Tag Archives: say what you mean

The new year offers a new start

Here we are at the beginning of a new year. What resolutions have you made? Despite all the failed resolutions I’ve made over the years, I feel particularly inspired this year. Yes, January 1st is just another day, but I’m choosing to see the new year as a fresh start.

I’ve decided that many of my former resolutions failed because they weren’t specific enough. This year, I decided to forgo the usuals: exercise more, lose weight, be healthy. This year, I’m being specific. I’m giving up soda. Completely. Cold turkey. I’m doing it primarily because it’s a healthy thing to do, but I also hope that I’ll shed a few pounds.

While making healthy choices is important, the new year also gives us a chance to make new parenting resolutions. It’s a great time to take stock, reset our goals and make sure we’re on track.

So in the spirit of the new year and the fresh start it affords, consider the following:

Reevaluate your parenting goals. Be specific. Don’t say, “improve first-time obedience.” Say, “have my child respond with ‘yes, mommy’ three out of five times in the day.”

Evaluate your schedule. Is it still working? If you’re having a hard time sticking with it, pare it down.

Take stock of your child’s freedoms. Does he have too many? Too few? His freedoms should grow, not as he ages, but as he shows more responsibility.

Revise your discipline plan. Make sure your child’s most chronic behaviors are at the top of the list. Add new ones as you tackle the old ones.

Pledge to do couch time. Make your marriage a priority. Set a specific day, time and place. Be realistic and shoot for three nights a week if you can’t do five.

Evaluate your attitude. Are you encouraging your child enough? Correction must be balanced by encouragement.

Vow to be consistent. Nobody’s perfect. We all slip sometimes. Just remember this: Say what you mean. Mean what you say.

Have fun. While our job as parents is to train and teach our children, we can’t forget to live in the moment. Play and be silly with your child. Before you know it, your toddler will be in preschool, your preschooler in elementary school and your teenager in college.

Here’s to a fresh start and a fruitful 2011! Happy New Year!

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under first-time obedience

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.

4 Comments

Filed under prevention

Bloggers on first-time obedience

Here are some of the best comments on the web on the topic of first-time obedience. Great food for thought.

First-time obedience sets clear expectations

Excerpt (emphasis mine): From a practical standpoint, the establishment of a high and clearly-defined standard is kinder than having a vague and intermittently-enforced standard. Why should my child have to factor in my mood, the time of day, recent history and the relative humidity when calculating how quickly to obey me? Better to make it clear and simple, so they can focus their energy on the important fun of being a child. My relationship with my son or daughter (like my relationship with my boss or my wife) will operate more smoothly and without resentment when expectations are clearly communicated.

Teach obedience and you don’t have to teach anything else

Excerpt (emphasis mine): When we start with just that one thing, we don’t have to do much else. What could be more simple? Once your child understands obedience, everything else is pretty much taken care of. Henceforth, you can simply ask him to come to you and he will. You can ask him to pick up his toys and he will. You can ask him to get ready for bed and he will trot off and do so. You can even ask him to “stop crying,” and he will stop. Simple. Obedience is really all you need to teach a little one.

Delayed obedience is disobedience

Excerpt (emphasis mine): We should expect our children to obey us. Period. Counting says to your child, “I need you to do this right now. But, I know my needs aren’t as important as yours so you can just do it when you feel like doing it.” I first heard the phrase, “Delayed obedience is disobedience” when my children were small. It served me well as a parent and I have shared it each year with the parents I work with at school.

Obedience and respect go hand in hand. By not insisting on first-time obedience, we are instilling in our children a disregard for authority. Without that respect, every request becomes a battle to be fought, and won, more often than not, by our child.

Teach your child to obey your word

Excerpt (emphasis mine): Always ensure that your word is obeyed. Expect first time obedience without argument, bad attitude or having to give several “reminders” (aka nagging). Do not accept partial obedience. Don’t limit your children with your own low expectations, they will live up to the standard you set, whether low or high. Make your word valuable by enforcing the rules, if you don’t, your word means nothing and your rules are meaningless. Your follow-through will make your words either garbage or gold. Never give a command you don’t intend to enforce. This concept of first time obedience is more difficult for parents than for children, but if we can train ourselves to be consistent with our follow-through, our children can learn to obey the first time.

