Archives for November 2011

What I’m Reading: “A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children,” Introduction, Part 1

This book is so full of important content that I’m going to have to break it down. Here is part one of my discussion about the Introduction of A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children.

The main idea of the Introduction of A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children is that parenting gifted children is a lonely experience, fraught with misunderstanding. The misunderstanding stems, in part, from the fact that society believes that the life of a gifted child is a walk in the park. It’s true that the gifted child may have an easier time with academics, but a unique set of challenges make life more difficult than you might think.

Parents are important

Despite the many challenges that highly capable children face, a solid home foundation can make the difference between surviving or thriving. Read more about my take on family stability. When building that foundation parents must address the many emotional issues the gifted child faces and also act as an advocate for the child at school.

“Where there are insufficient educational opportunities, parents can provide enrichment and negotiate with schools to help ensure that there is a match between the educational program and the child’s interests, abilities, and motivation to learn,” (A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children, p. xvi).

There was a time when I believed that there was no point to providing William with extra enrichment. I figured I would just be pushing him even more ahead of his peers academically. But I have since changed my tune. He is so very inquisitive and enthusiastic about everything he learns. I would hate for that flame to die simply because I chose not to meet his needs. I feel fortunate that we can afford a private school where he can read 3-4 grade levels ahead, do math that is a year ahead and be challenged in many more ways than I can count.

Parenting a gifted child is a lonely experience

While parents play a particularly key role in the life of a gifted child, few parents are aware that certain characteristics including intensity, sensitivity, perfectionism, less need for sleep and allergies are typical and more frequent among gifted children. These traits make parenting all the more difficult.

It was only a year or so ago that I figured this out. We have dealt with all of these issues (plus sensory processing disorder and the blood sugar roller coaster), but I had no idea they were related to giftedness. It was at birth that William first exhibited his sleeplessness. That first night in the hospital, I was exhausted but he was wide awake. I remember asking the nurse if it was okay that I go to sleep! To this day (he’s now 7), he takes melatonin every night because he can’t quiet his brain well enough to go to sleep.

Unfortunately, parents of other children are rarely sympathetic to the unique needs of the gifted child. The prevailing idea is that parents of gifted children are exaggerating their child’s successes or putting undue academic pressure on the child.

I feel guilty about the fact that I once bought into this portrayal of the gifted child. I figured that a truly gifted child doesn’t act or look like a typical child at all. Looking back, I realize that William (a fairly typical child) exhibited gifted traits that I didn’t even recognize for what they were.

Before the age of 2, William seemed to want to learn his letters. I didn’t push it and, in fact, wanted him to learn through play. But he would ask me to name letters, and he identified them so easily that it became a game. We were playing once at Starbucks (they had wall art made of stories written in capital letters), and a stranger commented on it, calling it “impressive.” Of course, the comment put a smile on my face, but even after seeing it from a stranger’s perspective, I didn’t think that William was all that different from other kids. It wasn’t until a few months ago, many years after this incident, that I started to wonder about giftedness.

Myths about gifted children

The misunderstanding gifted children and their parents face is fostered by myths of them portrayed in the media.

“The media, for example, often portray gifted children as pint-size oddities—geniuses who can solve amazingly difficult math problems, or play a musical instrument like a virtuoso, or go to college at age 12, and do nothing but read, practice, or study all day.

“Another myth, particularly common among educators, is that gifted children do not need any special help, because if they are so bright, they can surely develop their abilities on their own. Still another misconception is that gifted children are those children who do well academically in school or in a particular talent area, which leaves out those who are potentially gifted and currently underachieving. …

“Some gifted children are good in many areas; others are gifted in only one or two areas, such as math or science,” (A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children, p. xvii).

Below is a list of common myths surrounding gifted children. It’s a long list, but each one is important to consider when forming opinions about the gifted children in our lives.

  • Gifted children are usually gifted in all academic areas.
  • Giftedness is wholly inborn.
  • Giftedness is entirely a matter of hard work.
  • All children are gifted.
  • Children become gifted because their parents push them.
  • Gifted children will become eminent adults.
  • Gifted children seldom have learning handicaps.
  • Gifted children are not aware that they are somehow different than others.
  • If you tell gifted children they have advanced abilities, they will become egotistical.
  • Gifted children will show their abilities and talents in their school achievement.
  • Gifted children are usually well organized and have good study skills.
  • Gifted children will only fulfill their potential if they receive continual pressure.
  • Gifted children’s emotional maturity is as advanced as their intellect.
  • Gifted children seldom have emotional or interpersonal issues.
  • Gifted children enjoy demonstrating their talents and abilities for others.
  • Families always value their gifted children’s advanced abilities, intensity and sensitivity.
  • Gifted children are easier to raise than most children.
  • Parents cannot identify giftedness in their own children.
  • Educators will know exactly how to work with gifted children.

