Archives for May 2012

Fold your hands

Source: Susan Johnson via Flickr

In the past, I’ve talked about how having a child ask for permission can prevent behavior problems before they happen. Another tool in our prevention toolbox is to have our children fold their hands. Have this technique in the back of your mind when you are headed to an important dinner or any other place where you need to quiet the wiggles.

“When you begin to see those early signs that your kids are going to lose it physically or verbally, instruct them to fold their hands and work on getting some self-control,” (On Becoming Preschoolwise, p. 174).

The authors provide a scenario in which this technique was used very effectively:

“Louise began the training immediately. She and her family [met] the Ezzos that Saturday for breakfast. Toward the end of the meal, a little wandering leg propped itself up on sister’s chair. That would normally be enough of a catalyst to energize the two-and-a-half-year-old and four-year-old into all-out playtime right there in the restaurant–but Mom had another plan. Instead of the classic begs, bribes, and threats, she simply said, ‘Girls, we’re not quite ready to go yet. I want you to fold your hands and get some self-control.’

“Would you believe that in less than a minute those two little girls sat still, with their hands folded in their laps, subduing their impulsive behavior?” (On Becoming Preschoolwise, p. 174).

I’ve seen this play out with my kids. Just a few minutes with their hands folded (in the car, in a restaurant, etc.) is enough to get them to gain self-control. Without it, they snowball into playtime and I am left feeling powerless. If we’re in a place where this technique is useful it also means that my typical discipline measures (timeouts and logical consequences) aren’t appropriate or even feasible (like in the car). And since I have trained them to obey my word, they will fold their hands when I say so.

The reason folding hands works so well is that it channels the child’s energy somewhere. Simply telling a child to be quiet or to settle down doesn’t give them any way to channel their energy.

“When a young child folds his hands to get self-control, it handles all the excessive body energy that makes self-control so difficult. After all, if you want your child to settle down, his energy has to go somewhere. Now, instead of it going into squabbling, cartwheeling, or whispering, it can go into the hands,” (On Becoming Preschoolwise, p. 175).

One more trick to using this technique is to train your children before you actually need to use it.

“It is important to teach this technique to your child when things are calm. If you’re already in the conflict, your children are not going to be especially attentive pupils. You may have your child practice this at the table while you finish up last-minute mealtime preparations. Make it a fun game in the beginning. Demonstrate how to achieve self-control during a peaceful time so that when things begin to get out-of-hand, you’ve got the cure in place,” (On Becoming Preschoolwise, p. 175).

Have you ever had success with this technique? Try it out and let me know how it works for you!

Raise a voracious reader


Are you a reader? Do you understand the importance of reading for children? Do you read to your child?

Reading to our children is Parenting 101, but sadly, many parents don’t do it, particularly after the child has learned to read himself. Reading to our children and encouraging them to read has so many benefits. They include:

• Developing the imagination. (Reading requires kids to imagine the stories in their mind’s eye. TV creates the images for them.)

• Setting a foundation for phonics and pre-reading.

• Learning life-long spelling and grammar skills. (The non-readers I know couldn’t spell if their lives depended on it!)

• Broadening the vocabulary, exposing the reader to words he might not otherwise encounter.

• Encouraging grammatically correct speech. (Read quality literature and you’ll never read sentences like “Him and I are going to the store.” or “Where are you at?”)

• Developing a life-long love for reading.

These benefits just scratch the surface. But based on these alone, we should be encouraged to raise voracious readers. So how do you raise a voracious reader? Here are some tips:

• Start reading from day one. I started reading to my kids when they were 4 months old. It’s never too early to start.

• Schedule reading times. At a minimum, read before bed. Also read during lunch and before nap. For older children who may be reluctant readers, make daily reading a requirement.

• Have a “sustained silent reading” time every day. This is time where you all just sit around reading books on your own. You read your book and your children read theirs.

• Allow even the littlest ones to hold books. But teach children to respect books by carefully turning pages (not tearing them) and putting them away carefully (not throwing them!).

• Go to the library, often. Go to story times, join the library’s summer reading program, and let your child choose as many books as he wants.

