Archives for September 2012

Back in their own beds?


I’ve seen so many articles lately on the topic of children in the parents’ bed. This notion of the “family bed” isn’t a new one, but it is so foreign to me that I’m a little surprised to see that it is still so prevalent.

See, I thought the pendulum was swinging. When our parents were kids, they were taught to be seen and not heard. They were taught to obey at all costs. This notion of the “family bed” didn’t exist. And even when I was a kid, I can’t imagine a child sleeping in his parents’ bed.

I thought the “family bed” idea was at its peak about 10 years ago and that the pendulum had begun to swing in the other direction. I’m not sure why, but I was thinking that most kids sleep in their own beds nowadays. I guess I was wrong. The “every child gets a trophy” generation has been coddled so much by their helicopter parents that their self-esteem is being protected even while they sleep.

I know many good, caring, loving, dutiful moms who have their babies — and children — in bed with them. There’s even a small part of me that envies those snuggles. But I simply don’t think it’s worth it.

I may not win any popularity points with this post, but I will mention a few of my beliefs:

1) What good is a mom or dad who doesn’t get enough sleep? With feet or elbows in your ribs, can you be the best parent you can be without a solid night’s sleep? How patient can you be when all you’ve had is 6 hours of fully interrupted sleep?

2) Who’s to say that the child’s self-esteem is protected in the family bed? My stance has always been that my children are stronger because I prepare them for the world, not shield them from it.

3) When a child sleeps between mom and dad, how stable is the marriage upon which the family — and child — stands? I know many moms who say their marriages are stable and that it doesn’t matter where they sleep. That’s wonderful. But I also know of many marriages that thrive because of those nighttime snuggles (between husband and wife) and early morning chats. Besides, I often wonder how equitable the family bed is anyway. See my next point.

4) Do both parents usually agree to the idea? I’ve heard stories of the family bed not being so family friendly. Dad, who has to be up early in the morning and coherent at work, often sleeps in another spot in the house.

5) And finally, is this what’s truly best for the child? At what point will you send him back to his own bed? Will it really be easier to do so at 6, not 6 months? Won’t the habit be so engrained at that point? What happens when a new baby comes along? If he needs you by his side to go to sleep, does he go to bed late or do you go to bed early? Is he learning that he shouldn’t feel comfortable being alone? Is he being taught to be overly dependent on his parents when he might want to spread his wings a bit?

This reminds me of a comment I made here recently about Lucas and his lovey. It’s somewhat insignificant, but I really want him to need his lovey. The boy is almost 5, and I in denial that my baby is growing up. I need that lovey more than he does. But the fact of the matter is he doesn’t need it. He’ll hold onto it sometimes, but usually, it’s for my benefit. He knows that I want him to want it. And honestly, it bothers me a little. It’s sweet that he’s thinking of me, but at the same time, I wonder if I’m stifling his independence, his desire to grow up.

The same can be said about the family bed. Our kids want to grow up. They can’t wait to be grownups. They can’t wait to have the freedom and independence that we adults all seem to have. So why should we deny them that independence when it comes to something as simple as sleep?

There’s another article that came out recently that reflects my opinions. In My Message to Dr. Sears, the author discusses “detachment parenting.” She states:

I read a great book when I was pregnant, Suzy Giordano’s Twelve Hours Sleep by Twelve Weeks Old. (It was recommended by a well-rested friend.) She says it’s our responsibility to teach our children many things. We of course expect to teach them to eat and sit up, walk, talk, say please and wait for the green light. But she says the very first thing we have to teach them, right out of the womb, is to self-soothe. That self-reliance and self-confidence needs to be rooted in the core of their being. That thrilled me. I want a daughter who believes that she has everything inside her to meet all of life’s challenges and isn’t waiting for some invisible hand to help her do something as simple as fall asleep.

I could not agree more!


How well do you know your child?


I’ve talked about love languages in the past. Knowing our children’s love language is so important to giving them the love they need. But we must also take it a step further to determine how best to fulfill their love language.

Recently, a friend told me that her son requires daily morning snuggles. One day, they were having a difficult homeschool day, and she realized that he hadn’t gotten his morning snuggles. She said it’s the equivalent of her having her morning coffee. Nothing earth-shattering happens if he doesn’t get his snuggles, but he feels a little off without it.

