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.


Source: parenting-garden.com

Do you consider yourself to be a patient parent? We are nothing as parents without patience.

Kids will be kids. We parents need to have the patience and understanding to know that our kids are unpredictable, loud, frustrating, and disobedient. To manage everything they throw at us, we need to react calmly and patiently–otherwise we’ll drive ourselves and our children mad.

A basic understanding of what makes our children tick goes a long way toward building our patience. When we know and understand our children, it’s not often that we’re caught off guard by their behavior. Just recently, I realized that my boys tend to wrestle when they’re bored. Before, I thought it was just something they did because they are boys. When the wrestling gets out of hand and someone gets hurt, it can make a crazy mom out of me. But when I simply offer them a new activity, I can prevent the wrestling altogether. In the event that I don’t prevent them from wrestling, simply understanding why it happens helps improve my patience.

Sleep can also be a huge factor in improving patience. That goes for both parent and child. There’s no doubting the fact that our fuse is shorter when we’re tired. And our kids have less self-control when they’re tired. It’s so simple, but so important.

By the same token, eating healthy meals is important in improving patience. When our bellies are full and we’re well nourished by healthy meals, we’ll have one less reason to be short with our kids.

I could go on but I’ll finish with one last piece of advice: have fun! When life is all work and no play, it frustrates everyone. Having fun with our kids helps us learn to throw caution to the wind. It helps us forget that the laundry needs to be done, that the table needs to be set, that the child is being too rowdy, and whatever else that ails you. So get out. Get silly. Take the kids to the park and play freeze tag. Or sit down and play cars or princesses. Let yourself get immersed in your child’s life and you’ll start to see things from his perspective, and ultimately find yourself more patient with every passing day.


Catch trouble before it happens

Source: inflightinsider.com

There are so many parenting tips out there, by the Ezzos and other parenting experts, but there are few as important as preventing behavior problems before they happen. Prevention can save so much heartache, for you and your child. In fact, if you do your best with prevention, you won’t need to discipline much. There are several factors that allow us to prevent behavior problems:

I could go on. There is one other important technique that enables us to prevent behavior problems: the reflective sit time.

“A reflective sit time can serve three purposes. First, it is a preventative strategy used to control physical or emotional energy. This is when a child needs to stop, sit down, and get control. Reflective sit times can be used as a maintenance strategy to help a child realign his thinking, and gain self-control over current or potential wrong behavior and move toward wise behavior. Third, a reflective sit time can be used as a corrective strategy assisting a parent in bringing a child to a deeper understanding of his actions and to help facilitate true repentance,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 217).

A reflective sit time simply means you remove the child from the “scene of the crime” and have him sit. This can be used for any offense and on any surface (couch, floor, bed, etc.). The child doesn’t need to be isolated like he does with a timeout, but he shouldn’t be allowed to play while sitting.

Keeping the child near you throughout the day is key to using this strategy effectively. Since prevention is the key, keeping the child near you will help you recognize problems before they happen.

In the Mom’s Notes, Carla Link tells the story of a child who threw all kinds of tantrums. She realized that before the child threw a tantrum, she would whine. The mom hadn’t recognized this, but Carla in her wisdom recognized the whine as the precursor to the tantrum. So she taught the mom to put the child in a reflective sit time at the point of the whine. Her idea was to never let it get to the tantrum stage by having the child gain control over her emotions while sitting. Brilliant!

Think through any chronic behavior problems you have with your child. Whether it’s fighting with siblings, being destructive with toys, hitting or kicking you, challenging your authority with an attitude, or your run-of-the-mill tantrum, see if there’s a consistent tell-tale sign that shows you that the behavior problem is about to hit. Then put him in a reflective sit time. If you’re not entirely sure of the precursor to your chronic problem, allow him to read a book or two while he’s sitting. Then if you find that the sit time isn’t working, take the book away.

The reflective sit time is such a simple tool, but it’s so powerful!

