Raising Independent and Responsible Children

independentandresponsibleby Valerie Plowman

I have such a passion for helping children to be independent and personally responsible. I know that personally for me a huge part of my success as a person in my life can be attributed to the fact that I know I am responsible for myself. There are a lot of good reasons to be personally responsible–that isn’t the purpose of this post. The purpose is to discuss how you get there. Here are some ideas.

Start with Proper Expectations

The first place to start is to realize what your child is actually capable of. Chances are your child is capable of more than think. Whether you are working with chores, personal care, homework, practicing skills, or obedience, you want to have the proper expectations. Your child will rise to the occasion. You will likely often find yourself in the middle of a task you have always done realizing, “Hey, my kid could be doing this.” For everything you do for your child, the day will come that your child will be able to do it himself. That is the time to move on in our list of steps outlined below. An example from my life is last year when I realized Brayden, who was in second grade, could be making his own lunch in the morning. It was time to have him do it himself.

Explain and Teach

Just because your child is capable of something doesn’t mean he was born knowing how to do so. For whatever it is you want your child to be able to do, you will need to instruct. Have your child help you. Have your child observe. Talk through the process. Ask your child to explain the process. Let your child do it while you verbally instruct. Be patient with this process as it can take some time. Back to my lunch example, I decided that during the summer between second and third grade, I would have Brayden pack his lunch for park day to give him practice for packing it for school. I told him how, showed him how, and stood by his side as I handed the task over to him and helped him with questions that came up along the way.

Have Rules and Expectations

Once your child knows how to do something, it is time to set some rules and expectations. Explain when the task needs to be done. Explain if you will be giving reminders or not. Explain the consequences that will follow if the task is not done. Make sure your child is clear on these rules. Going with my lunch example, if Brayden doesn’t pack his lunch, he can eat the lunch the school provides.

You can have rules for the order things are done in–like maybe homework is done first thing after school. We have expectation that our children will clean up after themselves. We also have a rule that everyone cleans no matter who made the mess.

For help with appropriate chore expectations, see these posts:

Give an Instruction and Walk Away

A lot of times we impede our children’s progress by getting impatient and doing the task for our child. When you give your child an instruction, walk away so your child can do it. If you tell your child to get shoes on, walk away and do something else that needs to be done in order to leave. Don’t stand there for five seconds (or even five minutes) and then get impatient and start to do it for your child. A good strategy is to tell your child to do something much sooner than you need it done. Another good idea is to do something to busy yourself while your child works on it.

Always remember, doing things for your child might seem nice, but it can actually be harmful in the long run. It is such a benefit to your child to learn life skills and be able to take care of himself. I think it is fine to do some things for our children that they can do for themselves at times. My husband often helps Brayden with a portion of his lunch each day. There is nothing inherently wrong with making lunch for your child. It can be a display of love and service from you. Just be sure your child is learning the skills associated with the task you are doing in some other way (in our example, Brayden helps make dinner at other times).

Start by Helping with Charts/Cards/etc.

We all need reminders, and it is fun and helpful to give your child a way to keep track of what needs to be done. I find when starting a new responsibility, these things are necessary, but as the child gets use to it, it is no longer needed. When we started having Brayden make his own lunch, I made an instruction list he could refer to each day. Today, he doesn’t need to use it, but initially, it helped him make sure  he had everything he needed for his lunch. I have some posts on chore charts and such:

Have Consequences When The Child Doesn’t Follow Through

A concept I love from the Parenting with Love and Logic book is to keep in mind that stakes are low. This means that today, Brayden having to eat school lunch isn’t a huge deal. He might not like what is made that day, but he will surely survive. He will also likely not forget to make his lunch another day. He might be hungry, but life will go on. It is better to learn these lessons now while he is young and the consequences won’t have a long-term negative impact on his life than in 20 years when he is an adult and his stakes are higher.