What are your thought processes when you meet a gifted child? Do you believe the child to be naturally gifted or do you feel that the parents are exaggerating the child’s abilities? Now that I’ve educated myself about giftedness, it feels good to do my part to dispel these myths. Please do the same as you read these posts!

Rid your household of fits and tantrums


Do you have a child who seems stubborn or strong-willed? Do you have a toddler whose lack of verbal skills frustrates her? Do you have a two-year-old? We have all seen a child in the throes of a temper tantrum. Whether it involves kicking, screaming, head banging or hitting, a tantrum is easy to spot. For parents, these fits are frustrating and hugely embarrassing when we’re out in public.

Let me tell you now: you don’t have to live with tantrums. You can train your child to not throw them.

I wholeheartedly agree with the Ezzos when they say, “To say that throwing temper tantrums is a normal phase of development that children will eventually outgrow demonstrates a lack of understanding of childhood propensities,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 193).

Tantrums are an expression of the child’s emotions. It’s fine that our children express themselves, but there are right ways and wrong ways. You simply should not accept a tantrum as a normal expression of emotions.

Tantrums as a form of rebellion
Whether they recognize it or not, our children throw tantrums to reject our authority.

“When a parent responds [to a tantrum], the goal should not be to suppress a child’s emotions, but to help him gain self-control in moments of disappointment and learn the proper methods of expression,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 193).

If you don’t address these fits when your child is little, he will learn that it is an acceptable form of expression. As he grows, the kicking and screaming might go away, but the attitude behind the tantrum will not. There are plenty of adults in this world who throw tantrums.

How to stop the fits: every fit needs an audience
To stop tantrums in their tracks, isolate your child immediately.

“A tantrum needs an audience to be successful, and isolation removes the child from center stage,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 193).

As simple as it sounds, pick up the fit-throwing child and plop him in his crib or pack-n-play. Do it the very minute the tantrum starts and do it every single time. Don’t ever let a fit slide or you will undo the work you have been doing to rid yourselves of them.

Consider strategies to make this easy on yourself. We live in a two-story house, and when we were working on tantrums, I kept a pack-n-play set up downstairs in another part of the house (behind a kitchen wall). I knew that I wouldn’t want to carry a kicking and screaming child upstairs and to his crib. I knew I would be much more consistent if I could isolate him downstairs.

But be sure that every location you set up is completely isolated from the rest of the family. If the child can still see you, he will think he still has an audience and will continue to throw the fit. If you can still hear him, ignore every sound he makes.

And while it may be tempting to simply walk away from the fit-throwing child, be careful. The child will likely follow you when he realizes you’re not there. And you need to use isolation as a form of discipline to teach him that tantrums are not acceptable.

Empathize with the emotion
After your child has calmed down, let him know that you understand why he threw the fit, no matter what the cause. In the same conversation, explain that tantrums are not an acceptable form of communication. Tell him that next time, he must use his words to tell you how he feels.

The conversation might go something like this:

You: “Sammy, I understand you are upset because I wanted you to eat your broccoli. I know not everybody likes broccoli, but it will help you stay healthy. Next time, I expect you to eat your broccoli without throwing a fit. You may tell me that you don’t like broccoli, and I will consider your thoughts, but you may not throw a fit. Do you understand?”

Sammy: “Yes, mommy. I’m sorry for throwing a fit.”

You: “I forgive you. Now go back to the table and show me how you can obey mommy by eating your broccoli nicely.”

Sammy: “Yes, mommy!”

Be sure not to skip this step when dealing with a tantrum. Every form of discipline we use must serve a lesson. So if he didn’t learn how to express his emotions in an acceptable way, the discipline won’t help. It may stop the tantrum in the short-term, but it won’t keep them from happening again in the future.

Read more about tips on timeouts and isolating your child.

Count timeout minutes in public


On Monday, I discussed the importance of correcting in private and praising in public. On Wednesday, I explained how to do timeouts in public when necessary. Today, I will offer a technique that will enable you to discipline your child in public while still maintaining privacy. This technique is also more effective and long-lasting than issuing a timeout in public.

Count timeout minutes

Here’s how it works. When you’re out in public and doing your best to praise your child’s behaviors, but he misbehaves anyway, tell him he will have two (or five) minutes on his bed when you get home. Say it quietly but confidently. Then explain to him that you will add or subtract minutes until your errand, play date, or restaurant visit is over.

I use this technique quite a bit with my boys, so here’s how it works for us:

  • William starts acting up in the grocery store, jumping from colored tile to colored tile.
  • I don’t yell at him to stop. I don’t try to grab him to get him to stop. I don’t try to call his name and get his attention (especially if it’s crowded and there’s no room to stop).
  • I simply say, “That’s two minutes on your bed.”
  • He stops what he’s doing immediately and looks to me for an explanation.
  • As we walk, I tell him that he can earn minutes back by showing me good behavior.
  • I also tell him that I will add minutes if he continues to make poor choices.