Physical touch is also Lucas’ love language. When we start our homeschool day, I have him sit on my lap during our calendar time. And I noticed just today that the child will sit on my lap any chance he gets. Whether we’re doing school work or waiting at the doctor’s office, he will sit on my lap even if there’s an empty chair nearby. I like that he seeks this physical touch from me and doesn’t simply wait for me to offer it.

William’s love language, quality time, is a little more difficult to satisfy. With Lucas, I can just have him sit on my lap as we go about our day. For William, I have to take time out of my day to give him quality time. Our bedtime reading certainly accommodates his love language. And interestingly enough, he seems to be fine with quality time from his brother as much as from his parents. They play so well together, and as long as he’s not alone, he seems fine.

If you’re still uncertain of your child’s love language (it could take a few years to figure it out) be patient but always keep an eye out. And then once you do figure it out, find real-world activities that help satisfy that love language. Whether it’s morning snuggles or a strange love language quirk, figure out what the child needs and show him love in the way he will receive it.

Do you say “no” too often?


How many times in a day do you hear the word “no” escape your lips? Do you feel like all you ever do is say “no” to your child?

There are some parents who are so legalistic in the training/teaching of their children, that they say “no” much more often than they say “yes.” Do you fall into that category?

If so, imagine life from your child’s perspective. Yes, many times when we say “no” it is valid. Whether the child is being unsafe or flagrantly defying our instructions, saying “no” to our children is perfectly fine. But how about all the other times in the day?

I’ll be honest, I sometimes feel like my husband and I say “no” to our kids too often. There are many times when it’s warranted, but then I try to imagine life from my kids’ perspective. It can be stifling. It can create an “us vs. them” (children vs. parents) adversarial mentality. Really, when they’re just curious about something and not hurting anything, we should just allow the behavior.

So when you’re tempted to say “no,” stop and ask yourself if any of the following are true of the behavior:

  • Is it unsafe?
  • Is it hurting anyone or anything?
  • If it continues, will it bother you?
  • Will it lead to long-term behavior problems?
  • Does the child know when and where the behavior is unacceptable? (For example, if you allow a child to hold his lovey during dinner, does he know it’s inappropriate to bring it to a restaurant?)

And finally, ask yourself if any of your child’s misbehaviors are a direct result of the fact that you say “no” too often. When our kids feel stifled, they often act out because of it. When they are denied every bit of freedom, some children will try to get it in any way they can.

Discipline is heart training


Did you know that the root of the word “discipline” has nothing to do with punishment? We often think of discipline as punishment, as a way to correct our kids’ misdeeds. Such discipline isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We parents just need to understand that there’s much more to discipline than punishment.

The Ezzos explain it this way:

“Today, we define discipline as punishment. But discipline in its truest sense refers to one thing: training. Heart training. … The word discipline comes from the same Latin root (discipulus) as ‘disciple’ — one who is a learner. Parents are the teachers, children are the disciples,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 114).

As we correct our children, we must ensure that teaching is our goal. If the child doesn’t learn from his mistakes, you will be correcting for the same misdeeds over and over. And more than correcting specific behaviors, we need to make sure our kids understand the effects that their behaviors have on others.

“Discipline — heart training — is best accomplished by parenting from the first principle. Values-based discipline urges children to treat other people the way they want to be treated. Neither child-centered nor authoritarian parenting styles emphasize personal responsibility, inner growth, self-control, and other virtues the way first principle parenting does. We have found that if parents shape their child’s heart and character, they will not have to concentrate as much on reshaping the child’s outward behavior,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 115).

Recently, I’ve been teaching my kids that making somebody wait is rude. It’s another way that they are showing disrespect for others. This usually comes up when we’re getting into the car. William will have his nose in his book and take his sweet time buckling his carseat. Lucas, will sit in his seat and will immediately reach for a book or toy, which usually gets in the way as we attempt to buckle him up.

In the past, I’ve simply said “hurry up” or “put the book down.” But it’s never been a big enough issue for me to deal with it head on. That is, until I recently realized that they are making me wait and that it’s simply rude.

So as you discipline your children (through a timeout or a benign verbal correction), keep heart training in mind. Explain to them why you are correcting them and be sure to emphasize the morals that stand behind your correction.