Logical consequences are often effective for things your child is supposed to take care of himself. You can also remove privileges as a consequence. If you have a rule that there is no TV time until homework is done, if your child decides to watch TV first, you might take away TV time for a week.

Help Child Solve Own Problems

When your child comes to you with a problem that needs to be solved, don’t just solve it for him. Help him learn wisdom. Talk him through it. Ask him some ways he could fix it. Stay calm and help him think it through. Do a brainstorming session. Once you have talked about options, ask your child which option he wants to do. Doing this helps your child become self-sufficient. Your child will be able to do the process on his own before long.

Believe in Your Child

There is huge power in believing your child can do things. Have confidence in your child and trust your child to follow through.

For more on this topic, see:

Valerie is a mother to four children ages 1-8 and blogs at www.babywisemom.com.

Aiming for Excellence Not Perfection

Excellence vs perfectionBy Rachel Norman, A Mother Far from Home 

I think many of us mothers are doers. If something needs to be done then we do it. If a decision needs to be made then we make it. Often Type A Babywise mothers (not all Babywise mothers are Type A, of course) are driven to achievement and are quite goal-oriented. While I think this is an excellent quality – it is very hard to drum this up if you don’t already have it – it can also be a risk factor in raising perfectionists.

According to the Birth Order Book, firstborn children tend towards perfectionism. Their first and primary role models are adults who do things perfectly to their inexperienced eye. Parents are often a lot harder and more demanding of a first child as well, and this contributes.

I think it’s important and our duty as parents to teach our children to strive for excellence, however, we want to be sure we aren’t expecting perfection or helping them to become perfectionists which will cause them difficulties later on in life.

1.    They are accepted based on their position not their performance.

I talk about this in my “How to keep your kids out of counseling” series, but children need to know they are loved simply because they belong to you. Whether or not they color in the lines perfectly or know their numbers in Spanish has nothing to do with how you treat them. If they are unsure of your unwavering love then they will feel the need to perform well to earn it, and this will lead them to becoming fearful perfectionists.

2.    Require completion not perfection.

I don’t know about you, but with small children I find it hard to get them to finish a task completely, much less do it perfectly. When aiming to instil the value of hard work and excellence in children we need to make sure we are teaching them to be starter finishers, but not requiring them to do it perfectly. My husband struggles with perfectionism, and can feel paralyzed by fears, worries and apprehensions on an issue before he even gets off the starting block. He absolutely doesn’t want to pass this on to our children so we encourage them to start – just start – the matter at hand, and then to finish it.

3.    Don’t redo things for them.

I used to think I’d want to go behind my children and redo their work so that it’d be up to my “standard.” Now, with 3 children 2 years and under, I am just so grateful they do things to help me that I’d never dream of it. I’m sure the temptation will return later, but I am going to work on it. My daughter’s daily chore is folding towels and sheets. After only watching me a few times she really picked up the basics well, but of course they are a bit untidy and don’t stack well. I leave them as is and put them away. When at all possible, I don’t redo their work or add unnecessarily to it. As they get older they will take this as a sign that you think their effort wasn’t enough. At best this will make them not want to contribute, at worst they’ll feel they aren’t up to snuff. Note: this is not to be confused with purposefully doing shoddy work.

4.    Evaluate your own personality.

If you are like me (and life will be so much easier for you if you aren’t) then you are ambitious, driven and slightly neurotic. I know this and therefore assume I probably require a little too much of my children. If you are easy-going, carefree and more go with the flow, you probably require too little. This is a generalization, but one I think generally true. Those who aren’t required to push through and complete often get paralyzed before beginning or mid way through a project because they’ve never learned the joy of completion. If you’re carefree you’ll need to make sure you don’t err on this side. Those who are pushed through to a standard of unattainable excellence will become driven to prove they are worthy. Mothers who are pushers need to avoid this extreme.

We want our children to work hard, do their best, and enjoy the feeling of success. However, we don’t want to push them in a way that makes them feel they need to earn our love and approval by how perfect their performance is. If your children are old enough, ask them if you are guilty of this. If they are still young, be careful to help them complete tasks with care, but don’t require perfection.