Consistency is required!

Excerpt (emphasis mine): Through consistent use of this one-warning discipline system, children will learn to listen and obey the first time they are asked to do something. If a parent continues to be lax and only follow-through with the consequences some of the time, the child will continue to disobey and the cycle will continue.

Training comes first. Trust comes later.

Excerpt (emphasis mine): There’s the complimentary part to first-time obedience: trust. If we are loving on our children, responding in kindness, patient, and joyful, they will be trained to obey us out of their trust of us. That comes with a little time and experience, though, so in the earliest years, they do need to be trained to immediately obey.

If you’re on the fence about requiring first-time obedience in your home, perhaps these articles will help convince you. Read the full articles for more.

2 Comments

Filed under first-time obedience

Where’s the discipline?

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you may be wondering why I haven’t discussed discipline or correction ideas. Until now, most of my posts have been about the theoretical fundamentals that make up the Ezzo parenting series.

So why has it taken me so long to discuss discipline and correction methods? Well, aside from the fact that I don’t post as often as I’d like to, true followers of the Ezzo principles must have the basics under their belts before they can correct their children in good conscience.

Train yourself first
If you are new to the Ezzos or are starting with older children, you may have skipped straight to the discipline chapters in the books. I know I did! I felt like I needed to get my son’s behaviors in line and I needed to do it ASAP. I figured all the rest could wait until later.

But it doesn’t work that way. If you believe in the Ezzos’ teachings, you must work on yourself first. You need to change your habits. You need to change your perception of your child’s misbehaviors. You need to formulate a plan.

Prevention is key
You may have clued into the fact that the Ezzo principles are all about prevention. All of the work you put into your parenting and your marriage will prevent misbehavior from your child. Before learning about the Ezzos, our life looked something like this: 80% frustration, 15% discipline (mostly in the form of yelling, threatening and repeating) and 5% prevention. Today, it looks like this: 90% prevention, 9% discipline and 1% frustration. (I think even the most perfect parents get frustrated with their children at some point.)

Fundamentals
To recap my earlier posts, here is how you go about preventing misbehavior:

  • Put your marriage first. Do couch time, go out on dates, and make time for yourselves.
  • Make sure your child knows he is not the center of the universe. See my posts on child-centered parenting.
  • Create and follow a schedule. Do this even if your child is in school six hours a day.
  • Do non-conflict training. Make sure your child knows what is expected of him and don’t confuse him. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
  • Don’t repeat yourself. Don’t allow yourself to become a threatening, repeating parent. It happens to the best of us, so make a conscious effort to avoid it.
  • Make sure you have your child’s attention when you are talking and especially when you are giving an instruction. Getting eye contact and having him say “yes, mommy” are crucial.
  • And most of all, love, encourage and praise your child.

Follow the tags on the right or do a search to review my posts on these principles.

2 Comments

Filed under first-time obedience, parenting philosophy, prevention

Achieving first-time obedience

In my last post, I described what first-time obedience looks like. Now we’ll get into the details of how you can help your child obey the first time. It’s not easy but so worth it!

Lay the groundwork. It’s all about your tone.
Before you start requiring first-time obedience, you need to ensure your own attitude is in the right place. For those of you unsure of your ability to command authority, reach down within yourself and find your courage. Do not fear your child. Do not let him make the choices for the family. If you have read one or two of the Ezzo books, you are no stranger to the idea that the marriage takes priority in the family. Your child is a welcome member of the family but is not the center of it. Let that attitude carry you through your daily interactions with your child.

Some of you may have a strong handle on your authority but might take it too far. Don’t expect that he will disobey or he will. Don’t think that having authority over your child means that he’ll comply with unreasonable expectations when he’s tired and hungry. Don’t equate authority with anger and power. We want wise parenting, not power parenting.