Follow through

This is where the rubber meets the road when using this technique. When you get home, you must issue the timeout! If you don’t, the technique simply won’t work. Your child won’t believe you next time and will think, Yeah, that’s just mom trying to get out of disciplining me in public. Set a timer and make sure you give your child the exact number of minutes you promised. Then follow every other rule described in this post on timeouts the Ezzo way or this one on timeout tips.

For little ones who don’t understand time

Lucas, age 4, is still young enough to not really understand the concept of time. But this technique works with him. He understands what a timeout is and knows that a longer timeout is worse than a shorter one.

If you think adding and subtracting minutes might be too abstract a concept, use something more concrete. You might make laminated cards each worth one minute and hand them to the child as he misbehaves. You might carry marbles and hand him one for each minute in timeout. Be sure to explain that these are timeout marbles and not some prized possession!

Chime in!

Do you have some inventive technique you use to discipline your child in public? If so, please share!

Timeouts in public


I have written several posts on how to do timeouts the Ezzo way, but it’s always tricky to discipline our kids in public. If you haven’t read those posts, please do so you understand the full intent behind timeouts and how to do them effectively. (Do a search for “timeouts” for more, click on the “timeout” tag at right, or see the related posts at the end of this post.) As with everything in Childwise parenting, every form of discipline needs to serve a purpose. We want to do more than punish our children. We discipline to teach them a lesson.

So what are we to do when we’re out in public? Having a child sit in isolation until he has a happy heart (however long that takes) just isn’t possible in public. Not disciplining at all in public isn’t an option either. Imagine the embarrassment. And we all know the pitfalls of being the yelling, threatening, repeating parent!

How to do a timeout in public

I am not the type of mom who will go to great lengths to leave my children at home when I run errands. I don’t have family nearby, my husband works long hours and has a terrible commute, and it’s just not practical to pay a sitter every time. So my kids usually go with me on errands. As you might imagine, this can create behavior problems. William, my eldest, just hates to be bored, so he will do whatever he can to interest his smarty-pants brain. Lucas, well, when he’s alone, he’s great. When he’s with his brother, forget it.

Correct in private; praise in public

In my last post, I explained the idea of doing your best to praise your child in public to prevent misbehavior. But I also explained that this isn’t always possible. What you must remember from this wonderful phrase, however, is to be as private as possible when correcting in public.

If I’m in the midst of shopping, I will find a spot for one or both kids, point to it, and quietly tell them, in my stern mommy voice, to sit. I usually look for a spot that has some sort of barrier. Against a wall or in a corner is great. A different colored spot in the tile or carpet works great. Sometimes there are open spaces on shelves right where I’m shopping. In a pinch, I have them sit right at my feet. The more private the spot, the better.

In places like Starbucks or other casual restaurants, I will find an empty chair in the corner and make them sit alone. In more formal restaurants, I will take them to the car or the restroom and have a chat with them in my stern mommy voice. The effect of me picking them up quickly and swiftly or pulling them by the hand while I walk fast will often send a shock to their little systems.

The rules

Timeouts in public have a different set of rules. At home, all you need to do is have them sit on their beds (and stay there) until the lesson has gotten through to them. In public, you must monitor their behavior (there are still people to consider around), and you don’t have the luxury of time. So in many ways, public timeout rules are more stringent.

Timeout rules for them:

  • They may not move (Those micro-rebellers love to slide out of their designated spot inch by inch. Don’t allow it!)
  • They may not speak or attempt to communicate with anyone (No humming or hand gestures!)
  • They may not make faces or even eye contact with the other brother
  • They must fold their hands and keep them folded until the timeout is over

The rules for me:

  • I do my absolute best to ignore them
  • I don’t make eye contact
  • I don’t talk to them
  • I continue with my shopping while keeping them in the corner of my eye
  • If I’m done shopping in that area, I pretend I’m still shopping

When the timeout is over, we have our usual chat where they tell me what they did wrong, apologize with a complete sentence owning up to what they did (“I’m sorry I hit my brother” not just “I’m sorry”), I will say “I forgive you,” and we move on with hugs and kisses.

The length of the timeout will vary depending on the severity of the misbehavior, and frankly, whether you have the time to put your shopping on hold. It’s always best to take the time to address a child’s misbehaviors, but sometimes life just gets in the way.

If they break any of their rules, I will up the ante. I might tell them they will have a timeout at home, I won’t let them look in the toy section of the store, or they will lose some other privilege. If all else fails, I will simply leave the store. The more immediate and dramatic the consequence, the more effective it is. If their behavior is particularly bad, I will vow to myself to tighten the reigns over the next week or two at home.