My boss is a career mentor and is very fond of saying that, most of the time, 80% is good enough. Not all the time, no. But most of the time, yes. Now I’m not encouraging us to tell our children to aim for 80%, but when they reach it, let’s let that be okay most of the time.

Rachel blogs at A Mother Far from Home where she seeks to help other mothers raise wise children of strong character without losing their minds in the process.

Balancing Authority and Fun in the Home

rachel guest post

By Rachel, A Mother Far from Home 

If you’re like me (and life probably runs easier for you if you are not) then you find yourself being a lot easier being the boss than you do the playmate or companion to your children. My husband is, in fact, quite the opposite. At times I’ve found myself jealous that he is so easily able to get down on his hands and knees and engage in such a direct way with them. Lately I’ve actively been trying to balance the two.

My mother is in the education system by profession and while at college her teachers gave advice that went something like this. “Be really strict until Christmas, then after the New Year you can have some fun with your students because they’ll be in the habit of good order.” While a home is not exactly like a classroom, per se, there are many parallels between the two and I believe that from infancy if you run your home with fair, loving and firm authority you’ll be able to have lots of fun with your children without everything getting out of control.

(1) Being in control doesn’t mean you’re controlling. A mom is in control of the schedule, the activities and what behaviors she will or won’t allow. But, just because you run an orderly home doesn’t mean that you are controlling in a way that doesn’t allow spontaneity and fun. There will be times during the day that are free and open to wherever your children’s imagination and inspiration lead you. During these times try to get down and dirty with them. Don’t sidewalk supervise, but join in. Dig in the sandpit with them. Get in on that board game. Put on a cape and be the bandit. It will be hard at first but silliness may be a good outlet for stress relief too!

(2) You can have fun and correct at the same time. Maybe you’re afraid that if you join in the fun then things will escalate out of control quickly and you’ll have to step out and referee. It is true that free play and run around fun can get rowdy, but I believe that if you are consistently kind and firm anyway, you can keep the chaos to a minimum. If your authority is not in question (and for your own sanity I hope it isn’t) then a kind but firm “no, don’t go over there, come back” won’t interrupt play for more than a few seconds. Redirect, distract and substitute and then carry on playing. It seems like it is fraternizing with the boss, however, we don’t have a lifelong nurturing relationship with our bosses like our children will have with us. It may take a while to find a balance but it can be struck.

(3) Find time for fun in the mundane. I know the dinner table is a great place to teach manners, order and obedience. However, I think it can also be a fun place. Why not sing a song together? As long food is not flying and forks are not being thrown on the floor what is the harm? Play games in the car and don’t make a bath in the evening an in and out affair. Use the times you are already in direct contact with your kids to make things fun. Liven them up. They will react to you so if they know you are willing to play but unwilling to let things escalate to disorder, they’ll follow your lead. I believe that our homes should be a balance of good order and great fun. And I don’t think you have to sacrifice one for the other.

Rachel blogs at A Mother Far from Home on motherhood, pregnancy, parenting, travel with small children and much more.

Don’t Forget the Good

A friend recently reminded me how important it is to speak up to our children about their good qualities. It’s our job as parents to right their wrongs and correct them when something goes awry. But when we get caught up this job of correcting our kids, we often neglect the good. If our days are spent calling out the bad, it begins to affect the self-esteem. Now, I’m not a big fan of this term. Often, permissive parents are guided by a fear of damaging the self-esteem. But that’s not to say that we should ignore it completely.

There are times in my life when I’ve been praised more than I’ve been reprimanded. In fact, I had a boss once who was always so good at praising me. Ten years later, I still remember some of the wonderful things he said about me. That praise made me feel good, and it was very motivating. It gave me a reason to please!

Let’s think this idea through more completely. Which statement do you think will motivate your child to do well?