If you have found the right attitude, you are likely at a place where you want to set your child up to succeed but will maintain a matter-of-fact tone if he doesn’t. When your child disobeys, you don’t accept it or get angry. You say to him, “Oops, I see you’ve made the wrong choice. Too bad. Here is what your consequence will be.”

Be consistent!

One of the most important things you need to require of yourself is consistency. If you want first-time obedience from your child, you must be 100% consistent. If you slip, he will too. But if you require it, he will meet your expectation. Your child will only rise to the expectation you set for him. Set the bar high but keep in mind you need to do the work to help him get there.

Get your “yes, mommy” and eye contact
I cannot stress enough how important it is to have your child respond to the call of his name with a “yes, mommy” and eye contact. Before you give any task, especially one that he won’t want to do, you need to get his attention and know that he is listening. Maintaining eye contact while you give the instruction is key. Refer back to these posts for more.

Don’t repeat yourself
One sure-fire way to not get first-time obedience is to repeat yourself. How can he achieve first-time obedience if you’ve already given your instruction 5 times? Give him your instruction clearly and while maintaining eye contact and you have no excuse to repeat yourself. You know he has heard you loud and clear.

So what do you do if your child doesn’t respond after you’ve given your one instruction? Wait. Don’t wait 20 minutes, but do give him a chance to comply. If he still doesn’t respond, don’t say another word. Simply take him by the hand and physically help him complete the task. If you’ve asked him to put his Legos away and he ignores you, take his hand and bring him over to the Legos. Then take his hands in your own and start picking them up together. Be sure to do this with a very calm demeanor or he will strongly resist you.

After you have completed the task together, explain to him that you had to help him this time and that next time, you want him to obey you the first time you ask him to do something. After you have given it a few days of helping him obey you, move on to expecting him to obey you on his own. If he chooses not to, then you move on to your consequence.

Decide ahead of time what your consequences will be
Spend some time with your spouse thinking through your child’s most troublesome behaviors. Then decide on a logical or natural consequence for each of those behaviors. Write them down and post them in the kitchen so you can refer to them often. Perhaps picking up his toys is where he struggles the most. You might decide to take those toys away for a day. Let the punishment fit the crime, and make sure your consequences are ones that you can follow through on, even at your own weakest moments.

The key here is that you plan ahead so that when you’re faced with disobedience, you’re not scrambling to come up with a consequence. You want to respond swiftly, especially as you’re just beginning. Refer to my post on intentional parenting for more.

Do non-conflict training
Whether he’s 2 or 12, take the time to explain to him your new standard of obedience. He needs to know that you are changing the rules of the game and that you will be giving consequences the first time he disobeys. Clearly explain to him that you expect him to respond to your instructions the first time you give them. Be specific. Tell him that if he runs away from you at the park, you will go home the first time. Tell him that if he speaks to you with disrespect just one time, he will lose his TV privileges. Remind him often, several times a day every day.

Follow through
This is where you make or break the deal. You can do all of the work I describe above, but if you don’t follow through when your child disobeys the first time, all of your work will be for nothing. Not only will it have been a waste of time, but now your child won’t believe you when you say you will require first-time obedience. If your child disobeys just one time, issue the consequence, no questions asked. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Don’t repeat yourself. Don’t threaten. Don’t get angry. Keep a calm demeanor and follow through.

Now, don’t kick yourself if you slip once or twice. You are both acquiring a new skill, but do make it a priority. Even set aside a few days when you can stay home and work on it.

Set your child up for success
You want your child to achieve first-time obedience, right? So set him up to succeed. Don’t start your work on first-time obedience by asking your 4-year-old to mow the lawn. Take baby steps. Start by giving him a task you know he’ll do willingly. If he does it the first time, praise him! Expect that he will succeed. Make it so that he wants to give you first-time obedience. Then once he is doing well with simple tasks, move on to more difficult ones.

Be fair
You cannot expect your child to give you first-time obedience if you haven’t done all your work first. You can’t issue a consequence the first time if you haven’t told him what you expect. For all he knows, you’ll repeat yourself 20 times like you usually do. And consider context. Don’t start expecting first-time obedience when your fuse is short and your child is tired and hungry.

