Archives for January 2013

Entitlement

Source: shine.yahoo.com

There’s a big problem in our world these days with people acting as though they’re entitled to the best things in life. It’s gone so far that Generation Y has been renamed by some as the Entitled Generation. It’s said that people of this generation buy things they can’t afford, put personal matters above professional ones, disrespect their elders, and have no desire to set down roots.

Of course, this is a sweeping generalization, but what exactly does entitlement mean and what can we do to ensure our children don’t become entitled? At the root of entitled behavior is selfishness. Put simply, those who feel entitled think only of themselves. It’s all about me, me, me and instant gratification.

The first step in ridding our children of this ugly characteristic is to first recognize it. You may not want to admit it, but if you see entitlement in your children, recognize it first and then come up with a plan to address it.

From a big-picture parenting perspective, entitled kids grow up with parents who do everything for them. I can see how this is tempting. When we become parents, our children are often the focus of our world. The Ezzos warn us of child-centered parenting, which is easy to understand intellectually. But at the same time, when you are running your kids from piano lessons and soccer games to Kumon and gymnastics, it becomes very easy to build your life around your child. It’s easy to justify this because you are doing what you believe to be the best thing for your child.

And I’m not saying that children shouldn’t have activities outside the home. It’s just that they should see that mom and dad have a life, too. We don’t live our lives simply to please our children.

What’s ironic is that in an attempt to create enriched, smart, sporty kids — what we believe is the best they can be — we may actually be doing more harm than good. It’s all fine when a child is a soccer super-star and still respects his elders. But if a child is a soccer super-star at the expense of important moral values, then something somewhere has gone horribly wrong.

And it runs deeper than the activities our children are in. Entitlement ultimately comes down to parents giving their children everything they want and doing everything for them. School is their job, we say to ourselves, so they don’t need to take out the trash. They’re so busy practicing piano, we say, that we shouldn’t require them to unload the dishwasher. Homework is more important, we say, so we pick their clothes up off the floor for them. We may even put such a high price on grades that we do their homework for them — in the guise of “help.”

This extends outside the house, too. If a child is shy, we’ll order their meal for them at a restaurant. If a boy is bouncing in his seat in a restaurant, we excuse his behavior, saying he’s all boy. If a child goes so far as to hit another child, we let the child run off and say that he’s going through a phase. We do whatever we can to excuse or perpetuate poor behaviors.

When a child is raised with parents like this, it’s no wonder he’ll grow up to feel entitled. When he’s been given everything he’s ever needed or wanted without having to work for it, and when his poor behaviors and attitudes are excused, he will of course feel like the world should revolve around him.

One of the best things we can do as parents to ensure our kids don’t grow up to be entitled is to encourage self-sufficiency. If we encourage them to do for themselves and gain some independence, then they will grow up to believe that they have to work for whatever it is they want. They will grow up to believe that their parents don’t exist to fulfill their every desire.

Set an Example

Source: followbarbsbliss.blogspot.com

Have you given thought to how you’d like your kids to behave, think, and believe? What qualities are important to you? Maybe you like a spotless house. Maybe you imagine your kids sitting around reading classic literature. Maybe you believe that they are piano prodigies. Whatever your ideals, do you make it a point to display these characteristics yourself?

I’ve been reading Charlotte Mason’s books lately. Charlotte Mason was an educator in the 1800s whose teachings have become a homeschooling philosophy. She teaches that children learn best from “living books” or stories that tell a tale about the subject. Dry textbooks written by many people are the antithesis to her beliefs.

One thing that Charlotte Mason emphasizes is that parents must display the characteristics they wish of their children. If we want our children to clean up their toys, we must clean up our own belongings. If we want them to read, we need to read. If we want them to play piano, we need to either play ourselves or be sure they have scheduled time to learn and practice.

The point is that we cannot expect these behaviors from our children if we don’t model them ourselves. This goes for everything from putting toys away to always telling the truth. The perfect Ezzo example is when someone calls the house and the parent doesn’t want to talk to that person, he or she will say, “Tell them I’m not home.” It’s a simple white lie, but it’s a lie nonetheless.

So many parents lose themselves in their children’s misbehaviors. They think that one more sticker chart or timeout method will be the cure-all to all of the child’s problems. There is no quick fix in parenting. I know a couple of parents who seem to really have their act together, and the characteristic I see most in them is that they run a tight ship. They have high expectations of their kids, yet the parents themselves are not hypocrites. The parents’ things are put away. Papers are filed. Books are stacked neatly on the shelf. Beds are made. An effort is made to educate themselves, and so on. It’s clear to me that these parents are able to run a tight ship because they live the ideals they expect from their children.