  1. Don’t touch that. You’ll mess it up.
  2. You’re doing such a nice job keeping your hands to yourself.
  1. Stop whining. It’s only a little scrape.
  2. I know you’re upset, but you’re being so brave by not crying.
  1. Hurry up and brush your teeth. Move faster!
  2. You’re doing a such a careful job brushing your teeth.
  1. Be careful! You’re going to spill that juice!
  2. Good job being independent enough to pour your own juice. Let me show you how to clean up after yourself.

When my friend mentioned this idea to me, she suggested that our kids will start to believe in all the negative words we spout out at them. If all we say are things like “don’t touch that,” “move faster,” and “stop whining” they will start to think they are destructive, slow cry babies. If we replace those words with “nice job,” “brave,” and “independent,” those words will stick with them. They will believe they are good, brave, and independent.

My friend said to do this even when things aren’t going quite right. The example she gave was when her son got mad and yelled at his sister. My friend could still praise her son for using only his words, not his hands, and not swearing. True, he could have walked away before getting angry, but it could also have been a lot worse.

If you’re not in the habit of offering praise, think of ways to remind yourself. Perhaps set a timer so you say something good once an hour. Or put up a note in your kitchen to remind yourself. Remember to always look for the good, even in bad situations.

How To Praise Smart Kids

Source: uci.edu

On Monday, I discussed the idea that parenting influences a child’s brain development and that potentially, Babywise parents have an easier time at this because we naturally tend toward establishing structure, self-control, and sleep. But just because we set our kids up for success doesn’t mean life will be smooth sailing. In fact, parents of smarter kids often have a more difficult go at parenting.

But if there’s one thing you need to learn when parenting a smart child, it’s how to offer praise. Praise is important. It encourages our children. It motivates them. It builds their self-esteem. But there’s a right way to praise and a wrong way to praise.

It comes down to this: don’t praise a child for qualities that are beyond his control. Even when you’re amazed by your child’s memory or his early abilities in math or reading, bite your tongue whenever you’re tempted to say, “You’re so smart,” or “You have an amazing memory.”

For praise to hold any weight, it must speak to the child’s effort. Better than praising characteristics, praise his actions. It should sound like this:

• You worked so hard on that puzzle.
• I like how you persevered on that task. Sticking with something when it gets hard is so important.
• I see you chose a more difficult book to read. Nice!
• Your homework tonight was tough. I like that you never got discouraged.
The reason this type of praise is important for smart kids in particular is that life typically comes easy for these kids. They can very easily skate through life. They often don’t have to try hard or learn the meaning of the word perseverance. It’s nice that life will be easy for them, but no child (or adult) will get very far if they never learn the value of hard work.
This idea has been studied and tested. In 2007, Po Bronson wrote an article in New York Magazine about how not to talk to our kids. The article’s subtitle is “the inverse power of praise.” In the article, he discusses the importance of praising a child’s hard work over his innate intelligence:

For the past ten years, psychologist Carol Dweck and her team at Columbia (she’s now at Stanford) studied the effect of praise on students in a dozen New York schools. Her seminal work—a series of experiments on 400 fifth-graders—paints the picture most clearly.

Dweck sent four female research assistants into New York fifth-grade classrooms. The researchers would take a single child out of the classroom for a nonverbal IQ test consisting of a series of puzzles—puzzles easy enough that all the children would do fairly well. Once the child finished the test, the researchers told each student his score, then gave him a single line of praise. Randomly divided into groups, some were praised for their intelligence. They were told, “You must be smart at this.” Other students were praised for their effort: “You must have worked really hard.”

Why just a single line of praise? “We wanted to see how sensitive children were,” Dweck explained. “We had a hunch that one line might be enough to see an effect.”

Then the students were given a choice of test for the second round. One choice was a test that would be more difficult than the first, but the researchers told the kids that they’d learn a lot from attempting the puzzles. The other choice, Dweck’s team explained, was an easy test, just like the first. Of those praised for their effort, 90 percent chose the harder set of puzzles. Of those praised for their intelligence, a majority chose the easy test. The “smart” kids took the cop-out.

