Babywise Week: An Attitude of Adventure

We’re finishing Babywise Week with a post from Claire at My Devising. Claire’s son is only 2.5 so she hasn’t quite gotten into the years when we really deal with attitude, but she has some great advice. One thing I gather from her situation is that it’s important to think about potential parenting issues before you run into them. It’s always best to have a plan, a roadmap of sorts, to guide us in our parenting and help us aim for a goal. So it’s great that Claire has had thoughts about attitude. When her son starts displaying problems with attitude, she’ll be ready to deal with it.

Here’s an example of how Claire is thinking about attitude in parenting: “I want to create little humans that look at hardships and hurt as a challenge, an adventure, and an opportunity.”

It’s so true that attitude makes all the difference. When our kids face difficulties in life, we can help prepare them by teaching them how to face them with grace. I know of some people who face hardships by pointing fingers. It’s always the other person’s fault. It takes real character to point to ourselves and see hardships as an opportunity for self improvement.

Head on over to Claire’s blog to read her post in its entirety. And if you haven’t had a chance yet, check out everyone’s posts on attitude from this week. It’s a real treasure-trove of parenting advice!

Babywise Week: Teaching Appreciation in an Entitled World

It’s Babywise Week. Today, we hear from Emily at Journey of Parenthood. This week, we’re talking about attitude, and Emily offers tips on how we can teach our kids to be appreciative in our entitled world. Entitlement seems to be running rampant in kids these days. Whether it’s from excessive (and unwarranted) praise or the “every child gets a trophy” philosophy, kids are being taught that they deserve everything their little hearts desire.

As Emily says, “Our kids are constantly made to feel so special, so perfect, and are so accustomed to the our worlds revolving around them that they no longer appreciate any of it. They expect praise. They expect rewards. They expect to have us catering to their every whim.”

Emily offers specific tips on how to ensure our kids don’t grow up to be entitled. They include:

  • Remain the parent
  • Don’t always give what they want
  • You get what you get (and you don’t get upset)
  • Let them lose
  • Praise when appropriate
  • Limit rewards
  • Don’t be fair
  • Have honest talks about reality
  • Model appreciation
  • Keep the focus above

Emily does a great job explaining what each of these means. Head on over to Emily’s blog to read her post in its entirety. And be sure to follow us all week:

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Babywise Week: Benefits of Babywise in Older Children

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It’s Babywise Week! Today, we’re featuring a post from Valerie, our fearless leader. Valerie blogs at Chronicles of a Babywise Mom. I honestly think that Babywise would not be what it is today without Valerie. There are certainly plenty of groups and contact moms out there who help Babywise parents, but Valerie’s blog is a huge blessing. She blogs so dutifully, reaches people across the globe, and covers every topic we could ever need in applying the Babywise principles in our homes.

I first met Valerie online when my youngest (now 6.5) was a few weeks old. It turned out that we both had an older boy around the same age. I believe my oldest William is just 6 or so months older than Brayden. Well, I immediately felt an affinity with Val since we seemed to have the oldest kids in our group, and Babywise hadn’t quite hit the Internet in ways that it has since.

Like Valerie, I started my blog in response to many moms looking for support with Babywise. She was the real trailblazer, but I started my blog in 2009, more than five years ago!

But I digress. In today’s post, Valerie talks about the effects of Babywise in older children. I can certainly attest to the claims she makes that Babywise does nothing to harm our kids. In fact, it prepares them for a life of responsibility, respect, diligence, and more. If there’s one caveat to these statements, it’s that it’s not really Babywise that has prepared our older kids. Babywise is great for babies. But so many moms forget to keep reading the series. Babywise sets us off on the right foot, but Toddlerwise, Preschoolwise, and Childwise are really where the hard work starts to pay off. So if you haven’t kept up with your reading, so do now!

In her post, Valerie offers a great description of what’s going on with each of her kids. They’re an inspiration! Here’s what I love most in what she says:

There are so many little things that really have all struck me as common sense when I have read them in the Babywise books that we have implemented that have helped my children grow so far into the delightful people they are. They amaze me each day. I am excited to see them grow and see all they will become. They are equipped with tools to do what they need to do and I have no doubt they will continue to amaze me in the future.

I agree!

How’s Your Child’s Heart?