• Surround yourselves in books. Keep reading spots in several areas of the home (bathroom, by the child’s bed, in the play room, etc.).

• Encourage friends and family to gift books for birthdays and Christmas. Teach children that books are a treasured gift.

• Be a reading role model. Let your children see you reading books. This is something I need to work on because I do most of my reading when they are asleep. This is where sustained silent reading helps.

• Put the electronics away. Limit your and your child’s screen time.

• Don’t rely on schools to create a voracious reader. Reading happens first and foremost in the home.

• Get squirrelly boys to sit and read. Allow them to read graphic novels, comic books, joke books, and general information non-fiction books. Do you see your boy picking up rocks outside to find bugs?Get an “All About Bugs” book from the library.

• Use programs like and the library’s summer reading program to give children incentives to read.

• Use sites like and to find good books. is my favorite new site. You can rate books you’ve read, and it will give you suggestions for books just like it. There are also lists created by others. I searched for children’s books that are in a series. There are several Indian in the Cupboard books. You can also search for Newbery and Caldecott award winners. (Look at all of these lists!) is also social, so you can see what your friends are reading and what they recommend.

• Read to your child long after he has learned to read on his own. Reading aloud enables you to read books that are beyond the child’s reading level. The vocabulary, plot lines, and character development are much richer. Also reading aloud enables you to vary your tone for punctuation (quotes, exclamation marks, etc.) which makes for a more interesting story.

• Allow your child to read over your shoulder. William follows along as I read to him and will sometimes correct me if I read a word too fast! The other day, he commented on the word “ajar” wondering why it was squished together like that (assuming it should have been “a jar”). This only happened because he saw the word, and it gave me a great opportunity to introduce a new vocabulary word! With pre-readers and emerging readers, you might point to words (particularly sight words) as you read them.

• Encourage quality, not quantity. Rich books like the Indian in the Cupboard and The Cricket in Times Square (William’s favorites!) are better than “twaddle” like Diary of a Wimpy Kid. (Don’t get me started on Captain Underpants. It has intentionally misspelled words! Luckily, William was smart enough to notice.)

• Savor books. Don’t zip through them, thinking more is more. Savor them and immerse yourselves in the characters’ lives. Even if your child wants to read more and more, just stop. Leave him hungry for more, and he’ll think and talk about the book and will ask for more reading times.

• Allow a child to read from a black-and-white e-reader like the Kindle if the device will create reading excitement. While iPads, the Kindle Fire, and other tablets can be good for reading, I suggest you avoid them. The temptation to play games can be too great, and would require quite a bit of oversight.

• Supplement reading with books on CD. These are perfect for room time. But be sure to use these as a supplement, not a replacement for reading.

If you like these tips and want to know more about the importance of reading, pick up a copy of The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. Not only does it offer statistics about reading, but also it offers great suggestions for books. Nearly half the book is devoted to book suggestions.

Happy reading!

Encourage meaningful, life-long learning


On Monday, I talked about how important it is to focus on cultivating critical thinking in our children, in favor of rote academic learning. If you haven’t already, take a minute to go back and read that post. This one will make more sense if you’ve read that one.

In that post, I talked about the two scenarios of successful school experiences, one where the child learns through worksheets and another where the child learns by acting out characters from literature. My suggestions today will encourage more of the latter.

Your primary goal with this type of learning is to make learning a joyful, meaningful experience. You want your child to learn because it’s fun, not because he’s required to or because he gets some sort of treat out of the deal. Teach your child how fun learning can be.

For learning to be meaningful, set aside the worksheets and flash cards, especially for your toddlers and young preschoolers. Even for older kids who are in school, this is an important exercise, especially if you’re working against a serious distaste for learning. Unfortunately, many public schools don’t encourage a love of learning. Take the summer to try some of these tips and to follow his lead.