Random acts of parenting

Source: recipesdb.net

Are your days filled with purpose or do you feel like you muddle your way through? At the end of each day, do you feel like you spent quality time with your children teaching them important life lessons? Or do you feel completely exhausted, just happy to have made it through another day?

There’s a quote in On Becoming Preschoolwise that stood out to me. It’s on page 83:

“Nothing in itself is a huge hurdle–it’s the zillion little obstacles she faces every day that make her feel more like a prisoner of random chaos than like a mother on a beautiful mission of raising children.”

Not surprisingly, this is at the beginning of the chapter on structuring your child’s day. The chapter goes on to describe two mothers. After dealing with too many days of random chaos, Denise turns to parenting books. But eventually, “it’s back to old habits and discouraging days. For Denise, it seems, there is nothing to do but cling to the brink of her sanity,” (On Becoming Preschoolwise, p. 84).

Contrast this with Sondra:

“She is not frazzled or fatigued and faces family dinnertime with creative enthusiasm. Baby Gregory is already sleeping through the night and taking naps like clockwork. As it is most days, two-year-old Katie plays contently with her dollhouse on a blanket in the family room while four-year-old Ben is trustworthy enough to play by himself in his room. If you drop in unexpectedly, you’ll find the house picked up and Sondra will welcome you with a calm, warm smile. Are we still on planet earth?” (On Becoming Preschoolwise, p. 84).

Both moms face the same obstacles and have the same goals for their families. The difference lies in how much control each mom has over her children and her environment.

“Sondra has the clear advantage. She is not letting the rush of life manage her, but instead has learned how to manage life in her home with amazing results. What is it that Sondra knows? Simply this: young children not only need, but they also crave supervision, direction, and encouragement. Random acts of parenting just aren’t good enough to get through the day with one’s sanity intact,” (On Becoming Preschoolwise, p. 85).

When I first rediscovered the Babywise series, I read On Becoming Childwise in about three days and felt like it was the answer to my prayers. Previously, my days were filled with random chaos. But I still didn’t fully get it. I was looking for a discipline fix. I remember skipping ahead to the chapters on discipline and correction, thinking that I just needed to get my kids in line with punitive measures.

It can be so easy to overlook these seemingly simple or unimportant methods of prevention. But there’s simply no need to wait until our kids need correction. Schedule their days. Send them to roomtime when you’re cooking dinner. Schedule blanket time or quiet reading time when you’re enjoying your morning cup of coffee. Don’t give them the freedom to create mischief.

And don’t fall for the idea that scheduling your child’s day is too restrictive. Yes, children need time for free play, but that is just one more thing that you’ll schedule in your day. Ultimately, our children want boundaries and direction. And not only is structure important for the children, but it’s important for us, too. A little bit of structure goes a long way toward preventing behavior problems in our children and stressed-out days for us.

What I’m Reading: “Bringing Up Bebe,” The American Question

Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman is a fascinating book. I offered a summary here, but after starting the book, I couldn’t put it down! It’s a great read.

Today, I’ll discuss the author’s take on American parents’ tendency to push their children through milestones. Here’s an excerpt:

“In the 1960s, the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget came to America to share his theories on the stages of children’s development. After each talk, someone in the audience typically asked him what he began calling The American Question. It was: How can we speed these stages up?

Piaget’s answer was: Why would you want to do that? He didn’t think that pushing kids to acquire skills ahead of schedule was either possible or desirable. He believed that children reach these milestones at their own speeds, driven by their own motors.

The American Question sums up an essential difference between French and American parents. We Americans assign ourselves the job of pushing, stimulating, and carrying our kids from one developmental stage to the next. The better we are at parenting, we think, the faster our kids will develop….

French parents just don’t seem so anxious for their kids to get head starts. They don’t push them to read, swim, or do math ahead of schedule. They aren’t trying to prod them into becoming prodigies,” (Bringing Up Bebe, p. 80).

I wholeheartedly agree with Piaget and French parents here. Kids need to take their own time to reach developmental milestones. And things can get tricky when a parent interferes with that natural progression.

