Tag Archives: proactive parenting

Moving to one nap a day

I don’t usually use this blog as a forum to give advice on naps and specific schedule items, but I see this one come up so often, I thought I would address it here. When our children drop the morning nap, it marks a shift in the child’s development. Dropping the morning nap is a big milestone in the lives of many parents of toddlers. Yet it’s almost one of the most frustrating. Many Babywise parents don’t know how to drop the nap without affecting baby’s sleep too terribly.

Here’s how the situation typically plays out. Baby is napping well and is able to overcome teething and various disruptions without too much trouble. For the most part, things have been going well for quite some time. Then suddenly, baby stops falling asleep for his afternoon nap. He’ll play in his crib for the whole nap, or he’ll go down fine but wake up after just 45 minutes. Mom gives it a day or two before deciding that something is going wrong. She knows that baby needs his afternoon nap and he seems to nap so well in the morning that she’s a little dumbfounded.

It’s true, these babies would nap a couple hours every morning if left to their own devices. But mom knows that there’s no way baby can go from late morning until bedtime without turning into a monster. The afternoon nap must be saved!

Before I give you my advice on dropping a nap, let me explain how I would not do it.

Don’t #1: Get out in the morning

Some say that the best way to preserve the afternoon nap is to cut out the morning nap entirely, cold turkey. To avoid a cranky baby in the morning, you should go out. Run errands. Take baby to story time at the library. Whatever. Just get out. It’s true, that getting out will help keep baby alert enough that he won’t get as cranky as he would at home. But still, it deprives the child of sleep.

Don’t #2: Every other day

Another approach is to allow baby to have a morning nap every other day. It’s true that this could help baby drop the morning nap, but the problem is it still deprives the child of sleep. By allowing him the nap every other day, you are depriving him of sleep and then letting him catch up on sleep on the days you allow it. His sleep is not on an even keel. The other problem with this approach is that it’s still likely that baby will not nap well in the afternoon on the days he takes a morning nap.

Don’t #3: Early bedtime

One idea to drop the nap is to let baby nap in the mornings and then do an earlier bedtime to compensate for the lack of sleep in the afternoon. Mom gradually moves the morning nap later and later while doing an early bedtime. Eventually, the morning nap becomes an afternoon nap. There are two problems with this approach. First, mom is messing with both naps and bedtime. There’s no need to mess with bedtime (if you’ll finish reading this post). Second, baby is still cranky and overtired until the transition process is complete.

My advice: Shorten the morning nap

When you’re sure that baby is ready to drop the morning nap and that the afternoon nap disruptions aren’t due to anything else (noise, teething, etc.), start shortening the morning nap. For this approach to work, it’s important to know your baby’s optimal wake time. When I did this with Lucas, his wake time was 2 hours. I realize that not all babies can go to sleep after just 2 hours, which is fine. The key is knowing what your baby’s optimal wake time is. It’s different for every child.

Before his afternoon nap disruptions, Lucas would usually nap for 1.5 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoon. When I knew that nothing else was causing the problem, I started waking him up after one hour of sleep in the morning. I would allow him his usual wake time of 2 hours and then put him down for his afternoon nap. This meant that his afternoon nap started 30 minutes earlier, but it worked because he was still getting used to a shorter morning nap.

I continued allowing him a one-hour morning nap until his afternoon nap was again being disrupted in some way. I let him tell me when he was ready to shorten the nap even more. So then I started waking him up after 45 minutes. Again, I would put him down after 2 hours of wake time. Throughout the transition, I would let him sleep as long as he wanted to in the afternoon and I never messed with his bedtime.

After a few months of a 45-minute morning nap, we reduced it to 30 minutes. After a few months of that, we ended up going on vacation and it was the perfect time to drop the morning nap altogether. If we were home, I might have allowed a 20-minute catnap, but it also became apparent to me that he would have done fine without the morning nap entirely.

Bear in mind, this is not the fastest way to drop the morning nap. We started shortening the morning nap when Lucas was about 14 months old. He didn’t drop it entirely until he was almost 23 months old. Did I mind? Not in the least. Would I have minded a cranky baby all morning or afternoon? For sure. Would I have minded difficult bedtimes due to an overtired baby? Of course.