Ideas for meaningful learning that encourages critical thinking


As you read a picture book, or when you’re done reading, ask your child to tell you what she heard. Charlotte Mason homeschoolers (read this link if you haven’t heard of Charlotte mason) call this narration. You might prod her with a few questions like, “Who was the main character?” or “Where did this

story take place?” But ultimately, you want her to make the connections. Instead, try asking open-ended questions like, “Tell me what you think of the story,” or “Describe the place where they live” or “What was your favorite part of the story?” You want her to decide what components of the book have meaning to her life. Something like, “Little Bear is like me because he has lots of friends who like to be silly” is perfect. Get into the habit of having her narrate every book you read. Start simple but allow her to go on and on if she wants. If she does go on and on, make note of the book and find more like it.

Bring characters into your home. One of the Little Bear stories describes the characters making “birthday soup.” Make an activity out of this. You can make real soup and call it birthday soup or you can just make pretend “soup” and allow her decide what ingredients to put in it. Find other books that talk about soup (like Stone Soup).

Act out the stories together. In the Frog and Toad series, Toad is usually pretty grumpy. You might spend your day acting grumpy. Make grumpy faces and look

at yourselves in the mirror. Your feigned grumpiness will bring out lots of smiles and laughter.

Take turns telling the same story. We did this last weekend while roasting marshmallows in the back yard. It goes like this: Me: “Once upon a time there were two little boys who always had a smudge of dirt on their foreheads.” (I’m relating it to my boys.) “Their mom tried to rub those smudges off, but no matter how hard she tried they would always come back.” I’ll give a few more sentences and then pass the story to William. He’ll talk about the same boys and mom and take it in a completely different direction. He might make it scary or silly. Then he’ll pass it to Lucas, and Lucas will pass it to my husband, and so on.


Use rich language in your daily interactions. Don’t dumb down your words. There will be times she’ll pick up the meaning from the context of the situation, and other times, she’ll ask you what it means. Just today, I told Lucas that we didn’t say goodbye to his preschool friends because they were “concentrating on a story” that was being read to them. He asked me what “concentrating” meant (hard work pronouncing it correctly). I’ll give a simple answer and a more complex answer. So I’ll say, “Concentrating means focusing or listening intently.” Then he might ask, “What does intently mean?” We might go on like that with several words.


There are so many real-world math scenarios in our world. You just have to keep your eyes out for them. Here are some examples:

After baking a cake, cut it up together. First you cut it in half. Then in quarters. Then in sixths and so on. Don’t necessarily tell her about “fractions” as this won’t have meaning for her, but she can see how cutting in criss-cross ways makes several pieces. Count the number of pieces you cut.

Count the steps as you walk upstairs. Or “count” by naming letters of the alphabet for every step.

Practice estimating by guessing how many steps it will take to get from the front door to the car. Then count and see whose answer was the closest. See how many steps it takes when taking tiny steps versus giant steps.

Teach “addition and subtraction” at dinner time. (The quotes here mean that these are the actual topics, but you won’t be calling them by name.) Be silly with it. Say, “My what a good pea eater you are!” Ask her how many peas she has left. Count with her if she needs help. Then ask her what happens if she eats two more. Count how many are left. Then ask her what happens if you give her three of your peas. How many does she have now?

Teach “division” at snack time. Start out with a plate of cookies for you and her. If there are 5 cookies, ask her how many cookies you will each get. Then ask her if there will be any leftover (for daddy). Or if she doesn’t want to save the last cookie for daddy, see if she can problem-solve to figure out what to do with the last cookie so you can share it. Can she think critically enough to figure out to cut it in half?

Teach the value of money by having a lemonade stand. Make the lemonade together (start with frozen juice and count the number of cups of water to add). Decide how much you’ll charge. Count the money together. Sell something like chips along with the lemonade. Figure out how much each bag of chips costs and how much she’d have to charge to make a profit.


Go outside. Take a nature walk. See what strikes her fancy. If she stops to watch a trail of ants, let her sit and stare at them. If she asks about ants, talk about them. But just have a conversation; take care not to lecture her. Again, it’s all about making it meaningful to her. Or do the same with bees. Just sit and watch the bees as they buzz from one flower to another. Continue on your walk acting like bees, buzzing and flying (and maybe even stinging each other!).

Bring her into the kitchen with you. As you’re making your “birthday soup” (see above) show her how the soup will boil when it gets hot. Show her how it bubbles up. Show her how steam comes up. Or better yet, just let her watch it simmer and see if she notices and asks you about it.