So you can see how praise plays a pivotal role in a child’s determination to succeed. No matter how smart, a child can still fail in school if he refuses to do his homework or push himself with the work gets tough. The ability to persevere and work diligently is very possibly more important than innate intelligence.

Desperate Times

Source: naturallysavvy.com

Sometimes desperate times do call for desperate measures. No matter how much we may understand that threatening and repeating tactics will ultimately fail, there are times when we resort to these measures. And that’s ok.

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the idea that parenting is the most important job we will ever do. When we realize that we truly do have the power to shape our children, it’s easy to set super-high expectations for ourselves. When things go wrong, it’s not pretty. Forgiveness — from ourselves and other moms — doesn’t come easily.

That’s what makes parenting so hard. Yes, it’s an important job. And yes, women are highly critical of each other. While I’d love to ask moms to go a little easier on each other, the least we can do is forgive ourselves.

And the truth of the matter is that sometimes counting to three really works. Sometimes bribing our kids works. And sometimes it’s on the fourth time that we repeat an instruction that we get obedience. If the day has gone horribly wrong, and in the middle of cooking dinner, you realize you’re out of the most critical ingredient, it may be one of those times that you need to bribe the children to obey during a quick trip to the store. It’s better to bribe and maintain emotional stability than to run the risk of being sent over the edge by a child running wild in the produce section.

Besides, there’s a difference between knowing and doing. We may intellectually know how we want to train our children and what behaviors we expect of them, but actually implementing these parenting ideas consistently is a different endeavor entirely. Again, that’s ok.

There’s one crucial thing to remember about this: don’t do it often. Sometimes we need to call upon our most desperate measures, but the other 98% of the time, we need to diligently train our kids in the behaviors and attitudes we expect. If your attempts to train go horribly wrong, it’s probably a clue that you’re using desperate measures a little too often.

But before you even think about criticizing yourself for this, remember that you deserve to be forgiven. You are your harshest critic, so go easy on yourself every now and then.

Find Your Inner Cheerleader

Source: fancydressball.co.uk

I’m amazingly fortunate to have a friend who is traveling the homeschooling journey with me. Her kids are slightly older than mine. All four went to the same school together last year. As luck would have it, before the school year was over last year, I took Lucas to a birthday party and overheard another friend say that Missy* was going to homeschool her kids. If there was ever a purpose for those crazy birthday parties, this was it.

I bring this up because Missy is an amazing cheerleader for her kids. She is so excited to be homeschooling her kids, and her excitement is infectious, both to her kids and me! While I’m rethinking my decision to homeschool, she plans to homeschool her kids the whole way through. She loves every minute of it. I think her attitude towards homeschooling completely sets the tone for their days. She is the ultimate cheerleader.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am no cheerleader. I’m a glass-half-empty kind of girl. But recognizing my weakness is the first step to changing it, right? When I face an obstacle with my kids — whether it’s related to school or some behavioral issue — I now ask myself, What would Missy say?

Last night, William was almost done with his math books (yay!) but he had to make a few corrections before we could call it done. After therapy and a quick trip to the mall, we came home and sat down to finish. After he redid a few incorrectly on his own, I realized that I needed to sit down with him and help him through. It was late, we hadn’t eaten dinner, our routine was completely off, there were quite a few corrections to be made, we had a difficult morning, Lucas was off playing, and I wasn’t going to let him go to bed until it was done. It had disaster written all over it. I’m happy to say that with Missy sitting on my shoulder (figuratively, of course), I cheered him through it!

At every turn, I had to stop myself from spouting out something negative and defeating. I then mustered up the most positive thing I could say. I uttered “You can do this!” quite a bit, and while I was going for variety, the repetition didn’t hurt. We even laughed together at some of his crazy incorrect answers. We were in it together, and he got it done!