This gradual approach ensures that baby still gets the sleep he needs while allowing for an easy transition to drop the nap.

Schedule examples

To spell it out more clearly, here’s how our schedule looked during the transition.

Transition months 1-3

Morning nap: 10:00-11:00

Afternoon nap: 1:00-3:00-ish

Night sleep: 7:00pm-8:00am

Transition months 4-6

Morning nap: 10:00-10:45

Afternoon nap: 12:45-2:45-ish

Night sleep: 7:00pm-8:00am

Transition months 7-9

Morning nap: 10:00-10:30

Afternoon nap: 12:30-2:30-ish

Night sleep: 7:00pm-8:00am

You’ll recognize that the time between Lucas’ afternoon nap and bedtime got longer and longer. He handled this well. I realize, however, that some might not. The alternative is to keep the afternoon nap at the same time regardless of the child’s optimal wake time. There is something to be said for babies who are used to falling asleep at the same time every afternoon no matter how the long the morning nap was.

Finally, be sure baby is waking up at the same time every morning. No matter the method, the nap transition will not go well at all if you allow baby to sleep in every morning to compensate for a lack of sleep. The afternoon nap is where you will allow him to sleep as long as he needs.

Questions?

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Filed under miscellaneous, prevention

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.

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Filed under discipline, parenting philosophy

Discipline vs. punishment

Have you ever stopped to consider the difference between discipline and punishment? The two terms are the same only in that parents use them when their children misbehave. But they are very different in their intent.

Here are their definitions (according to dictionary.com):

Discipline: verb, to bring a state of order and obedience by training and control; to punish or penalize in order to train and control.

Punish: verb, to subject to pain, loss, confinement, etc., as a penalty for some offense, transgression or fault, to inflict a penalty.

Do you notice the difference between the two?

To teach vs. inflict harm
The intent of punishment is to inflict pain for an offense. The intent of discipline is to train and bring about order. The way I see it, by punishing our children, we inflict pain (physical or emotional) with no greater goal. By disciplining our children, our greater goal is to teach them.

Childwise principle #10: “If learning didn’t take place, correction didn’t happen,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 133).

No matter how you correct your child’s misbehavior, make sure you are teaching him why the behavior is unacceptable.

Internal vs. external motivation
Aside from not providing a teachable lesson, punishment is less desirable than discipline because it provides an external motivation. Which would you prefer? A child who does the right thing because his parents say so or a child who does the right thing because he knows in his heart that it is right?

When we discipline our children, our goal is to help develop their conscience. In the early years, your child will do the right thing because of your influence. But once you hit the early preschool years, your child should have an internal motivation to do what’s right.

Examples
Here are some real-world examples of the difference between discipline and punishment.

Punishment: Your child throws food on the floor, so you put him in a timeout.

Discipline: Your child throws food on the floor, so you make him clean it up to teach him that it takes work to keep the house clean.

Punishment: Your child refuses to do his homework, so you lecture him about it and send him to bed without dinner.

Discipline: Your child refuses to do his homework, so you let the reality of a failing grade teach the lesson of why homework is important.

Punishment: Your child hits you in a fit of rage, so you yell and hit back.

Discipline: Your child hits you in a fit of rage, so you send him to his room. If he can’t be nice to anyone, he should be alone and rejoin the family when his anger is under control.

Punishment: Your child abuses his computer time, so you ground him for three months.

Discipline: Your child abuses his computer time, so you take away his computer privileges until he shows you that he’s responsible enough to use the computer wisely. The onus is on the child to prove that he’s responsible.

Punishment: Your child leaves his bike on the lawn for the third time in a week, so you send him to his room.

Discipline: Your child leaves his bike on the lawn for the third time in a week, so you take away his bike privileges until he shows you he can take care of his things.

As you can see in these examples, there is a lesson involved in every form of discipline. Be sure that every time you correct your child’s behavior, you are teaching through discipline.

