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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Parenting to the Lowest Common Denominator


For those of us with two or more children, we need to recognize that each child deserves different treatment and should be granted freedoms according to their age and level of responsibility. Many of us get caught up in parenting to the lowest common denominator. We treat them the same, and all freedoms tend to be guided by the responsibility of the younger child. The Ezzos call this parenting from the youngest up.

“The fear that the younger child will not understand or will seek the freedoms of the older child causes some parents to pull back on age-appropriate freedoms, creating a condition of frustration,” (Parenting the Middle Years, p. 64).

Certainly, when we restrict our older kids’ freedoms simply out of fear of what we will have to say or do with the younger child, that older child feels frustration. While this is important on a day-to-day basis, it’s also important to parent differently from a philosophical level. As our children age, we need to parent more from the influence of our relationship and not by the power of our authority.

“By the time your kids approach adolescence, you should be well on your way to leading by your influence and less by the power of your authority. Too often the exact opposite takes place. Coercive parental authority is still the primary way of controlling the child. It shouldn’t be, and it will backfire on you. Do not parent your oldest child out of the fear of what the youngest might think,” (Parenting the Middle Years, p. 64-65).

We have all heard about the pitfalls that parents run into when parenting out of fear. There’s the fear of what the child will say, whether he will obey, how big of a fit he’ll throw, and whether we’d be damaging the self-esteem. But no child wants parents who don’t have the strength to stand up to the child and do what’s right no matter how the child may react. Our children WANT boundaries, and they want freedoms and boundaries that are appropriate for them as an individual, not as part of a sibling unit.

So the next time you’re tempted to lay down a ground rule for your kids, stop and think about whether that rule should apply to both/all of your children. And by all means, if you’re headed into the middle years (starting around age 8), begin to shift your mindset and parent by the influence of your relationship, not the power of your authority.

Has Your Child Earned All Freedoms?


The idea that our kids need to earn their freedoms is so crucial to the Babywise way of raising our kids. We cannot give our kids certain freedoms without making sure they can handle those freedoms.

How do we determine whether we should allow a certain freedom? Many parents award freedoms based on the child’s age. We think, He’s 5 now. He’s old enough to cross the street without holding my hand. Or she’s 7 now. She should be old enough to take care of a pet. But do we stop to actually think about the child’s level of responsibility? Is the 5-year-old responsible enough to stop and look both ways before crossing the street every single time? Is the 7-year-old responsible enough to fill a pet’s food and water bowls and do it every day without reminders?

When we decide whether our kids have earned certain freedoms, we should determine whether they are responsible enough, not old enough. You might even find that your younger child is more responsible in certain areas than your older child. It’s perfectly normal.

Before I get into certain types of freedoms we should evaluate, let me take a minute to explain why this is so important. Essentially, our kids need to learn how to make decisions. And to learn anything, we need to take baby steps. To open the world up to a child and allow him to choose everything from what shirt he wears to whether he’ll do his homework is just too much for a young child. This is how the Ezzos put it:

“[There is] a legitimate concern that warns against creating the false impression in the mind of a child that she is able to do anything, say anything, and go anywhere without parental guidance or approval. Simply put, this is a child who has been granted too many freedoms of self-governance too early, and this is how children become ‘wise in their own eyes.’ It is our firm conviction, based on our observations, that more conflicts arise out of this ‘wise in your own eyes’ attitude than any other single factor in parenting,'” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 180).

Pretty powerful stuff, huh? Let’s take a minute to look at a few areas of freedoms that we might be tempted to award our children without ensuring responsibility:

Physical Boundaries

I’ve been a long-time proponent of the idea that our kids should not be allowed to roam the house, no matter how old they are. When we allow our kids to roam the house, they get the idea that every room in the house and everything in it is there for the taking. Before we implemented this rule, William would root through my bathroom drawers, wander upstairs by himself, and even go into the backyard without asking permission. Now, my kids know they are to ask permission to go anywhere but the main downstairs area.