Require a happy heart

I started this post by asking you to work on your own attitude, and I’ll end by saying you need to ensure your child has the right attitude as well. A big component of first-time obedience is doing it with an attitude of submission. You might want to spend a week or two working on the mechanics of first-time obedience before you move on to changing his attitude. But once you are ready to do so, explain to him at a time of non-conflict, what you expect of him. Then if he gives you first-time obedience but sulks off after complying or whines about doing the task, start requiring him to respond with a happy heart. One of the best ways to do so is requiring him to do the task over with a better attitude. If he needs a few minutes in isolation to find his happy heart, let him go to his room and then come back to you when he’s ready to comply with a better attitude.

This was a long post full of weighty ideas. Refer back to it often. Good luck!

15 Comments

Filed under first-time obedience, parenting philosophy

Anger

The Ezzos have given us many tools to effectively parent our kids. Getting angry is not one of them. You should never have to raise your voice or get frustrated with your child if you use these techniques well. Is it human to get frustrated with your kids? Yes. Can you prevent it? Yes. The more you apply the Ezzo techniques the more obedient your child will become. And the more obedient he is, the less angry and frustrated you will be. So that’s your first task to eliminate anger: apply these principles consistently.

Beyond this, the single most important way to manage your anger is to shift your mindset. You must realize that your anger is your problem not your child’s. No matter how much your child disobeys, your anger is not his fault. You are the adult; he is the child. You choose how you respond to his disobedience. Most children come from a place of goodness and want to obey their parents. If they understand the rules and have motivation to obey, they will. If you constantly battle anger, it should be your signal to look within yourself and examine your parenting to see where you went wrong.

One way to do so is to consistently act more than you speak. It’s too easy to give warning after warning. If you have told your child to do something 20 times in 10 minutes and his behavior still doesn’t change, there is a problem. If you speak more than you act, your words become meaningless and your child will stop obeying you. As trite as it sounds, actions speak louder than words. If your child doesn’t respond the first time you ask him to do something, your very next step should be discipline. This is the crux of first-time obedience. The Ezzos have taught us many ways to correct our children, and no one technique works for all situations, but if your child understands the rules and chooses to break them, you should discipline nonetheless. Show your child with your actions that you mean business. If you constantly remind your child how to behave or give him 200 warnings before disciplining him, your anger level will rise, no doubt. (For more on this, see Say what you mean. Mean what you say.)

If you struggle with anger, you should also examine your need for control. Those of us who apply the Ezzo principles like having our lives structured so we feel more in control. We feel happier when everything is nicely planned out. When things stray from our plan, the loss of control can be unsettling. But undoubtedly, there will be times in your life when your child creates a situation that you cannot control. This is part of being a parent. We can do all that we can to set our children up for success, but ultimately they control what they eat, when they will sleep and when they will potty train. We cannot physically force them to do these things. If you feel like control is at the root of your anger, simply being aware of it will help.

Another way to eliminate anger and frustration from your parenting is to pay constant attention to your tone of voice, body language and stress level. There are times when you can feel the frustration level slowly rising. And there are times when you get angry at the drop of a hat with little warning. If you struggle with anger, make it your objective to be on constant alert for your anger signals. Ask your spouse to tell you when he sees you get angry. Develop a signal like tugging on his ear or clearing his throat to indicate to you that you need to calm down. You don’t want him to flat out tell you to calm down in front of your child because it will undermine your authority. Another option is to set the video camera on record for a few hours and watch it back. Listen to your voice. Watch your body language. Watch your child’s reactions to your anger. Pay attention to your stress level whether it manifests through tense shoulders, clenched fists, tight jaw, etc.

