Archives for May 2013

Does School Inhibit Healthy Sleep?


Is your child in school yet? If so, you know how easily our lives change when they start school. Starting school typically means waking early, rushed mornings, a little playtime after school, and then homework that can potentially run late into the night. The older they are, the faster the pace becomes.

This is the way of the world. The issue is further compounded by all of the activities that our children participate in. I know of a couple families who have an activity every day of the week. Just the idea of it exhausts me!

One concern with this fast-paced world is that our kids simply don’t get enough sleep. More than this, their lack of sleep affects their ability to learn.

“More and more studies are confirming what our grandmothers knew intuitively just a generation ago. Preschool and school-aged children who suffer from a deficiency of healthy sleep have a pervasive fatigue that affects alertness. Such a child becomes inattentive, unable to concentrate, easily distracted, and physically hyperactive,” (On Becoming Childwise).

It’s no wonder kids are being diagnosed with ADHD in record numbers! They are simply being run ragged and aren’t getting the healthy sleep they need to stay alert and attentive.

The Ezzos go on to discuss this idea of healthy sleep:

“Researchers have found a clear relationship between poor sleep habits and misbehavior. One significant report found that children who sleep less than ten hours in a twenty-four hour period may be more likely to throw temper tantrums than those who get more sleep,” (On Becoming Childwise).

Then we parents become the lucky ones to deal with this misbehavior in the late afternoons and evenings!

So what can we do about it? Well, everyone can homeschool! I’m kidding, but in all seriousness, homeschooling has alleviated this problem for us. We get our schoolwork done in a few hours in the morning and early afternoon, so homework isn’t an issue (unless we’re having a focus and attention issue in the morning). And except for co-op day, my boys can sleep as late as they need to in the morning.

But if homeschooling isn’t for you, I think it’s wise to limit their extracurricular activities. Don’t get guilted into signing them up for every sport and musical instrument offered to you.

Another good way to ensure healthy sleep for our kids is to do our best to cut out device/TV time during the week. I know it offers us a break, but when we consider that our kids’ time is so limited, there are many other things that they can do with their time. And if it seems like they need time to zone out in front of the TV, it’s entirely possible that they’re not getting enough sleep. Let them relax for a few minutes with a book, then get homework and playtime done so you don’t run the risk of putting the kids to bed late. Better yet, put them to bed early if they “need” time to zone out.

Consider this:

“Children whose parents help them develop healthy sleep habits are optimally awake and optimally alert to interact with their environment. They are more self-assured, happier, and demonstrate longer attention spans. As a result, they are better learners,” (On Becoming Childwise).

So if you want to make sure your child learns well in school, do your best to make sleep a priority!

Do You Open the Door to Disobedience?


Ultimately, when our children disobey, they are making the choice to disobey. Whether it’s childishness or foolishness, they still have control over their own actions. But there are times when we parents open the door to disobedience.

The Ezzos give us many ideas to prevent misbehavior from occurring in the first place. And we know well and good that structuring their day, reducing their freedoms and choices, and ensuring healthy meals and sleep all contribute to a healthy, obedient atmosphere.

But when we don’t do all of these things, we open the door to disobedience. There are times when we put our children into situations where they are tempted to disobey.

This is what the Ezzos have to say about prevention:

“There are many excellent methods of correction available to Childwise parents, but ultimately the best form of parental correction is prevention. There is no better way to deal with behavior problems than by preventing them in the first place. Parents may find themselves correcting misbehavior that could have easily been avoided had they first considered the principles of prevention,” (On Becoming Childwise).

And here’s where the rubber meets the road:

“It is even possible that parents, by overlooking prevention, may actually be encouraging misbehavior in their children. If a parent puts a child in a situation in which he is likely to have a problem being obedient, who is really to blame for the disobedience?” (On Becoming Childwise).

The point here is not to place blame. The idea is simply that we have great power over our children’s obedience simply by being aware of the situations that could tempt them to disobey.

This is somewhat timely for me because I’ve been dealing with a situation with my boys at our homeschool co-op. There are two other boys there who bring computers, iPads, smartphones and several other devices to co-op. My boys are drawn to these devices like moths to a flame, but they also become a problem because my boys have a much more difficult time obeying my instructions when they are wrapped up in these boys’ devices.

