Archives for November 2012

Don’t Forget Attitude

When training a child in first-time obedience, external compliance is great, but it’s not our ultimate goal. We must teach our children to have a submissive attitude as well as obedient behavior. The following is an excerpt from my eBook, Live in Harmony with First-Time Obedience.


Compliance with a yielding, submissive heart is our ultimate goal. If your child complies with your instruction but sulks off afterward, make him do it over. Discipline for attitude just as much as you would for behavior problems. Ezzo explains the importance behind training the child’s heart.

“Disciplining–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).

As you go about your day, decide whether your child’s actions are coming from a heart of submission. For first-time obedience to be effective, the child must respond without challenging parental authority. There are some subtle and not-so-subtle ways that a child will challenge authority:

  • She says “yes, mommy” with a smart, sarcastic tone.
  • She mimics her parents.
  • He says anything but “yes, mommy” such as “what?”
  • He says nothing
  • She says “yes, mommy” so quietly you can’t hear her.

In all of these examples, the child is refusing to submit to authority. Do not allow such responses. Have him repeat with the appropriate response and if he still refuses, send him to his bed to sit in isolation.


When Nobody Is Watching…


I just saw an inspiring post on the CFH Babywise and Beyond Facebook page that says this:

“Teach your children to have integrity…to do the right thing even when no one is watching.”

I love this thought. And I love the idea that the Ezzos teach us to instill integrity into our children. When we teach them the moral reason behind the behavior we expect (beginning no later than age 3), they are more likely to internalize these behaviors. And when they internalize these behaviors and the moral reasons behind them, they are more likely to act appropriately even when nobody is watching.

I see this in my own children. When we’re in a restaurant and I take the time to explain that other people want to enjoy their meal and not be disturbed by children, they sit up straight and look around at the people around us. It’s very different from the times that I tell them to act in a certain way just because I expect it. When they know there’s a reason that goes beyond my expectations, they are much more likely to comply.

This comment from the CFH page also serves as a warning to legalistic parents. If “because I said so” is a common theme in your home, you may get different behaviors when no one is watching. If mom and dad aren’t around to serve as an external reinforcer because the child has no internal motivations, the child may act as he pleases.

I’m reminded of a family I babysat for when I was a teenager. This family made the rounds through all the babysitters I knew (me, my sister, my neighbor, etc.). Honestly, nobody wanted to babysit for this family because the two little girls were little hellions. One time when I was babysitting them, I was chasing after one girl while the other dumped the whole jar of fish food into the fish tank. They were about 4 and 6 years old, so they were old enough to know better.

My babysitter friends and I concluded that they acted like this because they were so stifled by their super strict parents. One minute of freedom away from the parents, and they were a disaster. The parents were so strict that they required the girls to wear headbands (spiky ones!) to bed. It’s clear to me that these girls had no internal motivation to behave; they certainly weren’t internalizing the behaviors their parents insisted upon.

I hired a babysitter recently, and I’m thankful she said my boys were sweet. In fact, I’ve never had a nanny or sitter complain about my boys’ behaviors, even despite William’s sensory issues. I think my boys understand why I expect them to behave in a certain way, and they comply even when I’m not around.

So the next time you have a chance, try to spy on your child. Does he play nicely? Do his imaginary friends share and treat each other with respect? Does he watch over his baby sibling? See if he has internalized the moral integrity you expect. See how he behaves when no one is watching.

Holiday Behavior Problems?


How was Thanksgiving? Did your children handle the day with grace and gratitude? Or did you uncover new behavior problems amidst the holiday hubbub? It’s not unusual, particularly when we spend the holiday with many friends and family members, for our kids to act uncharacteristically.

There are several issues that contribute to this problem. As much as we may attempt to keep life consistent, big holidays often disrupt the routine, causing sleep and meal disruptions. The kids may get more sugar than usual. They may go to bed later than usual. They may sleep less soundly if they’re not in their own beds. (My kids sleep on the floor at Grandma’s house.) They might get too much attention from family members. Our usual parenting tactics may get disrupted, either on our own accord (being lax), or comments from others may undermine our efforts.