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Filed under moral training, parenting philosophy

Couch time

In my last post, I discussed the marriage priority and how the Ezzos implore us to put our marriages first—for the sake of our children. By maintaining a loving, healthy marriage, we create a sense of security and stability for our children. Here I will discuss one practical method for building a happy marriage: couch time.

Couch time is a very simple idea. You and your spouse take 10-15 minutes at the end of your day (or whenever really) to sit down and just talk. Don’t watch TV. Don’t answer the phone. Don’t think about the day ahead. Just sit and talk to your spouse.

The rules
There is only one rule when it comes to couch time. It can take place at any time of day. It can be on the couch, at the dinner table after everyone is done, or even standing in the kitchen. The only rule about couch time is that you must do it while your child is awake and in the same room. The whole point of couch time is to show your child that you and your spouse make time for yourselves and that your marriage takes priority. Explain to your child that this is a special time for you two and that he must not interrupt you. Find an activity to keep your child occupied so you’re not constantly turning away from your spouse to tend to your child. (This is where having a blanket-trained toddler can really help.) Keep a special basket of toys just for couch time. Start small (just a few minutes a day) and work up from there. Throughout your day, make a mental list of things you might want to discuss with your spouse during couch time. Make a mental note of cute things your child did or how you were able to get through to him on an important moral lesson.

Must we really do couch time?
Yes! You may be thinking that you spend plenty of time talking to your spouse and that maybe your child is so young (or old) that he won’t really get any benefit from seeing the two of you talk. But really, if you are going to have any success with your parenting, you must put first things first. Couch time is so important that it’s discussed early on in Childwise (page 40). And putting your marriage first is principle #1 in a long list of principles.

“Does your child exhibit behavior problems, moral disruptions, impulsive behavior, talking back, sleep problems or just outright defiance? Before you do anything else, before you pick up another book, listen to another tape, attend another parenting conference, call your therapist or get on the Internet—simply practice ‘couch time’ for a week…. You will be amazed at how this one little exercise can bring peace to a home and emotional confidence to children,” (On Becoming Childwise, page 40).

In the Mom’s Notes presentations, Carla Link will often take questions from the audience about particular behavior problems parents might be experiencing. One of her first questions of them is whether they are doing couch time. The answer is typically no. She then goes on to say that the simple act of adding couch time to your day will greatly improve your child’s behaviors. Having someone tell you to sit on the couch with your spouse may not seem like it will help you teach your preschooler to share his toys. But it is step #1 in getting our children to behave. It’s so simple yet so effective!

And on top of the benefits your child receives, couch time will improve your marriage! “One other thing about couch time: it’s not only for your children’s benefit…. For some couples, this time together might be as new for them as it is for their children. You never know, you might just rediscover your best friend,” (On Becoming Childwise, page 40).

The next time you hug your spouse, take a peek at your child’s face. He will be staring at you with a glimmer of happiness in his eye. Once you see that, you will be motivated to do couch time every day.

Testimonials for couch time
In the sidebars of Growing Kids God’s Way, there are several testimonials from children whose parents practiced couch time:

“There is something wonderful about growing up in a home where your parents are truly in love with each other. They laugh together, play together, pray together and parent together. As siblings, we have a ‘best friend’ relationship with each other. We learned that from watching Mom and Dad.” –Aimee, age 14

“When my parents had couch time consistently, my siblings and I were more obedient and there was harmony in the family. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, sitting on the couch talking to each other every night, but makes a big difference in the home.” –Justin, age 17

“When my sister Emily and I were young, we loved it when Mom and Dad had couch time. I couldn’t have explained why back then. There was just something right about it, comforting and secure. We contrived all sorts of things to make them comfortable like getting them tea when they sat down. Now we realize that ‘couch time’ was for us as much as it was for them.” –Aubrey, age 16

“Out of all the wonderful things my parents implemented into our family life, couch time is the one I most want to have in my own family when I get married. Growing up, I felt more secure knowing that my parents were taking the time to communicate and verify that they were a united team. This is how I know that my parents love our family and they loved each other.” –Sarah, age 22

“My parents have shown me how very important having dates and couch time on a regular basis is for a good marriage relationship. When they spend time with each other, it shows us that they love each other.” –Rebecca, age 14

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Filed under moral training, parenting, parenting philosophy, prevention

The marriage priority

What does your marriage have to do with parenting? Everything. If you have read any of the Ezzos’ books, then you are no stranger to the idea that the marriage, the relationship between you and your spouse, must come first. As Ezzo says in On Becoming Childwise, “Great marriages make great parents,” (page 43).

