Tag Archives: respect

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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House rules

As you may have noticed, the Ezzo books are full of high-level parenting principles, but we parents must fill in the blanks ourselves when it comes to specific, day-to-day rules and values. I’m sure this is intentional on the part of the Ezzos. We should decide how to apply the principles for our own family to suit our own parenting styles and our own kids. Nevertheless, it does help to be exposed to specific house rules that other people hold in their own homes.

For example, we were just visiting a friend and she had a “no running in the house” rule. It struck me as sheer brilliance! It is very basic, but I always had some caveat about when and where they could run in the house. Now we have a “no running in the house at all” rule. Love it!

So here is my basic list of house rules. Most of these apply only to William (4.5) but we keep them in mind for Lucas (18 months) as well. I would love to hear more ideas, so please reply with your comments.

Obedience and respect

  • Obey Mommy and Daddy above all else, even when what we say contradicts the usual rule.
  • Respect all adults.
  • Answer when spoken to.
  • Ask only once when you have a question. Don’t repeat yourself until you get an answer. Wait patiently.
  • Use the interrupt rule.
  • Treat all living beings (parents, brother, friends, cat) with kindness and respect.
  • Offer to help Mommy and Daddy when you see the need. Always help when asked.
  • Consider how your actions affect others.
  • Respect all of our things (in the house and car).
  • Earn privileges. Don’t expect them to be handed to you.
  • Speak with polite words and a polite voice. Disrespect (talking back) is not tolerated.

Mealtime

  • Wash your hands before every meal.
  • Eat and drink only at the table. If there is food in your mouth or a utensil in your hand, your booty belongs completely on the chair.
  • Use proper manners at the table. Fork goes on the plate while chewing. Clean your hands with a napkin. No toys on the table. No loud noises.
  • Eat what you are served. No complaining about the food, and no other food will be offered until the next meal.
  • Ask to be excused when you are finished.
  • Take your dishes into the kitchen when you’re done.

Playtime

  • Ask for permission to go upstairs to your room. There is no other room upstairs where you can have unsupervised access. And you simply do not belong in the office ever.
  • Ask for permission to play in the backyard.
  • Ask for permission to watch TV. No touching the TV/stereo equipment unless you are told to do so.
  • Ask for permission to paint. All painting and other messy crafts must be done at the kitchen table.
  • Clean up after roomtime and before bath/bed.

Self care

  • Dress yourself in the morning. You may pick out your clothes. If what you choose doesn’t match or is inappropriate for the weather, you must change into what I give you.
  • Take off your shoes and coat when we get home. Shoes go in the shoe basket. Coat goes in the coat closet.
  • Wash and dry your hands after using the bathroom.
  • Sit still and patiently while we brush your teeth.
  • Buckle yourself into your car seat.

Miscellaneous

  • Use an inside voice when we are inside. (My recent logical consequence for outside voices is having William stand outside for a minute or two. Outside voice? Go outside! He gets the point very quickly.)
  • No whining. You will be ignored or asked to change your voice when you whine.
  • No running in the house. This goes for restaurants and other public places, too.
  • Do not answer the door when someone rings the bell. Wait for Mommy or Daddy.
  • Be quiet when we are on the phone.
  • No roughhousing at bedtime or first thing in the morning. You may rest in our bed first thing in the morning, but it is not a wrestling place. Absolutely no jumping on the bed.
  • Always ask for food. Never help yourself to food in the house, although you may help yourself to a glass of water.
  • Never lock any door in the house.

I’m sure there are several rules that I have forgotten, but this gives you a pretty good idea of the rules I enforce on a daily basis. Many of them William knows well and will follow without issue. Others, we may have to remind him or issue consequences. And I hope this will serve as a starting point for you to develop your own list of house rules. Every home with a child should have one! And again, please send a comment with some house rules of your own. The more we share, the better our lists will be.

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Credit card parenting

No, I’m not about to start giving you financial advice. But there is a lot we can gain by looking at our parenting in terms of our culture’s need for immediate gratification. Think about your parenting in the same way you do with your finances. One of the first things we learn when managing our money is that we should never buy something that we can’t afford. Yet this is something the credit card industry has allowed us to do. Buy it now and you can pay it off at some distant point in the future…with interest.