There’s a little problem that occurs when we focus on our children’s obedience (or disobedience). We forget to check the status of their hearts. And if there’s anything we want to be careful of it’s that we not raise children who are outwardly obedient but inwardly defiant.

When you see your child obediently pick up his toys, does he do it happily? Does he obey your command because he’s knows it’s right? Or does he simply obey because he’ll face a consequence if he doesn’t?

Now, I think it’s important to realize that we can’t expect happy hearts all the time from toddlers and preschoolers. The Ezzos are frequently quoted as saying, “Actions precede beliefs.” For example, we need our kids to share with friends before they understand why they should do so. But if we have sufficiently taught our children the need for happy obedience, then we can expect that the correct attitude will accompany the obedience.

I expect William, age 8, to obey with a happy heart. He doesn’t have to love whatever chore I’ve given him, but he must do it correctly and without complaint. He’s at an age where I know that he knows why I expect him to clean up his toys. I know that I’ve sufficiently taught him. In fact, just yesterday, I reminded him, “We have to take care of our things. If we don’t take care of our things, then we aren’t responsible enough to have them.”

Ultimately, we need to check our kids’ hearts because our primary goal in parenting is shaping their moral compasses. If we allow them to get by with outward obedience but don’t require a good attitude, how will we know that they won’t adopt a similar attitude with teachers, bosses, and other authority figures?

We can teach a child how to sweep and do dishes, but if we neglect to teach them why it’s important to keep a clean house, what will he do when he’s living on his own? He may view chores simply as something his parents required but that he doesn’t see the need for.

This idea extrapolates to much more important moral considerations like lying, stealing, cheating, hard work, kindness, selfishness, etc. We want to not only teach them HOW to be good people, but WHY they should be good people.

So whether they’re two or twelve, we should expect a happy heart. If in the early years, after a timeout, you go through the motions of getting an apology and seeking forgiveness yet your child remains grumpy about it all, leave him there! If in the preteen years, you see a defiant heart, take stock and figure out where you may have forgotten to explain the importance of the action you’re requiring.

If at any point you see a blip in your child’s moral radar, go back to teaching the moral lessons behind everything you expect. Use every opportunity possible to mold their little hearts. And never stop at obedience.

Expect Excellence, Not Perfection


I came across an interesting idea in my reading the other day. It’s the idea that we should expect excellence, yet not perfection, from our children.

We struggle with perfectionism in my house. I have always been a perfectionist, to the point that it stops me from doing things because I know I can’t be perfect. And without recognizing this weakness in myself, I seem to have passed it on to my child. (Only William is plagued by perfectionism.)

So when I read about this idea of excellence, I thought it was great. Excellence speaks to effort. When we strive for excellence, we put in hard work. It encourages us to strive for perfection but to be okay if we don’t achieve it. It enables all the good aspects of perfectionism without the bad.

I recognize that I do this with my kids already. If they do a half-hearted job at cleaning up the playroom and don’t put toys in the appropriate bins, I will simply pull those toys out and throw them back on the floor. I don’t harp on them. I don’t remind them where the toys go. I simply throw them on the floor with the expectation that they will put them where they belong. This also teaches the idea that if we don’t take the time to do a job right the first time, we’ll have to do it all over again.

Do I expect 100% neatness with all the bins lined up and even spaces between each? The perfectionist in me would love this. But I simply want my boys to strive for excellence and to work hard to achieve it.

This applies well to our schoolwork. Perfectionism can certainly get in the way when we’re learning. William is a smart kid, and he often learns quickly and easily. So he gets frustrated when he can’t perfectly grasp an idea.

It’s my job as his teacher to make sure that I don’t require perfection. And I’ll be honest, it’s not easy. As I’m watching him write, I want his letters to be the same size. I want the spaces between words to be the same. I want him to pay attention to margins. But that’s the perfectionist in me. I often have to stop myself, realize that I’m being overly critical and that in doing so, I’m only feeding the perfectionist in him. That, or I drive him to exasperation because, well, he’s only 8!

I know of other homeschoolers, on the other hand, who don’t strive for perfection or excellence. They accept mediocre work. Of course, the perfectionist in me finds this unacceptable, but I do realize that we all have our own failings.

This idea applies to everything from schoolwork/homework to cleanliness. And we can even start instilling the need for excellence when they’re little. If a toddler is putting his cars away, and one drops outside the bin on the floor, have him go back and put it fully in the bin.