There is this pervasive idea in our culture that everything we do is for our children. We will sacrifice our health, our happiness and even our marriage as long as it’s what’s best for the child. Among some moms, it’s a competition to see who can be the biggest martyr. These moms equate martyrdom with love, in effect saying that the more you sacrifice, the more you love your child.

In the media today, there are examples of parents choosing divorce and saying that it is what is best for the child. Jon and Kate Gosselin from the reality show Jon and Kate Plus 8 is one example. I think the Ezzos would agree with me that if you really want what’s best, you should work on your marriage and heal that relationship—for your child.*

Ensuring stability and security
The reason the Ezzos say to make your marriage your first priority is not to satisfy your own selfish desires. Nor is it to put your spouse on a pedestal. It is for the sake of the child that we put our marriage first. Your child’s whole world is dependent on his parents. He depends on you for his health, safety and emotional well-being. Your marriage is the ground upon which your child stands. You are his foundation.

Ezzo says it best: “Where there is harmony in the marriage, there is stability within the family. Healthy, loving marriages create a sense of certainty for children. When a child observes the special friendship and emotional togetherness between his parents, he feels secure. He doesn’t wonder about his parents’ commitment to one another. There is no disconnect between what his parents say about their love for each other and what he sees and senses in daily life. Successful parenting flows out of this rock-solid bond,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 36).

Think about what happens during a divorce. Your child’s DNA is made from both of his parents. He is equal parts of the two of you. When your marriage suffers, he suffers as well. When the two parts that make the whole child are split into two, the child is, in essence, torn into two.

Here’s an analogy. Imagine your child standing on a sheet of ice with his weight evenly distributed on both feet. Now imagine that the ice gives way, and a wide crack splits the ice right between his feet. What happens to the child? He either falls through into the ice or he must jump to one side of the crack and run to safety. If your marriage is the ice splitting in two, your child’s stability and safety is in jeopardy. Add to that his need to jump from one side to the other. In that split second when the ice is cracking, he must choose which parent to jump to for safety.

Creating a family identity
One phrase you will hear in Ezzo circles is that the child is a welcome member of the family but is not the center of it. Putting your marriage first not only creates security for your child, but it also creates a sense of togetherness. It builds the family identity.

Here’s another analogy for you. Imagine yourself on your wedding day holding both of your spouse’s hands. There you are, looking into each other’s eyes, standing close together and feeling loved. When you bring a child into the family, where does he go? Do you continue to stand there together still holding your spouse’s hands and let the child stand between you? If so, what happens when the child gets bigger? What happens when you have more children? Eventually, you find that you can barely touch each other’s fingertips much less hold hands and gaze into each other’s eyes.

Rather than putting the child in the center, let your child stand next to you with the three of you holding hands in a circle as a family unit. Look into each other’s eyes. Talk to each other. And let your family circle grow as you bring new children into it.

Setting an example for love
When your child is raised in a home with two parents who visibly love each other, the child learns how to love. As in all aspects of parenting, we are models for our children. We set the example that they are to follow. Show your child what it means to have a healthy, happy marriage so that he can grow up to achieve the same for himself.

Feeling loved allows you to give love
When your marriage is happy and healthy, your spouse shows love for you on a regular basis. You feel loved. As a result, you are better able to express love to your child. If you feel depleted, then you have nothing to give. As they say on the airlines: put your own oxygen mask on first. When you are happy and healthy, your child will be happy and healthy.

In my next post, I’ll discuss some practical ideas to help you make your marriage a priority.