Lovey comes home

Have you seen this amazing video that’s been circulating the social media circles? If not, grab a tissue. Be prepared to shed a few tears.

This boy, Liam, lost his lovey on a camping trip three years ago. When on eBay, Liam’s mom decided to do a search for the lovey, named Ah Ah. This is the crazy part: she found it. It was the same exact monkey. Its tag had a jagged cut just like the one they lost three years ago. It’s hair was singed just like the one they lost three years ago. This video is of her giving Ah Ah back to Liam.

I’m a sucker for my kids’ loveys. Lucas has a blanket with a duck head that I still insist he sleep with. I’ll put it on my shoulder when I’m reading a bedtime story. I’ll lay it out on his pillow for every nap and night. He proceeds to shove it to the side of the bed as if he’s too old to have it. Many times, I think he hasn’t said anything about it because he knows I need him to use it. My baby is getting too big too fast, and I think he knows I struggle with this fact.

So you can imagine how I felt when I saw my big boy William snuggling with his old lovey. His lovey got put away much earlier than Lucas’ did, but it’s always been in the house. In the past, I’ve reminded him how much he loved this particular bear and how he used to hold it tightly around its neck. It’s interesting to me that he didn’t remember it, yet, just a few days ago, at eight years old, William was snuggling with his shaggy bear in bed. Makes a mom’s heart smile.

Do your kids have loveys? Do they carry them everywhere they go or do they stay in bed? Do they seem to sleep better with lovey in hand? I’d love to hear all your lovey stories!

Helicopter moms at the park


I just came across this hilarious post at Motherlode (parenting blog sponsored by The NY Times) about moms who can’t help but be helicopter parents over their children at the park. It’s a reality check to all those helicopter moms we see at the park. This sums it up:

Oh, I know you mean well. You’re trying to be a good mom. In fact, you are a good mom. That’s the problem. Your enthusiasm is killing my buzz. See, I’m a mother, too, at the very same park with my 4-year-old, but I’m here to stop mothering. The playground has a gate, and the asphalt is covered with rubber mats. If I can’t turn on my iPhone and tune out here, I don’t want to live.

Here’s another gem:

Wait, where are you going? Back to your daughter so soon! Oh dear. Is that a BPA-free plastic shovel in your hand? You know, my mom used to say, “One man’s litter is my child’s toy.” Just before you arrived, I passed this wisdom on to my son when I gave him a Starbucks cup I saw wedged under the slide. The trash can’s loss was our gain.

I agree. It’s not that I completely ignore my kids when we’re at the park, but if I happen to pull out my iPhone, I’m not going to feel guilty. If I opt to sit on a bench for a nice chat with a friend, I’ll do that. I may even pull out a book. If they’re enjoying themselves (which they always are at the park), why can’t I?

When my kids were younger, I was more attentive at the park. This was especially true with my eldest who was a complete daredevil at the park. At age two, he was scaling ladders that other five-year-olds were hesitant to attempt. So I would spot them, help them up on swings, push them on swings, and offer any other help they requested.

I suppose that gets to the crux of helicopter parenting. If they need help, help them. If not, give them the freedom to explore and find their own way. Don’t teach your child that he can treat you as his servant. Don’t offer him juice that he doesn’t request. Don’t chase after him shoving food in his mouth. Don’t act as if he’s incapable of finding his own fun.

At the same time, treat yourself to a little time off. Of course, keep an eye on your little ones at the park, but don’t feel like you have to teach him how to use the slide, join in other kids’ games, etc. If he’s having fun, leave him alone and find some fun of your own!


First-time obedience in front of others

By Bethany Lynch,

As a mom with a full-time occupation outside the home, I am still quite passionate about requiring first-time obedience. Sometimes that means we have to put in a lot of effort to require first-time obedience or address the lack thereof very promptly. We often do not have all day to work on attitudes, so it feels like we have to work double time. It is extremely tempting to make excuses for not working on it…I have already put in over 8 hours of work outside of the house, people will understand that I have been gone, I feel guilty for being gone so I let my children get away with more, and so on.

I try really, really hard to limit that line of thinking. I knew before we had children that we believed in first-time obedience, and I knew that I would most likely have a full-time occupation. The only surprise was just how much time it can take to reinforce obedience. I think one of the hardest times to require first-time obedience is in public or in front of others.