I remember when I first started this blog back in early 2009, I barely touched on discipline tactics. I even have a post called, “Where’s the Discipline?” If there’s one thing the Ezzos have taught me it’s that discipline doesn’t cure what ails us. There is a much larger foundation that must be laid before we can even think about disciplining our children. Once we set the stage for a harmonious household and model all of the behaviors we expect of our children, half the battle has been won.

I see this in my own children. If I’m messy, they’re messy. If I yell, they yell. They’re little mirrors or parrots, reflecting my behaviors right back at me. By the same token, if I work hard, they work hard. If I read, they read. If I have a clean house, they will keep their rooms clean. It’s so subconscious, but so powerful. We all adopt the behaviors and attitudes we see at home. We inherited a set of values from our parents, and in the same way, we are passing along values to our children, whether we choose to do so or not. So make it a point to live your best life and consciously model the behaviors and beliefs you wish to pass along to your children.

Take Care of Yourself

One of the most fundamental things we can do to be the best parents we can be is to take care of ourselves. The airlines got it right when they tell us to put the air masks on ourselves before we put them on our children. I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed a direct correlation with the amount of sleep I get and the amount of patience I have with my kids. So the first thing I do when I recognize that I’m frustrated with my kids is evaluate the amount of sleep I got the night before.

On that note, you’ll forgive me if I keep this short. It’s been a long week! I’m off to bed!

Trouble with Logical Consequences?

Source: hybridrastamama.com

Many, many parenting experts tell us all about the importance of logical consequences. These consequences are imposed by the parent and are supposed to relate to the troublesome behavior. But I think there’s a problem with this. There are too many parents who can’t impose logical consequences because they can’t think of any.

I admit I struggle with this myself. It’s far easier to send my boys to sit on their beds in timeout than to think of a consequence that fits the crime. And deep down, I think I know that to take some prized privilege away will break their little hearts. I’m a little too quick to give them second chances.

The truth of the matter is that actions speak louder than words. Taking away a child’s iPad privileges for two weeks will have much greater effect than a daily lecture on the problem that seems to happen day after day.

Understanding this, we can see the value in logical consequences. So why is it so hard to come up with consequences? Practically, it can be difficult to think of a consequence in the heat of the moment. Having a plan and making a list help tremendously.

But even more than coming up with a consequence in the heat of the moment is that our kids simply have so much! If I ever take away my boys’ TV or iPad privileges, they’re happy to go play with their Legos. If I take away their Legos, they have a million other toys they could play with. So what do they care if I take these things away?

By the same token, we need to make sure our kids have enough freedoms that we can take them away. When our restrictions are so tight, we can’t tighten them any more.

I was talking to a friend recently about the fact that she allows her teenage boys to have TVs in their rooms. Without assuming I knew better — I have no idea what it’s like to raise a teenage boy — I asked her why and whether she thought it caused any problems. Her response was that by allowing her boys that freedom, it gave her something to take away when they were causing trouble. She simply holds out her hand and expects them to give her their remotes, with the expectation that they won’t watch at all.

It made me think that we need to allow our kids certain freedoms simply because it gives us fodder for logical consequences. All freedoms should be granted according to the child’s age and level of responsibility, but knowing what freedoms are appropriate and which are not isn’t easy. For some parents, the temptation is to give their kids everything under the sun. Other parents are fearful of allowing their children too much that they have nowhere to go for logical consequences. In my friend’s case, her boys seem clearly responsible to have this freedom because there’s no fight when they lose the privilege. It’s clear that it is a privilege that can be granted and taken away according to the parents’ will.

I don’t assume to know all the answers when it comes to logical consequences. If I’m honest with myself, I don’t even think toys or electronics have any huge effect when I’m implementing a logical consequence. When I see my children at their most difficult times, it’s when the other brother is preoccupied with something. Lucas is like a lost puppy when his brother is away at therapy or busy with some other activity. And William will go to great lengths to not have to play alone. Realizing this, having them play separately is a logical consequence that I need to think about.

But on the other hand, do I really want to get in the middle of their wonderful friendship? Lucas won at a game of Sorry the other day, and because William was whining and complaining about losing, I worried that he was going to lose it the minute Lucas won. But he completely shocked me. He celebrated his brother’s win and gave him huge hugs for it! He was so genuinely happy about his brother’s win, it was as if he had won the game himself.