The first year, babies are learning how to eat, sleep, move and babble. At age two, toddlers are beginning to understand their place in the world and assert some independence. At age three, most children still do parallel play, and much of their play is imaginative. At age four, the imaginative play still guides them, and it does so as they become more social. At age five, kids start school and begin the job of learning.

Parental interference can take many forms. Some parents encourage their babies to walk early by holding them up or allowing baby to hold the parents’ fingers while “walking.” This could potentially rob the child of the bi-lateral integration that happens with the crisscross movement involved in crawling.

Some parents attempt to speed up the learning process by teaching abstract academics (math or reading) to a three-year-old. When a child is taught that the world has abstract rights and wrongs, imaginative play takes a back seat. This could rob the child of creativity or even the ability to think critically.

Some parents sign their children up for activity after activity. When a four-year-old child spends more time in the car than on the playground, he doesn’t learn crucial social skills that happen at this age.

When it comes to my own kids, I think that I have allowed this natural progression. I have talked about William’s academic abilities, but he sets that pace, not me. At age two, he started taking an interest in learning his letters, but as soon as he hit age three and started playing imaginatively, that interest in letters came to a screeching halt. At age 7, school is his job, and our only extracurricular activities are piano and occupational therapy. Otherwise, he plays.

For Lucas, I follow his lead. It is only recently (almost 4.5 years old) that he’s shown interest in academics. The Leapfrog Letter Factory video is his favorite. At the same time, he plays very imaginatively with his brother and with friends at school. Learning social skills is definitely his focus, and the job of learning is starting to emerge. He has one extracurricular activity, a “sports sampler” class. We don’t do it because I expect him to become some sports prodigy. We do it because he loves it.

How naturally do your kids hit their milestones? Do you let your child set the pace or do you try to speed things up a bit?

Find your way

Source: misha.hubpages.com

If you have been a parent for any length of time, you have probably discovered that this little thing we call parenting is a bit of an experiment. Particularly with our eldest children, we learn by doing. Finding our way involves trial and error.

But is there a way to lessen the impact of our experimentation on our children? Yes. In fact, I recommend it. Here’s how.

Trust your instincts
As trite as this sounds, our parenting instincts do serve a purpose. If you have read a book that seems to hold great promise, but its methods sound too strict (or lenient), listen to your inner voice. Plus, you know your child best. You know what he needs and how he will respond to a particular parenting method.

Trust your intellect
There are some who believe that instincts alone are all we need to navigate this parenting journey. I disagree. This is the whole head vs. heart debate. I believe both are required. Use your intellect to read parenting books, critically evaluate those parenting books, evaluate your child’s behavior objectively, keep a log of chronic behavior problems, etc.

Assess your parenting
If we are to do our best as parents, we must assess ourselves and do so regularly. This is particularly useful if we are dealing with a chronic behavior problem like open defiance. Ask yourself (or your spouse) whether you’re being consistent enough, following through on consequences, issuing idle threats, constantly repeating yourself, etc. If you’ve given yourself a poor grade, take heart. Now you know where to start to improve.

Set goals
Most parents have an idea as to how they want their children to behave. Whether it’s a moral issue like sharing or the simple act of cleaning up toys, we know what we want from our kids. If you just have a vague notion of what you want, I recommend that you sit down and define your goals. Write them down and refer to them often. Keep in mind that they will change as your child gets older. Be intentional with your parenting.

Create a plan
As with anything in life, having a plan helps us be prepared. The same is true in parenting. Jot down your child’s most chronic behavior issues (the ones that come to mind most easily are probably your most chronic), and come up with a discipline tactic that you will use to deal with that behavior issue.

This is where trusting your instincts and intellect come into play. If you received advice from a well-meaning parent that a two-minute timeout should curb the behavior, but you think it’s too lenient, listen to your instincts. By the same token, if you read in a book that spanking is the way to go, but you (or your spouse) disagree with spanking, don’t do it. Try to work this all out before you start implementing a particular discipline method. Switching from one method to another will only confuse your child and make consistency harder to attain.

