Archives for December 2011

Best of Childwise Chat: Structure your day

With family in town for the holidays, I’m taking a bit of a break from blogging this week. So here are my top posts of all time (according to visitor stats). Read and enjoy!

Structure Your Day

Structuring your day is one of the most effective yet simple techniques you can use to prevent behavior problems in your child.

“Young children not only need, but they also crave supervision, direction, and encouragement. Random acts of parenting aren’t good enough to get through the day with one’s sanity intact,” (On Becoming Preschoolwise, p. 85).

Here are some signs that you might need more structure in your day:

  • Your child whines and complains constantly and you’re never quite sure if it’s because he’s hungry, tired or bored.
  • Your child wanders aimlessly throughout the house.
  • Your child plays with anything and everything in the house.
  • Your child has very little attention span, flitting from one toy to the next.
  • You feel like all you do is chase your child around the house.
  • Your child hasn’t learned how to entertain himself. You are his personal entertainer.
  • You’re never quite sure when you will fit in a shower or do the dishes.
  • Your toddler hangs on your legs when you’re trying to cook dinner or do laundry.
  • Exercise? What’s that?
  • You feel guilty about the amount of TV your child watches. But how else are you going to get anything done?
  • You feel like you never get anything accomplished even though you’re home all day.
  • You never have enough time for yourself or your spouse.

Reduced opportunities for misbehavior
Something as simple as adding more structure to your day can resolve these issues. Huge, isn’t it? Many people (myself included) don’t like to live by a schedule. But when you realize the peace it will bring to your home, you will be motivated to stick with it.

“To have routine, order, and structure is to think ahead and plan. Structuring your preschooler’s day will eliminate a big chunk of stress on Mom because it reduces random opportunities for misbehavior. With thoughtful planning, Mom is proactive instead of reactive, meaning she can plan the day rather than react to each situation as it arises,” (On Becoming Preschoolwise, p. 86).

When your child is scheduled to spend 30 minutes in his room every day for roomtime, that’s 30 minutes that he won’t be getting himself into trouble. When you eat meals at the same time every day, you’ll ward off meltdowns due to low blood sugar levels. And when you schedule time every night for couch time, your child will take comfort in the security of your marriage. All of this leads to fewer behavior problems and a reduced need for discipline. That alone is reason enough to add more structure to your day. But there’s more…

Respect for authority
When you decide how your child will fill his day, an important attitude shift takes place. Your child will respect your authority. He will be less likely to develop a “wise in his own eyes” attitude where he has too many freedoms and too much control.

Focus and concentration
With structured play, your child will develop better focus and concentration skills. Whether he is asked to sit and read books for 30 minutes a day or simply stay in his room and play with a toy chosen for him, he will learn self-control. He will also learn that sometimes he must do something he doesn’t want to do, a skill that will serve him well in school.

Quality time for your child
You likely spend plenty of time with your child, but how much of that is good quality time? If you followed Babywise with your infant, you established a routine because it allowed him to get good quality sleep. You could have let him sleep anywhere any time, but you would have ended up with a demanding, sleep-deprived baby. The quality of a baby’s sleep is important. The same is true with the time we spend with our kids. Quality time should be your goal. Even if your new routine has you spending less time with your child overall, making sure it is good quality time is what’s important.

Quality time for yourself
By structuring your day, you’ll be able to set aside some quiet time for yourself. Not only will you get to shower every day (what a concept!), but you will have a chance to exercise, read a book for pleasure, cook dinner at a leisurely pace, or whatever else satisfies your personal desires. Realize that your child will be happier and better adjusted if he sees that mom devotes time to herself every day, even if it’s at his own expense.

Managing multiple children
Some parents shudder at the thought of having more than one or two kids because they can’t imagine how they would juggle the needs of every child. When your day is structured, welcoming a baby to the family can be as simple as shifting your daily routine around to make room for everyone.

Proactive parenting
Think of all the time you waste chasing after your child or watching him wander throughout the house aimlessly. Realize that by having more structure in your day, you can accomplish a lot more with your time.