Go to the zoo or pet store on a regular basis. Learn about all the different kinds of animals. See if a local animal shelter or vet’s office will let you volunteer or at least watch how they work.

Go on a night walk on a clear night. Turn off the flashlights or leave them at home. Let your eyes adjust so you can see all the stars in the sky. Point them out and then see if she has any questions. She might just look or it might inspire a weeks-long study of planets and stars. Let her lead you, but be ready to introduce resources. Take her to the library and show her how she can ask the librarian for stories on stars. Teach her how you can Google a topic to learn more. Or find a documentary that she can watch to learn more.


Sit down with grandparents or great-grandparents and ask them to tell stories about what life was like when they were kids. If you don’t have any grandparents nearby, see if a local nursing home will let you visit and volunteer. Exposure to older, wiser people is healthy for the mind and spirit.

Read novels that are set in a particular time period. Or read biographies of important people. Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, etc. Find books that tell the story in an interesting, age-appropriate way. There’s a series of books by Ingri D’Aulaire that is great.


Talk about where you live. Talk about where friends and family live. When you go on vacation show her on a map (or better yet, a globe) where you’re going and where you’ve been.

Send a package to someone and use UPS so you can track its progress online. Then you can look on the map or globe to see where your package is as it travels to its destination.

And again, incorporate this into your literature time. Read novels that discuss geography in an interesting way. The Holling C. Holling books are great for this.

Other thoughts

As you work on these things together, be careful not to narrate your day. You narrating would sound like, “That’s a flower. It’s a yellow flower. It has 10 petals on it. It has a green stem with 4 leaves on it. It grows out of the ground and needs sun and water to grow.” Blah, blah, blah. If she asks the color of the flower or wants to know how flowers grow, then by all means, tell her. But don’t narrate or lecture. You want her to make the connections and for the learning to be meaningful to her.

You might even start your new learning life by asking her what she wants to learn about. I asked William (age 7.5) this recently, and he quickly answered, “Dinosaurs!” He said he wanted to know all about the time period in which they lived, how they became extinct, etc. At the farmer’s market on Saturday, we came across an Usborne book on dinosaurs. Flipping through it, he was fascinated to see how small people are in comparison to dinosaurs (the book had pictures drawn to scale). Interestingly, Lucas said he wanted to learn about spelling. At 4.5, he’s at that natural pre-reading stage! He’s constantly saying things like, “Puh, puh, puh. Popcorn starts with P!”

The great thing about meaningful learning is that when the time does come for them to learn abstract concepts like recognizing letters and numbers or learning the sounds of letters, they’ll already have been exposed to the topic. When Lucas learns subtraction in school, he’ll be able to say, “This is like what we do at dinner time with my peas!”


Cultivate critical thinking


Last week, I encouraged you to put the flash cards away and trade rote academic teaching for imaginative play and virtue development. Some of you may have wondered whether parents could do both. Can’t we keep the flash cards out as long as we also work with them on important virtues that will serve them well in school?

This would seem to make sense, right? Sorry, but I still encourage you to put the flash cards away. Here’s why.

Abstracts concepts like flat numbers and letters limit our children’s ability to think critically, especially if they are introduced at a time when the child is not developmentally ready for them.

Critical thinking has become a rare commodity in our country. We can succeed in school as long as we ace the multiple choice tests, fill in the right bubbles on standardized tests, and memorize random facts that the schools deem important.

I don’t know about you, but I would much rather have a child who can read a piece of classical literature, analyze it for meaning, and write a critical essay on the topic. Yes, there is a time and place for absorbing facts, but if they have no meaning, they will quickly be forgotten.

The role of fantasy in critical thinking

I touched on the importance of imaginative play in a recent post. Supporting my thoughts, this article offers a great explanation as to why critical thinking is so important (despite the decline we now see) and how cultivating our children’s imagination or fantasy plays an important role. The author says:

“If fantasy is allowed to ripen side by side with thinking, these two faculties mature into creative thinking, a capacity to visualize not only how things are but also how they might be.”

This plays out in the world as a whole but also in school.