Once you become more aware of your anger signals, try to determine a pattern. Do you get angry at certain times of the day more than others? Are your mornings always stressful? Are you most angry when you’re out in public with your child? Are you always tired and simply need more sleep? Try to find a pattern and then take steps to change the pattern. For example, if you find yourself getting angry during your morning routine, get up an hour earlier. Simple fix. If you find yourself getting angry at mealtimes, do some non-conflict training with your child to teach him manners. If you are angry throughout the day or more so in the evenings, try going to bed an hour or two earlier.

Also have a plan for when he disobeys. Decide ahead of time what consequence you will give your child if he misbehaves at your high-stress times. That way, you know how you will respond and won’t lapse into anger.

Another useful tactic is to find a way to physically prevent yourself from disciplining your child out of anger. Make your typical discipline spot far away from the activity center of the house. If your trouble spots are in the main hub of the house (kitchen, family room, etc.) force yourself to discipline your child only in his bedroom or a bathroom. The time that it takes to walk up the stairs or across the house will give you time to calm down. If your house is small or if this doesn’t work for whatever reason, just count to ten silently. Take a breather. Give yourself a timeout if you need it. There is nothing wrong with making your child wait for discipline. In fact, the anticipation of it may be discipline enough.

Above all, if you know you struggle with anger and cannot seem to manage it, simply walk away. Even if your child continues with the poor behavior, letting him continue to do so for a few minutes is far better than disciplining him out of anger. Not only is it ineffective, but disciplining in anger is borderline abusive. It’s too important to ignore so take the necessary steps to control your anger. It’s no easy task, but you will all be happier for it.

4 Comments

Filed under first-time obedience, parenting philosophy

The ebb and flow of parenting

As you get accustomed to implementing the Ezzo principles in your daily life with your child, you will notice your child’s behaviors improve. This is wonderful and what we all want to see. But one negative effect of this is that you will start to slack off on your consistency. This is the natural ebb and flow of parenting.

Here’s how it typically plays out:

  • You are consistent in requiring a “yes mommy” and getting eye contact from your child.
  • He meets your level of expectation by doing as you ask. It doesn’t happen immediately, but he gets there eventually.
  • You are pleased with your progress and notice how compliant he has become.
  • Fully unaware that you are doing so, you begin to slack off on requiring a “yes mommy” and eye contact. It takes work to remember to do these things and if you are not reminded every day of your child’s misbehaviors (which are not as apparent as they used to be), it is easy to forget.
  • Because you have slacked off, he does too. You may have been at 90% first-time obedience, but it quickly slips to 50% without you even noticing.
  • At some point, you start getting frustrated with him and find yourself getting more and more angry in your daily interactions. Then it finally dawns on you that you haven’t been very consistent. No wonder he hasn’t been listening. You haven’t been asking for a “yes mommy”, requiring eye contact, training him in times of non-conflict, etc. You apologize to him for your previous anger and explain to him what happened and that you are going to bump up your consistency.
  • Again, he meets your level of expectation.
  • And the cycle repeats itself.

So if you begin to notice that your child’s behaviors have gotten worse, look to yourself first. Our children will rise to whatever level of expectation we set for them. (See “Say what you mean. Mean what you say.”) Have you started slacking off? Do you have something going on in your life that is requiring all of your attention (a new baby, a family crisis, etc.)? Have you and your spouse slacked off on couch time? Look closely at yourself and your behaviors, and you will easily find the answer to your child’s problems.

Then get back into the groove of requiring a higher standard from your child. Pick up your copy of Childwise and start rereading a chapter or two. Start rereading some of my previous posts. Start listening to the Mom’s Notes if you have them. All of these resources will help remind you how to apply the principles and will inspire you to get back to work with it.

Above all, don’t beat yourself up over this. This ebb and flow in our parenting is a natural fact of life. If you are human, it will happen. Just get used to it and be mindful of it so your child’s behaviors don’t get so out of control that they are doubly hard to correct. In fact, you will likely notice that your child’s behaviors might slip a bit, but he will never go back to where you were before you started implementing these principles. Your child will have become used to them so it won’t take him long to rise to your new higher standard. And the more you apply them the more natural they become, so it will be easy to jump right back in after you have slacked off for a little while.

3 Comments

Filed under first-time obedience, parenting