“Managing your preschooler’s day enhances good organization, time-management skills, and provides an orderly environment for your children to optimize their learning experiences. It also helps Mom achieve personal and parenting goals while reducing the need for corrective discipline,” (On Becoming Preschoolwise, p. 86).

When you structure your day, you do more than just make it through the day. You schedule learning time for your preschooler. You schedule time to read books to your toddler. You schedule time for the gym. And you can do it all stress-free with minimal behavior problems.

Start thinking through how these ideas can affect your family. In my next post I’ll walk you through the steps of creating a schedule that will allow you to create a peaceful, structured environment in your home.

Best of Childwise Chat: Couch Time

With family in town for the holidays, I’m taking a bit of a break from blogging this week. So here are my top posts of all time (according to visitor stats). Read and enjoy!

Couch Time

In my last post, I discussed the marriage priority and how the Ezzos implore us to put our marriages first—for the sake of our children. By maintaining a loving, healthy marriage, we create a sense of security and stability for our children. Here I will discuss one practical method for building a happy marriage: couch time.

Couch time is a very simple idea. You and your spouse take 10-15 minutes at the end of your day (or whenever really) to sit down and just talk. Don’t watch TV. Don’t answer the phone. Don’t think about the day ahead. Just sit and talk to your spouse.

The rules
There is only one rule when it comes to couch time. It can take place at any time of day. It can be on the couch, at the dinner table after everyone is done, or even standing in the kitchen. The only rule about couch time is that you must do it while your child is awake and in the same room. The whole point of couch time is to show your child that you and your spouse make time for yourselves and that your marriage takes priority. Explain to your child that this is a special time for you two and that he must not interrupt you. Find an activity to keep your child occupied so you’re not constantly turning away from your spouse to tend to your child. (This is where having a blanket-trained toddler can really help.) Keep a special basket of toys just for couch time. Start small (just a few minutes a day) and work up from there. Throughout your day, make a mental list of things you might want to discuss with your spouse during couch time. Make a mental note of cute things your child did or how you were able to get through to him on an important moral lesson.

Must we really do couch time?
Yes! You may be thinking that you spend plenty of time talking to your spouse and that maybe your child is so young (or old) that he won’t really get any benefit from seeing the two of you talk. But really, if you are going to have any success with your parenting, you must put first things first. Couch time is so important that it’s discussed early on inChildwise (page 40). And putting your marriage first is principle #1 in a long list of principles.

“Does your child exhibit behavior problems, moral disruptions, impulsive behavior, talking back, sleep problems or just outright defiance? Before you do anything else, before you pick up another book, listen to another tape, attend another parenting conference, call your therapist or get on the Internet—simply practice ‘couch time’ for a week…. You will be amazed at how this one little exercise can bring peace to a home and emotional confidence to children,” (On Becoming Childwise, page 40).

In the Mom’s Notes presentations, Carla Link will often take questions from the audience about particular behavior problems parents might be experiencing. One of her first questions of them is whether they are doing couch time. The answer is typically no. She then goes on to say that the simple act of adding couch time to your day will greatly improve your child’s behaviors. Having someone tell you to sit on the couch with your spouse may not seem like it will help you teach your preschooler to share his toys. But it is step #1 in getting our children to behave. It’s so simple yet so effective!

And on top of the benefits your child receives, couch time will improve your marriage! “One other thing about couch time: it’s not only for your children’s benefit…. For some couples, this time together might be as new for them as it is for their children. You never know, you might just rediscover your best friend,” (On Becoming Childwise, page 40).

The next time you hug your spouse, take a peek at your child’s face. He will be staring at you with a glimmer of happiness in his eye. Once you see that, you will be motivated to do couch time every day.