When I have limited time to run errands, the last thing I want to have to do is leave my cart full of carefully selected items to take a screaming toddler out of the store. When we actually find a night to get together with friends, it is so easy to let children run around like tornadoes just so the adults can talk for a few uninterrupted minutes. What if we come across as overly strict in front of others?

I can tell you from skilled personal experience it is well worth it to take the high road and stick to your beliefs. Don’t give in just because it is hard or uncomfortable to work on obedience in front of others. The after-effects and amount of work that is required to make up for giving too much freedom can take a lot more time than I have to give.

Here are some of the ways we have decided to handle first-time obedience in front of others:

  • Foremost, we try to stay rested ourselves. There is no way a tired mama can properly deal with disobedience when she is exhausted. Make sure you get the sleep you need, and you will have much more energy to work on FTO and other priorities.
  • Be prepared ahead of time. Maureen has written before how to stay consistent and recommends having rules for being out in public. Whether it is an immediate consequence now or later, know ahead of time how you will respond. Ideas could include: hand folding (we use this a lot! Even my 2 yo is learning), loss of privilege to talk, time out away from others or in car, no special treats. Note: I would not recommend buying treats often on trips so that you end up bribing or threatening.
  • Prep your kids before going to someone’s house or the store. Don’t give threats or set them up for failure, but simply encourage them to follow the rules. Go over what is expected and how they should handle any particular situations. If they are struggling with hitting, for example, go over other options to express their frustration instead of hitting…not that we have ever struggled with that.
  • Act. You prepared to be consistent. Your kids knew the expectations. Now it has to be enforced. Consistency of the parent is parallel to the expected consistency of the child to obey. If both parents are there, I believe one parent should handle the consequence immediately. We have done timeouts outside of the furniture store, outside of the pizza restaurant in winter, oh and timeouts at the wedding this past weekend with all of our extended family watching to see how we handled it. Many times both parents are not there so Maureen also has given ideas on how to do timeouts at home after misbehaving in public.
  • Praise your kids for making a conscientious choice to obey. This doesn’t mean bribing them with a small $1 toy every time you go to Target. Make sure you verbally take time to tell your kids how proud you are of the way they handled a challenging situation. For a 4-year old, keeping hands folded at someone’s house with breakable items is challenging so make sure they know you noticed!

It can be hard to follow through with others watching, but I promise they will remember the way that you followed through. You will not be the first mom to ask the manager to take her grocery cart, and your child will learn that you have consistent expectations.

What next?


I stumbled upon a great idea for getting kids to help out around the house. The Ezzos say that we should require our children to do chores, and these chores should be family chores. Having our kids do family chores encourages them to take care of people other than themselves. I agree that this is important. And I love kids who are mature enough to ask what they can do to help out.

Today, the kids and I were doing a mad dash to clean the house, and as we cleaned, William kept coming up to me asking, “What next?” I loved it! There was so much to be done, and I really needed his help. His “What next?” told me that not only was he cleaning up as I asked, but he was coming back for more.

Honestly, I can’t tell you the motivation behind his request for more work. I like to believe it came from the goodness of his heart. But a part of me thinks he was thinking he would get to play on the iPad as soon as we were done. I’m choosing to believe the heart idea. :)

No matter where it came from, I’m going to continue to encourage them to ask what’s next. These two simple words can do so much in getting our chores done and teaching them to help others–out of the goodness of their hearts and as a standard course of business.

Beyond reason


Do you ever feel like there are times when you just can’t get through to your kids? You explain your reasoning very clearly, and they seem to understand, but it doesn’t change their actions. In your mind, your thought processes are very logical, but for some reason, you’re not getting through to them.

It’s important to realize that there are times in our kids’ lives when they are just completely beyond reason. It can be frustrating to try to figure out what to do with a child who seems completely incapable of listening to you and following your instructions. Is the child being disobedient when they are beyond reason? Maybe. But it’s more important to understand what may be causing the problem in the first place, and deal with any disobedience later.

We’ve had a few instances recently where I realized that there was just no getting through to Lucas. Just tonight, during dinner and bedtime, he was completely beyond reason. He cried. He complained. He cried about everything under the sun. He threw a bigger fit than he’s ever thrown during a timeout. And throughout all of this, I noticed that his eyes were red and he was rubbing them. The child was tired!