The term credit card parenting refers to a parenting style that attempts to reap all the rewards of parenting now without putting in all the work to build character in our children. It means we strive for immediate gratification in our children without taking the time to teach them our moral values. It means we strive to be our child’s peer rather than his parent. It means our parenting has no clear direction or parental intent and we assume that our children will learn our values just by being around us.

When we abuse credit cards, our interest rate goes up, we are slapped with fines of all kinds and we could even end up filing for bankruptcy. We have seen this in the recent mortgage crisis with people buying homes they couldn’t afford. Foreclosures have become rampant

The same is true with our parenting. By not taking the time and effort to establish parental authority and teach our children to obey our authority now, we ultimately end up in moral bankruptcy. We may get immediate gratification, but boy do we pay for it later. High interest rates and penalty fees take the form of children who disrespect their parents and who are solely motivated by their own selfish desires.

Don’t minimize the importance of early parenting. Teach your child now and let him make mistakes now while the stakes are still low. Don’t wait until it’s too late to start teaching your child. And don’t let him stumble his way through life learning only by losing friends, getting fired and getting into huge debt. Your job as a parent is to teach him appropriate behaviors and moral values so he has a firm foundation upon which to build the rest of his life. Give him this benefit and richness will follow.

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Only you can establish parental authority

In recent posts, I have discussed several Ezzo techniques that can help you establish authority over your child. While these techniques will work if you apply them consistently, it’s important to realize that each parent has a unique relationship with the child. How you interact with your child is up to you. When establishing parental authority in particular, both parents (and other authority figures in a child’s life) must use these techniques to build their own credibility in the eyes of the child. While one parent may spend more time with the child, it is still important for your spouse (or grandma or auntie) to establish his or her own authority over the child.

Not long ago, I operated under the assumption that if I worked on applying the Ezzo principles in my parenting, I would prepare my kids for every situation they encountered in life. I figured that if I taught them to respect my authority, they would naturally respect all other authority figures. Not true.

Soon after he started preschool this year, William began displaying a “wise in his own eyes” attitude problem. It was immediately obvious to me that his tone was disrespectful and that he was challenging my authority. I quickly spotted the problem and nipped it in the bud, telling him that he could not speak to me the way he did. The second I noticed his attitude shift, I stopped him in his tracks and told him to rephrase his words and speak to me nicely. It worked well, so problem solved, right?

Well, it occurred to William that while he may not be able to talk to me disrespectfully, maybe it would work on daddy. When I heard William speak disrespectfully to my husband, I jumped in and used my technique to get him to change his tone. I stopped him and told him to speak to daddy nicely. But it didn’t work this time. The disrespect continued. What William needed was for my husband to exert his own authority and tell William himself that he wouldn’t accept his disrespectful tone. I couldn’t change their relationship. My husband alone had to establish his authority over William.

We each have our own unique relationships with our children. Mom may be the disciplinarian. Dad may be fun and games. Mom may prefer to quietly read to the child. Dad may prefer to hold nightly wrestling matches. However you define your parenting roles, you must realize that your relationship with your child is unique and that your child is well aware of the differences.

You may remember as a child knowing which parent to go to with a specific request. You knew dad would say no, so you asked mom instead. Our children do the same with us. They have figured us out. They know us better than we know ourselves.

Examine your individual relationship with your child. If you feel confident that your child respects your authority, then well done. Sit back and let your spouse do the work to build his own parental authority. Don’t feel like you need to do it for him. You can’t.

If you feel your parental authority could use some work, then the responsibility is on you alone. Your spouse cannot fix this for you. The same goes for grandparents, teachers and other authority figures in the child’s life. Every one of us must do our own work to establish our authority over the child.

Growing Kids God’s Way has a chapter titled “The Father’s Mandate”. I will go into the specifics later, but it’s interesting that the authors felt the need to call attention to dad. They thought it was so important they devoted an entire chapter to it. Typically, as moms, we spend more time with our kids. I stay home with our boys and devote about 90% of my day to them. My husband, on the other hand, is consumed with work and only thinks about the kids maybe 10-20% of his day. This is as it should be.

But this does not let dad off the hook. He must still cultivate a relationship with the child and develop his own parental authority. You can guide him and show him by example how you would treat a particular situation, but be careful not to step in and take over. And don’t critique his parenting in front of the kids. This will only undermine his parental authority. Support every decision your spouse makes, even if you disagree with it. Find a time later when the kids are out of earshot to discuss it. You might even develop a signal (a tug on the ear or a “look”) that says, I disagree with what you just did; please change your tactic.