In my next post, I will offer a public timeout technique that has worked really well for my boys. It’s often more practical, effective and long-lasting than the timeout I just described. Stay tuned!

Correct in private; praise in public


The infamous mom of 19 (now pregnant with her 20th), Michelle Duggar, has been heard advising parents to “correct in private; praise in public.” I have seen the Duggars’ show and I am so impressed by how sweet and patient Michelle is, so I love this phrase.

We have all been caught in spots in public where our children’s behavior embarrasses us. They sometimes disturb those around us, refuse to share on play dates, or even get themselves into dangerous predicaments.

As with everything the Ezzos teach us, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of correction! Correcting in private and praising in public certainly applies to this. If you are in a public spot, praise your child for every good deed.

Before you go out, make special note of your child’s most troublesome behaviors. After you leave the house but before your child exhibits the misbehavior, be on the lookout for opportunities to praise him. Do your best to catch him doing something good, especially if it’s related to one of his worst behaviors.

Say you’re at a play date and your child sits nicely to play with others. Before he has time to get too interested in the toys to get greedy with them, say, “Nice sharing! I like how you are thinking about your friends.”

While shopping, praise him for walking quietly next to you even if he only does it for a minute. In restaurants, praise him multiple times for sitting still and using his inside voice.

Focus on the positive

When we praise our kids, we want to keep everything positive. So keep your language positive as well.

  • Don’t: Good job not running in the store and disturbing others.
  • Do: You are walking so nicely in the store. Thank for considering those around you.
  • Don’t: You’re doing pretty well not bouncing in your seat at this restaurant.
  • Do: I like how you are sitting so quietly and using your best restaurant manners.
  • Don’t: I see that you’re not making your friends upset by snatching toys.
  • Do: You are sharing so nicely. It makes your friends so happy when you can all play with the toys.

Be real with praise

If praise is to be at all effective, it must be real. Don’t praise a child for being quiet 10 seconds after he was shouting. Our children see right through false praise. They know it is meaningless. The key to praising in public is to get to them before they have the chance to misbehave.

Correct in private

If all of your attempts to praise your child have no effect, do what you can to correct in private. Be proactively examining and addressing your child’s worst behaviors while you’re at home. Remove him from the situation when necessary. If you’re out shopping and cannot address the child’s behaviors, you may just need to leave.

Correcting in public

If we are honest with ourselves, sometimes life just doesn’t allow us to not correct our children’s misdeeds in private. Think about the times your child has misbehaved in public. Sure, it’s difficult to call attention to ourselves and the child by disciplining right then and there. But also, sometimes people judge us more if we don’t correct the behaviors.

Many parents may tell themselves that they have the strength to get up and leave if necessary, and they take pride in not correcting in public, but when push comes to shove, they may end up doing nothing at all. When it’s plainly obvious that the child is misbehaving and disturbing others and you don’t have the strength to leave, then by all means, correct him! It’s more respectful to let others see that you value their peace and quiet.

In my next post, I’ll discuss how to do timeouts in public.

Moral precept summary

Last week, I provided the Ezzos’ six moral precepts and the reasoning behind each. To summarize, they are as follows:

With each of these precepts, we are working to enable our children to adopt our values as their own.

“That ownership comes as a result of several factors working in harmony to achieve the goal. Ownership starts by instilling your values into the heart of your child. The process also includes parental example, trusting relationships, parental honesty, security of the husband/wife relationship, the expression of family loyalty, and many more relational components. All of these factors encourage your child to integrate mom and dad’s value system into his or her own life,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 82).

Yes, it’s a complex process, but the Ezzos provide us with detailed instructions to achieve our goals. Do your work to encourage your values in your child, and he will adopt them as his own. And not only do you owe it to your child to do so, but you owe it to society:

“The lack of any predominant standard for moral excellence in our society threatens each subsequent generation. As each generation becomes more desensitized to the value of others, we will inevitably raise up a generation that will mark the point of no return. What one generation will allow in moderation, the next will allow in excess,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 86).

Do your part!

First-time obedience: first things first


First-time obedience (FTO) is a phrase you commonly hear in Babywise parenting circles. But what exactly does it mean? It’s really quite simple to understand. First-time obedience means your child obeys your instruction the first time, no questions asked.

First-time obedience is important for many reasons including:

  • It sets clear expectations for the child.
  • If you teach obedience, you don’t have to teach anything else.
  • It helps you decide when a correction is necessary; disobedience is disobedience.
  • It teaches your child to obey your word and not rely on bribes or rewards for motivation.
  • It teaches your child to submit to your authority and adopt an attitude of submission when obedience is required.
  • When your life is not fraught with disobedience, your days are happier and your relationship with your child grows stronger.
  • If you teach moral values (through obedience) when he’s little, you give yourselves many years of a trusting, loving relationship.