And always remember that you can expect great effort, even excellence, but not perfection.

Correcting Disobedience


If there’s anything that we Babywise parents know, it’s that disobedience needs correction. When our children are blatantly and intentionally disobedient, our correction serves to teach them that their behavior is unacceptable. There’s little doubt that our role as parents is to correct our children’s misbehaviors.

Having said that, it’s this very fundamental idea that trips us up. It’s difficult to answer the what, when, how, why, and to what degree questions that we must grapple with. Even the Ezzos cannot offer specific advice that says, if the child misbehaves in X way, give Y consequence. Why? Our children are human. We are human. And context changes everything.

Plus, we all tend to lean a certain way in our parenting. I most decidedly have a permissive bent. For example, when William doesn’t clean up his Legos when asked, I’ll convince myself that he didn’t hear me. If I could let my kids get away with everything, and stay sane while still raising morally responsible children, I would do it in a heartbeat. But I know it’s unlikely that that’s possible, so I must encourage myself to correct disobedience.

So what do we do about it? The Ezzos offer a few parameters by which we can determine how to correct our children.

“Where should parents begin when considering correction for their children’s intentional disobedience? Disobedient behavior needs correction, but parents should not correct all disobedience the same way or with the same strength of consequence,” (On Becoming Childwise).

There are five factors we can use to determine the appropriate correction:

  1. The age of the child
  2. The frequency of the offense
  3. The context of the moment
  4. The overall characterization of the behavior
  5. The need for balance

And of course, it’s always in the heat of the moment that we struggle with this correction question. Try to memorize these five factors. Then when your child misbehaves, you can run through the list to determine how to correct the child. If memorization isn’t your thing, or you can’t trust yourself to remember, perhaps write these out and post them in a prominent spot in the house.

One important thing to remember is that even if you afford the child leniency due to one of these factors, it doesn’t mean you forget the disobedience altogether. If you see your child blatantly break your park rules because a friend cajoled him to, you might not correct harshly because you realize your child wasn’t the ringleader. Nonetheless, you would take note of your child’s willingness to follow others to disobedience. You might not correct, but you can still use it as a teaching opportunity. Also make a mental note of the scenario so that if it does happen again, you can correct without as much leniency.

Entitlement: Self-Sacrifice

In January, I wrote a post called “Entitlement.” It seems to have struck a nerve for some of you. The blog was pretty active that day. I can see why. Entitlement is one of those ugly characteristics that we want to avoid instilling in our children. At the same time, it’s difficult to avoid, as evidenced by an entire generation that has been labeled as entitled.

Today, we’ll discuss all that we as mothers sacrifice and how it may lead to entitlement in our children.

They say that motherhood is the ultimate in self-sacrifice. In pregnancy, we give our bodies. In the newborn phase, we give up sleep and pretty much all semblance of free time. In the toddler phase, we give up the freedom to sit and relax (as we chase them around the house), not to mention the freedom to use the bathroom alone. In the preschool phase, we don’t have to give as much physically, but then the reality sets in that we need to start preparing our kids for school. As they grow older, we give less, but we still sacrifice adult time, date nights (that don’t cost an arm and a leg in babysitter fees), and everything else that won’t see the light of day until our kids can stay home by themselves. Plus, we’re still responsible for our kids’ physical and moral development.

There’s a funny thing about self-sacrificing mothers. There are many moms who say that their children give their lives a purpose. They feel needed and they like it. These are the moms who will sacrifice everything for their children, and many of them are self-righteous about it. They give the impression that working moms or moms who have activities outside the home are not fulfilling their duties as moms. Many of them go so far as to criticize those of us who sleep train or have our children sleep in their own beds.

Despite how self-righteous they may be about it, it’s usually these self-sacrificing mothers who end up with entitled children. These kids have been given the world for their entire lives. Then they get to a certain age and start to expect that they’ll be given the world. They act entitled. Why wouldn’t they? It’s what they’ve been taught to do. Interesting how that works, isn’t it?

Realizing that this is the case, it’s important to stop every now and then and examine how our parenting methods may be creating entitled children. In what ways do we sacrifice as mothers? What areas of sacrifice can we give up? Where can we depend on our kids more? What more can we require of them as they grow up? What do we give them that they feel entitled to?

Here are some ideas to think about:

1) Insist that your crawling baby or toddler wait outside the bathroom for you. It’s okay if he fusses for a few minutes.