Testimonials for couch time
In the sidebars of Growing Kids God’s Way, there are several testimonials from children whose parents practiced couch time:

“There is something wonderful about growing up in a home where your parents are truly in love with each other. They laugh together, play together, pray together and parent together. As siblings, we have a ‘best friend’ relationship with each other. We learned that from watching Mom and Dad.” –Aimee, age 14

“When my parents had couch time consistently, my siblings and I were more obedient and there was harmony in the family. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, sitting on the couch talking to each other every night, but makes a big difference in the home.” –Justin, age 17

“When my sister Emily and I were young, we loved it when Mom and Dad had couch time. I couldn’t have explained why back then. There was just something right about it, comforting and secure. We contrived all sorts of things to make them comfortable like getting them tea when they sat down. Now we realize that ‘couch time’ was for us as much as it was for them.” –Aubrey, age 16

“Out of all the wonderful things my parents implemented into our family life, couch time is the one I most want to have in my own family when I get married. Growing up, I felt more secure knowing that my parents were taking the time to communicate and verify that they were a united team. This is how I know that my parents love our family and they loved each other.” –Sarah, age 22

“My parents have shown me how very important having dates and couch time on a regular basis is for a good marriage relationship. When they spend time with each other, it shows us that they love each other.” –Rebecca, age 14

Best of Childwise Chat: Achieving first-time obedience

With family in town for the holidays, I’m taking a bit of a break from blogging this week. So here are my top posts of all time (according to visitor stats). Read and enjoy!

Achieving first-time obedience

In my last post, I described what first-time obedience looks like. Now we’ll get into the details of how you can help your child obey the first time. It’s not easy but so worth it!

Lay the groundwork. It’s all about your tone.
Before you start requiring first-time obedience, you need to ensure your own attitude is in the right place. For those of you unsure of your ability to command authority, reach down within yourself and find your courage. Do not fear your child. Do not let him make the choices for the family. If you have read one or two of the Ezzo books, you are no stranger to the idea that the marriage takes priority in the family. Your child is a welcome member of the family but is not the center of it. Let that attitude carry you through your daily interactions with your child.

Some of you may have a strong handle on your authority but might take it too far. Don’t expect that he will disobey or he will. Don’t think that having authority over your child means that he’ll comply with unreasonable expectations when he’s tired and hungry. Don’t equate authority with anger and power. We want wise parenting, not power parenting.

If you have found the right attitude, you are likely at a place where you want to set your child up to succeed but will maintain a matter-of-fact tone if he doesn’t. When your child disobeys, you don’t accept it or get angry. You say to him, “Oops, I see you’ve made the wrong choice. Too bad. Here is what your consequence will be.”

Be consistent!

One of the most important things you need to require of yourself is consistency. If you want first-time obedience from your child, you must be 100% consistent. If you slip, he will too. But if you require it, he will meet your expectation. Your child will only rise to the expectation you set for him. Set the bar high but keep in mind you need to do the work to help him get there.

Get your “yes, mommy” and eye contact
I cannot stress enough how important it is to have your child respond to the call of his name with a “yes, mommy” and eye contact. Before you give any task, especially one that he won’t want to do, you need to get his attention and know that he is listening. Maintaining eye contact while you give the instruction is key. Refer back to these posts for more.

Don’t repeat yourself
One sure-fire way to not get first-time obedience is to repeat yourself. How can he achieve first-time obedience if you’ve already given your instruction 5 times? Give him your instruction clearly and while maintaining eye contact and you have no excuse to repeat yourself. You know he has heard you loud and clear.

So what do you do if your child doesn’t respond after you’ve given your one instruction? Wait. Don’t wait 20 minutes, but do give him a chance to comply. If he still doesn’t respond, don’t say another word. Simply take him by the hand and physically help him complete the task. If you’ve asked him to put his Legos away and he ignores you, take his hand and bring him over to the Legos. Then take his hands in your own and start picking them up together. Be sure to do this with a very calm demeanor or he will strongly resist you.

After you have completed the task together, explain to him that you had to help him this time and that next time, you want him to obey you the first time you ask him to do something. After you have given it a few days of helping him obey you, move on to expecting him to obey you on his own. If he chooses not to, then you move on to your consequence.