What does first-time obedience look like?

First-time obedience is a fairly simple to identify. Here’s what it looks like:

  • Your child responds to the call of his name with “yes, mommy”.
  • Your child gives you eye contact when you call his name.
  • Your child immediately complies with any instruction you give, whether it’s putting his shoes on or cleaning his room.
  • Your child obeys with an attitude of submission and a happy heart.

What does first-time obedience NOT look like?

Would your child be characterized by first-time obedience? Be honest with yourself. Do any of the following go on in your home?

  • Your child ignores you when you call his name. Or worse, he runs away when you call.
  • You repeat your instruction 50 times before he complies. (This is 50th-time obedience!)
  • Your child counts on your inconsistency and will keep pushing the envelope to find out how serious you are.
  • Your child whines or talks back when you give an instruction. If it worked once before, it might just work again.
  • You offer threat after threat to get your child to comply.
  • You count to three in a threatening tone when your child doesn’t comply.
  • You bribe your child with stickers, marbles, pennies, or promises for ice cream to get him to obey.
  • You guilt your child into complying with your instructions.
  • You beg your child to obey.
  • You and your child end the day frustrated and stressed out.

Don’t worry if you recognize any of these scenarios. I’ve been there and I’m here to help!

First things first: Ezzo fundamentals

By now you’re probably convinced of the value of first-time obedience. It’s so very promising for us as parents and for the moral and ethical health of our children. Now, are you ready to put in the effort to make it a reality?

The first thing you need to do as you attempt to instill first-time obedience in your child is forget the idea altogether. Yes, you heard me right. Set it aside for now. There is a much bigger foundation you must lay before your FTO work can even begin. I realize that it’s tempting to jump into first-time obedience training with both feet, but I promise that it will be much more difficult if you don’t implement the Ezzo fundamentals first.

Make your marriage a priority

What does your marriage have to do with parenting? Everything. If you have read any of the Ezzos’ books, then you are no stranger to the idea that the marriage must come first. As Ezzo says in On Becoming Childwise, “Great marriages make great parents,” (page 43). Your marriage is the ground upon which your child stands. Practice couch time to proactively show your child that you value your marriage. Also be sure to maintain your roles as husband and wife, not just mom and dad.

Avoid child-centered parenting

Too often, once a child is brought into the marriage, parents focus extensively on the child. Though it is often done in the name of good parenting, child-centered parenting actually does more harm than good. Instead of integrating the child into the family as a welcome member of the family, they make the child the center of their world. This creates within the child a false sense of self-reliance. The child becomes wise in his own eyes and attitude issues run rampant.

Schedule your child’s day

When you direct your child’s activities, you drastically reduce the risk that he will be bored and stir up trouble. Create a daily schedule that includes activities like nap time, quiet reading time, independent play time (room time or playpen time), sibling play time, outside time, and more.

Establish your funnel

Envision a funnel or inverted cone. At the bottom, the opening is narrow. This represents the freedoms you allow your child when he is young. As he grows (in maturity and chronologically), you increase those freedoms. Keep your child in that funnel. Don’t allow your two-year-old to roam the house at will or require your 12-year-old to keep his hand on the cart at the grocery store. Make sure freedoms are age-appropriate and award new freedoms based on responsibility, not age.

Say what you mean; mean what you say

Trite as they may be, these eight simple words have great power over your first-time obedience training. The underlying principle of “say what you mean; mean what you say” is that you clearly communicate to your child what you expect of him and follow through on every word you say. Take your time before you speak and be sure that whatever you say are words you can stand by. The Ezzos say, “Never give a command unless you intend for it to be obeyed,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 126.)

Teach your child to ask for permission

If you have a child who roams the house or goes into the backyard at will, you will greatly benefit from this simple technique. Having your child ask for permission stops behavior problems in their tracks! You can even teach a non-verbal child to do the sign for “please” to ask for permission.

Encourage and love your child

There are parents who feel that they desperately need first-time obedience because they spend their days yelling at and barking orders at their children. Frustration is the name of the game. These parents often skip to the discipline section of the book in an attempt to nip behavior problems in the bud. But let me be clear: love and encouragement go a LONG way toward improving your child’s behavior. So be sure to encourage through praise, spontaneous rewards, physical affection, and goal incentives; and speak your child’s love language to make sure he is receiving your love. Most important, enjoy and have fun with your child!