Learn more about creating a discipline plan and see what my discipline plan looks like.

Evaluate your plan
After you have started implementing your plan, take a minute to determine whether it’s working. Go back to your goals and decide how far you’ve come. Does your preschooler go right back to the misbehavior after you’ve given your consequence? If so, something’s not working. Reevaluate and change your tactics. Just don’t change things up too often; you’ll run the risk of being inconsistent and losing authority.

Create a plan on the fly
Imagine taking your toddler out to eat in a restaurant. Do you do any prep work to ensure the meal goes smoothly? Or what if you’re taking him to the grocery store? What will you do if things go sideways? It’s usually when we don’t have a plan that we get flustered and either let behaviors slide or deal with them too strictly.

As you walk into that restaurant or grocery store, think through possible scenarios. Say to yourself, Okay, if he starts bouncing in his seat, I’ll take him to the restroom for a stern talking-to. Or, If he wanders away in the grocery store, I’ll immediately put him in the cart.

If you do this preparation, you will find your way more easily, and parenting will be less experimentation and more confident, harmonious living!

Live in Harmony with First-Time Obedience. New eBook!

Have you always wanted to teach your children first-time obedience but you’ve never been sure where to begin? Let my new eBook, Live in Harmony with First-Time Obedienceteach you how.

I am very proud to announce the release of my new eBook! Several months ago, I realized that it might help parents to have one easy-to-read, digital source for advice on teaching first-time obedience. After many hours and late nights, it’s now a reality!

After reading through my own posts on the topic of first-time obedience, I decided that there were several holes in my teaching that needed to be filled. So I am excited to offer this eBook, which covers just about every idea I’ve had about training children in first-time obedience. The 112-page eBook serves as a great complement to the Parent Wise books from Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo.

In Live in Harmony with First-Time Obedience, you’ll learn how to:

  • Rid your home of tantrums, whining, complaining and negotiating
  • Train your children to be respectful and obedient
  • Create peace and harmony in your home so you can enjoy your children again
  • Work on obedience while they’re young and the stakes are low
  • Reduce the stress that comes with parenting young children
  • Achieve a balanced life of love and learning with your children

Gary Ezzo himself has endorsed the eBook:

One of the most important parenting tasks is helping children learn to obey. This eBook offers practical advice for parents in the throes of obedience training and is high on my recommended reading list. ~ Gary Ezzo

Get your copy of Live in Harmony with First-Time Obedience while it’s on sale! Until January 9, 2012, it will be available for just $6.99! That’s 30% off the original price!

Click on the graphic below to learn more about the eBook and to download a sample of the eBook. Have a look before you buy.

If you like what you see, consider becoming an affiliate. Earn 30% of the purchase price for every buyer you refer. Read more.


What I wish I’d known with baby #1

by Rachel Rowell, My Baby Sleep Guide

The first few months after my first child, Joshua, was born were rough. Okay, I’m under-exaggerating that. He cried endlessly, didn’t sleep, and I was a basket case. Maybe you’ve been there. It’s not a pretty sight.

The second time around went much more smoothly. I knew what to expect, I thought a lot about how I wanted to do things, and I learned piles of stuff through experiences, my own and others’. Maybe this is your first child or maybe it’s your fifth. Either way, sometimes we all need a moment to take a look at the bigger picture, remember what to expect and maybe even get a few pointers.

Here’s my list of what I wish I’d known with Joshua, or baby #1. Much is related to sleep, but not all.