2) Don’t pick up your baby or toddler every time she cries. Shush her until she stops whining or crying, and only then pick her up.

3) Set aside time for your spouse every night (couch time) and insist that your child not interrupt you.

4) Find a time in the day where your child is awake but you have some alone time. Teach your child that when he sees you reading the paper and drinking coffee, he is to leave mommy alone.

5) Make sure your kids earn every privilege.

6) Track the time your kids spend on devices (computer, iPad, video games, TV), and make it clear that it’s a privilege, not a right.

7) Require chores, no matter how much homework or piano practice she has. Even from an early age, kids can start helping out around the house.

8) If your child starts acting entitled to a certain privilege, take it away. Only give it back when he seems grateful for the privilege.

Keep an eye on all that you sacrifice for your kids. Make sure that you sacrifice less and less as the child grows. Have him do more for himself as he ages and make sure he knows you don’t live your life catering to his every whim.

Correcting Our Faults in Children


What happens when you recognize your own failings in your children? Say you were a super picky eater as a child. What do you do when you encounter that quality in your child? Are you more sympathetic because you’ve struggled with it or do you tend to react more harshly?

A good friend recently mentioned this idea to me, and I find it so interesting. She says that one of her biggest faults is clumsiness. No matter the reason, she’s struggled with being clumsy her whole life. I wouldn’t think of clumsiness as a major fault, because it’s not one of those things that you can necessarily control. But it is definitely something she struggles with. The reason she mentioned it is that she realized that she tends to correct her kids more harshly when they act clumsy.

I can imagine why this might be the case. She has recognized it as an unbecoming fault and doesn’t want to pass it along to her children. Or maybe because she’s recognized it as a weakness in herself, there’s no doubt in her mind that clumsiness is a weakness that everyone should avoid, her children included. But she laughed at it because it’s kind of ridiculous and almost hypocritical for her to judge her kids for a quality that she hasn’t yet been able to conquer.

This also had me thinking about my family. When you look at our genetic makeup, William is 98% my husband. He looks and acts like him so much it’s creepy. You would never know the child is my offspring. But I think this is a problem in our house. I find that my husband is overly critical of William, and it just occurred to me recently that it could be because he identifies with William’s failings so much. Aside from a few SPD tendencies, I hardly identify with William at all. When I look at him, I don’t see myself. So in a way, it enables me to parent him objectively (if that’s at all possible).

I will say that if I see any faults in my children, I do tend to look at myself first. I’ve been struggling lately with William’s perfectionism. It tends to hinder our homeschooling, and it’s so pronounced that he recently said he “wanted to be perfect for the rest of his life.” Uh oh. When he said that, he may as well have been pointing a mirror right back at me. I’m a HUGE perfectionist. I like everything to be just so, and if I can’t make it perfect, I don’t try. I don’t know if you’ve noticed the horribly sized picture on my Facebook page, but it eats at me. I don’t have the software to fix it, so I’m stuck and do my best to push it out of my mind — which is more difficult than it should be. (Hey, if anybody has Photoshop and can help me, I’d so appreciate it!) And my kids don’t have baby books, it’s that bad. I’ve always wanted baby books for my kids, but I’ve tried. And I’ve tried. I just can’t make them perfect, and because it’s so important, it has to be perfect. It’s messed up, right?

I have to say, though, that I don’t overly criticize William for his perfectionism, partly because I haven’t really owned up to it being a fault (which I seriously need to do). But I will definitely say that there are certain qualities in Lucas that I criticize more than my husband does. Lucas is much more like me (not quite 98% but close). He likes his comfort foods, he likes being cautious, he likes it when life is predictable and pleasant. But sometimes, even though I’m exactly the same way sometimes, it drives me nuts! I’m much less forgiving of his faults than anyone else in my family. I don’t give in to his picky eating. I make him stop whining the minute it starts. I encourage him to try new things, and so on.

It’s really interesting because you’d think I’d be more forgiving of these faults because I can identify with them. I was a picky eater as a child. I whined all the time as a child. I was super cautious as a child. I get it. I’ve been there. But I suppose I’m more critical because I’m aware that these qualities are faults and that they will be something he’ll have to overcome later in life. That, or find a spouse who will cater to these qualities. Thanks, honey! ;)

I suppose the point of this post is that we should ask ourselves whether we are being fair to the children who possess those qualities that we deem to be faults of our own. Are we being hypocritical to be overly stern when we see these faults in our kids? Or are we simply trying to save them the heartache that we have gone through by having to manage these faults in ourselves?