Be intentional in your parenting

Planning and intent are key to establishing first-time obedience:

  • Start as you mean to go on. Don’t start a habit you won’t want to continue.
  • Read, read, read!
  • Understand why you do what you do. Ignore parenting experts whose theories don’t make sense to you. (Many of them offer only short-term fixes anyway.)
  • Create a discipline plan and decide on consequences ahead of time.
  • Work with your spouse to identify the values you wish to instill in your children.
  • Identify the behaviors you’d like to see in your children. Set the bar high but also be realistic in your expectations!
  • Keep your attitude in check. Find a tone that communicates that you want your child to succeed in first-time obedience, but that you hold authority over him if he doesn’t.
  • Be sure you understand the difference between childishness and foolishness. Always give your child the benefit of the doubt if you’re unsure.
  • Model for your child what you expect from him. Avoid hypocrisy at all costs.
  • You are your child’s teacher. Never forget that all discipline takes place to teach a lesson.

Don’t forget attitude

External compliance is great but it’s not our ultimate goal. Compliance with a happy, submissive heart is our ultimate goal. If your child complies with your instruction but sulks off after, make him do it over. Discipline for attitude just as much as you would for behavior problems.

Begin first-time obedience training

Once this all-important foundation has been laid, you can move on to your first-time obedience training. Understand that first-time obedience is a skill your child needs to learn. It will be difficult at first, especially if your child is used to ignoring you, but the payoff will be so rewarding.

Stay tuned for specifics on first-time obedience training. In the meantime, explore the links above to learn more about each layer of your parenting foundation.


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.

Independent playtime overview

image source

by Valerie Plowman, Chronicles of a Babywise Mom

I very often state that one of my absolute favorite parenting tools is Independent Playtime. This block of time has immense benefits to the entire family. This post will take you through the basics on what it is (and isn’t), the benefits of it, implementing it, and solving potential problems you might face with it.

Definition of Independent Playtime

Independent Playtime is a block of time each day that your child plays alone. On Becoming Preschoolwise states that “The most important aspect of this time is that your child is learning to focus on what he can do with the things he has” (page 120). 

Exactly what Independent Playtime will look like for your child will vary based on the age, ability, and maturity of your child.


I personally start the essence of Independent Playtime as a young newborn. The way I do Independent Playtime with a newborn is to put the baby at a floor gym (you could use a bouncer, swing, or even a blanket) and then sit a couple of feet away and watch her play. I don’t talk to her or wave things in her face. I just enjoy watching her. Length varies from 5-10 minutes; newborns can’t stay awake very long.

Now, of course I do spend time each day talking to my newborn, holding her, loving her, kissing her chubby little cheeks…I am talking about one or two 5-10 minute blocks in a day when I let her play alone. I find doing this from the beginning makes the entire transition to “real” independent play as older babies seamless.

Once my baby reaches about 3-4 months old, I start to have the time be in the playpen every so often–maybe a few times a week. I might move the gym in there or I might hang a baby mirror and mobile in there and put some toys in there. I want baby to get comfortable with the playpen. At this time, I still sit in the room with baby, though I do need to be more creative about not being seen. If it wasn’t possible for me to not be seen, I would sit right outside the door.

Once baby can get to toys on her own, I will leave the room but stay really close. As she gets older, I will leave the room and move about the house, but I do always keep a monitor on the baby.


A pre-toddler is in the age range of 12-18 months. Most pre-toddlers will be in the playpen still. Some might move to roomtime, but most will stay in the playpen. You can play music for your child if she enjoys music. You will want to make sure you rotate the toys and books you give her to play with every so often so the toys stay interesting to her.

Toddler, Preschooler, and Older

Sometime between 18 months and two years old, your toddler will move to roomtime instead of just the playpen. You want to make sure the room is child-proofed and safe for your child. You still pull out the toys and books for her to play with. For more on roomtime, see my post Roomtime.

I continued daily roomtime with my oldest (now 6) until he entered first grade this year (his first year of full-day schooling). We now do it on weekends when we have the time. We do not do it on school days because he is already gone for so much of the day, I don’t have time to fit that in with the other activities of  the evening.


This is taken from my post on Independent Playtime Lengths.

  • 5-10 minutes once or twice a day as a young newborn
  • 10-20 minutes twice a day for first few months
  • 15-30 minutes twice a day for the independent sitter
  • 30-45 minutes at least once a day for the crawler
  • Up to 60 minutes for the 15-20 month old in playpen or room

These are guidelines. Some days may be longer, some shorter. For example, say it is Saturday and you have a family thing to get to. You can have a shorter than usual independent play so you can get to your family thing on time.

Benefits of Independent Playtime

On Becoming Babywise II lists several of the benefits to Independent Playtime on page 73:

  • Mental Focusing Skills
  • Sustained Attention Span
  • Creativity
  • Self-Play Adeptness
  • Orderliness

I have done Independent Playtime with all three of my children (6, 4, and 2), and I have found these benefits to be true. It is hard to judge the effects because for one thing, you can’t live life in a vacuum, and for another, you can’t live parallel lives where you do two different things with the same child and see which “thing” was the best. I do think that having three children who display these skills speaks volumes for Independent Playtime.