Now at age 8, William has earned the freedom to go upstairs without me, but he still tells me or checks in before he does. I’ll allow him to take a shower (upstairs) by himself. But I have to make sure Lucas doesn’t go with him. Lucas has not earned the freedom to be upstairs by himself or without a parent. If he’s up there with William, they often wreak havoc.


As odd as this may sound, our kids need to earn the freedom to choose what to do with their time. Before they learn the value of managing time, our kids will certainly choose to play all day and not do a single chore or bit of homework. I’ll be the first to tell you that our kids certainly need time to play. It is through play that our kids learn. It is through the imagination (which flourishes in play) that our kids learn to be creative and think critically. But we need to manage our kids’ time for them so they learn the value of time management. They need to learn that it’s usually far better to get your work done first and then play.

Plus, if you’ve been a Babywise parent, you’ve learned that directing our kids’ lives is so beneficial to their development. Keeping them on a schedule and directing their time tells our kids that they don’t get to choose to do whatever they want whenever they want. They learn that they are held accountable to the parents’ expectations.


Yes, our kids need to earn freedoms when it comes to play. There are many aspects of my kids’ playtime that I direct:

1) Sibling playtime

2) Independent playtime

3) Play with friends and neighbors

4) Outdoor play

5) Exercise through play

6) Video game play

My kids are allowed free play, but I will tell them when it’s time to play outside, when it’s time to ride their bikes, and when it’s time to play with friends. And they must earn freedoms and show responsibility even when it comes to play. During free play, they are not allowed to trash the playroom. I don’t limit the amount of toys they can have out at once. But they have earned this freedom simply because they know they need to put toys away as they go.

Sibling playtime is also a freedom they need to continually prove responsibility for. If they say nasty things to each other or don’t share, they lose the freedom to play with each other. And for my boys, this is one of the most severe punishments I can give. My boys love each other so much and hate playing alone.

Playtime with friends is also a freedom my boys need to earn. There are always kids out playing on our street (when the weather isn’t too bad). And many of them will come to the door to invite my kids out. I allow my kids to go when the neighbors are out, but I watch their play closely. If one of my boys speaks rudely to another child, I’ll give a warning. If it happens again, I make the child play by himself or go in the house. Playing with friends is a skill they need to learn, and I’m not going to just let them figure it out on their own.

And as you might guess, I limit video game play quite a bit. It’s only allowed on the weekends, and my boys need to have cleaned up their toys before they are allowed to play. If the video games cause anger or violence in the child, I turn it off. They need to learn how to play video games and not let it negatively affect their disposition.

These are probably the top three areas where we find we need to limit our kids’ freedoms. Think through each one to determine whether your child has any freedoms he needs to earn. If you have given a freedom that the child hasn’t earned, don’t be afraid to take it away. Our kids go through phases where they are responsible for a certain freedom and then they stop being so responsible. Freedoms come and go with the child’s level of responsibility.

Attitude Influences


Do you have a child whose attitude changes on a daily or weekly basis? Have you considered the various influences in her life that might change the way she interacts with the people around her?

Attitude problems run the gamut with our little ones. We may see a surge of backtalk, forgetfulness with “please and thank you,” and general disrespect toward parents and other adults.

It can sometimes take a little while before we recognize attitude issues, not to mention figuring out where they come from. If you model the attitude you want from your child, it’s important to look outside yourself to see where it might be coming from. Most kids don’t come by it naturally.

There’s an article on Motherlode, the parenting blog on The New York Times, that discusses the effect of TV on our kids. Here’s a quote:

“My children talk back more after they overdose on Disney programming that finds its humor in the ‘children are smarter than their parents’ trope. They’re bossier and less pleasant to one another if we watch movies where characters interact that way – which can range from ‘Star Wars’ to ‘Toy Story.’”

The point is that your child’s attitude can very much be influenced by the TV he watches. So as you consider the influences that might be affecting his attitude, consider TV. And as you evaluate the TV you allow your child to watch, consider more than just violence and foul language. Watch the show and determine for yourself how the people in the show treat each other. If it’s a show whose characters act as though it’s cool to ignore or disrespect parents, steer clear.