We had a very tiring weekend with family in town. Our routine was off. Our mealtimes were off. Roomtime didn’t happen. And they went to bed very late last night, much later than they should have. To top it off, both boys slept in our room, and Lucas kept falling off the crib mattress, was in and out of our bed, and just didn’t sleep very well. But sure enough, he was up at 6:47am, as usual.

So considering the damage was done, what was I to do with this completely inconsolable, unreasonable child?

  • I kept my chatter to a minimum. I knew I wasn’t going to get through to him, so I just kept quiet. Anything I did say just set him off.
  • I fed him his dinner. Yes, I put the food on the fork and put every bite in his mouth. I knew this was the only way he was going to eat in his current state, and my goal was to get him fed and in bed, and do it quickly.
  • I didn’t give him a shower, even though he needed it. Sleep was more important.
  • I carried him upstairs, again without a word. Yes, I carried my four-year-old. I wasn’t going to attempt to drag a tired, crying child up the stairs.
  • I shortened his bedtime routine and didn’t read to him. He was upset, as was I (we read every night without fail), but again, he just needed to go to sleep.

Even after I put him in bed, he cried and cried and came up with a bunch of excuses. After giving him water and helping him blow his nose, I said goodnight, ignored any other excuses, and waited for him to fall asleep. When it was quiet, I started to think about all that went wrong, and vowed to myself to do things differently the next time family is in town.

Good thing tomorrow is a new day!


Obedience training can strengthen your relationship


I often use the phrase “enjoy your children” as a tactic to improve the child’s obedience and the parent’s tolerance for disobedience. But let me say that I enjoy my children–not because I want them to obey but because they do. Let me make that clear, the work we have done on obedience is what enables me to enjoy my children.

We all go through phases with our children. When they are babies, we are completely enamored. Our children can do no wrong, and they are the most beautiful creatures on the planet. Then, they hit about 18 months and things start to go awry. It’s when they hit that “terrible two’s” stage that we parents are challenged to assert our authority and effectively direct our children and teach them important values. Their assertion of independence must be counterbalanced by our teachings to respect others, respect our things, and respect authority.

Now that my boys are older and much of this work has been done, I can say that I genuinely enjoy my children. And it’s clear to me that I enjoy my children not because they have outgrown the terrible two’s or simply because they are older. I enjoy my children because they are beginning to internalize and reflect the values we have taught.

Just tonight, Lucas and I were being silly and joking around with each other while we waited for the shower to be free. It was that small moment, amid the sometimes chaotic bedtime routine, that made me realize how much I truly love these kids. And I love them not because they are my offspring. I love them for the people they have become. They are funny, smart, friendly, creative, affectionate, confident, lovable, loyal, and spirited.

Don’t get me wrong: we do have our challenges (especially with William’s sensory issues), but we are now entering an era where the fun times outweigh the challenging ones.

We have begun homeschooling this year. It’s a journey I never expected of myself or for my children. However, we came to homeschooling naturally, and we are loving it so far. But what strikes me is that when I mention homeschooling to many moms, they ask me how I can stand to be around my kids all day. I often wonder how these moms can stand being away from their children for so many hours in the day!

My kids feel the same way. When we were first discussing the idea of homeschooling, William said to me, “Mommy, I want to homeschool because when I go to school I don’t get to see you.” What a way to melt a mom’s heart!

The Ezzos discuss this shift from leading by our authority to leading by our influence and relationship:

“Knowing what to expect and when to expect it is the key to the healthy balance between leading by authority and leading by influence. It all comes down to this simple principle: External motivations that once governed the child’s life are replaced by internal beliefs that rule from the heart. Moral maturity emancipates the child, allowing him to direct his own behavior in harmony with family values,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 95).

And it is only from our teaching of family values that we can ensure that they will rule from the heart in a way that we appreciate. Notice that we don’t simply wait for them to get older and outgrow any selfishness or a lack of self control that may guide their actions and emotions. We actively teach our values so that when they reach the age that selflessness and self control becomes more easy to attain, their moral warehouse is full, and they draw upon the values that we have instilled.

So put in your work while they are young and you will reap the rewards in spades!