I also find that Independent Playtime results in happier and more patient children. If I am going to have a playdate that day, I make sure we do Independent Playtime that morning. My children consistently play better with others when they have Independent Playtime–whether those others be friends or family. For more on the benefits of Independent Playtime, I have two posts that go into further detail: Benefits of Independent Play and Baby Whisperer: Playing Independently.

This time also offers you some time to clean, cook, get ready, or simply relax. That should lead to a more relaxed and happy parent, and that is good for the entire family.

Implementing Independent Playtime

Does Independent Playtime sound nice? Want to try? Here are some basic details on how to implement. Now, exactly how easy this is to do will vary. Factors will include age of the child, personality, and previous life experience. A 2-year-old who has never played alone will likely resist more than a 2-month-old.

If you are starting from the beginning of life–or quite early in life (say the first 4-5 months)–it should be pretty easy so long as you are consistent. If you are startting later in life, you might have some protesting from your child. Either way, here are some tips.

    • Pick a consistent time of day. Consistency is very important. I like mornings because I can always get it in during the morning hours. Pick what works for you.
    • Keep toys safe, age appropriate, and rotated. Your child will not enjoy this playtime if she has the same toys for 6 weeks in a row. Also, don’t give too many toys. You want enough to keep her happy, but not so many her brain gets overwhelmed.
    • Stay in earshot. Either through being close in proximity or through a monitor. 
    • If your child enjoys it, start with 10-15 minutes at a time. 
    • If your child is not happy, start with 5-10 minutes at a time. Some moms find 5 minutes isn’t long enough while others find it to be perfect. A timer can also be very effective. See my post on The Timer for more. 
    • Clean up when playtime is over. Sing the clean up song and clean with your child. Hand her a toy and ask her to put it in the bucket/basket/whatever. When she does, tell her great job and thank her for helping you. As she gets older and more able, she will help on her own.
    • Know what it isn’t. Sometimes it helps to know what something is not to know what it is. See Independent Playtime is Not…
    • If you are starting late, see my post on Starting Independent Playtime Late.

Addressing Problems

You might run into some problems along the way with Independent Playtime. Here are the most common:

      • Resistance. You might have your child not want to do Independent Playtime, whether from the beginning or “all of a sudden.” For more on this, see Resistance to Independent Playtime.
      • Ransacking. Your child might have a very fun time during Independent Playtime, but destroys the room in the process. For tips on dealing with this, see this post on Ransacking During Independent Playtime.
      • Sleeping. You might find your child falls asleep during Independent Playtime, which then messes with nap time, which of course makes Independent Playtime annoying rather than beneficial. For tips on this issue, see Falling Asleep During Independent Playtime.


Independent Playtime is well worth the effort it takes to implement it. Well worth it. If you have an older child and haven’t started it, you can do it! I started late with my oldest child and he did great with it–it took some time to work up to it, but we got there. You will love this and your children will love this. 

Valerie Plowman blogs at Chronicles of a Babywise Mom.




Babywise bloggers network

I’m excited to announce that two other Babywise bloggers and I are uniting to form a network to promote a positive perception of Babywise and its principles.

Why unite?

If you are blissfully unaware of the negative perception of Babywise (and all of the Ezzo books), then kudos to you! Stay that way! But unfortunately, many of us have, at one time or another, encountered parents who are adamantly opposed to Babywise and all that it stands for.

What’s most unfortunate of all is that these Babywise-haters are propagating their opinions despite a misunderstanding of what Babywise is about. It’s possible they have encountered one or two Babywise parents who followed the book too literally, but let me assure you, those parents represent a very small percentage of Babywise parents. Most of us have very happy, healthy, well-rested babies.

So we are here to stand together and help well-meaning parents understand the true nature of Babywise and how to effectively implement its principles.

Babywise myths

Before I tell you more about the other two Babywise bloggers, let me explain the false claims and be clear about what Babywise stands for.

Myth #1: Babywise babies are hyper-scheduled

Babywise does not implore us to ignore our babies’ and children’s cues in favor of the clock. Yes, the clock does play a role, but the baby’s cues and the parents’ judgment take precedence. The book very clearly states that we are to feed the baby when he’s hungry. Growth spurts must not be ignored.

The schedule also works to the family’s advantage when the child gets older. Rather than allowing a child to find trouble when he’s bored and lacks direction, the schedule helps the parent direct the child’s activities and keep him preoccupied so boredom and misbehavior don’t result.