Aside from TV, think about the people your child interacts with. If he has a friend who just rubs you the wrong way, there’s probably a reason why. While we want to give our kids some independence when it comes to forming friendships, they are still little and subject to our rules. If we don’t want them spending time with a particular person, it is our prerogative to limit their interaction.

Also think about the adults in your child’s life. We all have one of those irreverent friends who likes to buck the system. It may even be a family member who refuses to watch his or her language in front of the kids. Or worse, he will tell the child that it’s okay to disobey mom or dad.

Be on the lookout for these influences in your child’s life. When you see attitude problems pop up, figure out where they came from, and don’t be shy about putting a stop to them.

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.


Daddy Is Not a Babysitter


By Hank Osborne,

I often hear dads say things like, “I have to babysit tonight.” Sometimes mom may even ask dad to babysit the kids while she goes out to a meeting or simply has a night away with friends. I get the concept in theory, but the general definition and the undertones that come with putting with words “dad” and “babysit” in the same sentence just don’t seem right.

First let’s start with the generally accepted definition of the word “babysit.” You can use your favorite search engine to verify, but in general the term babysit means to care for kids during the absence of the parents. Therefore that means that the person performing the duty is not a parent of the children being cared for. And based on a note from Merriam-Webster the term has only been around for about 60 years.

The reason I take issue with the term babysit to refer to the time that dads spend alone with their kids is that, in my opinion, this degrades and diminishes dad’s authority as an equal parent. I know that all dads are not as equally involved in parenting. Some dads are mostly uninvolved. I know guys who have multiple kids and they can count the number of diapers they have changed in their life on their fingers. Some of them even take pride in this, but I hope that is not the case in your home. Some dads may not be affected by being called a babysitter and may even use the term freely as very active dads. However others, like me, may take offense to it. So yes, it is a pet peeve for me. It may also be a pet peeve for the dad in you house. If you are a mom reading this, please check to make sure this term does not bother your husband if you are characterized by using it.

If you are a dad reading this, then you need to make sure you function more like a parent than a sitter. A good gauge of this is to observe how your kids act when you are home alone with them, as opposed to when you and your wife are both at home during the same time of the day. For instance, if your kids turn into different people as soon as mom leaves the house, then you are probably seen as more of a sitter than a fully engaged parent. You need to know enough about your kids’ routine to be able to take over and run things solo at a moment’s notice.

Even though there are a number of circumstances that can put you in a position as the primary care giver unexpectedly, I recommend that you do it on purpose once in a while. I’ve talked about it before when I reminded you that Dads Are Parents Too. This is Valentine’s Day and it is a good time to give mom a little note that says, “ONE FREE NIGHT (or weekend) OUT WITHOUT THE KIDS. Redeem at any time.” The note will go nice with those flowers! ;-)

Hank Osborne is a blogger/podcaster encouraging parents to rise above the level of mediocrity. He is the geek dad of 5 (one still snug in the womb). Hank and his wife coach parents on Internet safety and homeschooling.

Do We Need to Earn Our Kids’ Respect?


There is a funny thing about respect. Many teachers, parents, and other authority figures feel that we need to earn our kids’ respect. But is that true? Can we only expect respect from our kids if we earn it? Do we need to prove that we deserve their respect or can we simply expect it?

The Ezzos teach us that parenting is all about respect. Kids need to respect authority figures simply because they are authority figures. If you stand in a leadership position, respect should come along with the role. In fact, if you’re simply older than a child, you should expect respect.

I’ve been known to say that my home is not a democracy. My children do not have the same decision-making power that my husband and I have. They are children, and we are adults. Yes, we are all human and we all deserve respect, but there is a very clear, intentional imbalance of power. We are the authority figures, and we make the decisions, with their needs in mind, of course.

Now, this is not to say that we can abuse respect. In fact, if we stand in a position of authority, we need to model the behaviors that we expect of our children.

The leader of our Growing Kids God’s Way class once said that if we expect respect from our children we need to be RESPECTABLE. To be respectable means that we are able to command respect. If we don’t act respectable, we can command respect, but we might only get it superficially. Our kids may show us respect externally, but they may not believe that we deserve it.