So I have made it clear to my boys that they are not to go over to those boys’ devices unless they ask permission. And even at that, I still often say no simply because I know I will be allowing a situation that will tempt them to disobey.

Bedtime is another tricky situation. Simply by being near each other, my boys tempt each other to disobey while they’re showering, brushing teeth, putting on pajamas, etc. My husband and I have eliminated that temptation by requiring them to get ready for bed in separate bathrooms.

Think of it this way:

“Just as you wouldn’t send a recovering alcoholic into a bar to test his resolve, so it may not be wise to send your excitable child into a McDonald’s play area where the other kids are running around with out-of-control ecstasy,” (On Becoming Childwise).

So think twice before putting your kids in a situation that would tempt them to disobey.

Our Timeout Script


If we understand that the purpose of discipline is to teach, not to punish, it’s important to ensure our kids learn from the experience. No consequence is effective unless the child learns from it.

With this in mind, I always have a chat with my kids after every act of discipline. Timeouts or some form of isolation usually work well for my kids. After every timeout, I make sure to go over a few things to make sure they learned what went wrong and why it was wrong. Here’s our typical timeout script:

Me: “What did you do wrong?”

Child: Either explains what he did wrong or says he doesn’t know. If he says he doesn’t know, I’ll tell him I’ll come back later after he “remembers” what he did wrong. Usually, it’s an issue of them not wanting to own up to what they did. If I can see in their eyes that they truly don’t know what they did wrong, I will prompt them a bit.

Me: “I need an apology.” The child will then apologize if he didn’t already.

Child: “I’m sorry for XYZ.” I ALWAYS require that they state what they did wrong in their apology. I don’t accept a simple, “I’m sorry.”

Child: “Will you forgive me?” This last step is crucial. I don’t accept their apology until they ask for my forgiveness. Lucas is still learning this, as he often says, “I forgive you.” But we’re working on it.

Me: “I forgive you.” Hugs and kisses, and we’re done.

If the child hurt or offended someone else, I then make him apologize to and ask forgiveness from that person.

Here’s what the Ezzos say about forgiveness:

“Humility is the basis for healthy families. Seeking forgiveness for an offense and humbly admitting error in an effort to be restored with the offended party is a prerequisite for a loving and enduring relationship. This is serious heart business. Children and adults who are in the habit of asking for forgiveness take ownership of their wrong actions. They show they believe the relationship is worth the possible embarrassment often associated with admitting wrong,” (On Becoming Childwise).

You can start teaching the importance of asking for forgiveness when they’re young and then make it a habit after every wrongdoing.

How’s Your Child’s Heart?


There’s a little problem that occurs when we focus on our children’s obedience (or disobedience). We forget to check the status of their hearts. And if there’s anything we want to be careful of it’s that we not raise children who are outwardly obedient but inwardly defiant.

When you see your child obediently pick up his toys, does he do it happily? Does he obey your command because he’s knows it’s right? Or does he simply obey because he’ll face a consequence if he doesn’t?

Now, I think it’s important to realize that we can’t expect happy hearts all the time from toddlers and preschoolers. The Ezzos are frequently quoted as saying, “Actions precede beliefs.” For example, we need our kids to share with friends before they understand why they should do so. But if we have sufficiently taught our children the need for happy obedience, then we can expect that the correct attitude will accompany the obedience.

I expect William, age 8, to obey with a happy heart. He doesn’t have to love whatever chore I’ve given him, but he must do it correctly and without complaint. He’s at an age where I know that he knows why I expect him to clean up his toys. I know that I’ve sufficiently taught him. In fact, just yesterday, I reminded him, “We have to take care of our things. If we don’t take care of our things, then we aren’t responsible enough to have them.”

Ultimately, we need to check our kids’ hearts because our primary goal in parenting is shaping their moral compasses. If we allow them to get by with outward obedience but don’t require a good attitude, how will we know that they won’t adopt a similar attitude with teachers, bosses, and other authority figures?