“Without imagination, one cannot picture an event in history, a verbal problem in mathematics, or the characters of a book. To approach academic subjects without imagination is a dull affair at best, and it is not surprising that children who are being educated without benefit of imagination at the elementary level find learning so uninteresting.”

Imagine the stress and burnout that arises from such uninteresting learning. How many teens do you know who truly enjoy going to school? How many adults do you know who enjoy learning for the sake of learning?

“At the elementary school level, one frequently hears about burnout among third- and fourth-grade pupils. After age nine, many children simply do not want to learn any more. In the high school, educators say that many students seem unable to think. Ask them a defined question that requires a true/false answer or a multiple choice, and they do all right. But ask them to think through a problem and explain their solutions, and many are at a loss.”

What does academic success look like?

Maybe this simple exercise will help. When you imagine your child succeeding in school, what do you think of?

Scenario A

  • She leaves preschool able to read all of the “-at” words and doing basic math (1+2).
  • She thrives on earning straight As.
  • She spends her free time doing worksheets.
  • She smiles when the teacher puts a gold star on her paper.

Sounds great, right? Well, think about this scenario.

Scenario B

  • She comes bounding in the door after school excited to get started on her science experiment. You have to stop her to eat a snack.
  • As she works on her homework, she makes a mental connection that you never expected.
  • You hear from the teacher that she told the kids all about Picasso. You then realize it was from the art exhibit you visited 3 months ago.
  • You see her acting out a play with her friends and realize all of the characters are from the classical novel you’ve been reading to her at night.

Which scenario do you think will encourage a life-long love of learning? Which scenario requires fantasy (and thus, critical thought)? Which scenario will prevent boredom? Which scenario sounds more fun?

Can’t we still teach them letters and numbers?

Yes, just not yet. There is a developmentally appropriate time for a child to learn how to read. In my experience, early reading begins around age 5, and if you let it happen naturally, it won’t be long (6 months to a year) before he reads fluently. As with potty training, if you start when they are ready and let it progress naturally, it will happen much more quickly and painlessly.

Some of you may even contend that your toddler wants to learn his letters and numbers. If this is the case, I ask you why you think he wants to learn them. What meaning do they have for him? I’m willing to bet that the joy he gets is seeing your smiles and hearing your praise. If you can give the same smiles and praise over more meaningful learning, he will be just as excited to learn.

Understand that it’s not just a matter of how much time you devote to learning. What you teach your child—and when you teach it—can affect his neurodevelopment.

Another article explains this clearly:

“Perhaps most disturbing is the potential for the early exposure to academics to physiologically damage developing brains. Although the brain continues to change throughout life in response to learning, young children undergo a number of sensitive periods critical to healthy development; learning to speak a language and responding to social cues are two such domains. Appropriate experiences can hone neural pathways that will help the child during life; by the same token, stressful experiences can change the brain’s architecture to make children significantly more susceptible to problems later in life, including depression, anxiety disorders—even cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Bruce McEwen, a neuroendocrinologist at the Rockefeller University, notes that asking children to handle material that their brain is not yet equipped for can cause frustration. Perceiving a lack of control is a major trigger of toxic stress, which can damage the hippocampus, a brain area crucial to learning and memory.”

I don’t intend for this to be a scare tactic. But given that teaching abstract letters and numbers has the potential to negatively affect your young child’s brain and his ability to process information—and that we prefer scenario B listed above anyway—why would you want to push early academic learning? Why wouldn’t you want to put those flash cards away?

I’ll leave at that for now. In my next post, I’ll give you some ideas on what you can start doing today to cultivate critical thinking and encourage life-long learning that has meaning for your child.

School’s almost out! Structure your summer


Many of us are heading into the last few weeks of school for the year. My boys get out of school on June 13. That’s just a few weeks before we will be forced to make some routine adjustments. While I look forward to having them home, I know that I will have to structure our days, or else they’ll end up getting into all kinds of trouble!

I had a rude awakening just the other day. I had to get some work done after they came home from school. You would have thought a tornado had run through our house! My husband even asked what happened. If I had just taken a few minutes to put them in roomtime or sibling playtime in one of their rooms, they would have caused far less mischief (and mess).