Ultimately, while our position of authority as parents means that kids should show us respect, we must still act respectable. We should show them that we deserve their respect. But in the end, we can simply command respect because we are their parents and we are the primary authority figures in their lives.

Sometimes it’s better left unsaid


Do you have a child who easily tunes you out? Do you feel like all you do is repeat yourself? Do your words get the behavior and attitude that you want from your child?

Sometimes, it’s better if we keep our mouths shut. It’s so cliche, but actions do speak louder than words. There are several scenarios where staying quiet has more power:

  • Your child suddenly whacks his baby sister in the head. He knows better; you don’t need to remind him.
  • The child throws a toy across the room in a fit of rage. Quickly carrying him by the hand to his room for a timeout will speak volumes.
  • You tell him to wash his hands for dinner, and he turns around and screams “no!” in your face. There should be no question in anybody’s mind whether this is acceptable.

Imagine your toddler throws a fit in public. You might be tempted to give him a piece of your mind. Or you might want to ask the people nearby whose kid this is. It can be tempting to publicly admonish our kids because we want other people to know that we don’t let tantrums go unaddressed. But really, does the grocery store checker care how you parent your child? Probably not. And it’s bad enough that the people around you have to hear your screaming child. Do they really need to listen to your threats and demands?

Besides, our discipline is often much more effective when we don’t say a word. When he’s throwing a fit in public, simply take him by the hand, hold it firmly, and walk quickly out of the store. He’ll get the hint. Take him home, put him on his bed for a timeout, and then when he’s calm you can start talking. The other benefit of keeping quiet is that it keeps you from flying off the handle and threatening consequences that you eventually regret.

It’s also important to keep quiet when you’re about to hand over a logical consequence. If the child knows his behavior is wrong, don’t warn him. Don’t give him the option of choosing the consequence over obeying. React calmly and swiftly and he’ll be all the more respectful of  your authority. And if your child is in the middle of a tantrum, it’s especially important to keep quiet about consequences. Threatening consequences to a kicking, screaming child will not get him to settle down. It will only make him more mad.

So the next time your child frustrates, angers or embarrasses you, think twice before saying a word. If your child thinks you’re all talk and no action, the reversal of your ways will surprise him (in a good way).


Obedience and respect require training


We all know that, as parents, we take on a position of authority with our children. This idea is very natural to most of us. But understand that obedience and respect for authority do not come naturally to our children.

In Growing Kids God’s Way, the Ezzos say:

“Your children will not automatically obey, respect, or honor you. These activities run contrary to their natures. They must receive training and guidance from you,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 93).

When our kids hit about age 18 months, they begin to assert some independence. It is in their nature to follow their own free will. They want to do what they want to do. It’s not easy–for anybody–to submit to another person’s will. It goes against our nature.

But for us to accomplish anything with our children, we must teach them to obey and to respect our authority. This goes for everything from staying in bed after bedtime to teaching important moral qualities. In fact, having our children obey us is the first step in teaching them to show respect for others.

“Teaching children to respect and honor their parents is basic to teaching them how to show respect for others. It starts with the parents….There is something special about the role you serve as a parent. For that reason, we give this warning. Do not allow your children to mock your position as their guardian by their impulsive thoughts, words, and deeds,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 92-93).

It takes real work to teach our children to obey and to respect our authority, but without it, we are left with very little. As parents, we are tasked with training our kids to be good people. That requires serious moral training. If they do nothing but ignore or mock us, none of this important training will happen. There are too many selfish, disrespectful kids (and adults!) who feel a sense of entitlement and that others are there to serve them.

If you want to raise a child who is selfless and thinks of others before he thinks of himself, start with obedience training. If you see any signs of disrespect, nip it in the bud. It’s when our children are little that this important work needs to happen.

And I cannot end this post without mentioning my eBook, Live in Harmony with First-Time ObedienceTeaching our children to respond with a “yes, mommy” when we call their names is the first step to instilling kindness and selflessness in our children. Teach them that they cannot do simply as they please. Teach them that by obeying you, they are learning to show respect and kindness for everyone in their lives.