Myth #2: Babywise babies are left to cry excessively

While there are many Babywise parents who do let their children cry in their sleep-training endeavors, the Babywise-haters tend to think that we let our babies cry for hours on end without listening to their cries and the quality of their cries.

Let me be clear that a parent can most definitely follow Babywise without letting the baby cry it out. In fact, I stand firmly behind the belief that Babywise babies actually cry less than many other babies. Rather than waiting for the baby to cry to communicate his needs and wants, the Babywise mom knows what the baby needs before he needs it.

I remember when my boys were little, William’s eyes would water when he was tired and Lucas would yawn. I didn’t wait for them to cry to tell me it was nap time. My Babywise babies slept well on their own, and as their parents, we made time in their lives for naps (leading to less crying). Plus, we parents were not left to decode the child’s cries. If the schedule shows that it’s feeding time, there’s no confusing the fussiness for sleepiness.

Myth #3: Babywise parents focus on legalistic, punitive discipline

Those who stand against the Ezzo books tend to believe that we are too firm and legalistic in our parenting. Is expecting first-time obedience too much to ask of a child? No! Must we help our children in the pursuit of obedience? Most definitely.

I think the Ezzos would agree with me that you don’t start your obedience training by asking your hungry, tired 4-year-old to mow the lawn and then spank him when he cannot obey. Babywise parents are encouraged to set clear and reasonable expectations, use positive methods of reinforcement, speak the child’s love language, allow a schedule to prevent misbehavior, establish a solid family foundation with the mother and father standing together at the head, and more.

While there are some who do focus too much on corrective measures (probably because they let things go too far for too long and have reached a pinnacle of frustration), the positive elements of the Ezzos’ teachings cannot be ignored.

Set the bar high but use encouragement, modeling and your positive relationship to help the child reach that bar. Read more about training a child in first-time obedience.

Myth #4: Babywise teaches parents to devalue the child

There is a commonly heard phrase in Ezzo circles: “The child is a welcome member of the family but is not the center of it.” The phrase communicates the belief that mom and dad must stand at the center of the family. This is not because the parents are selfish and more powerful than their children. It’s because putting the parents at the center helps to develop a strong family foundation which provides the child with security and a healthy model for love.

It’s true we do not make the child the center of our attention, but this is solely for the benefit of the child. It does nothing to devalue the child. In fact, it does the opposite. Read more on the perils of child-centered parenting.

Babywise bloggers

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I am working with the authors of two other Babywise blogs to promote the benefits of Babywise and teach parents how to effectively implement its principles.

Chronicles of a Babywise Mom

Valerie Plowman is the author of Chronicles of a Babywise Mom. Valerie started this blog primarily as a resource for parents implementing the -wise series (written by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam). Over the years, it has grown to include a collection of multiple parenting books, and is now, broadly put, a “parenting blog.” Content includes anything a person might face as a parent. So far as parenting theories go, the -wise series is always her foundation, with strong influences from the Baby Whisperer books and Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.

Valerie is a stay-at-home mom to three children, ages 6, 4 and 2 and is very passionate about raising children into adults who are service-minded, intelligent, confident, successful in their own right, and loved. Every mother’s dream, right?

My Baby Sleep Guide

Rachel Rowell is the author of My Baby Sleep Guide. As you have probably already guessed, she writes about sleep, particularly how to get more of it! She covers all the bases, from short naps to sleep training to sleeping through the night, and everything in between.

Rachel knows that every baby and every family is different, so she includes information about various sleep training methods so you can find what works best for you and your family. She draws from her own personal experience as a registered nurse and mother of a spirited 3-year-old and adventurous 1-year-old, as well as from a plethora of books and the wisdom of hundreds of moms. Her hope is that her blog will decrease the stress that many parents feel over sleep, so that they can more fully enjoy their sweet little children.

Childwise Chat

If you are new to this blog, let me introduce myself. My name is Maureen Monfore and I am a mom to two boys, ages 7 and 4. My blog, Childwise Chat, is written for parents of toddlers, preschoolers and school-aged children who are interested in the parenting principles originated by Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo. My primary resource is On Becoming Childwise by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam, but I also pull material from Growing Kids God’s WayOn Becoming Toddlerwise and parenting books from other authors. Childwise Chat covers the practical details of teaching the defiant toddler to obey to more philosophical thoughts on big-picture parenting.

Well versed in the many parenting books on the market, I have comfortably settled with the Ezzos. I appreciate that the philosophies are so very balanced. Although they suggest that we set the bar quite high, the books are full of thoughts on encouraging children, passing on our moral values, acting as a teacher, speaking their love languages, and more. And rather than focusing on single subset of parenting, the Ezzos’ books cover every scenario imaginable. Perhaps most importantly, their principles work! They give parents a veritable instruction manual on how to raise well-mannered, morally conscious children.