No matter the specific cause, we are left to deal with children who are not themselves. Whether they are showing behavior problems or attitude issues, our kids are behaving uncharacteristically. This can confuse the most well-meaning parent. What do we do with this child we don’t recognize? And how do we deal with behavior problems we’ve never encountered before?

The most important idea to remember is that you will have to put effort into retraining your child. Whether the child has picked up bad behavior habits from others or has created some of his own, commit to retraining those bad behaviors right out of him. If your lives were only disrupted for a day or two, you might only require that much retraining time. If you were out of town for a week or longer, the behavior problems will be more deeply ingrained, and you’ll likely need more time for retraining.

Now, you may also be thinking ahead to Christmas. If your family is like mine, the time spent with friends and family over Christmas is similar to Thanksgiving, only on a larger scale. Again, you may need to retrain your child. But if you’d like to prevent behavior problems from occurring during Christmas festivities, rather than retrain after the fact, you’ll need to address your child’s specific needs. For example, if your child is an introvert and there are 20 people in your house, you may give the child an extra room time session to help him gather the energy to face all the people.

A few considerations to prevent holiday behavior problems include:

  • Keep meals as consistent as possible, even if that means feeding the child before or after the main family meal. Set alerts on your phone for meals, snacks and nap times.
  • Keep bed and nap times as consistent as possible. It can be difficult to get children to bed at their normal bedtimes when so many others stay up hours later, but sleep is the top consideration when facing behavior and attitude problems.
  • Limit sugar. Allow the child a Christmas cookie or two, but not much more.
  • Limit food dyes.
  • Do your best not to relax too much during the holidays. Take turns with your spouse and do all you can to stay consistent and follow through on your word.
  • Limit the child’s freedoms. If he’s not allowed to wander the house at home, he shouldn’t be allowed to do so at Grandma’s.
  • Consider the child’s personality. If he’s an introvert, give him some quiet, alone time.
  • Consider the child’s love language. If he thrives on words of encouragement from you and you spend all day talking to adult relatives, he may act up.

If, despite your best efforts, your child shows behavior problems, act on them before they escalate. Deal with whining before it escalates into a tantrum. Deal with grumpiness before it turns into a fight with a family member. Keep your eye on your child, and quietly and politely excuse yourselves if you need to discipline him. Then commit to retraining him when you get home.

Happy holidays! :)

How High (or Low) Are Your Standards?


Where do you set the bar when it comes to your children and their behavior? How well did your kids fare during Thanksgiving dinner? Were you proud of them or did you walk away vowing to make some changes?

Deciding where to set the bar is an important exercise for any parent to undergo. Deciding on an intellectual (not gut) level what attitudes and behaviors are acceptable is the first step in parenting. You might even go so far as to write down acceptable behaviors and any future goals you have in mind for your child.

If you decide that you want your child to express gratitude to friends through acts of service, you might get him started on household chores when he’s 2. By the time he’s 8, he’ll then freely offer to unload the dishwasher when he sees that you’ve had a hard day.

By the same token, maybe you just want your kid to be a kid. You’re fine if he spends every free minute simply playing.

Personally, I probably stand between these two extremes. I have a friend who mentioned to me that her child offered to unload the dishwasher at a friend’s house. I was amazed. But then I’m also conflicted because I place a very high premium on imaginative play and think it’s so important to my kids’ developing minds and intellect. So while I do have my children do chores, I also let them play quite a bit.

This post is inspired by a recent comment I received from a stranger. Or rather, I should say that my children received this comment. It was Veterans Day, and my veteran and I took the kids out to a fairly upscale restaurant. There were other families there who were taking advantage of the partially free meal, and I won’t say I didn’t notice their kids’ behavior or the huge presence of mobile devices. At one table near us, there were two boys about Lucas’ age (5) and they each had their own iPad. As soon as they lost interest in the iPad, their behavior spun out of control, clearly unacceptable for this kind of restaurant.

Whenever we eat out, I explain to my boys that there are many other people in the restaurant who are paying good money for their meal, and they do not have the freedom of ruining that meal for those people. They must respect this fact every time we go out. Apparently, this has hit home because as a group of older people walked out of the restaurant, one of them leaned over our table and commended my children on their good behavior.