Do you overparent?


There’s a great NY Times article that’s been circulating the social media circles. Titled, “Raising Successful Children,” it talks about how many parents “overparent” or do too much for their children–much to the child’s detriment.

The article talks about finding that balance between being too lax (permissive) and being too controlling (authoritarian). This idea is nothing new to those of us who have read the Ezzos’ books. That parenting sweet spot is called authoritative parenting, not to be confused with authoritarian parenting. The authoritative parent has no fear of taking a position of authority with the child, yet he makes no attempt to control the child. Here’s how the NY Times describes it:

Decades of studies, many of them by Diana Baumrind, a clinical and developmental psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, have found that the optimal parent is one who is involved and responsive, who sets high expectations but respects her child’s autonomy. These “authoritative parents” appear to hit the sweet spot of parental involvement and generally raise children who do better academically, psychologically and socially than children whose parents are either permissive and less involved, or controlling and more involved.

One of the most important tasks of the authoritative parent is knowing when to step back. As the Ezzos tell us, it’s important that children make mistakes–and learn from them–while the stakes are low. But actually letting our children make mistakes is no easy feat.

Hanging back and allowing children to make mistakes is one of the greatest challenges of parenting. It’s easier when they’re young — tolerating a stumbling toddler is far different from allowing a preteenager to meet her friends at the mall.

Being able to step back and let them make mistakes is easier when we understand that parenting is not about ensuring our children’s happiness. It’s about guiding them as they grow, and helping them to become confident, capable adults. Those of us who followed Babywise when our kids were babies are familiar with this idea. Letting a baby cry is so, so difficult, but if it teaches the little one how to sleep well and sleep independently, it’s so worth it in the end.

So if children are able to live with mistakes and even failing, why does it drive us crazy? So many parents have said to me, “I can’t stand to see my child unhappy.” If you can’t stand to see your child unhappy, you are in the wrong business. The small challenges that start in infancy (the first whimper that doesn’t bring you running) present the opportunity for “successful failures,” that is, failures your child can live with and grow from. To rush in too quickly, to shield them, to deprive them of those challenges is to deprive them of the tools they will need to handle the inevitable, difficult, challenging and sometimes devastating demands of life.

And when we’re too concerned with preventing our children from making mistakes, we need to realize that it’s more about us than it is about them. Doing so can have detrimental effects on a child’s developing sense of self:

When we do things for our children out of our own needs rather than theirs, it forces them to circumvent the most critical task of childhood: to develop a robust sense of self.

If pushing, direction, motivation and reward always come from the outside, the child never has the opportunity to craft an inside. Having tutors prep your anxious 3-year-old for a preschool interview because all your friends’ children are going to this particular school or pushing your exhausted child to take one more advanced-placement course because it will ensure her spot as class valedictorian is not involved parenting but toxic overparenting aimed at meeting the parents’ need for status or affirmation and not the child’s needs.

But how exactly do we find the strength and determination to not overparent?

It’s hard to swim upstream, to resist peer pressure. But we must remember that children thrive best in an environment that is reliable, available, consistent and noninterfering.

Finding that balance is all about creating an environment that allows them to fail, but does so in a way that’s safe. I’m all for shielding a child from negative social influences when they are young and super impressionable. Because of this, I make sure they are around people who will show them a good example. At the same time, I make sure they are given the freedom to make mistakes within their sheltered environment. So when they make a mistake, there will be an attentive adult to call attention to the child’s mistake and teach him better alternatives.

Also, I have learned from the Ezzos that the difficult things that are required of parents are not done in spite of the child or the circumstances, but because of them. We maintain healthy marriages not despite parenting demands, but because of them. We don’t put the child in the center of the family despite the child, but because of him. In the same way, we let the child make mistakes and resist overparenting, not despite the child but because of him. All of these difficult tasks that some would say are done selfishly, are in fact, done to provide a healthy, stable foundation for the child.

So if you see signs of overparenting in yourself, don’t be afraid to create a sheltered environment, but know when to step back. Lay the foundation, and then step back and let the child grow.