Decide ahead of time what your consequences will be
Spend some time with your spouse thinking through your child’s most troublesome behaviors. Then decide on a logical or natural consequence for each of those behaviors. Write them down and post them in the kitchen so you can refer to them often. Perhaps picking up his toys is where he struggles the most. You might decide to take those toys away for a day. Let the punishment fit the crime, and make sure your consequences are ones that you can follow through on, even at your own weakest moments.

The key here is that you plan ahead so that when you’re faced with disobedience, you’re not scrambling to come up with a consequence. You want to respond swiftly, especially as you’re just beginning. Refer to my post on intentional parenting for more.

Do non-conflict training
Whether he’s 2 or 12, take the time to explain to him your new standard of obedience. He needs to know that you are changing the rules of the game and that you will be giving consequences the first time he disobeys. Clearly explain to him that you expect him to respond to your instructions the first time you give them. Be specific. Tell him that if he runs away from you at the park, you will go home the first time. Tell him that if he speaks to you with disrespect just one time, he will lose his TV privileges. Remind him often, several times a day every day.

Follow through
This is where you make or break the deal. You can do all of the work I describe above, but if you don’t follow through when your child disobeys the first time, all of your work will be for nothing. Not only will it have been a waste of time, but now your child won’t believe you when you say you will require first-time obedience. If your child disobeys just one time, issue the consequence, no questions asked. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Don’t repeat yourself. Don’t threaten. Don’t get angry. Keep a calm demeanor and follow through.

Now, don’t kick yourself if you slip once or twice. You are both acquiring a new skill, but do make it a priority. Even set aside a few days when you can stay home and work on it.

Set your child up for success
You want your child to achieve first-time obedience, right? So set him up to succeed. Don’t start your work on first-time obedience by asking your 4-year-old to mow the lawn. Take baby steps. Start by giving him a task you know he’ll do willingly. If he does it the first time, praise him! Expect that he will succeed. Make it so that he wants to give you first-time obedience. Then once he is doing well with simple tasks, move on to more difficult ones.

Be fair
You cannot expect your child to give you first-time obedience if you haven’t done all your work first. You can’t issue a consequence the first time if you haven’t told him what you expect. For all he knows, you’ll repeat yourself 20 times like you usually do. And consider context. Don’t start expecting first-time obedience when your fuse is short and your child is tired and hungry.

Require a happy heart

I started this post by asking you to work on your own attitude, and I’ll end by saying you need to ensure your child has the right attitude as well. A big component of first-time obedience is doing it with an attitude of submission. You might want to spend a week or two working on the mechanics of first-time obedience before you move on to changing his attitude. But once you are ready to do so, explain to him at a time of non-conflict, what you expect of him. Then if he gives you first-time obedience but sulks off after complying or whines about doing the task, start requiring him to respond with a happy heart. One of the best ways to do so is requiring him to do the task over with a better attitude. If he needs a few minutes in isolation to find his happy heart, let him go to his room and then come back to you when he’s ready to comply with a better attitude.

This was a long post full of weighty ideas. Refer back to it often. Good luck!

Should we say “please?”


Anne Marie Ezzo recently brought to my attention the importance of saying “please” to our children when we make an instruction. I have previously cautioned parents when saying “please” because it can sometimes make the parent’s instruction sound like an option.

The key to using “please” with our instructions is saying it with authority and moving it from the end of the instruction to the beginning. Consider the following:

“Mary, put your toys away, please?”

“Evan, play time is over. Please pick up your toys now.”

The difference is subtle, the first example above is often said with a question mark at the end. When we say “please,” we can still be courteous, but we must do so with an air of authority.

Here is how Anne Marie Ezzo described it:

“While a parent may not want to tack a “please” to the end of their instruction, they can certainly use that courtesy when giving an instruction by simply moving it from the end to the beginning. Mom is demonstrating a courtesy, she is clearly stating her instructions, and the tone is one of greater control and genuine authority. The child is being addressed respectfully and being spoken to as we would like to be spoken to. Many principles are being modeled by a simple replacement rather than elimination of a word.”

So consider adding the word “please” to your parenting vocabulary, but we must be sure to say it with authority. And by the same token, we can freely use the words “thank you” after a child complies with our requests.