*A little caveat here: staying in an abusive marriage is not what is best for the child (or you).

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Filed under moral training, parenting philosophy, prevention

The funnel–keeping freedoms age-appropriate

The funnel is one of the best and perhaps most infamous analogies offered by the Ezzos. The funnel represents the freedoms you allow your child given his age. The funnel represents the guidance and boundaries you give your child. The Ezzos implore us to parent inside the funnel.

“A common mistake is to parent outside the funnel in the early years. In an effort to give the child confidence, parents sometimes allow their children behaviors or freedoms that are neither age-appropriate nor in harmony with the child’s moral and intellectual capabilities,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 155).

What this means is that you consciously choose what freedoms are appropriate given your child’s age and maturity. You don’t allow a freedom that your child cannot be responsible for. You don’t allow a freedom that you will one day have to take away. You don’t allow your child to choose for himself what freedoms are appropriate.

How do you know if a behavior is outside the funnel?
This is very simple. Watch your child. Keep your eye out for behaviors that seem beyond his age level. If it bothers you that he exhibits a particular behavior, there’s a reason it bothers you. Listen to that intuition. If it bothers you, don’t allow it. Ask yourself if he does any of the following:

  • Enters any room of the house at will
  • Gets food from the pantry whenever he wants
  • Ransacks his room with little regard or respect for its contents
  • Puts up a fight about wearing the shorts and tank top even though it’s 40 degrees out
  • Insists that he eat cereal instead of eggs for breakfast
  • Climbs out of his crib or playpen even when told to stay put
  • Speaks disrespectfully to any adult, particularly you and your spouse
  • Leaves your side in public without informing you
  • Goes into the backyard without asking

These are just a few examples of a young child who is acting outside the funnel. He has been allowed freedoms that are not age-appropriate. Some of these freedoms are perhaps appropriate for a teenager. If your 2-year-old is exhibiting them, he is clearly outside the funnel.

Why should you limit your child’s freedoms?
There is nothing wrong with allowing your child to have some freedoms, as long as they are age-appropriate. For example, allowing your 3-year-old to choose his own toys is possibly a freedom he can be responsible for. If he plays with them appropriately and can take care of them by putting them away when he’s done, it is an age-appropriate freedom. Also consider whether he is characterized by respecting his property. If he consistently ransacks his room during roomtime, perhaps the toys or the room itself are freedoms he doesn’t have the responsibility to have.

Consider this. A group of researchers performed a study on a group of students to see how they would react if they took away the fences that lined the perimeter of the school. When the fences were up, the children would play freely, far away from the school buildings and even linger around the fence. When the fences were taken down, the students huddled much closer to the school buildings. The students felt more secure when those fences were up. Without the limits that the fences established, they were unsure as to how far they should go. The same goes with setting limits for your child. The more you set limits, the more secure your child will feel.

Also important is the fact that setting limits and parenting inside the funnel is yet another way to establish parental authority over your child. If your child defers to you to determine what he is allowed to say and do, he is much more likely to respect your authority.

But perhaps the reason that most interests you is the fact that limiting your child’s freedoms will improve his behavior and reduce your frustration.

How will this affect your child’s behavior?
Keeping your child inside the funnel and only allowing freedoms that are age-appropriate is huge in keeping his behavior in check. I mentioned that it builds your parental authority. Beyond this, it teaches your child that he does not have 100% freedom over his environment and his actions. Could this stifle his independence? Yes, it could. This is why you need to let your child grow into the wider parts of the funnel as he matures. But if he is right where he should be in the funnel, he will have much greater control over his own actions.

Think about the examples I gave above. The reason these freedoms are not age-appropriate for a 2-year-old is that a child that age does not have the moral or practical knowledge that accompanies those freedoms. A toddler does not understand the science of nutrition and wouldn’t know that a bowl of sugary cereal is less healthy than a breakfast of eggs and toast. Nor does he understand that the resulting sugar high would adversely affect his behavior.