  • Remember, life with a baby is a journey, not a destination. Keep the end goal of great sleep in mind, but don’t get so distracted trying to reach it that you forget to live and enjoy the journey.
  • Make sure to let baby fall asleep on you every once in a while. It is one of those precious moments that will stay with you forever.
  • We all have our bad days, babies included. So don’t freak out and jump to every possible conclusion when they happen! You will stress yourself out for no reason at all. If things last for more than a day or two, then it is time to start the investigation.
  • Consistency pays off. It really does.
  • An overtired child, particularly a baby, is your worst nightmare. Mess up all over the place, but do not even go there! See waketimes and sleep cues for some pointers.
  • It’s okay to not be supermom every second of every day. Everyone needs to ask for help sometimes. Consider it practice at being humble.
  • Someone, somewhere out there will always be critical about how you raise your child, especially how you sleep train and discipline him. Forget about it. As long as you are keeping your child safe, happy, healthy and loved, then you are doing the right thing.
  • Children are hard. They take a lot of work. They stress you out. At the same time, raising them will likely the best thing you ever do.
  • Babies have different personalities. Some are easier than others. It is a fact of life (albeit an unfair one!). Some sleep great no matter what. Some have quite a few sleep problems even if things are done perfectly. That is how it goes. If you fall into the “doesn’t sleep great” party, that’s okay. It doesn’t mean you are a bad parent, and it doesn’t mean there is something wrong with your child. Sleep just isn’t one of his strengths. I’m sure he has many others.
  • Motherhood is full of small, but great moments. Focus on those.
  • Be patient with sleep. It takes some babies a while to get it. If it takes them a month longer than their older sister or cousin it doesn’t matter. They have their own timetable. Their uniqueness makes them special.
  • Tomorrow is a new day. It doesn’t matter what happened yesterday or the day before. Time to start afresh.
  • If you think your baby has colic, rule out overtiredness first. Because that is very possibly the problem.
  • Everyone needs support sometimes. Someone to talk to. Someone to give you a hug. Knowing you are not the only one going through something does wonders.
  • Comparing your child’s sleep to others is only sometimes useful as a reference point, not a copy point. Your child is not their child. Your child has his own needs and his own strengths and weaknesses.
  • Sometimes there is no reason for what is going on. No reason at all. Sorry, but it’s true.
  • Babies have different personalities and will respond to your routine in different ways. Work with your baby, not against him when making your routine.
  • Be flexible. Don’t be so ruled by your routine you are unable to enjoy life, unable to enjoy your baby and unable to follow your mommy instinct. Adjust your routine to fit you and baby.
  • Life with a young baby is full of phases. Much of what happens is just a phase. That’s it. Some have names and causes (teething, learning a new skill) and some appear nameless and causeless. But guess what, each of these phases does pass! Keep that in mind when you feel at your wit’s end.
  • Relax. Enjoy life. Enjoy your baby. He will not be little forever. You won’t do everything perfectly and that is okay! If you’re perfect, how will your child learn what he doesn’t want to do as a parent when he grows up. :)
  • A sleep association is not the end of the world. In fact, it is much preferable to a mom pulling out all her hair, going half insane and a baby getting no sleep at all. Yes, start as you mean to go on, but only if the end result will be a pleasing one. There are many things worse than a prop-dependent baby.
  • Your baby is not a machine. The same thing goes for you. Do not expect perfection on either front. Do not expect things to go exactly by the book. They won’t. Thinking so will result in piles of stress and, sometimes, a feeling of failure.
  • You are doing better than you think you are. You are really are!

And finally, remember to take time out for yourself sometimes. You need it and most importantly, you deserve it!

Rachel blogs at My Baby Sleep Guide.

Regularly evaluate first-time obedience

Have you ever been blindsided by your child’s disobedience? It goes something like this. You are moving along contentedly, going through the motions of daily life. Most of the time, your daily life can be fairly child-centric without necessarily harming anything. But then suddenly you encounter an adult situation during which your child disobeys miserably, causing huge amounts of frustration and embarrassment for you, your spouse and everyone else involved. You leave the event vowing to your spouse that you will get your child’s obedience under control immediately.

There are two problems with this. First, of course, is that you had to experience the frustration and embarrassment in the first place. Second, your poor child is suddenly faced with super strict parents who have given the child no warning that things are going to change. His likely response will be to rebel even more, which only compounds the problem.