Of course, this puts a smile on my face. But my thoughts at the time bring me back to the point of this post. As this woman complimented their behavior, I felt some relief and pride, but I was also rolling my eyes a little. The fact of the matter is, at the exact moment that she complimented their behavior, we were frustrated with their manners. We didn’t see well-behaved kids. We saw kids who were eating green beans with their hands.

I realize that it’s important to step back a minute and realize that yes, they were sitting still, yes, they were sitting quietly, and yes, they were eating their vegetables without complaint. But at the same time, I cannot let go of the relatively high standards I have for my kids. I can recognize their good behavior and compliment them on it, but that doesn’t mean I should lower my expectations. If anything, their good behavior tells me that my methods are working!

So if you have high standards for your child, it’s a good idea to step back sometimes and appreciate their behavior. If you have relatively low standards, you’ll either be comfortable with the behavior you get while in public or you might even vow to raise the bar just a bit. Wherever you stand, be sure you have chosen where to set the bar. Don’t fall into an accidental parenting trap and just let the bar lie where it may.

Teach Gratitude


How grateful are your children? Do you actively teach them to appreciate the things they have in their lives? With tomorrow being Thanksgiving, gratitude is the name of the game. Of course, gratitude is important every day of the year, not just this one day. And gratitude is an important quality in everyone, kids and adults alike.

Many of my friends on Facebook are expressing gratitude the entire month of November. It’s an interesting exercise to decide what I’m most thankful for every day of the month. Admittedly, I’ve had days where I can’t come up with anything. But I’ve also had days where I list two or three things that I’m grateful for. It really changes my attitude. It forces me to see all that I truly do have and appreciate every bit of it. Sadly, I’m very much a glass-half-empty kind of person, so this exercise really changes my thinking.

When it comes to our kids, training them to be grateful is all about teaching them to think of all that they have. They don’t have the perspective to understand that they have much more than many other kids in this world. But gratitude doesn’t require us to compare. We can simply be grateful for what we have because we have it, not because somebody else doesn’t have it.

So take the time to walk through your house and marvel at all that you have. Do this with your child. Examine every little toy, piece of furniture, and item of clothing. Find your child’s favorite toy, and say, “Aren’t we so lucky to have great things to play with?” Find your softest blanket, and say, “Isn’t this blanket so soft and warm?” After your spouse has read a book to the kids, stop and say, “Aren’t you so lucky to have a daddy who is so good at reading stories?”

Now, don’t turn it into a blame game. Don’t force gratitude on them by saying there are starving children in China. This has no meaning to them. Their gratitude will be wrapped up in whatever it is that they are thankful for.

Make this a daily exercise and your children will begin to act and think with gratitude.

The Importance of Listening

How well do you listen to your child? Do you ever have trouble striking a balance between empathizing with your child and requiring strict obedience?

Those of us who follow the Ezzos’ teachings know that maintaining a parent-centered or family-centered home is important. We do our best to ensure that our lives aren’t too child-centered. We want our children to know that they’re not the center of the universe. They may in fact be the center of our universe, but for the sake of the marriage, family, and the foundation upon which the child stands, we treat the child as a welcome member of the family but not the center of it.

Despite our emphasis on parent-centered methods, we cannot undervalue our children or their thoughts and feelings. The idea that the child is best seen, not heard, is simply unacceptable. In fact, it’s when we show cooperation in conquering the world together that we get better behavior and acceptance from our children. If our children know we are on their side, they will share their thoughts and more readily adopt our values.

This post is inspired by the book How to Talk so Your Kids Will Listen by H. Norman Wright, and though I’m only 30 pages in, it’s very enlightening. One idea that stands out to me is this:

“How do you get kids and teens to listen to you? Listen to them,” (p. 28).

It’s so true. In fact, the times that I’ve struggled most with obedience is when I’m immersed in some other activity or in my own thoughts. If I’m unavailable or detached from my children, they know it and they see it as license to do as they please. Alternatively, if I listen and interact with them, they are much more likely to hear me and obey my instructions.