So if you are struggling with a particular issue with your child — whether it’s a behavioral issue, a difficult chore, homework or anything else — find your inner cheerleader. I once read a quote that said something like, “Who came up with the idea that making our kids feel bad about themselves (through discipline or derision) would make them change their behavior?” It’s so true! If we want them to improve, we need to make them feel good about themselves.

Here are a few negative phrases I’m sure I’ve uttered at some point and their cheerleader alternatives:

1) You’re 5 years old. You should know better. –> You’re such a big boy. I had no idea you were so smart.

2) Come on. You know this. Why can’t you do it? –> You can do this! I believe in you!

3) Please try folding laundry. You may not do it perfectly, but that’s ok. –> I had no idea you were so good at folding laundry! That was really hard! (Refold after the child has gone to bed.)

4) Did you really think that snatching that toy from your brother was a good choice? Really? –> I know you like that toy, and it can be so tempting to take the things you want. But I think your brother would feel better if you asked first. Do you agree? Let’s give it back and find another toy like that one.

5) You were good at riding your bike last time. What happened? Try harder! –> I see your bike-riding skills are a little rusty. That’s okay. It happens to me, too. Let’s keep going and it will get easier.

6) I see you got a good grade on your spelling test. Good. That’s as it should be. –> Wow! You got such a good grade on your spelling test! Let’s put it up on the fridge so Daddy sees it when he gets home!

Try to step outside yourself to listen to how you speak to your child. Honestly evaluate whether you are defeating or lifting up your child. If it’s the former, make it a point to work on it and stop yourself before you utter another negative phrase. Our kids want to please us. Let’s encourage them by making them feel good about doing so.

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent. :)

Discover and Hone Your Child’s Interests

Source: oprah.com

If you’re like me, you’re thinking about the coming year and the many activities that are available to our children. In truth, most kids begin their activities in the fall with the start of the school year, but there’s nothing like the fresh start of a new year to ensure we’re following our child’s interests when it comes to their activities.

First of all, let me be upfront with the fact that I am not a proponent of signing kids up for activities just for the sake of keeping them busy. Kids are so busy these days! Let them rest and play after a long day at school, and make family dinners a priority. These early years at home are so important and will do so much more for your child’s social and emotional development than any soccer club or karate class.

With that in mind, step back a minute and assess your child’s activities. Does he have too many? Too few? Most importantly, are they addressing his interests?

I have seen a few soccer games where the kids don’t seem to be having much fun. It often seems like it’s more about the parents and coaches than it is about the children. The same goes for any tutoring or “educational enrichment” classes. Of course, fun probably isn’t the goal there, but nonetheless, assessing the need is key.

The first priority in assessing your child’s activities is to make sure you are discovering and honing his interests. What is your child most interested in? I feel activities need to center around the child’s interests because this is where the child will truly learn. A child forced to join Cub Scouts when his true passion is playing the piano does the child a real disservice.

I’m reminded of the book Outliers by Malcom Gladwell. The author says that to reach true success, it takes a bit of timing and good luck, but also lots of practice. Specifically 10,000 hours, he says. So if our hope is that our child will reach success the likes of Bill Gates, then we must first find what will inspire and guide the child toward greatness. Then we give him the opportunity to get their 10,000 hours in.

Realize that choosing the 10,000-hour activity for the child won’t do any good. The child has to have the inner drive to want to put in all those hours. So if you’re dragging a sporty kid to piano practice and violin lessons, I suspect you’ll be met with great resistance.

William, my oldest, inspires me with his inspiration. He is truly gifted in many things. I will say that we are still defining his one or two interests. His top interest at this point is drawing. In his free time, he writes comic strips. They are very detailed and very funny! I haven’t yet felt the need to sign him up for a drawing class because I’d like to see how this interest morphs on its own, without an outside influence. I cultivate this interest by giving him plenty of time to draw, encouraging him by sharing his drawings and comics with others, and by giving him the materials he needs. I bought him a book for Christmas that gives step-by-step directions for drawing cartoon people!