We can teach a child how to sweep and do dishes, but if we neglect to teach them why it’s important to keep a clean house, what will he do when he’s living on his own? He may view chores simply as something his parents required but that he doesn’t see the need for.

This idea extrapolates to much more important moral considerations like lying, stealing, cheating, hard work, kindness, selfishness, etc. We want to not only teach them HOW to be good people, but WHY they should be good people.

So whether they’re two or twelve, we should expect a happy heart. If in the early years, after a timeout, you go through the motions of getting an apology and seeking forgiveness yet your child remains grumpy about it all, leave him there! If in the preteen years, you see a defiant heart, take stock and figure out where you may have forgotten to explain the importance of the action you’re requiring.

If at any point you see a blip in your child’s moral radar, go back to teaching the moral lessons behind everything you expect. Use every opportunity possible to mold their little hearts. And never stop at obedience.

Expect Excellence, Not Perfection


I came across an interesting idea in my reading the other day. It’s the idea that we should expect excellence, yet not perfection, from our children.

We struggle with perfectionism in my house. I have always been a perfectionist, to the point that it stops me from doing things because I know I can’t be perfect. And without recognizing this weakness in myself, I seem to have passed it on to my child. (Only William is plagued by perfectionism.)

So when I read about this idea of excellence, I thought it was great. Excellence speaks to effort. When we strive for excellence, we put in hard work. It encourages us to strive for perfection but to be okay if we don’t achieve it. It enables all the good aspects of perfectionism without the bad.

I recognize that I do this with my kids already. If they do a half-hearted job at cleaning up the playroom and don’t put toys in the appropriate bins, I will simply pull those toys out and throw them back on the floor. I don’t harp on them. I don’t remind them where the toys go. I simply throw them on the floor with the expectation that they will put them where they belong. This also teaches the idea that if we don’t take the time to do a job right the first time, we’ll have to do it all over again.

Do I expect 100% neatness with all the bins lined up and even spaces between each? The perfectionist in me would love this. But I simply want my boys to strive for excellence and to work hard to achieve it.

This applies well to our schoolwork. Perfectionism can certainly get in the way when we’re learning. William is a smart kid, and he often learns quickly and easily. So he gets frustrated when he can’t perfectly grasp an idea.

It’s my job as his teacher to make sure that I don’t require perfection. And I’ll be honest, it’s not easy. As I’m watching him write, I want his letters to be the same size. I want the spaces between words to be the same. I want him to pay attention to margins. But that’s the perfectionist in me. I often have to stop myself, realize that I’m being overly critical and that in doing so, I’m only feeding the perfectionist in him. That, or I drive him to exasperation because, well, he’s only 8!

I know of other homeschoolers, on the other hand, who don’t strive for perfection or excellence. They accept mediocre work. Of course, the perfectionist in me finds this unacceptable, but I do realize that we all have our own failings.

This idea applies to everything from schoolwork/homework to cleanliness. And we can even start instilling the need for excellence when they’re little. If a toddler is putting his cars away, and one drops outside the bin on the floor, have him go back and put it fully in the bin.

And always remember that you can expect great effort, even excellence, but not perfection.

Correcting Disobedience


If there’s anything that we Babywise parents know, it’s that disobedience needs correction. When our children are blatantly and intentionally disobedient, our correction serves to teach them that their behavior is unacceptable. There’s little doubt that our role as parents is to correct our children’s misbehaviors.

Having said that, it’s this very fundamental idea that trips us up. It’s difficult to answer the what, when, how, why, and to what degree questions that we must grapple with. Even the Ezzos cannot offer specific advice that says, if the child misbehaves in X way, give Y consequence. Why? Our children are human. We are human. And context changes everything.

Plus, we all tend to lean a certain way in our parenting. I most decidedly have a permissive bent. For example, when William doesn’t clean up his Legos when asked, I’ll convince myself that he didn’t hear me. If I could let my kids get away with everything, and stay sane while still raising morally responsible children, I would do it in a heartbeat. But I know it’s unlikely that that’s possible, so I must encourage myself to correct disobedience.

So what do we do about it? The Ezzos offer a few parameters by which we can determine how to correct our children.