So save yourself this hassle all summer long. And no, you don’t need to be running all over town driving from one summer camp to the next. Just structure your days at home. Read more for some background on structuring your day and creating your schedule.

If you’re not one to follow a strict schedule, just jot down a few items and when they’ll take place. They might include:

  • Regular meals and snacks
  • Roomtime
  • Sibling playtime
  • Naps/quiet time (depending on the age of the child)
  • Reading time
  • Couch time
  • Chores
  • Bath/shower

I would advise you to have just these basics down every day. If those don’t quite fill your days, other schedule items include:

  • Classes: art, music, etc.
  • Library story times
  • Outside play (This can be so important for quality sleep, it might belong in the must-have category.)
  • TV/computer time (Keep it limited.)
  • Mom time
  • “Summer school” (Don’t let their brains rot over summer! Research homeschool websites for ideas. There are a ton of free resources out there.)
  • Time with friends (Schedule weekly play dates.)
  • “Field trips” like zoo, museum outings

Also, think about any skills you might want to teach your child over the summer. Your days will be less chaotic than school days, so you might want to take the opportunity to teach your child how to tie his shoes, properly brush his own teeth, ride a bike, organize his toys, cook a meal, write letters to grandparents, and more.

Take the time now to create your summer schedule!

Put the flash cards away


I realize this post may be unpopular with some, but let me assure you, doing flash cards with your toddler or preschooler is not the path to success in school. Sure, we all want our kids to do well in school and be the best and smartest in the class. But doing rote memorization and teaching abstract academic concepts too early can be more of a detriment. This is particularly true when it’s done in the place of important heart training.

There is so much more to this issue than I can even touch on in one post, but please understand that having a child who can read at age 2 is not a sure-fire path to success. So what is the path to success? Letting your child develop at a natural pace is what will prepare him for school. The second year of a child’s life (after his 1st birthday) is all about walking and talking. The third year (after his 2nd birthday) is all about asserting some independence and realizing that the child is separate from his parents. Age 3 should be all about imaginative play. Some parents mistakenly assume that a confidently talking child can start to learn real academics. But please don’t deprive your child of imaginative play. It is crucial to a child’s brain development.

Just as important as the natural order of development is taking the time to teach values and virtues. This will do far more than teaching a 3-year-old his times tables. Which would you prefer? A child who knows his academics early but disrespects authority, or a child who knows the virtues and values that it takes to successfully navigate his way through school? Consider the following:

“Little Stephanie waits patiently while her preschool teacher hands out the animal crackers. With camel, sheep, and monkey cookies placed before her, Stephanie looks up and with a gentle touch of her fingers to her lips she signs the words thank you. No one is surprised then, when Stephanie, after carefully discarding her napkin, is among the first to respond when the teacher calls the class to reading time,” (On Becoming Preschoolwise, p. 29).

Clearly, Stephanie’s parents were focused on much more than academics.

“While others in her group may be stimulated at home with flash cards and Spanish tapes, Stephanie’s parents, along with many others in this new generation of Moms and Dads, have chosen to equally emphasize another component of development that includes: virtues, values, and Stephanie’s heart,” (On Becoming Preschoolwise, p. 29).

Don’t discount the importance of such teachings in preparation for school (no matter when you start).

The book says it best:

“Think about it. Order, patience, self-control, attention, thinking before acting–all are prerequisites to learning…. Learning to count from one to ten or picking colors from a chart does not make your preschooler kinder, more self-controlled, or easier to manage, “(On Becoming Preschoolwise, p. 37).

And not only will these skills serve him well in school; they will serve him well in life.

Teach moral reasoning


How deep do your moral lessons go? Are you working with your children on the golden rule? Do your children truly know the reasons behind the moral lessons you give? It’s important to not only teach moral truths, but also give our children the tools to reason and process moral situations.

“The prerequisite to moral reasoning is knowing moral truth,” (On Becoming Childwise).

So from our earliest parenting years, we must teach our children in moral situations. For example, we need to teach them not only to not pick flowers in a neighbors’ garden, but we need to teach them that doing so robs the neighbor of enjoying the flowers she worked so hard to plant. We need to teach the moral truth behind even the most basic instructions.