I’d love to hear about logical consequences in your home. Do you use them? What consequences seem to have the greatest effect?

Picky Eaters

William eating sushi

William eating sushi

Do you have a picky eater? If you’re unsure, you don’t. Those of us who have picky eaters cannot deny that we do. There’s no question. Raising a picky eater is no easy task. But as with many things in parenting, it comes down to training.

Lucas is my picky eater. William is decidedly not a picky eater. At the right are a couple pictures of William eating food that many picky eaters wouldn’t even consider touching (sushi and steak salad). I’m thankful that he’s not picky because he’s my child who has the most food issues. He has a slew of food intolerances and blood sugar instability that might be diagnosed as hypoglycemia. With his restrictions, he cannot live on pasta and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches like many picky eaters do.

William eating steak salad

William eating steak salad

I’m lucky that my youngest is my picky eater. William has taught me that kids can eat a wide variety of foods. I was a picky eater as a kid, and my mom would typically make me new food when I refused to eat. So I’m sure if my oldest was a picky eater, I would have done the same. But after seeing William eat everything from broccoli to lentil soup, I knew that Lucas was perfectly capable of eating these foods, too.

I remember when Lucas was still sitting in a high chair, I always made it a point to put a green vegetable on his tray. At first, I didn’t ask him to eat it. I just wanted him to see it. Most days, he would move it away and put it in the tray’s cup holder. He wasn’t shy about the fact that he had no intentions of eating it. But I kept putting it there, day after day. Whatever green veggie we were eating, I put one small piece on his tray. We ate spinach salad quite a bit back then, so I usually put one small leaf. Well, my plan worked. After time, he decided that it wasn’t so scary after all. He eventually started taking small bites, and years later, he’s now to the point where he’ll happily eat a whole serving of green vegetables.

Some might say that given this experience Lucas isn’t truly a picky eater. I do believe that picky eaters are born, not made. I recognized this the first time Lucas would take in a bite of a casserole and filter out the meat so he could spit it out. But I also believe that parents have the power to change their kids’ picky eating habits. We don’t need to simply throw up our hands and say there’s nothing we can do.

There’s also something to be said about food intolerances and picky eating. Typically, when we have a food intolerance, we tend to crave that food. So if a child doesn’t tolerate wheat, she may want to eat nothing but pasta and bread. It sounds counterintuitive, but when we don’t tolerate a food, it creates an opiate effect in the brain. It’s a drug! If a child eats a food that doesn’t feed that opiate craving, they want nothing to do with it. They will get to the point where they’ll eat nothing but the foods they crave. I’ve had a few friends who I’ve described this to, and a couple were completely fearful of the idea of eliminating the food the child craves. They said that the child would eat nothing! Kids are smart. They won’t starve themselves. I have one friend who heard my advice, and after eliminating wheat, her daughter got so healthy and made great strides in social and physical development.

The other reason I believe that parents can change their picky eaters is that many kids often decide to stop being so picky because they see that their siblings eat well. I have a friend whose oldest is a picky eater. After little sister came along and showed her brother that she could eat well and there was nothing scary about it, he got better.

If you have a picky eater, I have a few words of advice:

1) Your first goal should be to not make special food. Always feed the child something you know he will like (e.g., plain rice along with the chicken he doesn’t like), but never make a new meal. The child should eat what the family eats. With the one food you know he will eat, he won’t starve.

2) Eat together as a family. If he sees that everyone he knows and loves eats this food, he’ll be more inclined to eat.

3) With foods that the child finds particularly distasteful, simply put them on his plate day after day, but don’t require him to eat. Encourage him, but don’t require him.

4) Limit the child’s liquid intake before a meal. Lucas used to fill up on milk or water to avoid having to eat what we were serving.

5) Use dips to your advantage. Kids like to dip, and if ketchup helps cover up the taste, so be it. Let him.

6) While you’re working on his picky habits, talk to his doctor about nutrients. Find out if you need to supplement calcium or any other vitamin.

7) Don’t tell other people, within the child’s earshot, that he’s a picky eater. The more you validate it, the more he’ll live up to the label. Convince him that he’s capable of eating any food.

So trust that all hope is not lost with picky eaters. Train your child to eat well in the same way that you would teach him to read. Take it slowly and be patient. Every child is capable of breaking habits, which is exactly what picky eating is. Help him overcome his picky eating ways, and he’ll thank you for it when he’s an adult.

I’d love to hear from you if you have a picky eater. Have you found any other tactics that work?