“Where should parents begin when considering correction for their children’s intentional disobedience? Disobedient behavior needs correction, but parents should not correct all disobedience the same way or with the same strength of consequence,” (On Becoming Childwise).

There are five factors we can use to determine the appropriate correction:

  1. The age of the child
  2. The frequency of the offense
  3. The context of the moment
  4. The overall characterization of the behavior
  5. The need for balance

And of course, it’s always in the heat of the moment that we struggle with this correction question. Try to memorize these five factors. Then when your child misbehaves, you can run through the list to determine how to correct the child. If memorization isn’t your thing, or you can’t trust yourself to remember, perhaps write these out and post them in a prominent spot in the house.

One important thing to remember is that even if you afford the child leniency due to one of these factors, it doesn’t mean you forget the disobedience altogether. If you see your child blatantly break your park rules because a friend cajoled him to, you might not correct harshly because you realize your child wasn’t the ringleader. Nonetheless, you would take note of your child’s willingness to follow others to disobedience. You might not correct, but you can still use it as a teaching opportunity. Also make a mental note of the scenario so that if it does happen again, you can correct without as much leniency.

5 Ways to Stay Motivated


by Valerie Plowman

It isn’t always easy to be “on” as a mom. We have a lot of tasks and goals we want to meet for our children daily as well as in the “big picture,” and sometimes it gets exhausting! Sometimes we wonder if it is worth it to worry about independent play, first time obedience, learning time, and all of the other items on our list. So how do we keep up the motivation to go on and stick with our goals in the face of the craziness life throws at us? Here are five ideas to keep us going.

1. Look to Examples

Look to the examples around you. I always like to observe people with children older than my own to see what they do and what I like and what I don’t. I don’t mean this in a judging way–I don’t like the “mommy wars” of whose way is better than whose way. We all have our own priorities and goals. I like to observe what efforts produce the results I am looking for, and what efforts do not. I am looking for what I want for my family and trying to emulate those actions. I tweak them for our family and make them work for us. This idea of observation is discussed in On Becoming Childwise. See this post for more on that: Instilling Qualities: Observation.

2. Believe That You Will Miss It Some Day and Live in the Moment

Sometimes when the older women approach you in the store or at church and tell you how much you will miss these years so you better enjoy it, you really just want to punch them in the face hand off your kids and walk away and see how much they really do miss it. However, this is the comment I get most often from older women, so I really try to heed that advice to enjoy the moments. When something gets ruined, I try to think about how that mark on that book will always remind me of when so-and-so was young. When my freshly washed window has fingerprints and has been licked (WHY?!?!?), I try to remind myself that I will miss those prints and licks (so they say!). I try to enjoy it for what it is because apparently, someday I will miss it. See also Enjoy the Moment.

Along those same lines, I try to live in the moment. I don’t like to think, “I can’t wait until…[so-and-so is older, so-and-so masters this skill, etc.]. I just try to enjoy where everyone is for what they are at that moment. There will always been things you love and things you don’t love about each stage, so you have to just focus on what you enjoy rather than pining away for what you believe will surely be better in the future. See also It’s A Journey, Not A Destination

3. Simplify Where Possible

Simplify your life so you have the time and energy needed to do what is necessary. We can’t do it all, and when we try to do more than we can handle, we start to let important things slide. When we are too busy,we get tired, and when we get tired, we find it easier to let the child get her way than to correct her and require obedience. For more on this, see Days of Motherhood.  See also Good Sacrifice vs. Foolish Sacrifice. See also  Slow the Pace

4. Have Faith the Hard Work Will Pay Off

Day in and day out, you are taking small steps and working hard to make sure your child is being raised in the best way for your child. You remind your child over and over again to do a certain thing (say yes mommy, put shoes away, clean up after self…) and sometimes you wonder why you even bother. And is this much attention to the schedule that important? And why bother with bedtime and naps because life could be a bit less complicated if you weren’t worried about those things…

Have faith that your hard work will pay off. This brings us back to number one. Who are your positive examples? Their hard work paid off! This is something that gets easier with perspective. This is why having a fourth baby is less stressful than the first; you know the hard work pays off at some point. When you need a pep talk, look through my pep talks: Word to the Weary/Pep Talks Index

5. Take Breaks At Times

Sometimes, you need a change in the schedule. Sometimes, you as a mom need a girls’ night out. You need to take a break from the sharp focus of being a mom so you can see the big wide world, gain some perspective, and realize that everything will be okay. The world keeps spinning and your child refusing to sign at the end of the meal is not the end of the world.