It’s like what the Ezzos say about the threatening and repeating parent. When we threaten and repeat, we train our children not to listen to us. The same is true when we speak to our children in anger.

Knowing that there’s value in listening, we must also understand that listening is an art form:

“Listening is giving sharp attention to what your child shares with you. It’s more than just hearing what he or she says. Often what your child shares is more than what he or she says. (Read that sentence again. It’s a key thought.) You must listen to the total person, not just the words spoken. Listening requires an openness to whatever is being shared: feelings, attitudes or concerns, as well as words,” (p. 31).

Rather than having our own agenda or formulating our own thoughts or response, we must simply be quiet and listen. It’s only after we listen that we can reply. And understand that listening doesn’t mean complying. You can listen to your child ask for a lollipop for dinner, but that doesn’t mean you have to agree. Listening simply shows that we care.

The following statement is great:

“Listening is an expression of love. It involves caring enough to take seriously what your child is communicating,” (p. 31).

And when they see that we’re loving them by listening, the reward is huge:

“When your child knows you hear him or her, your child will trust you and feel safe with you. And if you’re a good listener, your child will be more apt to invite you into his or her life. Your child also learns through your example to respond openly and lovingly to what you share with him or her,” (p. 31).

So if you’re struggling with your child, try just listening for a little while. Whether you have a tween who’s challenging your values or a preschooler who refuses to obey, simply listening to their thoughts and feelings will strengthen your relationship and move you one step closer to your goals as a family.

Babywise Week: The Power of Babywise

It’s Babywise Blog Network Week again! All week, we’ll be featuring blog posts from other Babywise-friendly blogs. The schedule is as follows:

· Monday: Valerie Plowman, Chronicles of a Babywise Mom
· Tuesday: Maureen Monfore, Childwise Chat
· Wednesday: Bethany Lynch, The Graceful Mom
· Thursday: Hank Osborne, Daddy Life
· Friday: Emily Parker, Journey of Parenthood

Today’s surprise blogger is Emily Parker, author of Journey of Parenthood. In her post, Emily talks about how Babywise has had such an impact on her life. She talks about the dreaded “luck” word, referring to the fact that many people tell Babywise parents we are lucky to have babies, toddlers, and children who are so well-rested and well-behaved. But as we all know, luck has nothing to do with it. The child’s personality does come into play, as does the parents’ tenacity to stick with the Babywise methods even through difficulties. Beyond that, all the credit goes to Babywise. Put simply, it works!

Here are my favorite quotes from Emily’s blog post:

As a new mom I originally had NO plans to have my baby on any type of scheduling. I was under this grand idea that a baby would be fitting into the life we already had. Feel free to laugh at me ;) Within weeks of implementing the techniques I had a baby who slept through the night! A happy baby! A content baby!

Through Babywise I learned that there is freedom in structure.

Now when people hear about Brittlynn they don’t say “oh you got lucky!” Instead, they say “that Babywise stuff sure is awesome!”

She is so right that there is freedom in structure! To see Emily’s post in its entirety, check out her blog Journey of Parenthood.

Babywise Week: Terrible and Terrific Twos

Hank’s 2-year-old

It’s Babywise Blog Network Week again! All week, we’ll be featuring blog posts from other Babywise-friendly blogs. The schedule is as follows:

· Monday: Valerie Plowman, Chronicles of a Babywise Mom
· Tuesday: Maureen Monfore, Childwise Chat
· Wednesday: Bethany Lynch, The Graceful Mom
· Thursday: Hank Osborne, Daddy Life
· Friday: Surprise guest blogger

Today, Hank Osborne from Daddy Life talks about the terrible twos and the terrific twos. As he explains, parents often fear age two because it often brings extreme mood swings and misbehaviors. It’s true that kids this age can be sweet and happy one second and angry and sad the next. What’s worse, it’s often difficult to predict their moods.

In his post, Hank gives us some helpful strategies to deal with the turbulence that age two often brings. In addition to first-time obedience, Hank talks about self-control, developmentally appropriate play, reflective sit time, and a parent attitude that is more directive than fearful.