Desperate Times

Source: naturallysavvy.com

Sometimes desperate times do call for desperate measures. No matter how much we may understand that threatening and repeating tactics will ultimately fail, there are times when we resort to these measures. And that’s ok.

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the idea that parenting is the most important job we will ever do. When we realize that we truly do have the power to shape our children, it’s easy to set super-high expectations for ourselves. When things go wrong, it’s not pretty. Forgiveness — from ourselves and other moms — doesn’t come easily.

That’s what makes parenting so hard. Yes, it’s an important job. And yes, women are highly critical of each other. While I’d love to ask moms to go a little easier on each other, the least we can do is forgive ourselves.

And the truth of the matter is that sometimes counting to three really works. Sometimes bribing our kids works. And sometimes it’s on the fourth time that we repeat an instruction that we get obedience. If the day has gone horribly wrong, and in the middle of cooking dinner, you realize you’re out of the most critical ingredient, it may be one of those times that you need to bribe the children to obey during a quick trip to the store. It’s better to bribe and maintain emotional stability than to run the risk of being sent over the edge by a child running wild in the produce section.

Besides, there’s a difference between knowing and doing. We may intellectually know how we want to train our children and what behaviors we expect of them, but actually implementing these parenting ideas consistently is a different endeavor entirely. Again, that’s ok.

There’s one crucial thing to remember about this: don’t do it often. Sometimes we need to call upon our most desperate measures, but the other 98% of the time, we need to diligently train our kids in the behaviors and attitudes we expect. If your attempts to train go horribly wrong, it’s probably a clue that you’re using desperate measures a little too often.

But before you even think about criticizing yourself for this, remember that you deserve to be forgiven. You are your harshest critic, so go easy on yourself every now and then.

Find Your Inner Cheerleader

Source: fancydressball.co.uk

I’m amazingly fortunate to have a friend who is traveling the homeschooling journey with me. Her kids are slightly older than mine. All four went to the same school together last year. As luck would have it, before the school year was over last year, I took Lucas to a birthday party and overheard another friend say that Missy* was going to homeschool her kids. If there was ever a purpose for those crazy birthday parties, this was it.

I bring this up because Missy is an amazing cheerleader for her kids. She is so excited to be homeschooling her kids, and her excitement is infectious, both to her kids and me! While I’m rethinking my decision to homeschool, she plans to homeschool her kids the whole way through. She loves every minute of it. I think her attitude towards homeschooling completely sets the tone for their days. She is the ultimate cheerleader.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am no cheerleader. I’m a glass-half-empty kind of girl. But recognizing my weakness is the first step to changing it, right? When I face an obstacle with my kids — whether it’s related to school or some behavioral issue — I now ask myself, What would Missy say?

Last night, William was almost done with his math books (yay!) but he had to make a few corrections before we could call it done. After therapy and a quick trip to the mall, we came home and sat down to finish. After he redid a few incorrectly on his own, I realized that I needed to sit down with him and help him through. It was late, we hadn’t eaten dinner, our routine was completely off, there were quite a few corrections to be made, we had a difficult morning, Lucas was off playing, and I wasn’t going to let him go to bed until it was done. It had disaster written all over it. I’m happy to say that with Missy sitting on my shoulder (figuratively, of course), I cheered him through it!

At every turn, I had to stop myself from spouting out something negative and defeating. I then mustered up the most positive thing I could say. I uttered “You can do this!” quite a bit, and while I was going for variety, the repetition didn’t hurt. We even laughed together at some of his crazy incorrect answers. We were in it together, and he got it done!

So if you are struggling with a particular issue with your child — whether it’s a behavioral issue, a difficult chore, homework or anything else — find your inner cheerleader. I once read a quote that said something like, “Who came up with the idea that making our kids feel bad about themselves (through discipline or derision) would make them change their behavior?” It’s so true! If we want them to improve, we need to make them feel good about themselves.

Here are a few negative phrases I’m sure I’ve uttered at some point and their cheerleader alternatives:

1) You’re 5 years old. You should know better. –> You’re such a big boy. I had no idea you were so smart.

2) Come on. You know this. Why can’t you do it? –> You can do this! I believe in you!

3) Please try folding laundry. You may not do it perfectly, but that’s ok. –> I had no idea you were so good at folding laundry! That was really hard! (Refold after the child has gone to bed.)

4) Did you really think that snatching that toy from your brother was a good choice? Really? –> I know you like that toy, and it can be so tempting to take the things you want. But I think your brother would feel better if you asked first. Do you agree? Let’s give it back and find another toy like that one.