Have time for yourself to develop your talents and to be you as an individual. See Developing Talents.

Sometimes you also need a break from the routine. Take a pajama day. Take a day to watch a movie as a family. Take the day off from your regular routine every once in a while. It will be a fun break, and when you return, everyone will be glad for it.

For more ideas in this area, see 10 Ways to Save Your Sanity.


Remember as you go along and things are hard, these hard times are what make us grow. Just like when you exercise, your muscles strengthen, when you practice managing time and efforts, you get better at it. See Increasing Our Capacity for more on that.

Valerie is a wife and mother of four, ages 7, 6, 4, and 9 months. She blogs at

Don’t Ignore Yourself

Lucas on chairThe title of this post might sound odd, but if you’re a parent, I think you’ll know what I’m talking about. It goes something like this:

Mom is busy with something and not concentrating on her children, yet she sees misbehavior out of the corner of her eye. Without thinking about it and without even looking up, she says, “Lucas, get down from there.” (Lucas has started climbing everything lately.)

I bet you can guess what happens next. Yes, the child ignores what mom said. She didn’t say it with much conviction, nor did she call his name or get eye contact first. And since mom is so busy, she doesn’t always realize what’s happening until later, if at all. She ignores herself doesn’t follow through.

Lucas was kind enough to test this theory out on me just as I write this. We are sitting outside on the deck, in our flimsy outdoor chairs, and Lucas stood up. Yes, the little monkey is standing on and climbing on everything. You’d think he’s two! Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him stand up, and looked him in the eye as I told him to sit down. He immediately squatted down as if he was going to sit. Trusting that he was going to sit, I looked back at the computer. What did he do the minute my eyes went back to the screen? He stood back up! We did this two or three times before he decided to obey and stay seated.

When we speak to our children this way, we pretty much give them the freedom to ignore us. If we ignore ourselves, why shouldn’t our children ignore us? Try to catch yourself whenever this happens. Before you become engrossed in whatever you’re doing, whether it’s cooking, dishes, or working on the computer, make sure the kids are occupied doing something else. Turning on the TV or having an extra session of roomtime is better than saying something you shouldn’t or ignoring them completely.

“When you speak to your child in a way that requires an answer or an action, you should expect an immediate and complete response. This principle speaks to the parents’ level of expectation. Children will rise to whatever level is expected and encouraged. Too many parents expect little and receive exactly that,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 125).

If obedience is your goal, always make sure you say what you mean and mean what you say. Never utter a word unless you are prepared to follow through. Recognize your moments of deep concentration, and either be prepared to follow through on what you say, or change the situation so you won’t have to correct your child.

Lucas Got a Medal!

Lucas with flag football medalLucas got a medal today for his great work in flag football today! Last week, I posted about the “every child gets a trophy” generation that our kids are apparently a part of. Both of my boys are playing flag football. At the beginning of the season, William’s coach told us that he has medals for every player on the team but that he’s decided to hold on to them until the last day of the season when he can hand out one to every child on the team. Lucas’s coach, on the other hand, is handing out medals to the best player (or two) from that day’s game.

Well, today, Lucas was one of two kids who got a medal. We are all so proud of him. We know he played hard and earned recognition from his coach. And the best part about receiving a medal this way is that it actually means something. When every kid gets a medal, it doesn’t mean a thing. And the kids know this. Lucas knew that his medal meant something, and he was so proud of himself.

After today’s events, I can now say I firmly believe that not every child should get a medal, at least not all at once. I like the way Lucas’s coach is handling the medals. Last week, I was a little unsure. In theory, I believe that kids should work for the appreciation they receive. But the mama bear in me is a little protective and wants to keep my kids’ feelings from being hurt if they don’t receive a medal. Last week was Lucas’s first game, and another kid got a medal. Lucas played really hard and ran really fast, but he didn’t get one. Did he care? Not in the least.