This lack of moral and practical knowledge can be applied to many of the behaviors I listed. As you limit your child’s freedoms according to his age and understanding, his behaviors will improve quite immediately. Perhaps you get frustrated that your toddler climbs the stairs on his own. Once you remove that freedom, that frustration will disappear. Perhaps you get frustrated that your preschooler goes outside on his own. Once you remove that freedom, or at least require that he ask permission, that frustration will disappear. Imagine how peaceful your home can be.

Funnel utopia
Let me describe what it looks like when your child firmly knows his boundaries inside the funnel.

  • When your child wakes up in the morning, he dresses himself in the clothes you have laid out for him.
  • If he happens to wake up when you’re still sleeping, he stays in his room and plays quietly until you wake up.
  • He washes his hands when you ask and eats the food that is placed in front of him, no matter what dish it’s in.
  • After taking his dishes to the kitchen, he asks permission to play in the backyard and will abide by any instructions you give about outside play.
  • He knows that certain rooms in the house are off-limits.
  • He puts his toys away after playing with them.
  • He stays within your line of sight, as you have requested, in public places.
  • He keeps his hand on the shopping cart as you have asked, no matter how much he hates grocery shopping.
  • He goes to bed (and stays there) peacefully and quietly every night.

Does this all sound too good to be true? These are things that my 4-year-old son William is characterized by doing on a consistent basis. This utopia is a reality in my home. Did this happen on its own overnight? Certainly not. It required diligent parenting on my part. If you apply the same amount of diligence, while considering many of the other aspects of preventing misbehavior, your home can also look like this.

Start thinking through your child’s freedoms and strongly consider whether he has freedoms that you need to take away. In my next post, I’ll go into more detail about some of the common pitfalls parents run into when keeping their children’s behaviors inside the funnel.

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

Create your schedule

In my last post, I discussed the many benefits of structuring your day. Here I will walk you through the steps of creating a schedule to establish peace and harmony in your home.

Look at my schedule
The following explanation will make more sense if you look at my schedule first. Got it? Now, back to reading.

Start with a blank document
Find a quiet time and sit down in front of the computer. Create a table in Word or Excel. If you’re comfortable with Word, use this document that I have created for you. (I use Excel, but WordPress wouldn’t let me upload a spreadsheet, so this should do.) If you’re using Excel or a piece of paper and pen, make three columns, one for the times of day, one for your child and one for you. Having a column for yourself is key to making your schedule work for you and keeping you on task. Add another column for any additional kids.

On the far left, write down the times of the day in 15-minute increments starting with the time you wake up and ending with the time you go to bed. Take heart, not every minute of your day will be scheduled, but starting with 15-minute increments will make it easier to create your schedule. If there is an activity that lasts an hour, for example, you can delete three of those 15-minute rows.

When filling in your schedule, you won’t go row by row. You will go activity by activity. Fill in your schedule in the following order.

Fixed activities
Start with any activities that have a fixed time, like school. Include the times your child starts school and the time he gets home.

Waking and sleeping
Your fixed activities might affect the time you need to wake up. So fill in the time you and your child wake up. Whether you need to be up at a certain time or not, waking up at the same time every day is key to making your schedule work. Be realistic. If you’re not a morning person, don’t set your wake-up time to 6:00 am. Wake your child at the same time every day if his wake time is inconsistent. Now fill in times for naps and bed. Allow your child enough time to get a full night’s sleep (9-12 hours depending on age). Make yourself go to bed at the same time, too. Again, keep these consistent.

Self care
Allow enough time in your day to shower and get your child bathed and dressed. You can either create separate rows for these activities, or just include them in your wake up time.

Meals and snacks
Next, fill in meals and snacks. Be realistic about the amount of time it actually takes you to eat. If you need to feed a baby, don’t schedule your own lunch at the same time. Also think about the 10-15 minutes it takes to make breakfast and lunch. Create a separate row (30-60 minutes) for cooking dinner.

Independent play
Independent play is key to creating quiet time for you and your child. Older toddlers and preschoolers will have roomtime and quiet sit time. Babies and younger toddlers will have playpen time and blanket time. Use these activities to your advantage. Make them happen when you need a shower, time alone on the computer, or if you want to make dinner without a toddler hanging on your legs. (I’ll write separate posts for independent play soon.)