Do your work to establish your own authority with your child and offer your spouse (and grandparents and others) the tools they need to build their own authority. Offer your support and guidance and then sit back. Give your spouse the freedom he needs to establish his own authority over the child.

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Say what you mean. Mean what you say.

Trite as they may be, these eight simple words have great power to change your relationship with your child. They are particularly effective for parents who lack consistency. But they are words that every parent should remember. The underlying principle is that you clearly communicate to your child what you expect of him and follow through on every word you say. If you live by these simple words, your child will respect your parental authority.

“Never give a command unless you intend for it to be obeyed. Therefore, when giving instructions, be sure to say exactly what you mean and mean precisely what you say,” (p. 126, Growing Kids God’s Way, 5th edition).

Say what you mean
Applying these first four words to your parenting will be an exercise in self-control. You will say what you mean and nothing more. Many parents fall into one of two categories: yes parents and no parents. The yes parents allow their children to do what they want, frequently responding with a “yes” to their requests. The no parents prefer to restrict their children’s freedoms and will often impulsively answer with a “no”. With either group, we see that it’s easy to spout out an answer without truly thinking through the child’s request or our own response.

Make a commitment to think through every single word you say to your child. Stop before you speak. Silently count to three if it helps. It won’t hurt him if you cannot answer right away. You may even want to tell him you will think about it and get back to him later. Take the time, make a rational decision, and say what you mean. This act alone will fill you with resolve. You will be able to follow through much more consistently when you know you have given thought to what you have said to your child.

If you don’t say what you mean, your child will know it. While you need to consider context in every situation, 98% of the time, you should not change your mind after giving an instruction. Your opportunity to change your mind is before you say anything to the child. If you change your mind constantly or allow your spouse (or the child) to talk you out of a command already given, he will learn that your words are meaningless.

By not allowing yourself to change your mind, you will take those four little words (“say what you mean”) very seriously. If you commit to following through on every word you say, you will quickly realize that there is nothing worse than having to follow through on an instruction you regret giving in the first place.

Mean what you say
This is the second component of consistent parenting. By meaning what you say, you follow through. You take your own words seriously. You discourage your spouse from allowing a freedom you previously said no to. Or if you previously decided to allow your child an unexpected freedom, you don’t take it away just because common sense suddenly got the better of you.

“There is no better way to teach a child not to obey than to give him instructions that you have no intention of enforcing. A child quickly learns the habit of disregarding his parents’ instruction. This habit may become so strong and contempt for instruction so confirmed, that all threats will go unheeded,” (p. 126, Growing Kids God’s Way, 5th edition).

Not meaning what you say could look like this:

  • You let your child ride his bike in the street after you told him to stay on the sidewalk. You think, what’s the harm just this one time?
  • It’s 20 minutes past your child’s bedtime and you ask him if he wants to go to bed.
  • You don’t buy your child a cupcake after you previously agreed to the idea. Earlier you thought, why not? Now you think, no way.
  • You allow your toddler to climb the stairs by himself after your spouse has told him not to.
  • You tell your school-age child he is responsible for remembering his lunch and then bring it to him when he forgets.

When we don’t follow through, we cause confusion in the mind of the child. This confusion leads to pleading, negotiating and other verbal freedoms that your child will exhibit because he thinks he can change your mind. What’s worse, your child will begin to disrespect you for your lack of resolve.

Our children simply want to know what we expect of them. They want to know what the rules of the game are so they can play fairly. Lay out those rules for them clearly and consistently and they will comply.

The good news is that your child will have no problem with this principle. The onus with this one lies squarely on the parents’ shoulders. The bad news is that it is difficult to apply with 100% consistency. “Usually it is only mom and dad who struggle with it, because it calls parents to consistency. Children will rise to whatever level of parental resolve is present,” (p. 120-121, On Becoming Childwise).

Continually remind yourself of the importance of this principle. The more practice you get, the easier it will be. If your child tends to ignore you or whines and negotiates when you give an answer or instruction, start applying just this principle. This alone will change the way your child views your parental authority. Give it your all, and you will see results in a few short days.

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