“But, but, I just…”


Do you hear these words from the mouth of your child? If so, consider that the child might be challenging your authority. These words work their way into the conversation like this:

  • Parent: Jack, it’s time to put your toys away and wash your hands for dinner.
  • Child: But, but, I was just going to finish this one little thing.


  • Parent: Kate, treat your little sister more kindly please.
  • Child: But I was just telling her how to play.

What often happens when we hear these words is that we get drawn into a power struggle with the child about the instruction.

Words of negotiation
When our children speak these words, it is their attempt to negotiate with us. Their negotiation attempts are disguised challenges to our authority. When we strive toward first-time obedience, we cannot allow our children to negotiate their way out of a direct instruction.

“’Why can’t I?’, ‘Do I have to?’, and ‘But Mom!’ reflect an attitude which is not an appeal but a challenge to authority,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 206).

In the spirit of saying what we mean and meaning what we say, it’s important to follow through on an instruction no matter how much the child objects. In fact, it’s all the more important to follow through when they object, so that we assert our authority and convey the idea that negotiation isn’t tolerated.

When we hear these words from our children, we must tell them that they are not tolerated. Teach him to replace his reply with “yes, mommy” or “yes, mom” as he complies with your instruction.

What if the child has a valid argument?
It’s true that we need to consider the needs of the child when we make requests of them, but the key to this is doing so before giving the instruction, not after the child objects.

For example, if you need to call your child to dinner, check on him to see that he’s nearing a stopping point in his play. If he’s watching TV, don’t call him when there are just five minutes left of his show. Of course, there are times when we need our kids to obey even if it’s a bad time, but if you have the flexibility, find a good time to give your instructions.

The appeal process
To avoid exasperating our children, it’s important to consider the appeal process. This idea warrants its own post altogether. But essentially, for a child who is characterized by first-time obedience and who understands the concept (about age 7 and above), you can allow a child to humbly appeal your instruction if they have new information regarding the instruction.

The Ezzos explain it well:

“Sensitivity must be present throughout the training process, or we risk emotionally exasperating our children…. Yet, even the most discerning parent will, at times, be insensitive to special situations. That is precisely why the appeal process is necessary. The child becomes proactive in providing needed information that will help the parent make an informed decision about his or her previous instruction,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 203).

Be on the lookout for a future post on this topic, but in the meantime, start recognizing when your child attempts to dispute your authority, and always do your best to time your instructions appropriately.

GKGW materials on sale!

If you follow this blog, you have likely read On Becoming Childwise. But have you read the Ezzos’ faith-based version of the book, Growing Kids God’s Way (GKGW)?

The book is called a student workbook since it often accompanies a class, but the book is great in its own right. I have found it to be very comprehensive, in some ways more so than Childwise. The book and my eBook, Live in Harmony with First-Time Obedience, complement each other well. While the Ezzos’ book offers the high-level principles, my eBook provides detailed, day-to-day implementation advice and techniques.

If you are considering getting the GKGW book, get it now while it’s on sale. Regularly $18.95, it’s now on sale for $16.10.

In fact, all of the Growing Families materials are on sale. They offer books, CDs and DVDs for every age range. Visit the Growing Families store to see all of the Ezzos’ offerings.

eBook Giveaway

I’m giving away a copy of my eBook, Live in Harmony with First-Time Obedience, on Chronicles of a Babywise Mom! You have seven opportunities to enter. Do all seven and increase your odds of winning. Enter now!

If you are not the lucky winner, come back here before January 9 to get your copy at the reduced price of $6.99. Learn more about the eBook and preview a sample here.


Front-loading consequences


In the spirit of explaining to our children what we expect of them, it can be easy to go too far. This comes into play when we front-load consequences. It sounds like this:

  • Settle down at bedtime or you’ll lose some story time.
  • Be quiet in the car or you’ll have a timeout when we get home.
  • Speak nicely to your brother or you’ll have to do your homework in your room.

That “or else” is what gets us into trouble.

