child gets older. Some actions will be treated as childishness with a young child, but the same actions in an older child are defiance. Yes, you must still tell your child what you expect of him, but also at some point he becomes old enough to know better.

Say you struggle with table manners with your toddler. In many ways, his actions (getting food all over his face, choosing to use his hands over utensils, etc.) are childish. But if you saw these same actions in a five-year-old, you would treat them as defiance. An older child has the capacity to use his utensils and keep food in his mouth—not to mention use a napkin—so if he acts like a toddler at the table, his actions must be corrected.

Be aware of this as your child ages and make sure you are moving your expectations and setting the bar higher and higher. And take the time right now to make sure your expectations are in the right place for today. You don’t want to discipline your child excessively nor do you want to set the bar too low. Take the time to figure out where your child’s bar belongs.

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Filed under parenting philosophy, prevention

Teach the value of relationships

Here is another post on the effects of child-centered parenting. In my original post on the subject, I mentioned how child-centered parenting teaches children to value relationships only as a means to an end. In that post, I said:

“Child-centered parenting creates a child who develops relationships only for what they offer.”

This is one of the scariest and most damaging effects of child-centered parenting. When a family builds its whole identity around the child and gives all the power to the child, he learns that people are there simply to cater to him. This results in:

  • An inability to develop loving, loyal relationships
  • Innate selfishness that is encouraged not discouraged
  • The inability to please those around him
  • A lack of family loyalty
  • Morality taught by peers not parents
  • An inability to manage in the real world with those who don’t cater to him

Child-centered parents train their child to take but not to give. They wrongly believe that if they show the child how to give, he will naturally become a giver. But this just doesn’t happen. The child only becomes more intense in his determination to take from others.

When a child is taught that he is the center of the universe, friends, parents and siblings play a peripheral role in the child’s life. The child only invests in a relationship if there is something for him to get from it. The child is loyal to no one and lives a life of selfish independence.

This can begin in infancy and extend through the teen years. Permissive parents will run to their baby’s every whimper and feed him every 30 minutes if that’s what he “demands”. Toddlers teach their parents to chase after them and clean up their messes. School-age children develop an attitude, demanding their parents to satisfy their every want. Teenagers remove themselves from the family almost entirely and no longer need their parents for much more than food and shelter.

Imagine a teenager who has sorted out who provides the things he needs and wants:

  • Dad: clothes, allowance, a roof over my head
  • Mom: food, clean laundry and rides to social events
  • Siblings: nothing but headaches
  • Friend #1: increased social status
  • Friend #2: someone to talk to when everyone else is busy
  • Friend #3: help with homework

It’s ironic that those who seek to develop an emotional attachment to their children are doing the exact opposite. Permissive parents work to create a strong bond with their child by fulfilling their every desire. But by doing so, these parents are teaching their child that satisfying your needs and desires is more important than love, loyalty and friendship.

Plus, the child who is driven by his selfish desires is not pleasant to be around. If this child sees no benefit from interacting with certain people, he will ignore them or treat them with contempt.

Even worse, when a child sees no value in developing relationships, his family loyalty is nonexistent. As he gets older and spends more time his peers, his loyalty shifts from his family to his peers. Then his peers become the people who influence the child’s morality. And when your child is more influenced by his peers than he is by you, you have no effect on the adult he will become.

Ultimately, this child is ill prepared for the real world where teachers, bosses, coworkers and others do not cater to him like mom and dad do. Life then becomes frustratingly difficult, filled with failures and disappointments that he wasn’t prepared for as a child.

As you can see, child-centered parenting can have far-reaching effects. Show your child that the world doesn’t revolve around him. Teach him how to develop genuine relationships with those around him.

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Teach self-control first

This is the continuation of my posts on child-centered parenting. In my first post on the topic, I mentioned how self-reliance precedes self-control in the child-centered home. In that post, I said:

“Child-centered parenting creates within the child a false sense of self-reliance. The child becomes wise in his own eyes. He believes he is ready for freedoms before he has developed self-control or a level of responsibility that indicates he is ready for those freedoms.”