I like the example given in “Amy’s story” in chapter 10 of On Becoming Childwise:

“Briana was celebrating her eleventh birthday, together with her family. They were traveling on her birthday, but her parents brought along many of her gifts. Her special present that year was something she had been wanting for a long time: a vanity for her bedroom. After opening her gifts, Briana’s dad told her that a special gift was waiting for her at home because it was too large to bring along. Briana started giving guesses as to what it might be. Amy, Briana’s eight-year-old sister, blurted, ‘It’s a vanity!’ Immediately, tears flooded Briana’s eyes,” (On Becoming Childwise).

It’s easy to see that this there is a moral lesson to be taught in such an example. Amy’s sister was excited about a gift, and something Amy said brought her sister to tears. That alone is enough to warrant a conversation centered on moral principles.

After Amy was told to sit in a reflective sit-time, Amy was asked to morally process what had happened. Her parents needed her to say more than just “I told Briana what her gift was.” They wanted her to know on a deeper level why what she said was wrong.

“After forty-five minutes, Amy tearfully confessed what she had done, and her confession was beautiful: ‘I stole Briana’s joy of receiving the gift as a surprise.’ Wow! Where did that answer come from? From an ability to morally process. Here [was] an eight-year-old child coming up with an adult-sized answer,” (On Becoming Childwise).

In Amy’s case, her parents had been actively investing moral truth into Amy’s heart.

“This deposit of moral truth created an infrastructure of logical thought that enabled Amy to deeply process. Without a knowledge of virtues and values, children will be limited in their ability to reason and process moral situations,” (On Becoming Childwise).

But clearly, with that moral infrastructure, children can process moral situations and truly understand the moral ramifications of their actions. They are able to put themselves in another person’s shoes to see the situation from their perspective. In this case, Amy was able to see the situation from Briana’s perspective. This is a skill that she had learned. Because of this skill, she could truly admit to the hurt that her actions had caused her sister. And she will have learned to think twice before blurting out an answer that she so desperately wants to give.

Think about similar situations in your daily life. Do you take the time to fully explain the moral truth to your children? Do you tell your children not to run in the grocery store, or do you take the time to explain that they could hurt someone (or themselves) or make other shoppers nervous? Do you tell your child not to climb up the slide, or do you explain that by climbing up the slide, he is preventing other children from going down? Do you tell your child not to tattle, or do you explain that tattling is just as bad as (or worse than) the action that prompted it?

As you go about your day, make note of opportunities to teach moral truths, and invest the time that it takes to give your children the important skill of moral reasoning.

Give instructions only once


The Ezzos continually remind us to never repeat instructions to our children. There’s a fine line between reminding children of our expectations and nagging. When we nag, our children learn to ignore our word. And this is potentially one of the worst things that could happen to a parent.

The idea is so important, it is called out as Childwise Principle #12.

“Constantly reminding a child to do what is expected only means you have no expectation,” (On Becoming Childwise).

This is so true! Why shouldn’t our children obey the first time we give an instruction? When we set the expectation that they obey the first time, they are more likely to do so. This is especially true when we take the time to train our children in first-time obedience. Training them to say “yes, mommy” and give us eye contact are two very important steps in eliminating the need to constantly remind our children.

The effects of long-term reminders are far-reaching:

“What happens when the reminders aren’t repeated in successive sentences but over a period of hours, days, or weeks? No wonder the child doesn’t appropriate your instructions: there are no consequences for neglecting them, and anyway they’ll be repeated tomorrow so why remember today? At what point will you stop reminding?” (On Becoming Childwise).

It all comes down to accountability.

“When parents continue to instruct and remind their children how to behave after accountability training has been achieved, they are taking back ownership of a behavior that should no longer belong to them,” (On Becoming Childwise).

There are three very important ways you can eliminate the need to remind your child:

  1. Simply expect that your child will comply. Set the bar high, and he will rise to it.
  2. Get your “yes, mommy” and eye contact before giving an instruction.
  3. Maintain eye contact, even if you need to gently hold his chin, while you give an instruction.

If you do these three things, you will have no doubt that your child heard your instruction. And you can move on to appropriate consequences if he chooses to disobey.