Did he care about getting it today? Absolutely! When he came home with it, he had a huge smile on his face. And I was able to give a heartfelt “good job!” and a high five. I was excited for him because I knew that it was special. He worked hard, and he earned the appreciation. He also knew it meant something. I asked the boys if they wanted to join me on a trip to the grocery store, and Lucas jumped up. He wanted to show off his medal. Luckily, we ran into a former neighbor who was impressed. He also got a few smiles from strangers in the store.

Honestly, though, if either child’s coach decided to hand out medals all at once at the end of the season, I’m glad it’s William’s coach. William is not the sportiest kid. Truth be told, he’s a little bored by the whole thing. He’d rather be reading a book or playing with Legos. He even told his coach today that he wanted to go home. Granted, it’s the hottest day of the year (81 is hot for us), but even so, sports just don’t interest him. Lucas, on the other hand, wants to be a professional football player when he grows up. He’s a super sporty kid and is really competitive.

So even though handing out medals to every kid at the end of the season could protect William’s self-esteem, I’m not sure he would care. If another kid walked off the field with a medal around his neck, I don’t think his ego would be bruised in any way. I think he knows it’s not his thing. If he really wanted to earn a medal, he would try hard. I think that’s what Lucas set out to do when he started playing today. And he was rewarded for his determination.


Taking Initiative


I don’t know about you, but one of my biggest parenting endeavors is getting my children to take initiative. When our kids are motivated to please and when they’ve been taught what we expect, we can encourage them to take initiative. The biggest benefit in getting them to take initiative is that we don’t have to nag! But even more than that, working by internal motivation will serve them well through school and into adulthood.

I’ll admit that we aren’t there yet, at least not in all areas. But I will say that I’m seeing progress in school. On Wednesday, I talked about the reasons we homeschool. One of the reasons we left a private school was that it was too lax and William lost his internal drive to do well. In fact, his teacher noticed this drive and called him “industrious” early in the year. I attribute this industriousness to the rigid structure his Kindergarten teacher brought to the class. But by about mid-year in first grade, that industrious spirit was gone. I was very sad. No matter how little he may have learned that year, losing that internal drive was the most upsetting. However, I’m happy to report that I’ve gotten it back! William does his math and daily writing journal first thing in the morning, every single day, and he’s gotten so good at finding his own motivation to get it done.

Early last week, we took a day and a half off school to go to a water park. (Have I said how much I love homeschooling?!) Before we left, I told William I wanted him to finish his math and journal. As our friend was about to arrive to pick us up, I was running around to finish packing. Quickly, I looked into our school room and saw William writing furiously in his journal. He knew we were about to leave, and without me there even paying attention to him, he was working hard to get his work done. Not only did it fill me with pride, but it completely validated my reasons to homeschool.

But unfortunately, this internal motivation hasn’t carried over into every area. Until recently, I have had my boys do chores only when I needed their help. I didn’t have a very consistent approach. Well, we’ve started doing chores every weekend, and when they’re done, they get an allowance. Even with the money sitting on the table to entice them, my boys needed a little nagging to get their chores done. They’re still learning, though, so I completely understand why William was so frustrated that he couldn’t sweep. The only thing I can do to improve the situation is to keep prompting and encouraging and do the same thing consistently, week after week.

Take a look at this excerpt from Growing Kids God’s Way. It’s not only educational, but motivating:

“The highest and most desirable level of initiative is self-generated initiative. At this level, a child responds to needs without prompting or instruction. When Nathan saw the laundry basket filled with clean clothes, he began to separate his personal items, fold them, and put them away so Mom and Dad did not have to do it later. For a younger child, it may be as simple as putting away a toy left out after playtime. When a child responds without being asked, parents should give plenty of verbal and physical affirmation. In addition to affirming the child, parents may choose to reinforce the behavior with a reward. It doesn’t need to be expensive. What the child finds value in is the appreciation that the reward represents,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 128).

So as you give this idea more thought, think about the various chores you can assign to your child. Keep them age-appropriate, and make sure you are patient as he learns to do them. And always, throughout the day, be on the lookout for any time the child takes initiative. “Catch him in the act” and give huge praise!