Early empowerment
A child in a child-centered home is given far too much power far too early. Think of examples you might have seen in your friends or even your own home. Child-centered parents tend to ask their children what they want. Do you want to go to the park? Do you want to invite your friend over or go to his house? Do you want waffles or pancakes? The ultimate example the Ezzos give is, Do you want the red cup or the blue cup?

Now, offering a child choices is not necessarily a bad thing. It only becomes harmful when the child sees those choices as his right. It becomes harmful when it puts your child in a position of power over you and others in the family. Think about how your child would react in these examples.

  • He usually chooses a book for reading time, but you decide on the book this time.
  • You ask him to try on the blue shirt but he wants the striped one.
  • You decide that it’s time to play with puzzles when he wants to play with cars.
  • He prefers bananas, but you give him an apple.

Certainly, it won’t harm anybody if he plays with cars or gets the striped shirt. But it’s his reaction that you are looking for. His attitude is everything. If your child throws a fit in any circumstance like this, then it’s likely he has too many freedoms. And when a child has too many freedoms, even verbal freedoms, he has too much power. And when he has too much power, he becomes wise in his own eyes.

Protecting the self-esteem at all costs
You might ask, What’s so horrible about a child feeling strong and having opinions? Plenty. In our culture, parents are often concerned about nurturing a child’s self-esteem. Yes, it is important for a child to feel confident in his own skin. But when he feels so confident that his feelings come before those of others, it becomes a moral issue. In the Mom’s Notes, Carla Link mentions that nowhere in the Bible does it say to think of yourself first. It says to think of others, implying that it is innate in everyone to naturally protect ourselves and our beliefs. We do not need to be told to do so. In the same way, our parents do not need to boost our self-esteem. It is there when we are born. As long as our parents don’t do anything to harm our self-esteem, we are fine. We will preserve it on our own.

When child-centered parents give their children power in the name of protecting their self-esteem, they are allowing their children to become wise in their own eyes. A parent focused on a child’s self esteem might:

  • Always say “yes” out of fear that the word “no” will cause the child to feel bad.
  • Avoid discipline at all costs for fear of emotionally scarring the child.
  • Allow the child to make all the choices for the family to show him that his opinions are important.
  • Encourage other adults to appease the child.
  • Smile and nod even when the child’s behaviors grate against the parent’s belief system.

Wise in his own eyes
In addition to driving any parent batty, giving the child all the power will create a child who is wise in his own eyes. A child who is wise in his own eyes might:

  • Choose to play in the backyard and go outside without asking.
  • Tell you that his sibling needs a timeout.
  • Roam the house at will.
  • Attempt to gather information (about where you are going or who you talked to on the phone) just to prove he knows more than others.
  • Make himself too comfortable at friends’ houses, going upstairs before he is asked, helping himself to food, etc.
  • Convince himself and his parents that he doesn’t need to respect his teacher because of her faulty beliefs.

More important than any particular behavior, being wise in your own eyes is an issue of attitude. This child puts himself before others and believes he is right to do so. Why would you expect otherwise? This is what he has been taught his entire life.

A lack of self-control
When a child is allowed to become wise in his own eyes, he is being taught to be self-reliant before he has learned self-control. Imagine those same behaviors in a child who has learned self-control before self-reliance. The child with self-control would:

  • Ask for permission to play in the backyard.
  • Protect his dominion by speaking nicely to his sibling but allow his parents to administer timeouts.
  • Respect and obey boundaries.
  • Keep his nose in his own business.
  • Use his manners at friends’ houses, waiting to be invited to the playroom, waiting to be offered food, etc.
  • Respect his teacher because she is in a position of authority (and knows better than the child what is best for him).

When you juxtapose these behaviors, the difference is striking. Which child would you prefer? The one who supposedly has a higher self-esteem but who only thinks of himself? Or the child who respects authority and considers others? You may not think that the simple act of allowing a child to make all his own choices could lead to a child who only thinks of himself, but don’t be deceived. There is a direct link between the two.

Teach your child self-control and protect your home from becoming child-centered. Understand that teaching self-control and imposing boundaries will not harm his self-esteem. In fact, it will boost his self-esteem because he will be more readily accepted by the world around him. Do this for the sake of your child.

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Filed under moral training, parenting philosophy