Another interest of William’s is piano. This kid amazes me with his ear. He learned to play “Deck the Halls” by listening to it in a commercial and pounding it out on the keyboard. We’re taking Suzuki piano lessons, and I love that it teaches him to play by ear, but I have to say, I’m not thrilled with the lessons. I feel like we might benefit more by devoting that time at home on the piano. This remains to be seen.

Lucas, my five-year-old, is my sporty one. The child could throw a perfect spiral with his little football at the age of 3. I have him in a sports class at our homeschool co-op. When we have the time, I’ll sign him up for flag football or t-ball. Beyond sports, we’re still waiting to see what other interests emerge. He takes the same piano lessons William does, but he gets less time on the piano. I’m not sure it’s an interest or talent of his. Besides, at his age, I think imaginative play at home is more important than any activity that I could sign him up for.

As you look ahead to a new year, what interests has your child shown? Are you doing your best to hone those skills with the right amount of outside activities?

Remember to Cherish

Source: favim.com

This beautiful post is written by my friend Charisa. A mom to two young girls, Charisa is great at balancing training and obedience with love and fun. This post is about stopping to smell the roses, even when we’re mired in kid world.

It’s 3:00 in the afternoon and my coffee is already wearing off. It’s too late to brew another cup, but I’m questioning what will hold me until bedtime. I start to ask myself why I didn’t set bedtime for 6:00 instead of 8:00 when they were littler. If I had then I would be two hours closer to putting these little bundles of energy to bed.

It’s now 4:00 and only one hour after I last checked the clock. How is it that I’m still so far away from bedtime and peace and quiet? It’s now 5:00 and finally I can start preparing for dinner. This will fill the time! Now we’ve finally hit 7:30, and it’s time for the bedtime routine. Rush, rush, rush, and get them into bed. Finally, it’s 8:00 and all’s well. The kids are in bed, and now I can have some peace and quiet.

If you’re like me, this can sometimes characterize your day. I so easily want to rush through those hard times in order to get to the easier times. But what gain is there in that? We have heard it said many times that the hard times make for sweeter good times. That is true of many things. For example, think of all that labor you went through. Those contractions, those moans and groans, and the waiting. Now remember that moment you saw that sweet little squished face for the first time. All legs, arms, fingers, and head squirming and screaming on your chest. The pain was worth it.

Now, fast forward with me to today. Your toddler is literally sitting on your foot all day. Arms and legs are wrapped around yours, and she won’t get off. Your preschooler is asking you a hundred questions or simply narrating your day. Your infant is in a growth spurt and wants to eat every hour. Pain? Well, maybe not pain, but definitely hard. Wiping spit, wiping bottoms, wiping noses, wiping counters, wiping slobber marks off the window…that is what my day can look like. When 3:00 or 4:00 rolls around, I’m beat.

I sincerely try to train my kids to be good adults. That’s my aim and goal. Sometimes in the work of training I forget to cherish. To be honest, sometimes in the midst of the work I even forget to train! I know it is important to teach my girls to obey right away. It’s so important to teach them that the way to play with the pink pen is to simply ask and not to do a half-nelson-choke-hold. These are all lessons that must happen. They often are addressed in the middle of life. “Momming” is hard. I know it is. I can check out sometimes or start looking at the clock (which immediately stops working) waiting for bedtime. My point is that there are many distractions from the joys of being a parent. The joy I have in being a mom can easily be smothered by the chaos of life.

A friend has shared with me many times “the days are long, but the years are short.” I share that with you, too. Kiss those sweet heads again, cherish those little bottoms on your feet, and listen to those flowing words from the mouth of your dear one.

Remember it is a privilege to be a part of those special little lives. Your work is hard. It is exhausting, but it does not last forever. The years fly by and we will be left with nothing but memories. No little girls begging for tickles. No little boys ready to tackle you. No little tea parties or games of Candyland.