5) You were good at riding your bike last time. What happened? Try harder! –> I see your bike-riding skills are a little rusty. That’s okay. It happens to me, too. Let’s keep going and it will get easier.

6) I see you got a good grade on your spelling test. Good. That’s as it should be. –> Wow! You got such a good grade on your spelling test! Let’s put it up on the fridge so Daddy sees it when he gets home!

Try to step outside yourself to listen to how you speak to your child. Honestly evaluate whether you are defeating or lifting up your child. If it’s the former, make it a point to work on it and stop yourself before you utter another negative phrase. Our kids want to please us. Let’s encourage them by making them feel good about doing so.

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent. :)

A New Timeout Method

Source: realage.com

If you’ve read my posts on timeouts here and here, you know that we typically do timeouts on the bed. Our ultimate goal in doing so is to isolate the offending child with the idea that isolation takes away the privilege of social interaction and allows time for contemplation. Essentially, when the child sits by himself, he’s more likely to think about what he did wrong and find a repentant heart.

As important as these ideas are, it’s also important to realize when our usual tactics aren’t working. It occurred to me recently that my boys aren’t thinking about what they did wrong when they sat on their beds. They were merely waiting me out.

The Ezzos would agree with me that any discipline measure needs to inflict a bit of pain to be effective. And I don’t mean physical pain. I simply mean affecting kids in a way that is important to them. With William, timeouts on the bed do inflict pain in that he’s a very social being. It’s difficult for him to be alone. With Lucas, it got to the point where he would twiddle his thumbs just waiting for his timeout to be over. He wasn’t disobeying. He just didn’t seem to care.

So I came up with a new method. I now require them to stand in a corner with their foreheads on the wall or door. It’s surprisingly effective. They are somewhat isolated in that they can’t look at us or engage with us in any way. We have this little alcove in our home that leads to the garage door. It’s narrow, somewhat dark (if we don’t turn the light on), and it’s close enough to the family room and kitchen that we can see if they take their foreheads off the wall.

When I first did this with Lucas, it was difficult for him. He was throwing a fit, and the first thing he wanted to do was fall to the floor. But I didn’t allow it. I required him to stand up with his forehead on the door without sitting or talking.

It was an amazing exercise in self-control. And I’m happy to say that he passed with flying colors. He stayed put until I came over to him and discussed what he did wrong. We did our usual chat, talking about the offense and giving apologies. My boys are also well-versed in asking for forgiveness. With all of that out of the way, we finished it off with hugs and kisses.

We may still do timeouts on the bed occasionally, but for now, foreheads on the wall add that bit of novelty that make them more painful and more effective.

Do you do timeouts at home? What works best for your child?

Blanket Time

Journey of ParenthoodCan you really make a two-year-old sit on a blanket for more than ten seconds? How about a 12-month-old? Yes! As with everything that we’ve learned so far, it’s all about training. In fact, you can teach your two-year-old to sit quietly on a blanket, playing with a few toys for 20-30 minutes. The benefits are too many to count. In fact, blanket time is my favorite independent play activity. Not only does it give us a chance to teach our toddlers how to play quietly on their own in a defined space, but it also teaches them huge self-control and obedience. Plus, you can take it with you!

Yesterday, I wrote a “how to” blog post on Journey of Parenthood, our newest member of the Babywise Blog Network. Check out the post to find out all you need to know about starting blanket time, and how to work up to a significant length of time. Read through to the end to find out about my big blanket time success story!

Sibling and Gender Relationships

Source: Thomaslife

By Bethany Lynch, The Graceful Mom

My husband grew up with an older brother. I have step-siblings but grew up mostly with a younger brother. Now my husband and I have a son and daughter.  We all have very different opinions and takes on the advantages and disadvantages to our sibling relationships. I find birth order and gender relationships very intriguing. My favorite book on this topic is The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are by Kevin Leman, a great author for all things from discipline to potty training to spicing up your marriage. According to Dr. Leman, most comedians are the youngest children in their families, and 21 out of the first 23 astronauts on the moon were first-born children. (The other two were only children). His book is unique in that he discusses many other variables than just nominal birth order.

Although not specific to parents following the Babywise series, I find that it is all too easy for us to make excuses based on the gender of our children. We focus on schedules, independent play, even first-time obedience but we don’t always think twice about saying, “Well, he is just being a boy!” Yes, there are strong gender differences and traits. Yes, I really do think birth order and spacing can explain some of our personality traits, but the last thing I think we should do is overlook behavior predominantly because it is typical for that gender. On the other hand, I think we also have to be very careful not to define our children by their birth order nor try to treat them all the same.