Enrichment activities
This is where your proactive parenting comes into play. Fill in times to read to your child, teach him ABCs and 123s, music play and other enrichment activities. Schedule some one-on-one time for each child. And allow for some scheduled sibling playtime. Without a schedule it’s unlikely you would have enough time to fit all this in. Don’t let your child miss out on these activities.

Chores
Fill in when you and your child will do your various chores. You may have your child clean up after every play activity or schedule just one or two clean up times. Think about scheduling clean up time before TV time as an incentive to get it done.

Free play and TV time
Schedule time for free play and TV time. Without a schedule, your entire day might be filled with these two activities. Make them planned events in your day. Keep TV time to 30-60 minutes and plan it for when you need it most. For free play, encourage your child to play on his own.

Exercise
Whether you work out at home before your child wakes up, take him to the gym or go for a walk with the stroller, include exercise in your day.

Mommy time
In your column, be sure to include activities simply for your own pleasure. Whether you enjoy reading, talking to friends on the phone, scrapbooking, blogging or any other activity, be sure to schedule at least 30 minutes. If you can allow more time, then great! Your child will benefit when he sees that you take some time for yourself every day and that you don’t spend all day every day catering to his desires.

Couch time
Schedule some time to connect with your spouse when he gets home from work. Couch time is a technique the Ezzos recommend to enrich your marriage and to show your child that your marriage is secure and that it comes first above all else.

Review
Your schedule should now be complete. Delete any blank rows. Read through it to be sure that it will all actually work for you and your child. Make any adjustments.

Let your schedule serve you
For the first two or three days, do your best to stick to your schedule as it is. But have your schedule and a pen nearby to jot down any changes you’ll need to make. Make sure your schedule serves you, not the other way around. Don’t become a slave to it. And don’t follow it because I’m telling you to. Follow it because it will make your life so much more fulfilling. You’ll start seeing the benefits in just a day or two.

Schedule variations
You’ll notice at the bottom of my schedule, I included an alternate activity for when the weather is nice. When it’s nice, I’d much rather get my exercise by walking with the kids in the stroller and going to the park than going to the gym. This is also the time that I use for occasional activities like running errands and scheduling play dates. Also, if William went to preschool on just Tuesdays and Thursdays, I would have a variation for that. Think through any similar variations you’ll want to make.

Lazy days and weekends
I’ll be the first to admit that we don’t follow our complete schedule every day. Sometimes, we’re just feeling a little lazy. Weekends are also invariably a little lazy. But you don’t want to toss your schedule out the window entirely. Meals and naps still need to happen at the same time or you’ll all pay for it. Either create a new schedule for lazy days or bold the items in your daily schedule that you’ll stick with on your lazy days or weekends. Here is my lazy day schedule. (You’ll see that I’m not much of a morning person, but the rest of our day is pretty much the same.) My only caution is to not fall into making every day a lazy day. Encourage yourself to do all you can with your days.

Free play activities
At the bottom of your schedule, jot down ideas for your child’s free play. It will be nice to have them in a handy place so you can get your child started on one when he comes to you for entertainment. Play with him for 5 minutes to get him started and encourage him to finish on his own.

Post your schedule
Print out your schedule and post it in the kitchen. The refrigerator is a great place, or tape it to the wall or a cabinet. Make it visible. Think about printing a second copy for your bathroom or other spot in the house. Show it to babysitters when they come.

Make your schedule a living document
Allow yourself to change your schedule whenever you need to. Revise it when your child drops a nap, when school is out for the summer, etc.

It will all be worth it
If this all seems like a lot of work to you, go back to my post on structuring your day to remind yourself of the benefits. Remember that not only will it reduce the opportunities for your child to misbehave, but it will also allow you and your child to have quiet time and quality time. Your child will have a greater respect for authority and improved focus and concentration skills. And you can be more proactive with your parenting and more easily accept new members to the family. Trust me, it will all be worth it.

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