To see Hank’s post in its entirety, visit Daddy Life.

Babywise Week: Sensory Bins

It’s Babywise Blog Network Week again! All week, we’ll be featuring blog posts from other Babywise-friendly blogs. The schedule is as follows:

· Monday: Valerie Plowman, Chronicles of a Babywise Mom
· Tuesday: Maureen Monfore, Childwise Chat
· Wednesday: Bethany Lynch, The Graceful Mom
· Thursday: Hank Osborne, Daddy Life
· Friday: Surprise guest blogger

Today’s post is from Bethany from The Graceful Mom. Bethany is a wife and mother to an active four-year-old boy and a book-loving three-year-old girl. She blogs about working outside the home and encouraging other working moms. Today, she writes about sensory bins. Sensory bins are perfect for craft time or structured table time. Easy and affordable to create, sensory bins allow our kids to play with items they might not otherwise come across. Bethany gives a wonderful list of items to use when creating sensory bins.

Bethany also notes that sensory bins are great for those of us who have children with sensory problems. William, my first-born, falls into that category. While the tags on his shirts bother him, he’s always excited to dive into some new sensory activity. Just tonight, I had a sink full of suds to wash the dishes, and I found William playing with it as he was making some toast. He’s always been one to play with play-dough, silly putty, or even a bowl full of uncooked beans!

Nonetheless, even if you have a typically developing child, sensory bins can be fun! Go to The Graceful Mom to see Bethany’s post in its entirety!


Babywise Week: Is Obedience Ever an Option?


It’s Babywise Blog Network Week again! All week, we’ll be featuring blog posts from other Babywise-friendly blogs. The schedule is as follows:

· Monday: Valerie Plowman, Chronicles of a Babywise Mom
· Tuesday: Maureen Monfore, Childwise Chat
· Wednesday: Bethany Lynch, The Graceful Mom
· Thursday: Hank Osborne, Daddy Life
· Friday: Surprise guest blogger


One of the many ways we parents get into trouble with our children is by making obedience an option. Of course, we  never set out to make obedience an option, but unfortunately, it happens. It’s important to recognize the ways that we may communicate to our children that they have a choice when it comes to obedience. Then after recognizing those ways, we are better equipped to spot them as they pop up in our daily lives.

So how exactly do parents convey that obedience is an option? There are many ways.

Not giving instructions with authority

How do you sound when you give instructions to your child? Do you ever sound like you might as well put a question mark on the end of your instruction? Do you sound like this: “Johnny, it’s time to get dressed.” Or like this: “Johnny, we need to leave the house soon, and we all need to be dressed and ready to go, so go get dressed. Okay?”

There are two things wrong with this example. First, don’t feel compelled to give your child an explanation as to why you’re requiring him to obey an instruction. Knowledge is power, and he may turn that information back on you in an attempt to get out of obeying. He may argue that getting dressed doesn’t take much time, so he doesn’t really need to obey you right then. Simply telling a child to get dressed leaves no option for disobedience.

The second problem with the above example is that big fat “okay?” at the end. Don’t ask your child to obey. Don’t ask him if he agrees with you. Don’t ask him anything. Simply direct him and do it with authority. If you can’t quite get a grasp on your firm mommy (or daddy) voice, work on it and do it now. If you want an obedient child, you don’t have the luxury of being your child’s friend — at least not yet. You are his parent, and parents stand in a position of authority over their children. So dig deep and get a grasp on your authority.

Front-loading consequences

Another way parents make obedience an option is by front-loading consequences. By this I mean that we tell our children what their consequence will be if they disobey. Hopefully, whatever consequence we threaten will be one they won’t like, but we never can know for sure. By front-loading consequences, we give our children a choice. They can either obey, or they can choose the consequence which as been laid out neatly for them. They can weigh the odds. And they may in fact decide that they’d rather run around at bed time and miss story time than obey.


