Babywise Week: What Do We Mean by Attitude?

Yesterday, Valerie gave a great overview of why it’s important to encourage a good attitude from our children. It truly is a gift to teach our kids how to deal with their emotions. There’s very little in life that’s more important than handling difficulties with grace. It’s a skill that will serve them well for many years.

Let me get into the specifics of a few types of attitudes and emotions we want to cultivate in our kids.


Requiring our kids to submit to our authority is something we should teach from a very early age. Submission makes the difference between a child who will sit willingly for a timeout and one who will have you running around the house to get him to sit. The earlier you begin teaching submission, the better off you will both be.

I remember putting my kids in timeout in their cribs (as young as 15 or 16 months), and they would lie down in the crib rather than stand up and look me in the eye. It was a very subtle act of defiance. When I saw that happen, I told the child that I would come back when they were “happy.” Once they would stand up and look at me (while I explained what they did wrong), I knew they were submitting to my authority.

Any time you see an act of overt defiance, you’ll know that you’re not seeing a submissive attitude. And think about the ways submission will benefit your kids for years to come. If our kids can learn to submit to us, they will submit to teachers, bosses, coaches, and other authority figures.


Valerie touched on this yesterday. Optimism will get our kids very far in life. I agree that optimism or pessimism is predetermined. Admittedly, I am more naturally pessimistic than optimistic. My husband is the opposite. And I have one of each in my kids.

I love seeing William’s optimism flourish as he grows older. He’s almost 10 now, and just last week, he was competing in a swim meet. He was literally smiling as he swam the breaststroke (his favorite). The swim team has been rigorous and very difficult for him. He’s often the slowest swimmer on the team. But not once has he complained about it.

Lucas (age 6), on the other hand, needs a little encouragement to find his hidden optimist. I think modeling positive attitude is best for him, as is explaining what it looks like and why it’s important.


When life gets tough, it can be so tempting to just give up. This is true with everything from school work to getting across the monkey bars. As you can imagine, determination is important for adults just as it is for kids.

I mentioned how determined William is with swim team, despite how difficult it’s been. When he tried out for the team, he hadn’t been in a pool in months, but he did well with the rigorous tryout.

I saw one or two kids who got angry with themselves that they couldn’t get across the length of the pool. One little girl stopped midway and took her goggles off in anger. I’m not sure whether she made the team, but her actions proved a lack of determination.

There were a couple kids who were borderline, and the coaches allowed them on the team, commenting on the fact that they were “teachable.” They didn’t necessarily need to see perfection in ability. They needed to see that they would be able to teach the kids and that the kids were determined enough to work hard.

Encouraging determination in our kids is all about words of affirmation. Praise your kids when you see them work hard. Model determination for them. And give them strategies for the times when they feel like giving up. If homework seems a little too daunting, let the child have a snack and a break and get right back to it. But don’t let him give up. Then when it’s done, give him huge praise, not for getting the answers right, but for sticking with it when it got tough.

Striving for personal best

I’ve heard many times that a motivated child will get much farther in life than a smart child will. Intelligence doesn’t do us any good if we’re unwilling to do the work. But if we’re motivated, we can compensate for a lack of natural ability. At the heart of motivation is a willingness to strive for our best. And to be clear, we’re talking about internal motivation, not working for an external reward.

Notice that I didn’t say to strive for perfection. Perfection is a loaded word and gets many of us in trouble. William and I both struggle with perfectionism. But striving for our personal best is great.

If you see your kids doing homework or a coloring page with carelessness, do something about it. A friend once told me about a time when she would crumple up her daughter’s coloring page when she was intentionally scribbling or coloring outside the lines. Don’t do this if coloring outside the lines is their personal best. But if they are intentionally scribbling, that’s a different matter. It’s all about intent.


Confidence is another attitude trait that will get us far in life. It’s particularly important to help our introverted, shy kids with confidence. My boys are both extroverts and have very little difficulty in standing up for themselves. But confidence is something I’ve struggled with. I have always been introverted and shy. I’d always rather let my work speak for itself than to have to speak or boast about it.

I’ve noticed that confidence plays a big role in the business world. You can compensate for a lack of ability with confidence. But even the most capable person won’t get very far if they can’t speak up for themselves.

But let me make a clear distinction. We don’t want false confidence. We want our kids to be proud and confident of the things that they have personally achieved. We don’t want confidence if it comes with lying.


Let me finish with what’s possibly the most important attitude trait. Teach your kids that kindness should be at the heart of everything they do in life. There are some who say, “Nice guys finish last.” But I’ve found the opposite to be true. In the business world, I’ve gotten far with my consulting clients because of the willingness and kindness that I always express. It’s all about the relationship and establishing a friendship. Who wants to work with someone who’s cutthroat and only looks out for himself?

There are many ways to show our kids what kindness looks like. If you see an adult struggling to open a door, have your child open the door for them. If you see an elderly person drop something, have your child pick it up. If you see a friend struggling to get across the monkey bars, have your child offer words of encouragement to the friend.

By the same token, stop your kids if they’re ever unkind. Listen not only to what your kids say, but how they say it. And make sure you’re around to witness your child’s kindness (or lack thereof). When friends come over, don’t hover, but be sure you can see how your child treats friends.

As you can imagine, living a life of kindness is the best way to teach it to your kids. Model the behavior, but go beyond even that. Be on the lookout for ways that your child can express kindness. Kids are naturally self-absorbed, so they won’t always spot opportunities for kindness. But if you do it often enough, they will begin to see it for themselves.


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  1. I’m loving this Babywise week tour! My daughter is 18 months old and I didn’t know about Babywise until I stumbled on Chronicles of a Babywise Mom about two months ago. Wishing I had found it sooner because many of the ideas are similar to how I already raise my daughter, so it’s easy for us to incorporate many of the exercises. These attitudes are very important and I like your ideas about how to implement teaching and promoting these behaviors in a positive way.