Consistent bedtime

By Bethany Lynch,

Bedtime is one of the main sleep issues that parents struggle with in children. The problems range from developmental disturbances and nap-related disturbances to summer activities. Occasionally, it is also a temptation to relax the bedtime routine out of guilt.

Source: Nerissa's Ring

As a working mom, having a consistent bedtime has been a lifesaver…one of my top tips. However, it is often tempting to be much more permissive about bedtime and blame it on not getting enough quality time with our kids.

Permissiveness leads to inconsistency.

Letting my kids stay up late out of guilt is not quality time for me or for them. I am a much better mom by having well-rested children, and they love having a well-rested mom. We also make few exceptions.
Some, yes, but not many. We have left parties early, sent strict notes to the grandparents, and put a lot of effort into establishing an efficient routine.

Here is how we did it:

  • Stick to the plan. Once bedtime routine starts, there is hardly any variation. Ours is brush teeth, pajamas, pick/read a book, say prayers, sing a song, tuck in, lights out, door closed.
  • Establish consequences for purposely not obeying the bedtime routine. The first consequence is losing the privilege of picking the book. The
    second consequence is losing the privilege of reading a book. Last would be going straight to bed the second pjs are on, but rarely, if ever, have we gotten to that point.
  • Make bedtime a priority. I usually start picking or guiding activities about 15-30 minutes before our bedtime routine starts. For
    example, if bathtime runs long, then any TV time before bed is either eliminated or cut short. We also aim to be home before bedtime and
    carefully choose activities that will not compete with getting home close to bedtime.
  • Do not over-analyze bedtime difficulties. It is very common for toddlers to have bedtime disruptions around 2 years old and again when
    naptime needs to be shortened. I have been there, and I tried everything. It almost always comes back to staying consistent. See #1!
  • Cherish the routine and make it work. If bathtime takes too long every night, try every other night or 3 nights a week. If you have a
    special family event, do not be a slave to the routine. That is the beauty of the -wise series…flexibility when you need it. I have also
    had some of the best conversations ever with my children during bedtime. Some nights I stay for extra kisses, cuddles, and questions. My son also knows that once the door is closed, it stays closed. My daughter with SPD sometimes gets a 2nd check if she has an extremely hard time soothing herself.

Start as you mean to go on and know that bedtime can be enjoyable for everyone!

Are you a wife or mom first?


Note: Forgive me for assuming most of my readers are women. For the few men who read my blog, this post does also apply to you.

Are you a wife or mom first? Do you identify yourself as a wife or mom? Which relationship do you make a priority in your life?

We all take on many different roles in our lives based on our relationships with others: friend, sister, aunt, niece, daughter, granddaughter, etc. Our roles of wife and mom take precedence simply because we spend our days with our children and husbands. And when our children are young, we spend the majority of our time caring for them and tending to their needs.

But let me assure you, for the benefit of your family, your role of wife should be a higher priority than that of mom. By redefining the husband-wife relationship, you run the risk of maintaining a child-centered household. In a child-centered home, you are not wife; you are mom. And as mom, you are less accountable to your spouse and yourself. You are solely accountable to the child.

For many, it’s preferable to only be accountable to the child because:

  • As parents, we are perfect in our child’s eyes.
  • Unlike any other role in our lives, our role as mom allows us to feel needed. Our children give us purpose.
  • Our culture says that we can do anything we want as long as it’s what we deem best for the child.

“Some parents equate overindulgence with love, giving a child everything he wants in the belief that they are teaching some form of benevolence. Withholding correction from the child is equated with teaching a form of heavenly grace. Tolerating disobedience is equated to teaching patience. Diverting a child from sadness, regardless of the root cause of that sadness, is thought to be a form of compassion and consolation,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 47-48).

I’ll be the first to admit that prioritizing my marriage is not easy. As a stay-at-home mom, my kids are my primary focus. And our culture makes it so easy and acceptable to put the children first. But make no mistake, child-centered parenting creates within the child a false sense of self-reliance. The child becomes wise in his own eyes and attitude issues run rampant. Do all that you can to prioritize your role of wife over that of mom.