How many times do you repeat yourself when giving your child an instruction? It can be so easy to repeat ourselves when our children don’t immediately obey. We may think they didn’t hear us or we may think that if we repeat ourselves with a more stern voice, they’ll be more likely to obey. Let me tell you that the opposite is true. When we repeat ourselves, we are training our children that they don’t have to listen or obey the first time. We are teaching them that we don’t really mean what we said the first time. Teach your child that you mean what you say. Don’t utter a word unless you are ready to follow through on that word. Train your child to obey your word among all else.


Similar to front-loading consequences, threatening our children with consequences does not get them to obey. When our children learn that we don’t mean what we say, they learn that our threats are meaningless. Now, it’s one thing to warn a child of an impending consequence and another thing altogether to threaten one and never follow through.

“The mother who first coaxes, then threatens, then bargains, then pretends to punish, and finally punishes a little is only making a bad situation worse…. Lack of moral fortitude and resolution in the parents undermines obedience,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 124).

Parenting from the hip

I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to have a plan when teaching children to obey. Parenting from the hip only gets us into trouble. We must recognize our own fallibility. When we’re tired, hungry, or just plain grumpy, we cannot parent with a firmer hand. By the same token, if we’re in a good mood, we cannot let bad behavior slide simply because we don’t want to ruin the mood. Obedience cannot be subject to our mood or whim. If it is, our children will gauge our mood when deciding how important it is to obey. Children love to push the boundaries to see how flexible they are. If your boundaries are flexible based on your mood, your children will quickly figure it out.

Not only is this ineffective in teaching obedience, but it’s simply unfair to the child. Our children shouldn’t have to suffer the wrath of our mood. They should know what to expect; and they should expect that we will follow through every time. Have a plan and be consistent.


Many of us know that bribes don’t help. But when we’re in the heat of the moment, thinly veiled bribes often escape our lips. We may not say, “Be good in the store and you’ll get a lollipop.” But we may say something like, “I expect you to be a good boy in the store today. You can do that, right? Good, then when we’re done, we might be able to get some special treats.” No matter how you phrase it, a bribe is a bribe.

Scare tactics are just as bad. “If you’re not good in the store today, the police will come and get you!” Or, “We’re leaving… We’ll see you later. I hope the store leaves the lights on for you tonight.” The fundamental problem with bribes and scare tactics is that we are teaching our children that we don’t mean what we say. We only expect them to be obedient to gain a reward (or avoid a scary situation). We are not expecting our children to obey simply because we expect them to.


When we give our children an instruction, there should be no doubt that we expect them to obey the instruction exactly as we give it. When we tell a child to clean up his room right away, he should do so right away. He should not be allowed to negotiate with us by telling us he’ll do it in 5 minutes. When we tell a child it’s nap time, he should not be allowed to tell us he’s not tired. When we agree to a dessert of one cookie, he should not be allowed to convince us that he deserves three cookies.

“When parents become characterized by continually accepting a negotiated compromise, they undermine their attempts to bring their child to first-time obedience. If all is negotiable, then no instruction is absolute. When we negotiate in the heat of battle, there is no true surrender,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 125).

Have no doubt: obedience requires submission.

If you ever wonder whether you’re undermining your authority and training your children not to obey, ask yourself whether you are training your child to obey your word. Whether you lack resolve and don’t follow through on your word or allow your child to negotiate with your instructions, take a minute to realize that the fundamental idea is that the child isn’t being taught to obey your word.

Remember this: “When you speak to your child in a way that requires an answer or action, you should expect an immediate and complete response,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 125).

Your children are capable of complete obedience. All you need to do is pave the way for them to get there, removing any obstacles that may give them the idea that obedience is an option.


This was a weighty post with a lot to think about. I can’t not end this post without mentioning my eBook. While I’ve given you ways to spot a lack of obedience, I haven’t really told you how to train our children to obey. This is where my eBook comes in. I’ve written several other blog posts on first-time obedience, but if you are looking for a detailed, day-by-day instruction manual on first-time obedience, check out my eBook. Endorsed by Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo, Live in Harmony With First-Time Obedience: How to Use Love, Authority and Consistency to Teach Your Child to Obey the First Time, Every Time offers 112 pages of a detailed, step-by-step approach to creating an environment of peace, obedience and contentment in your home. Click on the above link to purchase and download it instantly, or download a sample to learn more.