Archives for June 2009

Funnel Pitfall #3: You don’t require your child to ask for permission

One of the most important things you can do to keep your child inside the funnel is to require him to ask for permission. If you’re ever unsure as to whether your child should be engaging in a particular activity, have him ask for your permission first.

My contact mom taught me this concept when we first started implementing the Ezzo principles. We were on the phone talking about William’s behaviors and I mentioned that he was putting on his rain boots to go outside. By then, he could open the sliding glass door by himself and before I knew it, he was outside playing on the deck. I asked her if she thought it was okay that he go outside on the deck by himself, and she asked if he had asked for permission first. Of course, he hadn’t, and I couldn’t believe I had skipped such an important step in my parenting.

Here are some signs you need to have your child ask for permission:

  • It’s very quiet in the other room and you discover your child elbow-deep in playdough…on the carpet!
  • Your child goes out back (or front!) by himself.
  • Your child pulls out bubbles and other messy crafts at will.
  • You’re playing outside and he pulls out his bike, scooter, soccer ball and tennis racket. By the time he’s done, the entire neighborhood is scattered with your belongings.
  • Whenever the mood strikes, your child rummages through the pantry or refrigerator for a snack.
  • Your child acts like the house is his playground. He is allowed free access to any room.

Think about the things your child does that nag at you a bit. If that little voice of intuition is speaking to you, it means something. Take note of that feeling and make a list of activities your child will need to ask for permission first. These will often be activities that he is allowed to do (like the playdough) but on a limited basis (not on the carpet!) or only under your supervision.

Sit down with your child at a time of non-conflict and explain to him what asking for permission means. Show him the importance of getting your eye contact when asking for permission and waiting patiently for an answer before he moves forward.

The great thing about having your child ask you for permission is that it gives you time to decide whether you should allow a particular freedom. Rather than letting something go because he didn’t ask or disciplining after he has already started, having him ask for permission will allow you to think through whether it is an activity you want to allow. It prevents any problems or frustrations before they arise.

The other nice thing about this concept is that you don’t have to make everything 100% off limits. There should be certain things that are completely off-limits, but if there is something you think your child will grow into or if there are activities that take more time than others, having your child ask for permission first will give you the opportunity to allow those freedoms at some times and not others. It allows you to maintain control over your child’s activities.

After working on this for almost two years, William does a good job of asking for permission. Our problem now is that he will often tell me he is going upstairs or whatever it is rather than asking me. I will stop him and say, “Are you asking me or telling me?” It’s my little reminder that he needs to ask for permission before he goes.

Even your non-verbal toddler can ask for permission. Teach him the sign for please and have him look at you and point to the activity or toy he wants while signing please. Now that Lucas is walking, I will start reinforcing this idea. I might even teach him to come get me and bring me to the toy if I’m in another room.

Having your child ask for permission is one of those key concepts that prevents disobedience from your child. Use it often!

Funnel Pitfall #2: You award freedoms based on age rather than responsibility

How many times have you said to your child, “When you’re four, you can go out back by yourself”? Or, “When you’re ten you can get your ears pierced”? Or even, “When you’re 16, you can drive a car”? We all say these things and perhaps even fulfill these promises, but I caution you against allowing freedoms based on your child’s age alone.

I remember getting my ears pierced when I was seven years old. Was there something special about that age? No. It just happened that my sister was dying to get her ears pierced and I suppose my mom figured she would kill two birds with one stone. My sister was plenty responsible for taking care of her ears, twisting the studs and applying rubbing alcohol every night. Did I do the same? No. I ended up in an urgent care clinic because the back of the earring got embedded in my ear lobe.

So what’s the lesson here? Award freedoms based on your child’s level of responsibility, not his age. Have your child prove to you that he is responsible for a certain freedom before you award it.

Let’s use the same example. Say your daughter has been asking to get her ears pierced. You tell her that she can get them pierced when she has shown you that she can be responsible for the freedom. Let her decide how she will prove that responsibility. Maybe she will walk the dog every morning. Maybe she will take good care of her other jewelry. The responsibility doesn’t necessarily need to relate to the freedom. It simply needs to show that she is responsible for other duties that would require the same level of responsibility as the freedom. If she forgets to walk the dog two days in a row, that shows you that she doesn’t have the consistency required for the daily care of newly pierced ears. You might want to see three weeks (or more) of consistent responsibility before you agree to the freedom.

When you consider responsibility over age, you might have a younger child who has the freedom to do something your older child does not. Your four-year-old son might have the responsibility to choose what he will wear in the morning, but your six-year-old daughter might not. Your daughter is likely much more interested in what she wears and might challenge your authority when you ask her to change or if you suddenly decide to choose her clothes for her. If your four-year-old son can handle changing his clothes when you ask without putting up a fuss, he is likely responsible enough for the freedom.

Now almost five, William is allowed to choose what he wears in the morning simply because it doesn’t matter to him what he wears. He chooses the shirt and pants that are on top. If I don’t like what he has chosen to wear and ask him to change, he will do so willingly.

Take the time to think through your child’s freedoms and ask yourself if he is truly responsible enough for the freedom. Does he whine and complain when you choose the wrong TV show for him to watch? Does he fuss when he isn’t allowed to brush his own teeth? Does he throw a fit when you tell him to ride his scooter instead of his bike? Perhaps these are freedoms and choices he shouldn’t be allowed to have.

Always, the true test of whether a child is responsible enough for a certain freedom is to take that freedom away. What happens? If he handles it well, he can be allowed the freedom. If he throws a fit and challenges your authority, it is clearly a freedom you need to take away until he is more responsible. He needs to show that he can submit to your authority and handle it graciously before he can be allowed the freedom.