Shifting Responsibility


Are you doing all you can to encourage your children to take responsibility? When they are little, we do everything for them, whether it’s making meals or bathing them. But as our kids get older, we need to shift that responsibility over to them. The types of responsibilities I’m thinking of are:

  • Feeding a pet every day
  • Walking the dog
  • Doing homework without being asked
  • Practicing piano (or any other instrument)
  • Any chores you expect of him

This shift happens very gradually, typically with one responsibility at a time. It can sometimes be quite tricky to manage this shift in responsibility ownership. We don’t want to overload our kids with so much responsibility that they don’t handle it well. Nor do we want to give them the idea that they are allowed to be independent in all things.

It’s all about balance. We want to require them to take on responsibility for certain tasks in the home. But at the same time, we don’t want an independent, wise in their own eyes attitude.

Which of these best characterizes your child?

1)    He asks you to do everything from putting his toys away to tying his shoes (well beyond the age when he can do it himself).

2)    He refuses your help in most things, claiming he can do it himself.

The problem with the first is that he’s not being required to do enough. The problem with the second is that he’s allowed to be too independent which often comes with attitude problems. When a child is too independent, he will convince himself that you don’t have the power to tell him what to do.

If you have a child who seems to have a little too much responsibility – and a wise in his own eyes attitude – start limiting his freedoms. Give him just the right amount of responsibility and start having him ask permission for almost everything he does.

Consider the funnel when deciding what responsibilities you can allow your child. The funnel tells us to keep our kids’ freedoms age appropriate. But more than age, we should consider whether they will act responsibly with the freedoms we give.

Having our kids take on responsibilities also requires a certain amount of attention on our part. If we have the child feed the cat, we need to make sure he does so consistently without us having to nag. If you find yourself nagging, then the child isn’t handling the responsibility well. Think about making a chart that lists the child’s responsibilities. Don’t make it a reward chart, but more of a daily checklist.

With my oldest, I’m thinking about moving him to a calendar system. I need to determine whether he’s old enough for it, but I want him to manage his own responsibilities. If he has a calendar, he can schedule piano practice at a time that suits him (and the rest of the family), his home therapy session three times a week, any schoolwork that isn’t directed by me, and more.

Kids are always in a hurry to grow up. So feel free to give them responsibility and a way to manage their responsibilities, but also keep an eye on whether the child is in the funnel and not acting too independent for his own good.

Sweat the Small Stuff


Yes, you read that right. Typically, this phrase is preceded by the word “don’t” but I think in parenting, it’s perfectly fine and good to sweat the small stuff. As parents, our job is to train our children, in all things, big and small.

You probably know what I’m talking about, too. There are little habits that don’t spell doom for the rest of the child’s life, but they simply drive us crazy. They look something like this:

• Your child uses a ton of soap but still doesn’t manage to get his hands fully clean.

• He holds his fork horribly wrong.

• He fails to wipe his feet on the mat when walking through the door.

• She takes her shoes off the instant you get in the car.

• He turns his nose up at anything green on his plate.

• She forgets to flush the toilet.

• He eats with his mouth open and makes a ton of noise while eating.

• Every time he eats, he ends up with food all over his face.

• She doesn’t do a thorough job with anything (showering, sweeping, homework, picking up toys).

None of these examples will ruin a child. Yes, she will eventually flush the toilet every time she goes. Yes, he will eventually eat his vegetables. But the issue is whether these things drive you crazy and whether they’re important to you. If good manners are important to you, then by all means, teach him to hold his fork correctly and chew quietly. If you hate putting your child’s shoes on (again) every time you arrive somewhere, then train her to keep them on. If you want to teach your child that excellence lies in the details, then work with her to learn how to do every job carefully and thoroughly.

The next time something your child does nags at you, rather than letting it go, stop and decide whether it is something you want to train your child in. Decide whether it’s important to you, and if so, come up with a plan. It’s beyond the scope of this post to explain HOW to train a child in these things. The point is just that, as a parent, you have the power to train your child. Your job is to pass on your values. If something is important to you — even the small stuff — then make sure you are instilling that value in your child.