Weighing the odds
What’s wrong with warning our children of the consequence? It allows them to weigh the odds when they decide whether to obey. It makes obedience a choice.

If a child is having a particularly fun time at bedtime, he may just decide that he prefers it, even if it means losing some story time. If he’s in a particularly bad mood, he may decide that it’s worth it to be nasty to his sibling even if it means having to go to his room.

Don’t make obedience an option.

When a parent front-loads consequences, it blurs the line between explanation and threat. It’s easy to threaten our kids with a consequence if we think it will improve their behavior. But most of the time, it won’t. Threats train our kids to ignore our word.

Spontaneous consequences
Consequences given spontaneously, without warning, are most effective. When we catch our children off guard (usually when they are expecting a threat or a warning), they pay attention.

When I do this, my kids stand up straight, immediately look into my eyes, and stop whatever it is they’re doing. It’s great that I’ve gotten them to comply, but I can’t not follow through. I have to issue the consequence.

Use this for infractions that the child clearly knows are wrong. If he’s bouncing around in his chair at the table, and it’s something you’ve been working on, send him into timeout as soon as you spot the behavior. There’s no need for a warning.

If you know the child knows it’s wrong and he’s still doing it (intentional or not), he deserves a consequence.



If you have ever been around a two-year-old, you know that the word “no” is often a favorite. It’s a powerful word, and these little ones like to start using it once they discover its power. They realize that this one little word allows them to deny a request, object to an instruction, and in many ways, assert their independence.

How does a parent deal with this word when it gets used so often? The key is to determine the child’s attitude when he says the word.

Dealing with a defiant “no”
Don’t allow your child to tell you “no” after you have given an instruction. When striving for first-time obedience, no child can be allowed to deny, object to or otherwise flout parental authority.

If your child says “no” in response to a request, issue a consequence. Aim for a logical consequence, but if you can’t find one, send him into timeout. Follow these timeout tips. When the timeout is over, make sure his attitude is submissive and obedient. Explain very clearly that he is not allowed to say “no” to you when you give an instruction. If his “no” was particularly defiant, tell him very sternly that he is not allowed to speak to you that way.

Be sure not to let him off without obeying your original instruction. Don’t teach him that all he has to do is serve a little timeout time to get out of complying with an instruction.

Understanding a benign “no”
If you ask an honest question of your child like, “Do you need to go potty?” allow him to say “no.” This makes sense, right? It’s simple communication. If it’s a simple “no,” that’s fine. But if it’s said with attitude, don’t allow it. Verbally remind him of the tone of voice you expect. You might even train him to say “no thank you” if you are dealing with tone.

There are some children who just like to hear themselves say the word “no.” This is fine, again, as long as his attitude is in the right place. If you give him an instruction and he complies while saying “no, no, no, no,” don’t worry about it.

Use his action as your guide
In addition to checking his attitude, just look to your child’s actions to determine whether you need to discipline him for saying “no.” If he complies with your instructions and does so without complaint or defiance, no discipline is needed.

Watch your questions
As I explain in my eBook, Live in Harmony with First-Time Obedience, it’s important to be careful of what we ask our children and when we ask them. If you ask a two-year-old who is in the “no” phase to comply with an instruction when there are five minutes left of his favorite TV show, then yes, you might hear a “no.” Find a better time to give your instructions

Similarly, don’t get into the habit of asking your child question after question. Instead of asking the child if he will put his coat on, just hold the coat out and help him into it. Don’t invite defiance. If he’s tired or hungry, don’t ask or even tell him to go sit at the table. Take him by the hand and lead him there while you say, “It’s time to eat.”

Treat the word “no” this way, and you’ll start to see the word fade from your child’s vocabulary.

Give the gift of obedience

Do you want to purchase my eBook, Live in Harmony with First-Time Obedience, for a friend or family member? Do you want to add the eBook to your own wish list? Now you can do both!

Purchase an eBook Gift Certificate, and you’ll receive an email with a special discount code worth the exact value of the eBook (currently $6.99). To add the eBook to your own Christmas wish list, send friends and family members to the link below (

Get your gift certificate now!