I look at my youngest daughter’s face and I’m blown away. She has grown so much in these last 3 years. My (almost) 5-year-old is getting more mature and more complex every day. I miss how she used to say “watabellabella” instead of “watermelon.”  She is half my size now and I can barely carry her anymore. She fills my lap to overflowing.

Sometimes in order to cherish the time with my girls, I need to strategize. I make a point to write down all the cute things they say. I’m on the lookout for sayings. I find that if I make a goal of writing down one or two things a day, I hear more of them. As I hear more of them, I relish them. I become more in-tune with them. I also make a point to hug and kiss them every time I’m next to them. It’s just what I do. Another thing I like to do is jump in and play with them throughout the day for bits of time. I’ll turn up the radio and dance with them in the living room, or I’ll sit on the floor next to them and ask questions. Just little things, but they all help me to take time and enjoy my girls. What sorts of things do you do to help you to stop and smell the stinky feet?

The training is important. Dinner on the table is important, and so is clean laundry. But of utmost importance are those children! They will not keep. They will grow even if you don’t remember that they will. They are a one-way busy street that can never be traveled again.

So kiss those sweet heads. Give extra hugs. Play one last game. Remember to cherish them.

The Importance of Listening

How well do you listen to your child? Do you ever have trouble striking a balance between empathizing with your child and requiring strict obedience?

Those of us who follow the Ezzos’ teachings know that maintaining a parent-centered or family-centered home is important. We do our best to ensure that our lives aren’t too child-centered. We want our children to know that they’re not the center of the universe. They may in fact be the center of our universe, but for the sake of the marriage, family, and the foundation upon which the child stands, we treat the child as a welcome member of the family but not the center of it.

Despite our emphasis on parent-centered methods, we cannot undervalue our children or their thoughts and feelings. The idea that the child is best seen, not heard, is simply unacceptable. In fact, it’s when we show cooperation in conquering the world together that we get better behavior and acceptance from our children. If our children know we are on their side, they will share their thoughts and more readily adopt our values.

This post is inspired by the book How to Talk so Your Kids Will Listen by H. Norman Wright, and though I’m only 30 pages in, it’s very enlightening. One idea that stands out to me is this:

“How do you get kids and teens to listen to you? Listen to them,” (p. 28).

It’s so true. In fact, the times that I’ve struggled most with obedience is when I’m immersed in some other activity or in my own thoughts. If I’m unavailable or detached from my children, they know it and they see it as license to do as they please. Alternatively, if I listen and interact with them, they are much more likely to hear me and obey my instructions.

It’s like what the Ezzos say about the threatening and repeating parent. When we threaten and repeat, we train our children not to listen to us. The same is true when we speak to our children in anger.

Knowing that there’s value in listening, we must also understand that listening is an art form:

“Listening is giving sharp attention to what your child shares with you. It’s more than just hearing what he or she says. Often what your child shares is more than what he or she says. (Read that sentence again. It’s a key thought.) You must listen to the total person, not just the words spoken. Listening requires an openness to whatever is being shared: feelings, attitudes or concerns, as well as words,” (p. 31).

Rather than having our own agenda or formulating our own thoughts or response, we must simply be quiet and listen. It’s only after we listen that we can reply. And understand that listening doesn’t mean complying. You can listen to your child ask for a lollipop for dinner, but that doesn’t mean you have to agree. Listening simply shows that we care.

The following statement is great:

“Listening is an expression of love. It involves caring enough to take seriously what your child is communicating,” (p. 31).

And when they see that we’re loving them by listening, the reward is huge:

“When your child knows you hear him or her, your child will trust you and feel safe with you. And if you’re a good listener, your child will be more apt to invite you into his or her life. Your child also learns through your example to respond openly and lovingly to what you share with him or her,” (p. 31).

So if you’re struggling with your child, try just listening for a little while. Whether you have a tween who’s challenging your values or a preschooler who refuses to obey, simply listening to their thoughts and feelings will strengthen your relationship and move you one step closer to your goals as a family.