The million dollar question then becomes, How do you avoid being blindsided in the first place? The answer: evaluate your child’s level of first-time obedience (FTO) regularly. Think of the events that happen on a weekly, monthly or bi-annual basis, and set a reminder to yourself to evaluate your child’s FTO. Maybe you decide to do it every Sunday afternoon after church. Or you schedule it once a month when you pay bills. Perhaps you evaluate FTO every six months when you change the batteries in your smoke detectors. Associate it with some other event and jot it down on your calendar so you won’t forget.

Actually evaluating your child’s first-time obedience is quite simple. Just call your child’s name several times in the day and see how well he responds with “yes, mommy” and eye contact. At the end of the day, decide on a general percentage of how well he did. If you are the analytical type and need an exact percentage, count the number of times you called his name and the number of times he responded appropriately. Divide one by the other and you’ll get your percentage.

What percentage is acceptable? This of course depends on how old your child is and how long you have been working on it. If you have a two-year-old who has only been learning how to respond for two weeks, then 20 percent is probably acceptable (as long as you keep working at it). If you have a ten-year-old who has had a high level of FTO in the past, you might only accept 90 percent.

As you proceed through this process, always keep your goal in mind. The percentage does you no good unless you do something with it. If it’s lower than you’d like, that’s your cue that you need to work on FTO before you encounter a situation that will require greater obedience. Save yourselves the frustration and heartache by evaluating and working on first-time obedience before you really need it.

Discipline vs. punishment

Have you ever stopped to consider the difference between discipline and punishment? The two terms are the same only in that parents use them when their children misbehave. But they are very different in their intent.

Here are their definitions (according to dictionary.com):

Discipline: verb, to bring a state of order and obedience by training and control; to punish or penalize in order to train and control.

Punish: verb, to subject to pain, loss, confinement, etc., as a penalty for some offense, transgression or fault, to inflict a penalty.

Do you notice the difference between the two?

To teach vs. inflict harm
The intent of punishment is to inflict pain for an offense. The intent of discipline is to train and bring about order. The way I see it, by punishing our children, we inflict pain (physical or emotional) with no greater goal. By disciplining our children, our greater goal is to teach them.

Childwise principle #10: “If learning didn’t take place, correction didn’t happen,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 133).

No matter how you correct your child’s misbehavior, make sure you are teaching him why the behavior is unacceptable.

Internal vs. external motivation
Aside from not providing a teachable lesson, punishment is less desirable than discipline because it provides an external motivation. Which would you prefer? A child who does the right thing because his parents say so or a child who does the right thing because he knows in his heart that it is right?

When we discipline our children, our goal is to help develop their conscience. In the early years, your child will do the right thing because of your influence. But once you hit the early preschool years, your child should have an internal motivation to do what’s right.

Here are some real-world examples of the difference between discipline and punishment.

Punishment: Your child throws food on the floor, so you put him in a timeout.

Discipline: Your child throws food on the floor, so you make him clean it up to teach him that it takes work to keep the house clean.

Punishment: Your child refuses to do his homework, so you lecture him about it and send him to bed without dinner.

Discipline: Your child refuses to do his homework, so you let the reality of a failing grade teach the lesson of why homework is important.

Punishment: Your child hits you in a fit of rage, so you yell and hit back.

Discipline: Your child hits you in a fit of rage, so you send him to his room. If he can’t be nice to anyone, he should be alone and rejoin the family when his anger is under control.

Punishment: Your child abuses his computer time, so you ground him for three months.

Discipline: Your child abuses his computer time, so you take away his computer privileges until he shows you that he’s responsible enough to use the computer wisely. The onus is on the child to prove that he’s responsible.

Punishment: Your child leaves his bike on the lawn for the third time in a week, so you send him to his room.

Discipline: Your child leaves his bike on the lawn for the third time in a week, so you take away his bike privileges until he shows you he can take care of his things.

As you can see in these examples, there is a lesson involved in every form of discipline. Be sure that every time you correct your child’s behavior, you are teaching through discipline.