Let me give you an example. My son has extremely typical traits of a first-born. Perfectionist, achiever, articulate, logical, scholarly. Add in that his primary love language is words of affirmation. Bathing the two kids together was becoming a nightmare. There were more fights the second I turned my back or sometimes before they could even climb in the tub. We came down hardest on our son…he’s the oldest, he should know better, he should treat his sister better. It turns out, she was the one picking a fight with him. She had learned we would start with him and criticize him first. We have also learned how harshly he takes criticism. Taking him aside and talking to him away from the heat of the moment is so important. It often takes 4-5 kind words of praise to undo 1 harsh phrase of criticism.

On the flip side, our daughter is quite emotional with feelings dripping off her sleeves. She cries when she is tired, when she wakes up, when she first sits down for snack, when she doesn’t like the snack choice, when you look at her funny, and so forth. It has been quite a new adventure for my husband who is still learning female nuances after 10 years of marriage. Consoling her is a fine line. There are times where I see the look in her eyes and know immediately that she just needs a hug…and to cry. There are times when the crying is so ridiculous and out of control that she needs firm love and direction to pull herself together. She is a girl and needs to be approached in a specific manner; however, we will not, nor have not, changed the way we handle temper tantrums or sour attitudes “just because she is a girl.”

It has also been fun to watch the dynamics between a sister and brother. While I am used to some of the differences in growing up with a sibling of a different gender, I was the typical first-born and my baby brother was the youngest. I still give him a hard time for all of the times I remember taking the heat for being old enough to know better when really he had gotten away with something! It is an easy trap to miss. It is a little more confusing when you have to add gender differences to the sibling order. All the same, there are some general rules that I think fall in line with the -wise mentality.

  1. Boys do need a lot of physical time to use their energy, even to wrestle. They also need to know the boundaries between appropriate hard play and out of control roughhousing. Practice, practice, practice.
  2. Boys often need more preparation to sit still and focus on topics other than their favorite subject.
  3. Boys need to learn how to treat mommies, sisters, and other girls. Have your son practice serving his sister first at supper. I fully believe boys should learn courtesy at home first.
  4. Boys also need ways to learn how to handle their anger. There is nothing like watching a boy go from zero to sixty, revved up, swinging, and looking for something to knock down. Teach your son that it is okay to be angry but he needs to find words to express that and other ways to let the steam off. Even if it comes down to giving him a pillow he can squeeze or punch, it is way better than him raging so out of control he hurts someone else, himself, or breaks something. We’ve even had to practice how to handle being hurt. His first tendency is to jump up and down, and he’s had to learn the hard way that he will hurt himself even worse.
  5. Girls do need to cry…a lot sometimes. Not all, but practicing how to gain control over emotions with daughters is usually very different than sons. I find our son to be very angry but logical if he is upset. Our daughter is just hysterical, in pieces, over something we would consider trivial. Teaching her how to regain control of herself and calm down has been a monumental task some days.
  6. Girls need to find beauty on the inside…and this absolutely has to start at home. While pretend play is excellent and extremely important, make sure she hears how beautiful she is even when she is not dressed up as a princess.
  7. Look for natural tendencies in your children, whether it is gender related or birth order related or neither. There are times I have allowed one child to stay inside and read because that is one of her most favorite activities in life. There are times I have bathed one child because the other does not find it nearly as relaxing or therapeutic. There are also times where the instruction/rule was that it was bath night–no exceptions. While our “rules” are the same, we still allow a lot of time for each child to be an individual.
  8. Things that I believe should not be exceptions because of gender are hitting, kicking, temper tantrums, screaming, rudeness. All of these seem obvious but in the actual situation make sure that you have an exit strategy already planned. By that I mean, know the planned consequence and carry it out even if you think the behavior was natural for a boy or girl in that situation.
  9. Things that I believe should be be exceptions because of birth order are always coming down harder on an older child “just because” they are older. Teach them responsibility and rules, not exceptions based on a younger age. Do not overlook younger age because “they might not understand.” As a mother of a VERY cognitively-smart but speech-delayed child, do not ever underestimate all that they might understand. Keep the rules and expectations the same even if you have to modify explanation or approach.

Bethany blogs at The Graceful Mom about life as a working mom outside of the home and adores coming home to her husband and children, ages 5 and 3.